Leading Irish golfer Graham McDowell feels that the World Cup of golf which gets under way this Thursday in Hainan Island, China has benefited from a change of format.
McDowell believes that ‘extra prestige’ has been added to the competition after changing to a biennial rather than an annual team event..
The world number 14, who teams up with Rory McIlroy in this years event, said to reporters “I said two years ago I felt the World Cup was lacking respect but this year’s field seems a lot stronger than it has in years gone by.
“It is great to see teams supporting it. When you look at the flags at the back of the practice range and you see guys like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have won it, it kind of puts in perspective what kind of event this is.
“Given it is now a biennial event it gives guys perhaps a little extra time to prepare and get their schedules ready and come and support this event because it is special and you’ll be having your names alongside some very special names if you win.”
“It’s been a pretty special two years, obviously, both picking up our first major championships. We were just talking about it coming down the ninth fairway there earlier,” McDowell said. “It’s pretty special. It’s just an amazing couple of years with The Ryder Cup, and like I say, first major. Definitely, it’s great experiences, and like we talk about, to put this win on the resumé would be extra special, as well. Winning individually is nice. But winning as a team is something extra special, and you know, I’m sure myself and Rory would dearly love to win this week. So hopefully we can use our experiences of the last couple of years to good effect this weekend.”
Then there is McIlroy, who was already one of the game’s fastest rising stars, but his first PGA TOUR victory came in 2010 with a sensational final round at Quail Hollow at the Wells Fargo Championship and was later followed by his victory at this year’s U.S. Open, took the 22-year-old to even a higher stature.
“I think I have to start with 2010 and watching everything that Graeme did that year. It definitely did something to me, mentally, or just giving me that little bit of extra belief, seeing someone that you’re so close to produce the type of golf that he did; with the U.S. Open, the weekend in Wales, winning Valderrama, closing out Tiger’s event like he did,” McIlroy said. “You know, seeing that type of golf being played by someone that you’ve played a lot with, it gives you the belief that you can go on and try and emulate what he did.
“So you know, it’s been a great couple of years to get my first win in the States, and then back that up with my first major at Congressional. It’s been fantastic. There has been very low lows and very high highs, and it’s been great,” he continued. “I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years, and we both have had some unbelievable experiences in that time, and as Graeme said, it would be great to get a win here, you know, as a team. I think it would definitely cap off a couple of very special years for both of us.”
But in a tournament filled with top-class players, just being major championship winners doesn’t guarantee them a victory
“It’s probably one of the best fields assembled here at this tournament in many, many years,” McDowell said. “I know that they have gone every two years with this tournament now, so perhaps they have done the right thing from the point of view that it seems to have been very well supported this week. We’ll have to play well to give ourselves the chance to contend come Sunday afternoon, and that’s what we want to do.
“You know, when you look at the flags at the back of the range and you see guys winning it, like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, you know, it kind of puts in perspective what kind of event this is. We take it very seriously. We can’t speak for the rest of the countries. But we take it seriously and we would certainly love this on our resume,” .
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The line up for this years competition is strong. Along with McDowell and McIlroy the United States who are represented by world number 10 Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, who landed the Transitions Championship in Florida in March.
Tee-off times in the first round of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, Mission Hills GC, Hainan Island, China
(All times Local, China is 8 hrs ahead of GMT):
Starting at hole 1
0745 Karlsson & Noren (Swe), Lee & da Silva (Bra)
0800 Jaidee & Aphibarnrat (Tha), Hansen & Olesen (Den)
0815 Davies & Donaldson (Wal), Green & Jones (Aus)
0830 Colsaerts & Theunis (Bel), Jimenez & Quiros (Spa)
0845 Oosthuizen & Schwartzel (Rsa), Acuna & Toledo (Gua)
0900 Villegas & Villegas (Col), de Jonge & McDonald (Zim)
0915 Derksen & Luiten (Ned), Kuchar & Woodland (USA)
0930 Jacquelin & Bourdy (Fra), Kim & Park (Kor)
0945 Praegant & Steiner (Aut), Poulter & Rose (Eng)
1000 Santos & Santos (Por), Hiratsuka & Ikeda (Jpn)
1015 Cejka & Kaymer (Ger), Hendry & Paddison (Nzl)
1030 Gallacher & Laird (Sco), de Jesus Rodriguez & Serna (Mex)
1045 Lam & Mamat Singapore (Sin), McDowell & McIlroy (Irl)
1100 Liang & Zhang (Chn), Molinari & Molinari (Ita)