The Omega Mission Hills World Cup returns to the schedule after a year’s absence. The Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari defend a title they picked up in 2009 over Mission Hills’ Blackstone Course.
The World Cup is a two-man team event where players represent their country over 72 holes of strokeplay, with alternating rounds of fourball better-ball and foursomes. The tournament was founded by Canadian industrialist John Jay Hopkins. It began life in 1953 as the Canada Cup but its name changed to the World Cup in 1967.
Over the years there have been some superb winning teams: In 1956 Ben Hogan and Sam Snead took the title, Jack Nicklaus, together with Arnold Palmer, was victorious four times in the 1960s, Fred Couples and Davis Love III won the event four times consecutively from 1992 to 1995 and Tiger Woods won in back to back years around the Millennium with Mark O’Meara then David Duval.
In the 2009 World Cup, Italy took the title by the narrowest of margins, beating Sweden by a single stroke. On the 72nd hole, the brothers Molinari were in trouble, needing to get up-and-down from sand to secure the win. But Edoardo played a majestic bunker shot and Francesco holed from three feet to get the job done.
The USA is the most successful nation in the event’s history with 23 wins in total. In recent years they have received criticism for failing to field their strongest team. The same argument could be put forward this year. The US will be represented by Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, respectively the 4th and 18th best placed Americans on the Official World Golf Ranking.
This year the British Isles is well represented – Ireland has a supremely strong team made up of the last two US Open champions, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, England will be represented by Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, the Welsh by Rhys Davies and Jamie Donaldson and the Scots by Stephen Gallacher and Martin Laird. Scotland was the last home nation to take this title. Back in 2007 Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren were victorious over Heath Slocum and Boo Weekley of the USA.
Venue: Mission Hills, Hainan Island, China
Date: Nov 24-27
Course stats: par 73, 7,808 yards
Purse: $7,500,000 Winner: $2,400,000 – $1,200,000 for each player
Defending Champion: Italy (-29)
Thursday 24 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 3.30am
Friday 25 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 3.30am
Saturday 26 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 3.30am
Sunday 27 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 3.30am
Ireland – Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell – The last two US Open champions, great friends who feed well off each other’s game, the World Numbers 2 and 14. They will start as favourites.
South Africa – Two more Major champions in this team – Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen. Both are in decent form and both are capable of making a huge number of birdies. Watch out for them to set a blistering pace in the fourballs.
Netherlands – Robert-Jan Derksen and Joost Luiten. The former is an experienced and solid campaigner, the latter picked up his first European Tour victory last week in Malaysia. The Dutch could spring a surprise this week.
Key hole: 18th. A reachable par 5 of 539 yards, the tee shot is a daunting one with a carry over marshland and lava rock. The green sits right on the edge of the lake so going for the green in two has its risks. This could be a hole that sees eagles in the fourballs but potential for disaster in the foursomes.
Skills required: Teamwork. This is a two-man event and the winning side will dovetail well in the fourball and act as a single unit in the foursomes.
Preview – South African Open