Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell were always playing for pride as they trailed overnight leaders Spain and Australia by seven shots with a round to play.
But the Irish duo crashed to a five-over par foursomes 77 - the worst score of the 28 nations - as Swedes Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson scorched to a nine-under 63 to win by three shots from Spain on 27-under.
Forced to settle for 16th place on 10-under, McDowell groaned: “We just struggled with a lack of momentum all week really and that was the end of the story. My partner struggled a little bit today. We got off to a slow start, missed short putts early and never really got things going.”
McGinley and McDowell had seven bogeys and just two birdies in a horrific foursomes effort as Karlsson and Stenson racked up nine birdies in brilliant final round to deny Spaniards Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal and notch Sweden's second World Cup triumph.
Victory was always a long shot for Ireland after a third round 68 in the fourballs left them with a mountain to climb and McDowell confessed that he was disappointed with a World Cup debut that had started so promisingly before fizzling out over the weekend.
The Ulsterman said: “The damage was done in the betterballs on Saturday morning when I played badly. It was a disappointing weekend because we promised a lot at the start of the week.
“Seven-under par was disappointing on Thursday when we played fantastic. We had it five under par in the foursomes on Friday but it was a disappointing weekend.
“In the third round fourballs you think you can make a move. But when things don’t happen you start to try and make them happen and we ran out of steam this weekend and didn’t play well at all.”
Sweden were four strokes off the pace entering the final round on the Olazabal Course but world No 6 Karlsson and No 12 Stenson lived up to their top billing when they charged to the turn in five-under par 31 to draw level with Spain and then clinched Sweden’s second World Cup win and its first since 1991 with another four birdies on the back nine.
The first Swedish winner of the Order of Merit earlier this year, Karlsson said: “If you look on the trophy, there's many impressive pairings on there. I hope we can look back on it in the future and say the same about us playing here.”
Stenson added: “It’s a great honour to play for your country, and obviously even better when you win. So we have had a fantastic week. Sweden only won it once before in 1991. So it was about time that we changed that and got our name up there again, and I hope we can continue.”
Spain had to settle for second place after a 70 with Aussies Brendan Jones and Richard Green tied for third with Japan after a 76.
Ryuji Imada and Toru Taniguchi were Asia’s best finishers for Japan, a 68 putting them alongside Australia.
Sweden’s only victory in the World Cup was recorded in 1991 through Per-Ulrik Johansson and Anders Forsbrand but Karlsson, ranked sixth in the world, and the 12th ranked Stenson lived up to their top billing at Mission Hills by saving their best for last.
“It means a great deal win for the country,” said Karlsson. “This has always been an event in Sweden that's been big. It’s quite a new country for golf, and to play for your country is great. I just hope this tournament can keep getting better by the years.
The victory continues an incredible year for Swedish golf and for Karlsson in particular, who a few weeks ago became the first Swede to finish European Tour Number One. He said they knew that a low round in the more challenging foursomes format was always on the cards after Spain produced a 63 on Friday.
“We thought it might be our turn today. We knew we needed to play better than yesterday. It was important for us to pick up a few shots early which we did,” said Karlsson, who was making his third World Cup appearance but partnering Stenson for the first time.
Unlike Friday’s session where Spain produced the day’s best, Jimenez and Larrazabal failed to fire on all cylinders in the final round, turning in 35 before shooting two more birdies against a lone bogey at the closing hole.
Jimenez said: “We didn't hole the putts today, and I missed the fairway on the par fives and we needed to make birdies on the par fives. That's the game. We just didn't make under par and didn't win.”
Larrazabal, the 2008 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in Europe, said: “We didn't play like the first and second rounds, but still it was a good performance and a great tournament for us. But you know, I wanted so badly to go home with the trophy, and I'm a little bit sad now.”
The Australians stayed in the title hunt after making the turn in even par with two birdies against as many bogeys but another dropped shot on the 12th hole left them with an uphill task. Three closing bogeys saw them drop into a share of third place with Japan.
“Just didn't happen for us today,” said Green. “We went out there with all of the right intentions and give it as good of a shot and tried our best and things didn't happen. We didn't have too many opportunities, unfortunately. It was just a bit of a struggle most of the day.”
