Justin Rose and Ian Poulter headed into today's final day here at Mission Hills in the knowledge that one good round could mean that by the time their home nation was applying the marmalade at the breakfast table they could have been toasted as golf's "world champions". But the England pair were also painfully aware that the foursomes format can bite you in the balatas with merciless severity.
At least one thing seemed certain, though, as the Saturday leaderboard closed up. It is that at one stage during next year's Ryder Cup in Kentucky, Nick Faldo will surely be writing the names Poulter and Rose together on his draw sheet; even if only once. Great friends off the course, their partnership appears to have great potential on it, a quality the Europe captain cannot have failed to have noticed.
He would surely have also been just as impressed in the performance in the first three days of Scotland's Marc Warren. Yesterday, he kept the Saltire buffeting with two birdies in the first nine holes as Colin Montgomerie flustered about all the crowd noise. The veteran marched past reporters at the end despite finishing with a 12-foot birdie on the 18th that took them to 19 under and within one of pacesetters the US. "That birdie was huge for us," said Warren. "Monty has the habit of holing those when he has to."
He also has a few other habits, mind. "That's just Monty," said Warren when asked to comment on his partner's reaction to the deluge of mobile phone rings and camera clicks that have been the one blight on this event. "It was unbelievable at the start," added Warren. "It did get better though, and I did see one man ejected." In fact, there were a whole chorus line shown the gate as the officials at last acted on the competitors' discomfort.
"You expect it from a country where they're perhaps not used to watching golf on golf courses," said the American Heath Slocum. "They'll learn."
Let us pray the powers-that-be also learn that the integrity of the course should not be protected at the expense of the excitement of the action. The pin positions yesterday were ridiculously tricky. It meant too many regulation two-putt pars in a better-ball format invented to produce red figures. France's Raphaël Jacquelin and Grégory Havret still managed a 10-under 62 to hurtle them into a tie for second, one ahead of England.
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