Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Super Swedes in World Cup Mission

Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson return to the Omega Mission Hills World Cup knowing they will have to raise their games against a 2009 field bursting with quality. The Swedish duo, who produced one of the greatest foursome displays in the tournament’s illustrious history last year with a stunning nine under par 63 that saw them charge to victory, are back at the Mission Hills Golf Club hoping to become the first country to retain the World Cup since Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara defended the title for the USA nine years ago. But with several of the world’s best players arriving at the magnificent Olazábal Course at Mission Hills, Team Sweden know they are in for a great battle to emerge victorious on Sunday night. “I think the tournament this year has a stronger field than ever before so it will be tough to defend,” said Karlsson, who returned to top form last week after his four-month summer injury lay-off at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan where he took second place to Edoardo Molinari after a sudden-death play-off.“It shows that the tournament is getting better, and it shows that they have done a good job at the Mission Hills Club and at OMEGA to get better players to come here. It’s all positive and we are looking forward to the Challenge.” Stenson agreed with Karlsson, but couldn’t help a cheeky reply to the Chinese Media when asked who he felt were Sweden’s biggest rivals for the title. “I can’t see past Sweden,” said Stenson before turning more serious. “It’s a stronger field for sure. It feels like you could find the winners among ten, 12, 14 teams, something like that, most likely, and I guess there’s a few more teams involved than before, and some other countries are also stronger than they have been before. “So it’s going to take some great play to win. Scoring has been quite low in the past and maybe the golf course plays a bit different this year since we play it a bit softer and a little bit longer, and also the greens can be a little bit tricky with all the grain. So yeah, we just have to wait and see what the scoring is like. It’s going to be low no matter what.” One of Sweden’s excepted challengers is Spain, led by World Number Eight Sergio Garcia and his partner, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño. The Spanish duo will rely on their friendship and their experiences of playing alongside each other as amateurs as they bid to win the World Cup for Spain for the first time in 25 years. “We don’t have any records playing professionally in the World Cup, but we’ve played a lot of amateur golf together and, well, it’s good to play with a friend,” said Fernandez-Castaño. “So I think it’s going to be fun – I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really glad that Sergio picked me to be here, and I think that we combine very well together. As soon as he called me to be his partner I didn’t hesitate for a second.” Garcia, an Omega Ambassador, knows there is pressure on the Spaniards to perform, but feels the greatest pressure will come from the players themselves. “It’s not about the amount of good teams that you have. There’s always going to be good players playing no matter what. So I think that the ultimate pressure is about trying to win the tournament itself and that’s where you try your hardest,” said Garcia. “Like I said before, there’s a lot of good teams out there. But we also have a good team. We should be very proud of that and if we manage to use our talent, the talent we have, and the capabilities that we have, I think that we should be contenders to the title.”

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