Mighty-Macs set for World Cup

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will team up for Ireland at this year’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

Northern Ireland’s dynamic duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will team up for Ireland at this year’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup, the organisers confirmed on Tuesday.

It was also confirmed that Italy’s 2009 World Cup winners, the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Fransisco, would represent the defending champions and that reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel would pair up with last year’s British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.

The event, which this year will carry a record prize fund of $7,500 and a first prize of $2,400 and will be staged at a brand new venue in the Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island in Southern China, was not played last year following a decision that it become a biennial event from 2011 in order to cater for the Summer Olympic Games to which Golf was recently admitted.

The first Olympic golf event is set to be played at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.

At No 5, the highest-ranked Irishman on the World Rankings list, McIlroy selected McDowell, the 2011 US Open champion and Ryder Cup hero of the same year, to partner him in the two-man team World Cup event in China from November 24-27.

As they do in Rugby, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland team up together and compete as Ireland in golf’s World Cup team event and McIlroy could also have selected three-time major winner Padraig Harrington had the Dublin star been in better form than he is right now.

The McIlroy-McDowell duo were narrowly beaten in the 2009 event, both having come away with high praise for the event and saying they were looking forward to having another crack at the title.

“Graeme and I really enjoyed the experience at Mission Hills two years ago. We only missed out by a shot, and are looking forward to forming the Irish team again and trying to go one better this time,” 22-year-old McIlroy said.

The pair, both from Northern Ireland, were last month joined by fellow countryman Darren Clarke as major winners following his triumph in the The Open at Royal St George’s, but it was to McDowell that McIlroy gave the selection nod.

“There is nothing quite like representing Europe in the Ryder Cup or Ireland in the World Cup – It’s a real buzz,” said McDowell.

“We worked well as a partnership two years ago, and we can’t wait to try to claim the title at Hainan Island.”

The Molinaris won in 2009 and while Francesco, the highest ranked Italian at No 23 in the world this year, could have selected Matteo Manassero (30th) as his partner, he opted instead for his brother (43rd) so as to keep a winning combination together.

Eighteen of the 28 nations who were exempt for the World Cup through their highest World-ranked players, have confirmed their entry, but some have not yet named their two man teams.

They, along with the 10 exempt nations still to confirm their participation, have until August 22 to do so.

In the meantime Wales, originally 19th on the exemption list and one out of the group who did not need to qualify, have been advised by the organisers that they have joined the favoured 18 thanks to the withdrawal of Korea, Fiji and Argentina.

Along with Thailand and Zimbabwe, they gained entry this week when Koreans KJ Choi, Kim Kyung-tae and YE Yang, Fiji’s Vijay Singh and Argentina’s Angel Cabrera all made it clear they have other commitments and would not be available.

Ian Poulter will play for England for the fifth time after Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Paul Casey all turned down the chance and the US PGA Champion and world No 3 Martin Kaymer will represent Germany.

Both have still to name their partners – as has Scot Martin Laird.

The country worst hit by withdrawals is Australia – but as always the USA is right up there with them.

With no Jason Day, Adam Scott, Robert Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy or Aaron Baddeley it will be Brendan Jones and Richard Green who will carry the Australian flag.

America’s three highest-ranked golfers Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson have all declined invitations, but world number 11 Matt Kuchar has confirmed he will play. He is another still to name his partner.

Nine more countries will qualify for the World Cup via regional qualifiers in Asia, Europe and South America, with the top three from each region gaining entry.

As the host nation, China qualifies automatically.

Here are the past decades winners:

2009 – Italy (Francesco Molinari/Edoardo Molinari 259) from Ireland 260
2008 – Sweden (Robert Karlsson/Henrik Stenson 261) from Spain 264
2007 – Scotland (Colin Montgomerie/Marc Warren 263) from the USA 263 in a two-way playoff
2006 – Germany (Bernhard Langer/Marcel Siem 268) from Scotland 268 in a two-way playoff
2005 – Wales (Bradley Dredge/Stephen Dodd 189) from England and Sweden 191
2004 – England (Paul Casey/Luke Donald 257) from Spain 258
2003 – South Africa Rory Sabbatini/Trevor Immelman 275) from England 279
2002 – Japan Shigeki Maruyama/Toshi Izawa 252) from the USA 254
2001 – South Africa (Ernie Els/Retief Goosen 264) from Denmark, New Zealand and USA all 264 in four-way playoff.
2000 – United States (Tiger Woods/David Duval 254) from Argentina 257