McDowell, Lowry aiming to lock horns in World bid
IRELAND'S Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry are team-mates at the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf, but they're hoping to confront each other eyeball to eyeball down the stretch at Royal Melbourne next Sunday.
The cliche says there's no 'I' in team, but the revamped World Cup format requires this week's 60-strong field to compete as individuals over 72 holes of stroke play for a whopping $7m purse.
Unlike its last staging in China two years ago, where there were two rounds of fourballs and two rounds of foursomes, fellow countrymen aren't even paired together for the first round, to be played overnight (Irish time).
The $1.2m cheque which will go to Sunday's individual winner at this golden jubilee edition of the World Cup is greater than the entire €1m prize-fund for the team competition.
To win a third World Cup for Ireland, McDowell and Lowry must have the lowest aggregate score of the 26 two-man national teams taking part ... eight players also have qualified and tee it up this week as individuals.
The Irish pair's prospects will be hugely improved if McDowell and Lowry get themselves into a hammer-and-tongs battle for individual honours on Sunday .
"The ideal scenario would be the two of us in the final group, going head to head," confirmed Lowry, whose excitement is palpable heading into his first World Cup.
"Buzzing for the World Cup with G-Mac this week," Lowry tweeted, adding impishly: "Was trying to teach him Amhran na bhFiann earlier. Hopefully, we'll need it on Sunday."
The qualification process this week, like the tournament format, is the same as that proposed for golf's Olympic return in 2016.
Up to four entrants were permissible for any country this week, provided they're in the world's top-15 ... yet Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and McDowell are the only performers from the global top-15 in this week's field, so no country has more than two players..
World No 2 Scott, the first Australian to don the Green Jacket at Augusta National, is the bookies' favourite after winning the Aussie Masters at Royal Melbourne last Sunday, his second tournament victory in seven days in his homeland.
Scott and Jason Day are fancied for the team prize. Day impressed opponents and supporters alike with his courage and resolve by committing to this event, despite losing eight family members (his grandmother, uncle and six cousins) in the devastation wreaked on the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan.
Dane Thomas Bjorn said: "You can only hope Jason has the strength to go through what he's going through. To go and play golf, that shows a lot about Jason as a character. I feel for him and think everybody would love to see him do well."
The USA are represented once again by Kuchar, this time backed-up by Kevin Streelman, are second favourites, with Horizon stablemates McDowell and Lowry third.
"Shane's a cool guy and a classy individual. He has become a very good friend the past couple of years," said McDowell. "He's going to he a great World Cup partner."
World Cup of Golf,
Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 4, 2.0am