Ireland's Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell are hoping their long-standing friendship and intimate knowledge of one another’s games will carry them to victory this week in the World Cup of Golf.
World Number 43 Lowry and McDowell, who partnered Australian cricket legend Shane Warne in the Pro-Am, are part of a 36-strong contingent of European Members gunning for world glory at Kingston Heath, on the outskirts of the Australian city of Melbourne.
The pair will be aiming to secure a third victory for Ireland in the World Cup of Golf, following wins in 1997 for Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington and in 1958 for Harry Bradshaw and Christy O’Connor.
This year’s edition reverts back to the previous format, with two days of foursomes and two of fourballs, which McDowell and Lowry believe will improve their chances of beating their 27 rival teams.
Other leading contenders include the big-hitting Belgium duo of Nicolas Colsaerts and Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters, in-form Swede Alex Noren and his playing partner David Lingmerth, and the English pairing on Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood.
It's Lowry's first outing since he let it be known that his wife, Wendy, is expecting a baby at the end of February, which explains why he decided not to take the chance and opted out of the Olympic Games in Rio over fears of contracting the Zika virus.
“I had the chance to play this event three or four times in the past in this format, and it’s fantastic. I think some of the best experiences that I’ve had in the game of golf have been in the team format, Ryder Cups and Seve Trophies and the World Cup of Golf. So here representing Ireland and playing alongside a great mate in a team format is very exciting, and I think both of us are very up for it this week and very motivated and would love to be there come Sunday afternoon.”
“There are a lot of guys here this week who are playing with their friends. Myself and Graeme are very good friends. I was lucky when I turned pro that Graeme was with the same management company, and somewhat took me under his wing. So I’ve spent a lot of time with him, played a lot of practice rounds with him over the years, and feel very comfortable both on and off the course.”
“Everybody’s been telling me just to put the ball in play this week, and then Alex will take care of the rest! It’s going to be a lot of fun, Alex is a great guy.
“We’re just getting to know each other better and playing a team tournament is a good way to do that. We don’t do it a lot, but I really enjoy it.
“It’s nice to be here, and I love the course already. It’s a great change playing with David, so I’m looking forward to it a lot.
“Even though I’ve made it look quite easy recently, golf is still a tough game, so like everybody else you have to appreciate the ups. I’m still feeling a little bit nervous before this week, as I am every week. But it’s nice to come up with some good results and build up your confidence.”
Andy Sullivan: “I was going to have six weeks off, just to chill out a little longer. But I’m not sure how many World Cups I’m going to be invited to play, so when I got the opportunity to come and play, the only answer I was going to give was yes.”
“I had a holiday planned with my wife, so she went home on Sunday instead of being on holiday with me in Dubai. I had to deal with that gently!
“But, like Sully said, the chance to play in a World Cup and the golf courses down here are too good to turn down. These sort of sandbelt courses I could play for the rest of my life, so when the chance came to come down here and play, I was always going to take it.”
Did You Know?
- Flory van Donck of Belgium is the oldest player to participate in the World Cup. He was 67 when making the last of his 19 appearances in 1979. The youngest competitor was Marko Vovk, who was only 15 when he played for Yugoslavia in 1979.
- Defending champions Australia will aim to become the first nation to successfully defend the World Cup since the USA achieved the feat in 1999 and 2000.
- The USA hold the record for the most number of wins with 24. Australia and South Africa are next with five. Then come Spain with four, followed by Canada with three. Next with two come England, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Sweden and Wales. Four nations have triumphed once. They are: Argentina, Chinese Taipei, Italy and Scotland.
- Arnold Palmer (1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1967), along with Jack Nicklaus (1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1971 and 1973) jointly hold the record for most victories by a player with six. The duo also established the record for most victories by the same partnership in 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1967. That was matched by Fred Couples and Davis Love III in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995.