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Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith aim to defend home turf at World Cup of Golf

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JEJU, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 21: Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman of Australia prepare for their putts on the 5th green during the third round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on October 21, 2017 in Jeju, South Korea.  (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

JEJU, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 21: Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman of Australia prepare for their putts on the 5th green during the third round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on October 21, 2017 in Jeju, South Korea. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

United States looks to maintain historical dominance; Denmark strives for back-to-back

    MELBOURNE, Australia – Marc Leishman has won four times on the PGA TOUR, but has yet to hoist a trophy of significance in his home country.

    He intends to rectify this hole in his resume this week.

    But the affable Australian and his partner Cameron Smith will have their work cut out for them at the ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf, as 27 other teams are eyeing the same prize.

    With the fall portion of the FedExCup in the rearview, attention turns to the Southern Hemisphere for this week’s team competition.

    The Metropolitan Golf Club sits in the famed Sandbelt golf region of Melbourne and should present a great challenge.

    “I've won all around the world now and won some smaller events here in Australia, but winning a big event at home, apart from a major, that's the next thing on the list,” Leishman said.

    “I'm really determined to obviously play really well here this week and try and win the World Cup with Cam. That would be huge.”

    Teams of two alternate between Foursomes and Fourball play, in much the same vein as the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

    Smith is a former winner in New Orleans (with Swede Jonas Blixt), so he has experienced success in the format.

    Coming after the local favorites are several teams of note.

    Fresh off his win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, Matt Kuchar joins forces with Kyle Stanley as the United States tries to continue its dominance in the event.

    The U.S. has 24 World Cup wins, well ahead of Australia and South Africa with five each.

    “Certainly riding a high. Winning a tournament on the PGA TOUR is hard to do. When you do it, you've got a great buzz going, a great sense of confidence and hoping to keep it going,” Kuchar said.

    The Americans have a combined 10 PGA TOUR wins between them, and Kuchar is a former World Cup champion, joining Gary Woodland to win in 2011.

    Team England is certainly a passionate one with firebrands Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter.

    Poulter has had success on the Melbourne Sandbelt before, winning the now-defunct Australian Masters in 2011.

    The chest-thumping Englishman lobbied Hatton to choose him as a partner given his love for Sandbelt golf.

    The iconic region is littered with courses with thoughtful designs that call for more than just bomb-and-gouge.

    The greens are built expertly into the topography and the bunkers have crisp vertical edges that also fit snugly into the fairways and putting surfaces.

    “Team events are pretty special. And when you look at the type of course that we're playing this week, it's easy to get very fired up to come and play golf,” Poulter said.

    “I get asked all the time when I play pro-ams all over the world, what are some of the favorite courses you've played on. I pretty much tell everybody, unless you've traveled down to the Sandbelt, you really haven't experienced golf.”

    England is looking for its first win since Paul Casey and Luke Donald combined for the 2004 title.

    Defending champion Denmark returns the same duo as 2016, in-form Thorbjorn Olesen and veteran Soren Kjeldsen.

    With Kjeldsen's accuracy and Olesen's power, the Danes are confident they have the magic formula to go back-to-back on the Sandbelt, having won at Kingston Heath in 2016.

    "We're quite opposite; most of the time I put it in the fairway," Kjeldsen said.

    "I've got a solid game, whereas Thorbjorn has a flashy game; he has amazing stuff now and again."

    Olesen bypassed picking up-and-coming star Lucas Bjerregaard, who won last month’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour, in favor of the winning combination.

    “We're one of the better teams because we have a lot of confidence and we've proven we can do it," Olesen said.

    Team China is looking to create history, as Haotong Li and Wu Ashun strive to better their runner-up finish in 2016.

    Not only do they want the World Cup trophy, but they want to state their case as a potential duo for the International team in next year’s Presidents Cup, which will also be held in Melbourne.

    “It would be very exciting to play a Presidents Cup together and would also be very good news in China, too, because a Chinese player has never played a Presidents Cup,” Ashun said.

    “So it's a very good chance for me and Haotong to try to impress.”

    They’re not the only ones hoping to give International team captain Ernie Els something to ponder.

    Abraham Ancer leads the Mexican team fresh off a win at the Australian Open.

    Kiradech Aphibarnrat will look to overpower the course for team Thailand.

    Anirban Lahiri will lead team India, and his fellow 2017 Presidents Cup teammate Jhonattan Vegas will spearhead Venezuela.

    Then Byeong Hun An and former PLAYERS Champion Si Woo Kim make a formidable South Korean team.

    The battle for world supremacy is on.

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