Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stars turn out in China

The 18 exempt nations for the 2011 Omega Mission Hills World Cup have confirmed their pairings for this year’s star-studded event at Mission Hills Resort, Hainan Island, China, from November 24-27. Five Major Champions – including current Masters Tournament winner Charl Schwartzel and US Open Champion Rory McIlroy – will represent their countries along with title holders Edoardo and Francesco Molinari of Italy. Schwartzel is joined in a strong South African line-up by 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen while McIlroy will reprise his partnership with last year’s US Open Champion Graeme McDowell, a potent duo which earned them a share of second place behind the Italians in 2009. Last year’s US PGA Champion Martin Kaymer of Germany will have Alex Cejka as his partner for the fourth successive time, the combination having finished sixth in 2007, fifth in 2008 and sixth in 2009. Meanwhile the United States will be represented by Matt Kuchar and his partner Gary Woodland. Both men recognise the honour and privilege of representing the Stars and Stripes. Kuchar said. “It’s exciting to think about the World Cup and representing the United States. Any time you put on a uniform that has the Stars and Stripes on it gives any American player a special feeling and to be part of a two man team that represents the United States of America only once every two years is a fantastic opportunity and I am very much excited about being part of it. Woodland said: “It means a lot to me to represent the United States. I do a lot with our military charities and getting a chance to play for the USA means more than I can describe. Matt is a very consistent player, always in play. Hopefully it pans out pretty well. I have a little length to add to it, so hopefully I can drive it out there, he can knock it close and we both get our putters going and we can make a lot of birdies.” England’s Ian Poulter has named his close friend Justin Rose to fly the flag for England, four years after they finished fourth on their only appearance as a double act at the original Mission Hills Resort in Shenzen. Poulter said: “I am very much looking forward to returning to the World Cup and representing my country once again. I’m a very patriotic guy and the chance to play for England on the world stage is one that I always relish. “Everyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy the different aspect that team events bring to golf. I love the head-to-head element of The Ryder Cup but I also really enjoy the format of the World Cup.” Rose is equally enthusiastic and commented: “Obviously I am really excited to play with ‘Poults’, As our friendship goes way back and we had good run in the World Cup once before. “I think the World Cup would be a great tournament to have on your CV and we are going there to win it, no doubt about that. For me it is the kind of tournament that if you say you have won the World Cup it sounds prestigious – it is prestigious, and I think we have as good a shot as anybody in the competition.” Robert Karlsson, a player with a powerful World Cup pedigree, returns to China with a new partner in Alex Noren, the recent winner of the Nordea Masters in his native Sweden. Karlsson, the former European Number One, captured the title with Henrik Stenson in 2008 and the same combination shared second place with Ireland two years ago. Spain’s Alvaro Quiros has nominated the veteran Miguel Angel Jiménez as his ally with Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher representing 2007 champions Scotland, and Jamie Donaldson and Rhys Davies linking up under the banner of Wales. “I am very excited about the prospect of playing my first World Cup for Spain” declared Quiros. “To represent your country is a great honour and I did it as an amateur through the boys, youths and senior teams for Spain, now it is my turn to do it for the first time as a professional. “I know I hit it further than Miguel but one of the main strengths of our team will be the fact that he is so consistent. That is a great thing to have in a partner and he is also so experienced. He has dealt with everything in his career and I will be looking for him to show me the way. For us to win the World Cup for Spain would be a huge deal for our country, a huge thing. There is no doubt that the words, ‘World Cup’ mean a lot in any sport and golf is no different.” The Molinari siblings are joined in the field by another set of brothers, Camilo and Manuel Villegas from Colombia, while Denmark’s Anders Hansen, third in the recent US PGA Championship, has elected to play with Thomas Björn for Denmark. In Asia, Japan’s Yuta Ikeda joins forces with Tetsuji Hiratsuka while Thongchai Jaidee competes for Thailand alongside Kiradech Aphibarnrat while China, as the host nation, also qualify automatically and will be represented on Hainan Island by Lian Wen-chong and Zhang Xin-jun.


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