The team dream
Rob Lee reflects on the USA's latest win and feels Ireland and Wales are worth backing at the World Cup.
Last Updated: 24/11/11 11:09am
The talk before the Presidents Cup was that local knowledge would play into the hands of the International team, but it didn't turn out that way.
With five Australians in Greg Norman's ranks at Royal Melbourne there were high hopes that they would pick up only their second win in history, but the Americans were too strong. You couldn't say 19-15 was a thrashing, it was fairly close, but the USA never really looked like losing.
Norman has suggested they need four wildcard picks in the future, instead of two, and if he feels that will make a difference I don't see any reason why he shouldn't get them, although I can't think of many outstanding international candidates that he would have taken this year. I think they may have to accept that the Americans are too strong.
Of course, Tiger Woods took many of the headlines after claiming the winning point. He didn't get off to a great start and only won two points out of five, but he won his singles match and looked very impressive in the Saturday fourballs when he only missed one green all afternoon.
He was one good round away from winning in Australia the week before and hit lots of good shots last week. With his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, still to come, things are looking much brighter for him.
He looks much more relaxed these days and seemed to have a good rapport going with the crowd. He also made sure the Steve Williams thing wasn't an issue and nobody was talking about that by the end of the week.
I've already placed a bet on him to win the Masters. I got 10/1 on him two months ago and I was confident that was never going to stay an option, assuming his knee is okay. If he starts 2012 well then you can expect him to be back down to 3/1 or 4/1 as usual by the time we get to Augusta.
The star player for America last week was probably Jim Furyk, who finally found some form after a strange season. He took the FedEx jackpot in 2010, but things haven't happened for him this year. It's so easy to slip out of form and life becomes pretty tricky when that happens.
But he had a great Presidents Cup and even though it's late November, it's never too late to get your game back. He'll hope to use this as a platform to build on over the next few weeks and come out firing in 2012.
Now attention turns to the World Cup, but America won't be sending such a strong side to China, where they'll be represented by world number 10 Matt Kuchar and world number 48 Gary Woodland, who wasn't even involved in the Presidents Cup.
The likes of Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson were ahead of Kuchar in the rankings, but passed up the opportunity and as the highest-ranked player, Kuchar was able to select his playing partner.
There are many Americans above Woodland in the world rankings, but personally I don't think it's such a bad pairing. Gary has had a very strong season and with Kuchar's consistency they should be there or thereabouts.
With the US still bathing in the success of their Royal Melbourne triumph, they will have a good chance again this week.
The World Cup is maybe the wrong name for this tournament because in other sports it represents the best of the best. That doesn't really ring true with golf.
You get an interesting mix of players, but many of the top guys don't see it as essential. It would have been nice to see Lee Westwood and Luke Donald representing England, for example, but Ian Poulter and Justin Rose are still quite a highly-ranked pairing.
But there is plenty of prize money at stake and there's no doubt that the guys turning up will be very proud of having an opportunity to represent their country.
This is a fun event. If you like the guy you're playing with it's got to be enjoyable and if you play well then it can be magic. However, while these players may go out there saying this isn't super-serious, as soon as they start playing well the blinkers will come down and they'll be trying to win.
The format is stroke play with fourballs and foursomes mixed up over alternate days and that's why it's important to play with somebody you get on with. That means the Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell must start as favourites. Not only are they two of the best players in the world, but they're good mates and will have plenty of rapport together.
Poulter and Rose are also big mates, living very close to each other, and you would have thought the strong relationship between them will help them to play well.
The Molinari brothers will be very proud to defend and will be looking to become the first team to defend it since Fred Couples and Davis Love III in the 1990's. This tournament suited Francesco and Edoardo last time and they obviously like team play, having done so well in the Ryder Cup. It must be fantastic to play with your brother and they must be among the frontrunners.
I quite like the Spanish duo of Miguel Angel Jimenez and Alvaro Quiros, but I think the Welsh are a good outside bet with Rhys Davies and Jamie Donaldson in their ranks. Donaldson has had a consistent season and Davies has just started working with Bob Torrance and has put a few good rounds together recently. They're good value.
Rob's Sky Bet Tips
World Cup: If you're a big-money, low odds better you've got to look at Ireland, but if you're a fun punter looking for some good value then you should back Wales.
South African Open: I'm hoping Nick Dougherty can play well as he bids to try and keep his card. However, my money would be on Simon Dyson, who has been pretty good all year long. He likes to play a lot of golf and he'll be looking for a bit of prize money to splash on the family at Christmas.