Germans on course for more World Cup glory
Noel Prentice in Dongguan
World Cups and Germany seem to go hand in hand. They have won soccer's top prize three times and are fearsome opponents in any sport.
Despite winning only twice (1990 and 2006) in 52 attempts at the golfing equivalent - which is held every year - Germany are showing the same competitive mentality, thanks to the highly promising Martin Kaymer and the vastly experienced Alex Cejka.
Last year the pair shot a 10-under 62 on the first day of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup and yesterday they repeated the feat.
But instead of trailing by one shot, they have the lead. In a reversal of roles, the 24-year-old Kaymer 'carried' his recuperating partner Cejka in the first-day fourballs to shade Australia (Richard Green and Brendan Jones) by one stroke.
Canada's unheralded pairing of Graham Deleat and Wes Heffernan were the surprise package, finishing in a tie for third at eight under with the US (Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker) and Spain (Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal).
The big disappointments were China's Liang Wenchong and Zhang Lianwei, who both found water on the 18th and fell back to three-under-par 69 after a double-bogey six. They will have to produce something special in today's foursomes (alternate shot), which sorts the men from the boys.
Zhang called it an 'unbelievable mistake' for both players to find the water - Zhang off the tee and Liang with his second to the green - but he was confident they could repair the damage today.
Germany are unlikely to go backwards after last year's experience, where missed putts over the last three days cost them dearly and they wound up in a tie for sixth, five shots behind winners Scotland.
'Alex basically played all by himself last year,' recalled Kaymer of the opening round on the Olazabal course. 'Now it was my turn to play solid and I played very well today.'
Kaymer was the 2007 European Tour Rookie of the Year, has won twice on the European Tour this year (Abu Dhabi and Germany), and was unlucky to miss out on a Ryder Cup call-up. Captain Nick Faldo invited Kaymer to experience the Valhalla showdown as a guest.
'I learnt a lot at the Ryder Cup, but it is a different format. That was match-play, here it is stroke-play and you can be aggressive in the best-ball, like today,' said Kaymer, who had six birdies and an eagle, against Cejka's two birdies. 'The past two years have been huge,' added Kaymer, who is ranked 26th in the world.
'But we can't think about winning yet.'
That could become a dinner conversation tomorrow night if the 38-year-old Cejka can fast-track his recovery from an operation for a pinched nerve in his upper neck, which he suffered at the British Open.
The four-time European Tour winner says he's only playing at 80 per cent.
'This is really the first event where I'm really taking it serious. I'm still in rehab,' said Cejka, who is now plying his trade on the US PGA Tour. 'I've got to take it a little bit easy, but I'm trying hard this week.
'We are representing our country the best we can.'