SHENZHEN, China (AP) — Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson want to give the World Cup of Golf a boost.
The tournament dates from 1953 and household names like Hogan, Nicklaus, Snead and Woods have all won it. Still, it struggles to find a place on golf’s jammed calendar.
Karlsson and Henrik Stenson — representing Sweden and the two highest-ranked players in the field — insist it’s important for players to show up.
“So to be part of this event — and it was maybe going down … and maybe even try to grow it to something even more prestigious would be great,” Karlsson said on the eve of Thursday’s opening round at the Mission Hills Golf Club in southern China.
The 28, two-man teams feature all of the game’s top countries — Spain, England, Scotland, Australia, the United States — but few of its best players.
Karlsson is ranked No. 6 and Stenson is No. 12. The only other player in the top 20 is Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is teaming with Pablo Larrazabal — not No. 2 Sergio Garcia.
The event has potential with a permanent home at this sprawling club — just an hour’s drive to the border with Hong Kong — and an unusual team-play format.
On Thursday and Saturday the teams play the easier fourball (better-ball) format. On Friday and Sunday it’s the more difficult foursomes (alternate shot).
“I’ve always said this format is all about how well you do in the foursomes part of it,” said Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, who won last year with Marc Warren. This time he’s defending with Alastair Forsyth.
Montgomerie and Warren shot 66 and 67 last year in foursomes, eventually winning in a playoff against Americans Bo Weekley and Heath Slocum. Weekly charmed the crowds last year with his southern drawl and down-home country humor.
The American team this time is former British Open champion Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker.
Curtis, ranked No. 25, spelled out the event’s main problem. It’s attractive, but not attractive enough to always draw the best players.
“I think every golfer in the world would want to play in this event at some point during their career,” Curtis said.
Several higher-ranked Americans turned down invitations to play, partly because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The prize money is $5.5 million — an increase of $500,000 from a year ago — with the winning team splitting $1.7 million. Tournament sponsor Omega seems willing to dig deep despite the global economic crisis.