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Monday 14 July 2014

Great for Jason Day but World Cup 'sham-pionship' has been reduced to realm of farce

Karl MacGinty

Published 26/11/2013|19:55

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Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry appeared at the World Cup pre-tournament press conference but weren’t able to play alongside each other

IT warmed the heart to see Jason Day achieve victory for himself, Australia and the Philippines at Royal Melbourne, yet this year's World Cup strayed so far from its ethos as one of golf's great institutions, it can only be termed as a 'sham-pionship'.

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The core principle of a tournament between two-man teams representing their country was shamelessly compromised in the rush to try out the format for the sport's readmission to the 2016 Olympics.

The battle for places on the Olympic podium in Rio will take place between two fields of 60 men and 60 women over 72 holes of individual stroke play, with no team element.

This ho-hum format is controversial enough without forcing it upon the World Cup of Golf, in the process, making nonsense of a splendid tournament which this year celebrated its Golden Jubilee, for heaven's sake.

Even Day and his fellow Aussie Adam Scott paused in their victory celebrations to express regret at not being able to play as partners at any stage over the four days of the event.

Traditionally, players competing for their country at the World Cup paired up together, in recent times to play alternate rounds of foursomes and fourballs.

BOND

Inevitably, this generated a special bond or team atmosphere which, lamentably, was absent from this year's tournament.

With $7m of the total $8m purse and, for the first time, world ranking points on offer in the individual competition, the team competition was completely undermined and utterly demeaned.

How tragic that Shane Lowry (26), playing his first World Cup, should miss out on a priceless opportunity to play 72 holes alongside Graeme McDowell on one of the most strategically demanding links courses on the planet.

A veteran of multiple World Cups, Ryder Cups and Seve Trophies and a Major champion to boot, McDowell is a master of his art.

Reputedly as tough an opponent you're likely to find on the professional fairways, he is by all accounts also a generous playing partner.

Yet instead of drawing from McDowell's experience, Clara man Lowry ludicrously had to soldier on alone, eventually finishing 44th in the 60-man field.

Given the inspiration McDowell usually draws from team golf, it's not unreasonable to assume he'd have finished a tad higher than 15th playing with an extroverted wingman like Lowry.

Though Day picked up the $1.2m winner's cheque and Scott finished third, pointedly even they felt a little short-changed by the tournament format.

"I'd like to have played fourball alongside Jason as a team for four days," said US Masters champion Scott, while Day urged the Olympic organisers to play international team-mates together in Rio.

"If we play together we could help each other out as team-mates as they do in other Olympic team sports," Day explained. "Sometimes you may have a bad hole and get down and frustrated with yourself, so it's always good to have a team-mate there to help pick you up and keep moving you forward."

Yet the Olympic qualifying system is designed to accommodate the stars of golf and with up to four players from any country eligible if they're in the world's top 15, the team element could get very complicated in Rio.

As golf will be a "demonstration sport" at the Games in 2016 and 2020, it's vital that the world's leading performers take part and impress the IOC before they vote in 2017 on granting the sport a more permanent place.

This helps explain why International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson went the extra yard earlier this year to help ease Rory McIlroy's quandary over which team to represent, Ireland or Britain, his noble effort earning a perfunctory rebuff from the headstrong young Ulsterman.

When McIlroy eventually emerges from his current 'part-time career' as a legal eagle to concentrate on golf, he'll no doubt displace Tiger once again at the top of the world.

Even this week, as news broke of the 'amicable settlement' of his legal dispute with former sponsor Oakley, the main event, McIlroy's acrimonious Commercial Court battle with his former management team, is scheduled to move on at a pace when Horizon today file their defence and lodge their counter-suit.

Amid this background noise, McIlroy readies himself for Thursday's showdown with Scott in the Australian Open at Royal Sydney.

As for the World Cup of Golf, the jury's very much out on a once-great event which, at a whim, has been stripped of its integrity and reduced to the realms of farce.

Irish Independent

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