Contractual reasons are being touted as the reason for Rory McIlroy’s absence from the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf, giving Shane Lowry the chance to pick up some precious world ranking points when he partners Graeme McDowell at Royal Melbourne in November.
With McIlroy making himself unavailable and Padraig Harrington ranked 94th in the world, world No 83 Lowry will be confirmed as the highest available Irishman from the Official World Golf Ranking by next Monday’s qualifying deadline.
McIlroy confirmed earlier this year that he would not be taking part at Royal Melbourne from November 21-24.
However, a report in Sydney’s Herald Sun says that McIlroy’s “contract to play the Australian Open in Sydney the following week precludes him from playing outside New South Wales this year.”
As the World Cup is being played in the state of Victoria, this looks like a convenient contractual clause for McIlroy. If he were to play for Ireland, he would put himself in a position where he may be “obliged” to play for Ireland in the 2016 Olympic Games.
While McIlroy insists he cannot be forced to play for either Ireland or Team GB (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) Peter Dawson’s comments on the World Cup being used as a precedent to determine which country a player would represent in Rio de Janeiro appear to be swaying the world No 4’s thinking.
McDowell had no such qualms when asked about the Olympic Games knock-on effect earlier this year, explaining: “I’d love to play for Ireland in the World Cup. And the Olympics will not enter my head making a decision whether I’m going to play for Ireland in the World Cup this year, because it’s an event I’d love to play.
“So like I say, if it compels me to‑‑ if it forces me into playing for Ireland in the Olympics in 2016, so be it.”
Ireland hasn’t won the World Cup since Harrington and McGinley triumphed in 1997 though McDowell and McIlroy came close in 2009, when they finished joint runners-up with Sweden behind Italy’s Edoardo and Francesco Molinari.
The only other time Ireland has triumphed at the World Cup of Golf was in 1958, through Harry Bradshaw and Christy O’Connor.
McDowell, who will be making his third appearance in the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf, said: “I’ve won three times this year so it has to go down as a great season, and it’d be great to round it off by playing well at the World Cup of Golf.
“I’ve played the World Cup a few times in the past, and always really enjoyed it. The format has changed slightly this year, but it still retains that team element.
“I’ve been to Melbourne many times before and the courses there have some of the greatest greens and the best bunkers on the planet, so Royal Melbourne is going to be a great venue for the event. It’s definitely my kind of golf course.
“The wind blows quite hard and the course has a real linksy feel to it. It’s one of the finest links courses in the world, so I’m really looking forward to being part of the World Cup again.”
The format of the event has been changed this year so it is similar to the format that will be used for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Both the Olympic Games and the World Cup will be 72-hole stroke play events with no cut. The Olympics will be an individual stroke-play competition only whereas the World Cup will have an individual and a team competition.
The highest two ranked players on the OWGR from a given country will automatically compete concurrently in the team competition (via aggregate score), with any additional players from that country who are ranked lower only eligible for the individual competition.
As a result, there is no foursomes format this year and the event will receive Official World Golf Ranking Points based on strength of field.
WORLD CUP FACT FILE
- Current holders: USA - Matt Kuchar/Gary Woodland 64-70-63-67—264 (-24)
- Prize fund - US $8M (US $7M for individual stroke-play & US$1M for team competition.)
- US $1.2 million to stroke-play winner/ US $600,000 to team winners
- Estimated field size – 60 players -The 2013 World Cup will be based on a similar system of eligibility and format to that which will be utilized when golf makes its Olympic debut in 2016.
- The event is primarily an individual stroke-play competition, although it will also retain its traditional team component in a concurrent competition playing for the World Cup.
- Players within the top-15 on the Official World Golf Rankings gain access to the event, except that there will be no more than four players for any country.
- Beyond the top-15, up to 2 players per country (for those countries not already having 2 or more players as a result of the top-15 category) gain access to the event until the field of 60 players is filled.
- The host country of the event will be assured of at least two players in the competition.
- The proposed format would differ slightly from that which will be used in the Olympic Games in a couple of ways:
- First, there are no current plans for the Olympics to include a team competition. Second, the countries of England, Scotland and Wales will participate as separate teams in the World Cup competition (as opposed to in the Olympics where Great Britain fields a team).
- As has been tradition since the inception of the World Cup, players from Ireland and Northern Ireland will continue to compete together as one team representing Ireland.
- There will no longer be any regional qualifying for the World Cup as was the case with the previous format. Eligibility will be based solely on the Official World Golf Rankings.
- Final eligibility will be determined using the Official World Golf Ranking issued Monday, September 23rd. The commitment deadline for the event will be Friday, October 4th.