S. Africa, U.S. tipped in World Cup Golf
SOMERSET WEST, South Africa (AFP): The combined talents of Ernie Els and Wayne Westner give South Africa its first real chance in 22 years of victory in the US$1.5 million World Cup Golf tournament that starts here today.
Their toughest competition is likely to come from the American duo of U.S. Open champion Steve Jones and British Open winner Tom Lehman, keen on making it five in a row for the United States.
The U.S. pair take over the World Cup challenge from compatriots Fred Couples and Davis Love III, who clinched their fourth successive victory at Mission Hills, China, last year.
Teams from at least six other nations -- Zimbabwe, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Sweden -- are in line for a shot at the title and the $400,000 first prize, with France, Italy and Spain the dark horses.
The home pair are currently in form, with Els last month capturing his third straight World Matchplay title and last week winning the eight-man Johnnie Walker Super Tour in Asia.
Westner has had his best year on the local circuit, finishing second behind Zimbabwe's Mark McNulty at the Volvo Masters last month and narrowly missing a place in the Dunhill Cup final at St Andrew's.
The other leading teams in the field of 32 also boast several tournament-winning players, including Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke of Ireland, Ian Woosnam of Wales, and Mark McNulty.
Other players in the top 11 European Tour's rankings include Constantino Rocca of Italy, Andrew Coltart of Scotland and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark.
Bernhard Langer, one of the few players to brave the driving rain to venture onto the picturesque Erinvale course during official practice on Tuesday, will be joined by Alexander Cejka in the German team.
A big fan of the World Cup, Langer will be making his 11th start in the competition.
Erinvale, situated outside this winelands town 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Cape Town and designed by Gary Player, is among the most beautiful courses in the world, with the back nine holes moving up the slopes of a mountain and the front nine down level with the sea.
Player, who with Harold Henning won the tournament for South Africa in Madrid in 1965, tips the U.S. pair to win but says they will be given a run for their money by the South Africans.
"That's a very good team and they'll help to make it an exciting event," he said, referring to Els and Westner.
South Africa's last World Cup victory was in Venezuela, in 1974, when Dale Hayes and Bobby Cole did the honors for their country.
The 22 seeded nations contesting the World Cup are: Argentina (Ricardo Gonzalez, Jorge Alberto Berendt), Australia (Bradley Hughes, Stuart Appleby), Canada (Rick Gibson, Rick Todd), Denmark (Thomas Bjorn, Rene Budde), England (Jim Payne, Peter Mitchell), France (Jean van de Velde, Marc-Antoine Farry), Germany (Bernhard Langer, Alexander Cejka), Ireland (Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington), Italy (Manuel Zerman, Constantino Rocca), Japan (Katsunori Kuwabara, Tsuneyuki Nakajima), Mexico (Rafael Alarcon, Cesar Perez), New Zealand (Philip Tataurangi, Paul Devenport), Paraguay (Ramon Franco, Nelson Cabrera), Scotland (Andrew Coltart, Paul Lawrie), South Africa (Ernie Els, Wayne Westner), Spain (Diego Borrego, Ignacio Garrido), Sweden (Jarmo Sandelin, Patrick Sjoland), Switzerland (Andre Bossert, Paolo Quirici), Chinese Taipei (Chen Liang-Hsi, Chang Tse-Pen), United States (Tom Lehman, Steve Jones), Wales (Ian Woosnam, Mark Mouland) and Zimbabwe (Mark McNulty, Tony Johnstone).
The 10 nations that qualified after playoffs in Jamaica earlier this year: Chile (Roy Mackenzie, Guillermo Encina), China (Cheng Jun, Zhang Lianwei), Colombia (Rigoberto Velasquez, Albert Evers), Czech Republic (Jiri Janda, Petr Mruzfk), Hong Kong (Derek Fung, Tang Man Kee), Jamaica (Delroy Cambridge, Seymour Rose), Namibia (Trevor Dodds, Schalk van der Merwe), Puerto Rico (Miguel Suarez, Wilfredo Morales), Sri Lanka (Nandasena Perera, Tissa Chandradasa) and Venezuela (Federico Sauce, Henrique Lavie).