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Fancourt a tough test for Presidents Cup teams

The Internationals start this week's Presidents Cup team competition as favourites but face a daunting task against the United States on a brutal par-73 layout.

The Gary Player-led Internationals feature eight players in the world top 20 compared to their opponents' seven but both sides know they will need a fair measure of luck over the next four days.

The fast-running Links course at the Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate, a 7,489-yard challenge modelled on a traditional links layout, is riddled with humps and bumps as well as thick rough.

"Your second shots into the greens are quite tricky," said world number three Ernie Els, who has his South African home at nearby Herold's Bay on the edge of the Indian Ocean.

"The greens are very undulating and you can't really get the ball to stop on the first bounce. It's a tough golf course."

World number one Tiger Woods, expected to take on Els in the last-day singles on Sunday, agreed.

"The golf course is playing very quick and the fairways are very fast, very undulating," said the 27-year-old, who is unbeaten in the singles in two Presidents Cup appearances.

"You've got to really make sure you've got your lines right off the tees because some of the bunkers are pretty high in the fairways, and you can get blocked out pretty easily."

However Jack Nicklaus, non-playing team captain for the holders, expects the more courageous players to cash in.

"There's an awful lot of holes out here that are long and strong, but the course is running fast and you can take advantage of it, depending on whether you have guts enough to hit it down a series of bunkers," said the 18-times major winner.

"You're going to get some funny bounces out here."

The tournament's fifth edition starts with six foursomes on Thursday.

"I'm more excited playing this time around than I've ever been," said Vijay Singh, the game's hottest player after ending Woods's four-year reign as the PGA Tour's leading money-winner.

"I think we have a very good team, we are capable of beating the Americans.

"Just like Melbourne, the first time we went overseas, we won. I think we're looking forward to doing the same thing over here again," added the tall Fijian, who produced top-six finishes, including two wins, in his last eight PGA Tour starts.

The U.S., who won in 2000 by 21-1/2 points to 10-1/2 at Lake Manassas, Virginia, also clinched the first two editions in 1994 and 1996.

But the Internationals flourished at Royal Melbourne in December 1998, winning 20-1/2 to 11-1/2.

"I would say that the International team would be the favourite," said Nicklaus. "I don't think there's any question about that.

"Even though they are widespread from around the world, I think they are on paper a stronger team."

American left-hander Phil Mickelson, though, believes his team's 1998 defeat will provide extra motivation.

"When we went to Australia, we did not play our best," he said. "So we are looking on it as a real challenge for us to bring out our best game and put up good matches.

"We very much want to keep the cup. We've only lost it one time and we'd like to keep it that way."

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