Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker to play World Cup in China

Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker to play World Cup in China

(AP) — Ben Curtis had so much fun playing for his country that he wants to do it again.

Curtis, who went 1-1-1 in his Ryder Cup debut last month, has selected Brandt Snedeker to be his partner for the World Cup, which will be played in China during the week of Thanksgiving.

Six other Americans turned down the long trip, and Curtis wasn’t sure he would be able to go without the right partner. He wound up with Snedeker, who is becoming a world traveler this time of year.

“I am very excited to be playing with Ben and representing our country in this event,” Snedeker said. “In our sport, you don’t get the opportunity too many times to compete for your country, and this is going to be a thrill for me. I think it will also be a good experience as a I work hard to reach my goal of making the next Ryder Cup, and perhaps next year’s Presidents Cup teams.”

The Americans have won 23 times since the World Cup began in 1953, but their last victory came in Argentina in 2000 behind Tiger Woods and David Duval. A year ago in China, Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum lost in a playoff to Scotland.

Colin Montgomerie returns for the defending champions, this time with Alastair Forsyth. Other teams include Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher for England; Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson for Sweden; and Rory Sabbatini and Richard Sterne for South Africa. Sabbatini led South Africa to the World Cup with Trevor Immelman in 2003.

As for Snedeker? The World Cup will be the end of a month on the other side of the world.

He is getting married this weekend, then plays the Kiwi Challenge in New Zealand on Oct. 28-29. Then it’s off to Fiji for his honeymoon, followed by a trip to Japan for the Dunlop Phoenix before meeting up with Curtis in China.

CALC’S KNEE: Mark Calcavecchia made it five years before another knee surgery.

He was to have athroscopic surgery Tuesday in Phoenix to repair the torn medial meniscus in his left knee, his first surgery since 2003 but the fifth since 1985. He expects it will take four to six weeks to recover, but that won’t stop him from defending his title in the Merrill Lynch Shootout with partner Woody Austin.

“I’m not sure how much cartilage will be left after this,” Calcavecchia said. “I’ll play the Merrill Lynch in a wheelchair if I have to, but I’ve got plenty of time to get ready for it.”

The Merrill Lynch Shootout has been pushed back this year to Dec. 11-14.

Calcavecchia played with pain most of the year, withdrawing from the U.S. Open and Turning Stone Championship two weeks ago when he couldn’t take it anymore. He is 48, but has one omen on his side for next year.

“My recent ‘even’ years haven’t been too good, but the ‘odd’ years have been,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to ’09.”

SHOOTOUT: The Merrill Lynch Shootout has something for everyone this year.

Greg Norman’s popular silly-season event has six Ryder Cup players, five Champions Tour players and one guy who has been on injured reserve most of the year – Brad Faxon. Still to be named are two more players in the 24-man field for the Dec. 12-14 event in Naples, Fla.

Mark Calcavecchia and Woody Austin are the defending champions.

The Ryder Cup players are Stewart Cink, J.B. Holmes, Kenny Perry, Ian Poulter, Steve Stricker and Boo Weekley. Also playing is Paul Azinger, the winning captain from the Ryder Cup.

BIG EASY REFLECTION: Tiger Woods generated plenty of conversation when he said reconstructive surgery on his left knee typically recovers at 85 percent after six months, but takes two years before it is back at full strength.

Ernie Els, who tore up ligaments in his left knee in the summer of 2005, spoke from experience when he said Woods was doing the right thing to take his recovery slowly. Woods is not expected to even hit balls until January. Els returned in December of 2005, but says he wasn’t fully recovered until six months later.

“I was very stubborn. I wanted to come back as soon as possible,” Els said. “I set a date for me of Sun City, and that was definitely too early. The doctors down there saw my knee and thought I was crazy to play, it was so swollen. My doctor told me that I couldn’t do any more damage to my knee. The tendon was a good surgery. That was what I wanted to do.

“Obviously,” he said, “Tiger is a little different.”

SWEET HOME, ALABAMA: Two courses on the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama were ranked 1-2 among public courses in a new survey from Golf World in which the magazine’s readers were asked to rank the best private, resort and public golf courses.

The Grand National course in Opelika, Ala., was No. 1, followed by the Capitol Hill course in Prattville, Ala.

Golf World said it received more than 21,000 individual golf course ratings from online polling, and readers were asked for evaluations on various criteria.

The top two resorts in the survey were Kiawah Island and Turning Stone, while the top two private course were Augusta National and Pine Valley.

DIVOTS: Rory Sabbatini has failed to break par the last four times he has held a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, including a victory at Riviera. … Titleist is returning to the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., for the first time in seven years. Titleist executive vice president Jerry Bellis said the return is due to the PGA shifting the show’s emphasis to a more educational platform. … Boo Weekley was inducted into the Milton (Fla.) High School Hall of Fame during halftime of its football game last Thursday. … Jim Furyk played in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf for the fourth time. Only Tiger Woods (8) and Greg Norman (5) have made more appearance. “I guess I got a lot out of winning one major,” said Furyk, who has been an alternate the last three times.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Zach Johnson became the fourth player named Johnson to win on the PGA Tour this year. The others were Richard Johnson, Dustin Johnson and Johnson Wagner.

FINAL WORD: “I really couldn’t believe how well some of the guys played. Under so much pressure, the shots they were hitting were incredible. As a player myself, I never realized how good it is to watch.” – Darren Clarke on the Ryder Cup.

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