First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 27th November 2008
The World Cup has been snubbed by many of the top players: it’s time for a change to the format.
Today saw the start of the World Cup of golf at Mission Hills in China. After one round of better-ball play, the German team of Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka lead the way on -10. The Germans winning the World Cup – it’s an all too familiar story isn’t it?
There’s been quite a bit of press recently about how the World Cup isn’t the prestige event it once was and that many of the best players are snubbing it. The top golfers from the USA have been reluctant to compete in the tournament for the past few seasons and this year is no different – 16 yanks eligible to play in their two-man team passed up the chance. The duo who did travel to Mission Hills – Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker – are the 8th and 18th best placed Americans in the World Ranking respectively.
Also skipping the World Cup are: Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and KJ Choi. In fact, only three players in the World’s top 20 (Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson and Miguel Angel Jimenez) tee it up in China. Just 11 of the top 50 are competing. It’s definitely a far cry from the days when the competition was known as the Canada Cup and winning pairs included – Ben Hogan and Sam Snead in 1956 and Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in ’63, ’64, ’66 and ’67.
The competition was originally called the Canada Cup as it was founded by Canadian industrialist John Jay Hopkins. He’d turn in his grave if he could see the pair representing his country this year. Teeing it up for Canada is the mighty duo of Wes Hefferman and Graham Delaet… who? I’ve just looked them up and they’re ranked 385th and 480th in the world. Fair play to them though – they’ve started with a 64.
The concept of the World Cup should really work. Everyone loves supporting a player or team when they’re representing your country. Plus, there are few opportunities in golf to be a passionate supporter. It’s why the Ryder Cup is so successful – suddenly you truly care who wins.
The current competition is held too frequently and not enough players from each country are involved. Wouldn’t it be great if, once every four years, there was a proper Golf World Cup – along the lines football or rugby?
Each of the nations who qualify send a squad of 15 players to a three-week extravaganza – group stages then quarter finals, semi finals and final.
Each match is made up of 11 singles match-play contests over 18-holes. So, maximum win would be 11-0 but a 5.5-5.5 tie would be possible. In the group stages two points are awarded for a win and one for a half.
As the contest moves into the knock-out stages, it’ a simple winner takes all. In the event of a tie in a quarter, semi or final – all 11 matches go up the 18th again in the style of penalties. ie. If one man beats his opponent on the hole, he earns a point. The team with the most points after the 11 matches are finished the hole goes through. If it’s a tie again, the process is repeated.
The teams are totally hand-picked by the country’s Captain and can be made up of professionals and amateurs. The skipper isn’t constrained by any sort of qualification process and isn’t beholden to the rankings. He might choose to put a wily veteran on the team sheet or a teenage amateur. He has no obligation to play everyone in his 15-man squad.
Obviously the Americans would be hot favourites in such a contest, but there are a number of other nations who could pull off an upset – GB&I, Australia, South Africa, Spain or Sweden for instance. The Germans would be pretty unlikely to win, though you should never underestimate them.