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Lowry and McDowell go in search of World Cup glory but Australia the pair to beat

The action gets underway in Melbourne on Thursday.

Lowry and McDowell are flying the flag for Ireland this week.
Lowry and McDowell are flying the flag for Ireland this week.
Image: Lenny Ignelzi

SHANE LOWRY AND Graeme McDowell are hoping to end the 2016 season on the ultimate high by becoming just the third Irish pair to win the World Cup of Golf.

McDowell finished runner-up alongside Rory McIlroy at the 2009 edition in China but it’s nine years since Ireland triumphed in a tournament with an illustrious roll of honour.

Australia go in search of back-to-back World Cup wins in Melbourne this week at an event tinged with controversy over team picks by England and Scotland.

The last time it was held in 2013 the World Cup was primarily an individual tournament, with a 60-strong field featuring two players from each country participating in 72 holes of stroke play.

World number one Jason Day won the individual title for Australia, while Day and Adam Scott clinched the team portion for the best aggregate score.

This year it returns to 28 two-man teams playing 72 holes of stroke play. The first and third days will be the foursomes and the second and final days the fourball play.

Day is a no-show due to a back injury, leaving Scott to defend the title with Marc Leishman at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath Golf Club.

“I’m extremely excited about playing in the World Cup of Golf with Adam,” said Leishman of his unexpected call-up.

The event has enticed many of the top 50 with €7.5 million in prize money, including number seven Scott and two of the sport’s hottest golfers — Japan’s sixth-ranked Hideki Matsuyama and Sweden’s number nine Alex Noren.

Matsuyama has won three of his last four events while Noren has been a winner four times this season.

The United States are expected to be in the hunt on Sunday, with Ryder Cup hero Rickie Fowler and reigning US PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker.

The build-up has seen controversy with England’s Chris Wood and Scotland’s Russell Knox both drawing criticism for their choice of playing partners.

Former world number one Lee Westwood had his flight for Melbourne booked after being picked to be the England teammate of US Masters champion Danny Willett.

But when Willett withdrew because of a back injury two weeks ago, the chance to fly the flag for England went to the next-highest player on the world rankings in Wood. He chose Andy Sullivan, leaving Westwood reportedly fuming.

Wood said he could understand Westwood’s frustration to a point. “But it was Dan (Willett) who pulled out that affected him. It had nothing to do with me,” Wood said Tuesday.

“Dan had the choice to pick a few months ago and he looked past the likes of myself, Andy Sullivan and Matthew Fitzpatrick to pick Lee. And I’m sure all of us were a little bit frustrated by that, but nothing was made of it.

“I’ve gone down the rankings and Sulli was the guy behind me and that was the right way to do it, I believe.”

The same is true for Knox, whose choice of close friend Duncan Stewart as partner also raised some eyebrows on the European scene.

“I could pick anyone in the top 500 in the world and I did,” said Knox, who has won twice on the PGA Tour in the past 12 months. “I don’t really care what other people think.”

(C) AFP 2016

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