Scotland’s defence of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China begins on Thursday with Colin Montgomerie and Alastair Forsyth looking to become the first team to retain the title in eight years.
Scotland, as defending champions, and China, the host nation are joined by teams from another 26 nations from all four corners of the world in the spirit of friendship and goodwill through golf. The opening ceremony signalled the start of the 54th World Cup with the players standing shoulder to shoulder on the 18th hole of the Olazábal Course at Mission Hills Golf Club.
The 72 hole stroke play competition will feature two rounds of fourball and two of foursomes, beginning with the fourball format on Thursday when New Zealand, represented by David Smail and Mark Brown, and France, with Gregory Bourdy and Gregory Havret, getting the prestigious team event underway.
Scotland’s defence will begin in the company of the home nation in the day’s final grouping and is sure to attract plenty of media attention and popular support.
Scotland won the title for the first time since the inaugural World Cup in 1953 when Montgomerie and Marc Warren defeated the United States team in a play-off. Montgomerie returns to the spectacular Olazábal course at Mission Hills with a new partner in Alastair Forsyth determined not to relinquish the title.
“It feels slightly different with a new partner, but at the same time I am delighted to come back to a venue where we won the inaugural Omega Mission Hills World Cup,” said Montgomerie. “It was a great honour for us, and the first time Scotland had won the event. We had been runner up, I believe half a dozen times before, and it was good that we came here and eventually won after having lost in a playoff the previous year.
“We'll be playing with the local Chinese team, and out last, so it will be busy. We look forward to trying to get off to a good start to build from there.”
Forsyth added: “I've played the World Cup a few times, really enjoyed it. Never played with Colin before, but looking forward, coming in as defending champions adds a little bit of spice to it, even though I had nothing to do with that.
“No, it's obviously a pleasure to play with Monty. He's been around the course and done it all for Scottish and European golf, so it will be great to be by his side.”
China finished 11th a year ago, their highest placing, and after the success of the Olympic Games in Beijing earlier this year, expectations are high for more sporting success.
“We have had two days of practising together here,” said Zhang. “We’ve had a lot of birdies between us and hopefully we’ll continue to do so when the tournament starts tomorrow.”
Liang added: “I’m glad to play in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup again and to be playing with Zhang, our expectations will be the same as our media friends. We are hoping for a good result.”
As to the prospect of being paired with the defending champions, China are relishing the challenge.
“I think it’s a good thing that the host country will be paired with the defending champions,” said Zhang. “We are hoping to have a good atmosphere but sometimes, it can affect the players. Golf is not like football. Golf is a calm game. We need to have our focus and concentration on all the time.
Liang added, “Playing with Scotland, we’ll try to play our best. I hope the fans will give all their support to our team.”
Sweden are another team for whom expectations are high with 2008 European Tour Number One and World Number Six, Robert Karlsson, partnering his Ryder Cup team-mate and the World Number 12, Henrik Stenson. The experience of playing together in The Ryder Cup is another factor which could favour the Swedes.
Stenson said: “It's something that's different from what we play on a weekly basis. Obviously with the team format, and playing better ball and foursomes, I think it's a whole lot of fun just to be able to play in a relaxed, but still competitive mode.
“It's also a great honour to play for your country and I think that's the most important thing; that we go out there and we represent Sweden and we want to win it for Sweden.
Karlsson added: “It's definitely a great honour to play for your country, especially now with Sweden having a lot of good players, and to be in the top one or two percent of your country is great. If you look on the players who have won this tournament over the years, it's very prestigious. A lot of great names up there and it would be great to join them.”
Prominent Chinese and international dignitaries gathered for the opening ceremony, including Dr. David Chu, Chairman of the Mission Hills Golf Club, Mr. Dalin Cui, China’s Vice Minister of the General Administration of Sport, Mr. Stephen Urquhart, President of Omega, Mr. George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, Mr. Ed Moorhouse, Co-Chief Operating Officer of the PGA Tour, Mr. Kyi Hla Han, Executive Chairman of the Asian Tour, Mr. Tadashi Koizumi, Chairman of the Japan Golf Tour, Mr. Dan Halldorson, Deputy Executive Director of the Canadian Tour, and Mr. Ricardo Lyon, Commercial Vice President of the Tour de las Americas.
And the last word went to Liang Wen-chong, who spoke on behalf of all the players, when he said: “ To all my fellow competitors, I would like to welcome you to China. I am extremely proud to be representing my country this week and I know that you all feel the same. I look forward to having the opportunity to play alongside you on the magnificent Olazábal Course here at Mission Hills, and I would like to thank the organisers, OMEGA, and Mission Hills, for their commitment to the World Cup and for bringing us all together here today. I hope that you enjoy your time in China, and I wish you all the best of luck for the championship.”
The 28 nations and teams who will compete in the 2008 Omega Mission Hills World Cup are:-
Australia (Richard Green, Brendan Jones)
Canada (Wes Heffernan and Graham DeLaet)
Chile (Felipe Aquilar, Mark Tullo)
China (Liang Wen-chong, Zhang Lian-wei)
Chinese Taipei (Lin Wen-Tang , Lu Wen-Teh)
Denmark (Søren Hansen, Anders Hansen)
England (Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher)
Finland (Roope Kakko and Mikko Korhonen)
France (Gregory Havret, Gregory Bourdy)
Germany (Martin Kaymer, Alex Cejka)
Guatemala (Pablo Acuña, Alejandro Villavicencio)
India (Jeev M Singh, Jyoti Randhawa)
Ireland (Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley)
Italy (Francesco and Edoardo Molinari)
Japan (Ryuji Imada, Toru Taniguchi)
Korea (Bae Sang-moon and Kim Hyung-tae)
Mexico (Oscar Serna, Daniel De León)
New Zealand (Mark Brown, David Smail)
Philippines (Angelo Que and Mars Pucay)
Portugal (Tiago Cruz and Ricardo Santos)
Scotland (Alastair Forsyth, Colin Montgomerie)
South Africa (Rory Sabbatini, Richard Sterne)
Spain (Miguel Angel Jiménez, Pablo Larrazabal)
Sweden (Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson)
Thailand (Prayad Marksaeng, Thongchai Jaidee)
USA (Ben Curtis, Brandt Snedeker)
Venezuela (Miguel Martinez, Raul Sanz)
Wales (Bradley Dredge, Richard Johnson))
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