Imada, who won once on the US PGA Tour this year, holed out from the bunker for an eagle on the 15th hole as Japan enjoyed a strong finish.
“He (Taniguchi) made a birdie putt on 14, and I got a little bit lucky and holed out a bunker shot on 15. We made a good save on 17 and a solid par on 18. It was a great finish. We played really well for foursomes, but I think we let a few get away in the four‑ball,” he said.
China’s Zhang Lian-wei and Liang Wen-chong shot a 72 for a 280 total and settled for a share of 17th place with India.
261 Sweden (Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson) 65-67-66-63 US$1.7 million
264 Spain (Miguel Angel Jimenez, Pablo Larrazabal) 64-63-67-70 US$900,000
270 Japan (Ryuji Imada, Toru Taniguchi) 66-68-68-68, Australia (Richard Green, Brendan Jones) 63-68-63-76 US$429,000
272 Germany (Martin Kaymer, Alex Cejka) 62-69-68-73 US$230,000
273 England (Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher) 69-74-63-67 US$200,000
274 South Africa (Rory Sabbatini, Richard Sterne) 70-70-67-67, Thailand (Prayad Marksaeng, Thongchai Jaidee) 69-73-64-68 US$155,000
275 USA (Ben Curtis, Brandt Snedeker) 64-69-69-73 US$125,000
276 Chile (Felipe Aguilar, Mark Tullo) 67-76-66-67, France (Gregory Havret, Gregory Bourdy) 68-75-62-71, Philippines (Angelo Que, Marciano Pucay) 67-72-65-72 US$96,667
277 Portugal (Tiago Cruz, Ricardo Santos) 67-73-67-70, Canada (Graham Delaet, Wes Heffernan) 64-71-69-73, Denmark (Soren Hansen, Anders Hansen) 65-75-64-73 US$70,333
278 Ireland (Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley) 65-68-68-77 US$64,000
280 India (Jeev Mikha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa) 67-72-70-71, China (Liang Wen-chong, Zhang Lian-wei) 69-75-64-72 US$61,000
281 Scotland (Alastair Forsyth, Colin Montgomerie) 68-73-68-72, Italy (Francesco Molinari, Edoardo Molinari) 70-73-64-74 US$57,000
282 Finland (Roope Kakko, Mikko Korhonen) 69-70-68-75 US$54,000
283 Guatemala (Pablo Acuna, Alejandro Villavicencio) 69-76-66-72, New Zealand (Mark Brown, David Smail) 65-75-68-75 US$51,000
284 Chinese Taipei (Lin Wen-tang, Lu Wen-teh) 68-75-69-72 US$48,000
285 Wales (Bradley Dredge, Richard Johnson) 69-77-68-71 US$46,000
287 Korea (Bae Sang-moon, Kim Hyung-tae) 68-70-71-78 US$44,000
288 Mexico (Daniel De Leon, Osca Serna) 66-77-71-74 US$42,000
294 Venezuela (Miguel Martinez, Raul Sanz) 71-74-75-74 US$40,000
Note: Fourball used in first and third rounds, Foursomes in second and final rounds.
Opened – Fall of 2003
Course Designer – Schmidt/Curley/JM Olazabal
Special Features - Bunkers, terrain, dense vegetation, landscape
General Playability - Excellent playability
Undulating/ flat - Sloping to gentle slopes
Tree lined/exposed - Tree lined.
Many / few water hazards - Few water hazards
Changes to the course - none
Type of grass - Tiff Eagle
Height of cut - 3.4mm
Speed/stimp reading –10.6 (Monday)
Any specific comments – Smooth and firm
Type of grass – Paspalum/Bermuda 419
Height of cut – 12mm
General width and contouring – Generous/moderate 35-45 meters
Any specific comments - Moderate to firm
Type of grass – Paspalum
Height of cut - 8mm
Any specific comments - Flat and firm
Type of grass - Paspalum
Height of cut – 8mm
Any specific comments - Flat and firm
Type of grass – Zoysia/Bermuda 419
Semi-rough - Height of cut – 20mm
Intermediate Height of cut –
Rough - Height of cut – 75mm
Any specific comments –
In advance – Normal, partly sunny
Forecast for tournament – Partly sunny