Flying Scott the man to beat
This week’s revolutionary new ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf is clearly the first in a series of trial-and-tweak curtain-raisers in the run-up to golf’s return to the Olympic Games in 2016.
But regardless of how you look at it, Australia’s Adam Scott and Jason Day are almost certainly going to be two of the figures who feature most strongly in what will be the 57th edition of an event that started life as the Canada Cup and is now called the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf.
And this for a host of very good reasons, not the least of them being the fact that the two Aussies will be taking on the World on familiar home soil with strong public support at the iconic sandbelt venue of Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria.
But before we examine their credentials and compare them with their rivals, we should first look at how much the World Cup has changed this year.
Almost certainly because of the greater emphasis there will be on individual heroics at the Olympics where gold, silver and bronze medals will be at stake, the new-look World Cup of Golf is going to be dramatically different to its predecessors.
The new emphasis on the individual contest has been clearly underlined by the fact that all sixty of the golfers who qualified for the event via various criteria, will fight it out for as much as seven of the eight million dollars in the total prize fund with just one million being allocated for prizes in the international team contest.
Also different this year is the fact that eight countries will be represented by just one golfer and will not take part in the team battle.
With the exception of the host nation, few of the stronger nations, have, as has so often been the case, submitted their strongest teams this year.
England and USA, two of the world strongest golfing nations, stand-out in this respect this year, although, as always, the Americans’ great strength in depth inevitably ensures they are competitive.
They were last year when Matt Kuchar, at No 7, the USA’s third best player on Tour right now behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, linked up with the young and up-and-coming Gary Woodland to win it.
This year he is teamed with another World Cup rookie and rising star in Kevin Steerman and there is no reason to suggest that the pair won’t be competitive again, though, if current form is going to mean anything, the high-riding Scott, the events highest world-ranked player at No 2, is going to be awfully difficult to stop, both in the individual and in the team duels, for his partner Day, who has a liking for the big occasion, is not likely to let him down despite the loss of eight family members during the recent Typhoon Haiyan rampage..
Tragedies of this nature can be debilitating, but the emotional factor and public sympathy can also fuel great energy and drive and taking everything into account it is hardly surprising that the bookmakers have made Scott the out-and-out favourite to win both the individual and team events.
He’s their 3/1 favourite to win the individual title and Australia are the 7/4 favourites to annex the team title.
Day’s chances also look bright in the bookies eyes. They have him as their 8/1 third favourite behind Scott and Kuchar at 7/1.
These three in turn are followed by 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell (14/1), top French prospect Victor Dubuisson at around 25/1, Austrian young gun Bernd Wieseberger (18/1), Swede Peter Hanson (25/1) and Italian No 1 Francesco Molinari (25/1).
In the end I believe the individual battle will waged between Scott, McDowell, Kuchar and maybe even Dubuisson if, for the third week in a row, this out-of-the-blue young upstart can continue to produce the superb quality of golf that earned him a shock first place in the Turkish Open and third place just a week later in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
And the team contest?
Here everybody’s favourite Australia is going to have to hold off the USA, the strong Italian combo of Molinari and talented first-timer Matteo Manassero, Ireland McDowell and Shane Lowrey, Sweden’s seasoned Peter Hanson and the quietly up-and-coming first-timer Jonas Blixt and yes, Japan, a three-time winner of this event who the bookies seem to have forgotten about
Hideto Tanihara and Ryo Ishikawa are certainly not short of form right now. They’ll be arriving in Melbourne fresh from taking the first two places on the Japan Golf Tour last week.
Other outsiders who, perhaps, shouldn’t be written off in the team event?
I would include South Korea’s KJ Choi and Sang-Moon Bae, South Africa’s Branden Grace and George Coetzee and Spain’s grand old campaigner Miguel Angel Jiminez and Rafael Cabrera Bello.
Summed up though, Masters champion Scott, who came off a six-week break from the US PGA Tour to win the first two events of the Aussie Triple Crown series by an aggregate six shots, has to be the man to beat this week
In alphabetical order (eight countries are represented by just one golfer and will play only for the individual prize):.
Argentina: Emiliano Grillo/Fabian Gomez
Australia: Adam Scott/Jason Day
Austria: Bernd Wiesberger
Bangladesh; Siddikur Rahman
Belgium: Nicolas Colsaerts
Brazil: Adilson da Silva/ Alexandre Rocha
Canada: Brad Fritsch/David Hearn
Chile: Felipe Aguilar/Mark Tullo
China: WC Liang/Wu A-shun
Denmark: Thomas Bjorn/Thorbjorn Olesen
England: Danny Willett/ Chris Wood
Fiji: Vijay Singh
Finland: Mikko Korhonen/ Roope Kakko
France: Gregory Bourdy/Victor Dubuisson
Germany: Marcel Siem/Maximilian Kieffer
India: Anirban Lahiri/Gaganjeet Bhullar
Ireland: Graeme McDowell/Shane Lowry
Italy: Francesco Molinar/Matteo Manassero
Japan: Hideto Tanihara/Ryo Ishikawa
Mexico: Oscar Fraustro
Netherlands; Robert-Jan Derksen/Tim Sluiter
New Zealand: Mike Hendry/Tim Wilkinson
Norway: Espen Kofstad
Philippines: Angelo Que/Tony Lascuna
Portugal: Ricardo Santos/Jose-Filipe Lima
Scotland: Martin Laird/Stephen Gallacher
South Africa: Branden Grace/George Coetzee
South Korea: K.J. Choi/Sang-Moon Bae
Spain: Miguel A. Jimenez/Rafael Cabrera Bello
Sweden: Jonas Blixt/Peter Hanson
Thailand: Kiradech Aphibarnrat/Prayad Marksaeng
United States: Matt Kuchar/Kevin Streelman
Wales: Stuart Manley
Zimbabwe: Brendon de Jonge
THE BOOKMAKERS’ TOP 10s
And here were the top 10 favourites being quoted by Sky Bet in each of the two categories on Tuesday morning. For all the bookmakers latest odds you should go to Oddschecker.com
Adam Scott 3/1
Matt Kuchar 13/2
Jason Day 8/1
Graeme McDowell 14/1
Victor Dubuisson 18/1
Bernd Wiesberger 18/1
Peter Hanson 25/1
Francesco Molinari 28/1
Vijay Singhc 40/1
Brendon De Jonge 40/1.
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