Hail golf’s Great Danes. It was fairytale stuff, after all, from Hans Christian Andersen’s compatriots as Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen claimed a first World Cup of Golf victory for Denmark in the ISPS Handa-sponsored event in Australia.
Helped by a six-under-par 31 on the back nine in the closing fourballs at Kingston Heath in Melbourne, the duo finished on 20-under-par following a closing 66, winning by four shots from France, China and the United States.
Scottish pair Russell Knox and Duncan Stewart finished joint 19th on six-under after a last-round 67. They were 12-under-par for the final three rounds but were left to rue the first-day 78 that left them last of the 28 teams and immediately out of title contention.
The Danes didn’t exactly come flying out of the blocks with a 72, but a second-round 60 catapulted them to the top of the leaderboard. Four in front heading into the final circuit, their lead was cut to one by Chinese pair Ashun Wu and Haotong Li at the turn before Kjeldsen and Olesen moved up a gear.
“It’s been an absolutely incredible week,” said Kjeldsen, one of the most under-rated players on the European Tour, afterwards. “I’ve enjoyed it so much. I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie with Thorbjorn. I’ve been so impressed by his game, his attitude and I think we’ve had a great time and that reflects in the result. I think the psychology has been really interesting for me because, when you play your own game, it’s different, but when you’ve got a guy like this on the back nine on Sunday, it’s like you feel you want to die for the guy. It’s different and that’s been really interesting to feel this.”
It was Olesen’s second notable success in a few weeks after his win in the Turkish Airlines Open, the first event in the European Tour’s Final Series, in Belek. “It was tough, but me and Soren have been great this week with just our mental strength,” he said. “We’ve been very, very good keeping calm and playing our own game and we’ve both been playing well. So I wasn’t too nervous on that back nine. I felt like we’ve got to make some birdies at some point. They came at the right time.”
The victory for Kjeldsen came at the sixth time of asking with Olesen playing in his third World Cup as Denmark beat their previous best finish of second in 2001. “To win this beautiful trophy is amazing, and I think what’s so special about it is that we don’t get to lift a trophy with another player very often,” admitted Kjeldsen.
Concurring, former Dunhill Links champion Olesen, who is coached by Surrey-based Scot Hugh Marr, said: “When you hole a putt and you can fist pump with your partner and your caddies, it makes it a lot more fun. It was a real four-man team this week. Both of our caddies did a tremendous job this week keeping us calm.”
Wu and Li closed with a 65 to share second spot with US duo Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, as well as French pair Victor Dubuisson and Romain Langasque. The Americans signed off with a 66 while Dubuisson and Langasque, the 2015 Amateur champion, carded a 63. Swedes Alex Noren and David Lingmerth went one better as they finished fifth.
Knox and Stewart made five birdies in seven holes around the turn in their closing salvo, which saw them climb another spot as they were left with a pride restoration exercise after that disappointing opening effort.
The former University of Jacksonville team-mates now turn their attention to individual events on opposite sides of the world. Knox, pictured, is heading to the Bahamas to play in this week’s Hero World Challenge, where tournament host Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his eagerly-anticipated comeback. Stewart, meanwhile is competing in the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast along with Stephen Gallacher, Ross Kellett and Bradley Neil. Martin Laird was on the entry list as well but has now withdrawn.