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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

In the swing: Thrilling finale highlights Golf World Cup's proud heritage

It may not be the biggest event on the golfing calendar but the ingredients are there to restore the Golf World Cup to its former glory, writes Neil Cullen.

Image: Kin Cheung/AP/Press Association Images

IT’S FAR FROM the biggest event on the golfing calendar but Golf’s World Cup has a rich and proud tradition.

It’s known these days as the Omega Mission Hills World Cup and was won at the weekend by the United States pair of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, but the event has been running since 1953 and has consistently attracted the top players in the world.

Who would have fancied taking on Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, winners in 1956? Maybe you’d rather have a go at Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, winners as a pairing in 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1967 and on other occasions with other partners?

The tournament may have lost some of its glamour in recent years, but when you look at some of those names you see where the incentive would be for players to emulate some of the greats of the game and have their names along with them on the winners’ list.

Ireland has some stories to tell from the tournament as well. Harry Bradshaw and Chrisy O’Connor won in 1958. Two years later the tournament was staged at Portmarnock Golf Club at a time when the event was travelled all over the world to a new venue each year.

Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley flew the tricolor in 1997 when they won the World Cup at Kiawah Island in America, a course that had hosted the Ryder Cup in 1991.

The tournament has so much to offer, yet it seems to fall under the radar of many fans. The Ryder Cup and President’s Cup are huge events yet the World Cup is almost insignificant in comparison, despite the top golfers that are on show and the history behind the event.

Granted, not all the top players decide to play, and that is their choice. But even with the field we had at the latest staging, it seems as if the ingredients are there for the World Cup to be a tournament that people earmark on the calendar and await with greater anticipation.

The United States team of Kuchar and Woodland may not be household names, but both men have played great golf this year and deservedly took home the country’s first World Cup since 2000, when the team was made up of Tiger Woods and David Duval.

This year’s Irish pairing of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy was as close to a dream team as most countries could imagine. Things looked to be heading for a victory but for a few hiccups on the final day.

McIlroy’s miss from two feet on the first hole and three feet on the 12th stand out, but he balanced those off with a chip-in at the 10th and some stunning iron shots, so maybe overall it just wasn’t to be their day. As G-Mac put it, “we had no mojo.”

That’s not to say the standard wasn’t good though. On the contrary, the USA played extremely well and the English duo of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose were on fire on Sunday, shooting nine-under par. It shows that as well as being a tournament with history, there’s golf of the highest quality on display in a format that offers something a little bit different from the norm.

It also offers the fan the opportunity to get behind their country playing as a team, something that doesn’t really happen in golf.

Sure, when we watch Padraig Harrington win his three Majors, for example, we were proud of him because he’s Irish. But when there’s a team out there representing Ireland as opposed to just an Irish person playing for themselves, there’s a renewed sense of pride and emotional investment that goes with it.

There was also a bit of fraternity on display for those who like the more off-centre storylines.

The Molinari brothers, Francesco and Edoardo, were the defending champions and probably the most well known brothers on tour at the moment. The other two pairs were Hugo and Ricardo Santos of Portugal and Camilo and Manuel Villegas of Colombia.

One notable absentee from the World Cup was Luke Donald. His year to date has been well documented, but November 29th marked six months for Donald at the top of the world rankings.

He moved to world number one after the BMW PGA Championship in May and has been there since. He now enters his 27th week as number one and represented the longest streak outside of Tiger Woods since Greg Norman was the king between 1995 and 1997.

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