Zim, SA set for world cup battle
Harare – Brendon de Jonge will be a lone ranger while Branden Grace and George Coetzee will fly the South African flag when Africa takes on the globe in the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia from November 20 to 24.
United States-based golfer, De Jonge, will be the sole Zimbabwean representative in the battle for the World Cup in Melbourne at a tournament where Africa has traditionally made its presence felt, with South Africa winning twice in 1996 and 2001 and coming second four times in 1956, 1966, 1971 and 1973.
Zimbabwe, which has given the world some of its finest golfers including Nick Price, Tony Johnstone and Mark McNulty, twice finished second in 1993 and 1994, on both occasions being beaten by the United States.
Price, a former world number one, partnered McNulty in 1993 and turned on a strong performance in a riveting duel for the World Cup against American golfers, Fred Couples and Davis Love III, who had the advantage of playing in home conditions at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida.
The Zimbabwean duo posted a score of 561 and was just five strokes adrift of the Americans, who won the World Cup on a score of 556, but for a small country of about 13 million, where football, cricket and rugby are bigger sporting disciplines than golf, coming second in that World Cup was a huge success story.
Price was not part of the Zimbabwe team at the World Cup the following year at the Hyatt Dorado Resort in Dorado, Puerto Rico, with McNulty and Johnstone flying the country’s flag and, once again, they impressed as their combined score of 550 was only bettered by the United States who again had Couples and Davis Love III representing them.
South Africa has won the World Cup five times with Gary Player and Harold Henning winning in 1965 and Bobby Cole and Dale Hayes winning the trophy in 1974.
Ernie Els and Wayne Westner combined to give the Rainbow Nation a deserved victory, in one of the all-time classic duels for the crown, in home conditions at the Erinvale Golf Club on the Western Cape in 1996.
Els then partnered Retief Goosen in 2001 at the Taiheiyo Club in Shizuoka, Japan, to win the World Cup and their aggregate score of 264 was good enough to win them the World Cup for the fourth time before Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini won again in 2003.
The legendary Els is unavailable to represent South Africa this year and other top players from the country, Charl Schwarzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Richard Sterne are also not available, which has opened a window for Grace and Coetzee to try and win the World Cup for their nation in Melbourne.
“It’s a real honour to be able to represent my country in the World Cup and the fact that I can play with a great friend in George (Coetzee) will make it even more enjoyable,” Grace told the South African media.
“With the format being the way it is, it gives us the chance to gain some experience for the Olympics in 2016 which hopefully we can both qualify for too.
“It’s such a shame to miss my national Open which is on during the same week, but this is an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up,” he added.
Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland powered the United States to victory in the last World Cup two years ago at the Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island in China and Kuchar returns this year although he will now be partnered by Kevin Streelman.
Kuchar won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Memorial Tournament this year, and has enjoyed success at Royal Melbourne before ‑ having triumphed with the United States team in the Presidents Cup two years ago.
“Representing my country is a real honour whether in The Ryder Cup, The Presidents Cup or the World Cup,” Kuchar told the official website of the 2013 World Cup of Golf.
“It was a great experience to win the World Cup in 2011 with Gary Woodland and I am looking forward to ‘defending’ at Royal Melbourne.”
The Victorian Minister of Tourism, Louise Asher, extended her invitation to golf fans from around the world to come to Melbourne and enjoy a spectacular show.
“I am sure that this will be a great showcase for golf in this state and I am delighted that three champions of the sport will be playing in the World Cup,” she said.
“It is exciting that once again Royal Melbourne will be showcased to a global audience through this top international competition.
“The 2013 World Cup of Golf is estimated to create between US$25 million to US$30 million in economic benefit to Victoria and will attract up to 9 000 interstate and international visitors.
“I would invite fans from around the country and overseas to visit Melbourne to experience the World Cup and everything Melbourne has to offer.”
The hosts should start as favourites given that they are fielding Masters champion Adam Scott and Jason Day and, in home conditions, they are likely to be difficult to beat.
The event boasts a US$8 million purse, and will provide Official World Golf Ranking points.
Scott, who is the world number two, said he was ready for the World Cup showdown.
“I am looking forward to playing the ISPS HANDA World Cup and representing Australia at Royal Melbourne with Jason Day,” he told the World Cup of Golf official website.
“It will be a great week for Australian golf where we will be playing a World Cup in Australia for the first time in 25 years.”