Scotland, represented by Russell Knox and Martin Laird, were left trailing by hosts Australia, England and Korea on a low-scoring first day in the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf in Melbourne.
The tartan twosome had to settle for a five-under-par 67 in the opening fourball round at The Metropolitan Club, leaving them five shots off the pace in joint-20th as all but one of the 28 teams broke par.
Joining forces for the second time this year after finishing in the top 10 in the Zurich Classic in New Orleans back in April, Knox and Laird bagged back-to-back birdies at the fourth and fifth to be out in 34.
They then picked up further shots at the tenth, 13th and 14th but four pars to close with wasn’t what they would have been looking for as they played their own ball for the opening circuit.
Ryder Cup team-mates Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton stormed home in 30 to set the pace along with Australian duo Marc Leishman and Cam Smith, as well as Korean pair Ben An and Si Woo Kim.
“I think we’re quite happy with that,” said Poulter. “On a day like today you have to make some birdies. We made enough to get on the top of the board, which is the main goal. We dovetailed nicely.
Delighting the home crowds, Leishman and Smith eagled the as they went out in 30 before finishing with a flourish as they bagged four birdies in the last six holes.
“I think it was very important for us to get off to a good start,” admitted Leishman, a former Tennant Cup winner, afterwards. “You don’t want to be fighting back the whole tournament, so we are happy to be tied for the lead.”
Former BMW PGA champion An and Kim, who won the Players Championship in 2017, carded an eagle and nine birdies, five of which came after a disappointing bogey at the par-5 ninth.
“That hurts a little bit,” said An, “but we did well because we didn’t birdie the same holes. I think we saved each other pretty good.”
Defending champions Denmark, represented by 2016 winning duo Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen, sit a shot off the lead alongside Belgium and Malaysia.
“I didn’t have my best today, but Soren played steady and I stepped in at the right times. I think nine under was a good score with the way we played,” said Olesen, another member of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team in France.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne are lying joint-seventh after a 64 while US pair Matt Kuchar and Kyle Stanley opened with a 66.
The second round sees a switch to foursomes and Poulter said: “That is a completely different game. This golf course will be a lot more difficult tomorrow.”