The fast and furious six hole modified greensomes format was making its third appearance on the Race to Dubai and first in continental Europe, and it did not disappoint the fans at Oitavos Dunes.
The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for veteran Thai Jaidee, who made the 15th ace of the season at the sixth to help beat Ireland 3-1 and win Group B, setting up a quarter-final tie against Scotland.
The sixth hole is one of a host of innovations on show this week as the players tee off over a swimming pool surrounded by fans and a DJ, along with two women’s teams joining the men, a shot clock in play on the fourth, and players being allowed to wear shorts and use measuring devices for the first time.
Australia beat Germany Women by one foot and seven inches in a nearest the pin play-off to secure second place in Group C and seal a clash against Group D winners Spain, while Group C winners France will take on Italy.
In the remaining quarter-final, Group A winners England will face Group B runners up Sweden.
Jaidee and team-mate Phachara Khongwatmai – 29 years his junior – drew their matches against Sweden and England Women 1-1, and trailed Ireland by two points heading into their match up after Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan had beaten England Women 1-0 and drawn 0-0 against Sweden.
A 13-foot putt from Dunne put Ireland 1-0 up at the second but Jaidee hit a brilliant tee shot into the par three third and Moynihan missed a short putt on the next to turn the contest on its head.v
Khongwatmai almost holed his tee shot on the sixth and when Jaidee actually did, Ireland were heading home.
“I had a perfect shot,” said Jaidee. “We’re very excited to be in the tournament. Finally we got through and that’s the main thing we have to do.”
Joakim Lagergren had holed a very long putt to win the fifth for Sweden in the draw with Thailand but it was Alexander Björk who starred against England Women, hitting brilliant irons into the first and third in a 3-0 victory that sealed second place.
The French pair of Victor Perez and Romain Wattel were unbeaten in Group C, fighting back from 2-0 down to draw against Germany Women, beating Wales 2-1 and drawing 1-1 with Australia.
Scott Hend and Wade Ormsby started their campaign with a 3-1 victory over Wales but lost 2-0 to Esther Henseleit and Laura Fuenfstueck, who were beaten 2-0 by Wales in their final match to set up the dramatic play-off.
The first trip to the sixth could not separate them and Hend’s tee shot to 17 feet and eight inches just outdid Fuenfstueck’s.
“Nearest the pin is just one of those things,” said Hend. “You can get a fortunate bounce with the ball going forward there and we were lucky to sneak one inside.
“Those girls are phenomenal players, phenomenal swingers of the golf club and if we had to go another six holes we probably would have lost.”
England’s Tom Lewis and Paul Waring made a flying start in Group A as they made four birdies in a 3-1 win over the hosts but then lost 2-1 to India before a long Waring putt on the first and an excellent Lewis approach to the second helped set up a 2-1 win over Scotland.
Stephen Gallacher and David Law had earlier beaten India 2-1 thanks to a brilliant Law tee shot on the sixth, and fought back to beat Portugal by the same score.
In Group D, Spain’s Jorge Campillo and Nacho Elvira won the second, third and fourth to pull away from South Africa in a 3-1 win, fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Italy and claimed a 3-1 win over Denmark.
Italian pair Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari beat Denmark 2-1 in their opener and closed with a 0-0 draw against South Africa as both teams parred every hole.