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Golf’s Greatest Secret: What is the World Cup and What Does it Mean to Players?

November 18, 2016

- Grant Whittington

There is a world of difference between individual and team sports, which is why these two diverse entities rarely cross paths. There are successful exceptions to this rule, of course, such as the coming together of Great Britain’s amateur boxing talent during the 2012 Olympic Games and an Andy Murray-inspired success in the Davis Cup last year.

Despite its long history (this will be the 58th instalment), the World Cup of Golf has yet to reach such dizzy heights. After all, the Ryder Cup is already established as golf’s premier team event, and this is something that generally captures the imagination of fans. On 24th November this year, however, the 2016 World Cup will get underway in Melbourne and fans are hopeful that it can deliver a spectacle worthy of the name.

Who Are the Favourites for This Years’ World Cup?

There are historical and scheduling issues that this event must always contend with, of course, and these have prevented it from always achieving its true potential. It comes at the end of a long and arduous season, for example, where the top European players are usually competing in the Race to Dubai and for the World Tour title. This is certainly the case this year, with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (the current tour leader) and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy all conspicuous by their absence.

Despite these challenges and big name absentees, there are reasons to be optimising. England, who last won the World Cup of Golf back in 2004, have been able to feature a strong team including Danny Willett (who is currently second on the Race to Dubai leader-board). He will be partnered by the experienced Lee Westwood, and this fusion of skill and know-how has established England among the front-runners in the initial World Cup of Golf odds.

Current holders Australia (who won the last event in 2013) will also be confident of reclaiming their crown, despite the patchy form of its representatives. Jason Day qualified automatically for the event as the individual champion from the 2013 installation, while he was also given the autonomy to select his playing partner Marc Leishman. This undoubtedly gives Australia a competitive advantage, but they would have to perform exceptionally well to win this time around.

So which other teams are of interest?

Well, Venezuela have garnered attention in the popular press for featuring the Vegas brothers as the representatives, with 32-year old, two-time PGA Tour winner Jhonattan being paired with the younger sibling Julio. Although they are not expected to challenge for the top honours, they should be competitive and may go further than some expect them to.

Elsewhere, a genuine threat lies with the in-form and sublimely talented Japanese team. Led by Hideki Matsuyama, who recently romped to success at the World Golf Championship in Sheshan with a final score of 23 under par, Japan will be strong contenders and could well be the dark horses for the title. Matsuyama has been paired with the excellent Ryo Ishikawa, so those looking for an outside bet may want to place their money here.

The Last Word

These speculations aside, there are some things that we can be sure of this year. 56 players from 28 countries will help their nation to compete for the title, for example, while four days of elite golf will be distinguished by 72 holes of stroke play alongside  four-ball and alternate shot formats.

This places a strong emphasis on the individual as well as the team, so in the final reckoning it will most likely come down to which players maintains his form and nerve. This may well suit England, who possess one of the tours most experienced players in Westwood and one of its shining lights in Willett.

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