South Africans Branden Grace and George Coetzee are looking forward to renewing sporting rivalries with their Australian counterparts Jason Day and Adam Scott when the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf gets underway at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
Day, Grace and Scott were team-mates at this year’s Presidents Cup, but they will be on opposing sides this week as 26 nations battle it out for the right to be crowned the world’s best.
The €8million ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf, which is this year celebrating its 57th edition, is primarily a stroke play event, but Coetzee and Grace also have their sights fixed firmly on the team prize.
Ahead of their bid to become the first South Africans since Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini in 2003 to win the World Cup of Golf, Grace and Coetzee identified the home nation as the team to beat, largely in light of Scott’s back to back victories on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
Coetzee said: “For us South Africans, it’s always great to beat Australia. In all sports, it’s a friendly rivalry. We’re all still good mates after the round and before the round and even during the round, but we definitely want to beat each other because we are very competitive countries. Australia and South Africa are probably two of the most competitive countries in the world, so we always want to beat each other in whichever sport we’re playing.”
Graced echoed those sentiments, saying: “The rivalry is always there, whether it is in golf, rugby or cricket. We want to beat the Australians. They are definitely favourites this week, but with this game you just never know. And there are so many good players out there, almost any team could win it.”
The Italian duo of Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari, one of only three players in the field with a World Cup of Golf win on his CV, will undoubtedly fancy their chances of lifting the trophy.
Manassero will get a good view of two of the pre-tournament favourites in the first two rounds, having been paired with Scott and American Matt Kuchar.
Unlike his playing partners, who finished first and second in last week’s Talisker Masters, the 20 year old – who is the youngest player in the 60-man field – has no previous experience of Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
But Manassero is relishing the prospect of measuring himself against and indeed learning from a player who, with the notable exception of Race to Dubai champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden, is currently perhaps the world’s most in-form player.
He said: “When you come to Australia and get paired with Adam Scott, it is always a great honour. Knowing how much Australian people love their sport, I’m sure there’s going to be a very big crowd following us, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. Hopefully it’s going to be a fun weekend too, but that depends on how me and Francesco play for the first two days.
“I was looking forward to this tournament anyway, because it’s my first World Cup, but that draw obviously makes the first two days even more exciting.”