Date: August 16, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Day, Scott against cracker World Cup field

World No.1 Jason Day has chosen Adam Scott as his partner as the Australian pair seeks to defend its World Cup of Golf crown in Melbourne in November.

The pair, along with Masters champions Danny Willett and Bubba Watson, were confirmed today among 33 starters at Kingston Heath from November 24-27.

Twelve players from the world top 50 have committed to the event among the top-ranked players from 28 countries all playing for a $10.4 million purse.

The top two Americans in the world rankings, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, have opted not to come, but dual green jacket winner Watson jumped at the chance.

Watson, who revelled in American colours and finished tied for eighth at the Olympics, has not yet selected his playing partner, but Ricky Fowler, who also competed in Rio, is understood to have indicated his enthusiasm.

Willett, who upstaged Spieth to win the Masters this year, will be partnered by former Emirates Australian Open champion Lee Westwood.

Both Day and Scott have been confirmed as Australian Open starters at Royal Sydney the week before, while Scott will also contend the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines a week after the World Cup.

Day, who hasn’t played at home since 2013, said defending the title with his fellow Queenslander was an opportunity he couldn’t miss.

“The victory at the 2013 World Cup of Golf was a kick-start to a phenomenal stretch of golf for me,” Day said.

“I am truly looking forward to the new team format with Adam. I really can’t imagine a better scenario than to represent Australia in our home country, with one of my good mates at Kingston Heath, one of my all-time favourite courses.”

Watson, similarly, jumped at the chance to play for the USA.

“Anytime I can represent my country, I get excited. It is a great honour to put on the red, white and blue,” Watson said.

“I have visited Melbourne a couple of times. I love going to Australia – the Sandbelt courses are awesome.

“They normally play super fast and you have to be creative to play well which suits my game. I can’t wait to get down there.”

Among the other big names to confirm is an exceptionally strong Asian contingent, including rising Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama and Korean Olympian Byeong Hun An, both likely Presidents Cup players next year.

“It’s always great and I take pride in representing our country,” An said.

“There will be a little less pressure than the Olympics, but it is definitely an event that I want to play well in. It will be my first time playing in Australia. I remember watching the Presidents Cup in Australia and thinking that I hope to play in Australia some day.”

Rising Argentinian star Emiliano Grillo, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, Fiji’s Vijay Singh and Kiwi Danny Lee are among the big names yet to lock in a partner, while recent US PGA Tour winners Russell Knox, of Scotland, and Jhonattan Vegas, of Venezuela, have chosen Duncan Stewart and Julio Vegas, respectively.

The powerhouse Belgian team of Thomas Pieters and Nicolas Colsaerts are locked in, while fellow European stars Jamie Donaldson (Wales), Victor Dubuisson (France), Joost Luiten (Netherlands), Francesco Molinari (Italy) and Bernd Weisberger (Austria) are yet to seal their partnerships.

Popular Thai star Thongchai Jaidee is also locked in.

Jaidee, the only man to win three Asian Tour Order of Merit titles, said: “I’m looking forward to playing in my fifth World Cup of Golf in Melbourne. With the tournament reverting to a combined team format, I believe it will be very exciting for players and I hope to put up a strong showing with my partner, whom I will announce later.

“My best finish at the World Cup of Golf was tied seventh in 2008 (with Prayad Marksaeng) and it will be fantastic if I can help Thailand improve on that performance and contend for the prestigious trophy,” Jaidee said.

“It is always very special to represent Thailand and with a list of past World Cup champions that include legendary names like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, it will be wonderful if Thailand can rise to the occasion.”

This year’s event will be the fifth time the World Cup has been played in Australia, with all four previous tournaments at Royal Melbourne.