World Cup of Golf Preview

Image courtesy pga.com Image courtesy pga.com

ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf
Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Cheltenham, Victoria
21-24 November

Intro & Course

This event, previously known as the Canada Cup, has diminished in status in recent iterations as evidenced by the drop in the quality and ranking of attendees. In my opinion this decline began when Omega took over as lead sponsor in 2007, shifted it to China and then reduced it to a biennial event from 2009 onwards.

Australia, and the magnificent Royal Melbourne, thus has an opportunity this week to re-elevate the event to some extent and Royal Melbourne's two sandbelt courses rank in the top six in Australia. The legendary Alister MacKenzie based his 1926 course re-design on St Andrews, with multiple ways of playing many holes.

So far as I've been able to establish, this event will be played on what is known as the composite course, 12 holes from the West Course and 6 holes from the East; the same as the Talisker Masters last week and the 2011 Presidents Cup.

History

Course form pundits will recall this course, which hosts its 4th World Cup this week, welcoming the Presidents Cup in 1998 & 2011 with a win apiece to the USA (2011) and the Internationals. The earlier World Cups in Melbourne were won by Australia, Taiwan & USA.

The history of the World Cup tells us that no country has dominated in recent years with the winners having been: USA (2011), Italy's Molinari brothers (2009), Sweden (2008), Scotland (2007), Germany (2006), Wales (2005) & England (2004). Only South Africa and the USA have enjoyed more than one victory during the past 16 years but that was back in the day when the world's best players were less driven by greed and took this event seriously.

Bizarro-World (Cup)

This year's format sees the adoption of similar entry rules to those that will apply for the 2016 Olympic Games and this set of rules, while perhaps apropos for Olympic Games, leads to the seemingly illogical situation of 26 nations having two representatives while 8 nations have one. And, of course, the other nations in the world will have none.

The World Cup this year will thus contain a $1m teams competition as well as an individual $7m strokeplay championship with the eight 'one-person-teams' excluded from the team competition and able to compete only for the individual title. Bizarre, in my humble opinion!

Team Championship

The market has Australia as the hot 2.60 favourite on home turf, followed by USA 7.50, Ireland 11.00, Italy & Sweden 13.00, France & Denmark 17.00 and so on down to the rank outsiders: Finland, Portugal, Brazil and Philippines at 200.00-300.00.

With Jason Day's family having been tragically struck by the recent Philippines typhoon Haiyan, I doubt his mind and his game (no starts since the Tour Championship on 19-22 Sept) will be totally focused for this, so I reckon Australia is too short-priced and can't be recommended for that reason.

Conversely the USA, with Matt Kuchar well acclimated after a strong-finishing 2nd behind Adam Scott last week, is over-priced and represents some value at 7.50 or thereabouts.

Among the outsiders I like New Zealand a bit at 100.00 – 150.00. Both Hendry & Wilkinson have been in solid form and the course won't appear as foreign to them as it will to many in this field.

Wilkinson played well in finishing 10th at Mayakoba last week and. though he has played mostly in the USA, has finished inside the top 20 in most of his Australian starts. Hendry has a string of good Australian performances on his cv in recent seasons including: 2nd in the Queensland PGA, 4th in the Perth International, 7th in the Australian Open, 3rd in the Victorian Open and so on.

Purely on recent form, China is of interest at 100.00 with Wu & Liang have both won recently in Asia. However, among the longshots I favour the New Zealand team over China owing to Wu's inexperience in Aussie conditions.

Individual Tournament

As mentioned above, the field of 60 contains all 26 teams of two as well as those eight teamless individuals such as Vijay Singh. It's ludicrous to be able to play in a World Cup yet simultaneously not be representing your nation!

Adam Scott, having won twice in recent weeks, in Australia, is a logical short-priced 4.00 favourite ahead of: Matt Kuchar 7.50, Jason Day 9.00, Graeme McDowell 15.00, Austria's Bernd Wiesberger & France's Victor Dubuisson @ 23.00 with Sweden's Peter Hanson and Italy's Francesco Molinari the only others shorter than 40.00.

Beyond those at the top of the market, and with each way betting very much in mind, I see price value in Thomas Bjorn. Since winning the European Masters in September he's been in solid form, is well proven on links courses and I rate him 30/1 here. He's available at 40/1 with most bookies and a few points longer on the exchanges.

If you're looking for a longshot I recommend a small each way or Top10 bet on Canada's Brad Fritsch. He can rise to the occasion as shown in his PGA Tour QSchool 7th in 2012 and his recent 2nd in the WebCom Tour Championship, so I think this format with its nationalistic overtones will suit his personality. The bookies have him at 300/1 while he's a bit longer on Betfair.

Bet Recommendations

In the teams event, back USA to win outright if you're looking for value and don't mind a shortish price. Support that with a Top4 bet on New Zealand, or China or both.

In the individual comp, back Thomas Bjorn each way with a saver on Brad Fritsch for a place or Top10.

Cheers and good luck with your golf punting!

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