World Cup mystery

By Brian Keogh

Ireland will have a new World Cup duo in China this year.

But it still remains to be seen who will tee it up or whether Ireland will be forced to pre-qualify in Asia or South America later this month.

The Omega Mission Hills World Cup takes place from November 22-25 with the top 18 nations from the world rankings joined by up to ten qualifiers.

But with world No 7 Padraig Harrington deciding to give the World Cup a miss this year, Ireland is relying on a spate of withdrawals to make it automatically.

The leading 18 available players from this week's world rankings can choose their partners providing that player is also in the top 100.

Graeme McDowell the next highest ranked Irishman at 131st in the world followed by Darren Clarke (153rd), Paul McGinley (169th), Damien McGrane (269th) and Peter Lawrie (278th).

Players have until Sunday night to commit to the event and if Ireland are required to qualify there could still be problems finding a pair to tee it up.

McDowell has indicated that he might be willing to travel for the qualifier, despite the fact that it clashes with the Seve Trophy at The Heritage from September 26-30.

Clarke hasn't played in the World Cup since 1996 while McGinley could be ruled out of the qualifier if he gets a Seve Trophy wildcard from skipper Nick Faldo.

McGrane is studying his options while Lawrie might find it difficult to tee it up as his wife is "heavily pregnant" and due to give birth to the couple's second child on September 19.

Lawrie said: "I'd obviously love to play. But there are too many things up in the air at the moment."

If Ireland are forced to qualify, no substitutions are allowed and the same pair must tee it up in the event proper at Mission Hills.

Gary Murphy is the next highest ranked Irishman at 384th in the world.