After a two-year hiatus, the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf is back in business. And for the first time, it’s going to be contested at the eye-popping and beloved Kingston Health Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-eight countries are represented in teams of two.
England … Outside U.S., Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan form only duo inside OWGR top 50. Wood’s been quiet after strong summer. Sullivan hopes to redeem after entering Ryder Cup in a slump.
The host country is defending its title after a 10-stroke victory at nearby Royal Melbourne three years ago, but the individual competition has been eliminated. It’s just as well since 2013 champ and the world’s current top-ranked golfer, Jason Day, elected not to compete as he continues to rest his back.
This week’s format will alternate foursomes in the first and third rounds with four-ball in the second and fourth rounds. The purse is a beefy $8 million, which helps explain the deep field of which 29 of the 56 golfers competed in one of five tournaments this past weekend. This includes Taiwan’s Cheng-Tsung Pan, who traveled from The RSM Classic, easily the furthest of anyone in play somewhere on Sunday.
Aside from its visual splendor as a gem in the sandbelt, Kingston Heath is both a competitive arena and a line item on one’s bucket list. It was designed in 1923 by D.G. (Dan) Soutar from Scotland. (The course opened in 1925.) The former caddie at Carnoustie went on to enjoy a decorated career both as an amateur and a professional in Australia. World Golf Hall of Famer and renowned architect Alister MacKenzie contributed the bunkering and the par-3 15th hole on the par 35-37=72 with only three par 3s and three par 5s. Put it all together and American golf fans will be salivating on their high-definition big screens with prime-time coverage (8:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday-Saturday) as winter’s chill begins to blanket the country.
While relatively unfamiliar to U.S.-based fans, Kingston Heath is no stranger to hosting the best talents in the game. It’s served as the site of seven Australian Opens – the last in 2000 – and a pair of Australian Masters. Tiger Woods prevailed here in 2009. Adam Scott tied for sixth that week, and then rose to victory in his return in 2012. This week’s teammate, Marc Leishman, is one of three others in this field to appear in the ’09 edition. He finished T57, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger placed T14 and Alex Cejka of Germany missed the cut. Only two others in addition to Scott in 2012 competed in the same tournament: New Zealand’s Ryan Fox (T14) and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland (T8), who slides under Ireland’s flag for the World Cup.
At just 7,087 yards, Kingston Heath will yield some very low scores, especially in four-ball. In the recent Aussie Masters, Woods posted 14-under 274 to win by two strokes in 2009, while Scott triumphed by four at 17-under 271 three years later. Remember, those were achieved in individual competitions. Long and straight off the tee plays just about everywhere, but in this team competition, conversations to agree on how to manage the course off the tee with omnipresent danger will demand agreement.
Australia is a couple of months into its springtime, but daytime high temperatures in the mid-60s throughout the tournaments are below average for this time of year. While rain early in the week will have abated by Thursday, the quintessential winds of Australia will add to the challenge.