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Spanish favourites for World Cup

Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez have a golden opportunity to clinch a fifth World Cup title for Spain this week when the two-man team competition is held for the 50th time.

The pair enjoy playing together, have produced superb form this season and will feed off home support with the final World Golf Championships (WGC) event of the year being staged at the Real Golf Club in Seville.

Garcia, twice a winner on the 2004 U.S. PGA Tour, believes his game is at its best since he turned professional in 1999 while the 40-year-old Jimenez has enjoyed an annus mirabilis with four victories in Europe.

"It's been a great year, a very positive year for me," Garcia, 24, told reporters at the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

"I have a bit more control over the ball than I did at the end of last year and my short game is the best it's ever been.

"Overall, I think my golf is the best it's been since I turned pro," added the Spaniard, who clinched playoff victories at the Byron Nelson Championship and the Buick Classic on this year's PGA Tour.

Jimenez, like Garcia a member of the triumphant European Ryder Cup team earlier this year, is looking forward to playing with his compatriot when the WGC-World Cup of Golf gets under way at the Jose Maria Olazabal-designed course on Thursday.

"We play very well as partners and we always have fun on the golf course," he said.

"Plus I only live one and a half hours from the Real Golf Club, so I will feel right at home during the tournament."

The Spaniard is renowned for his love of creature comforts and made sure he had sufficient supplies of his cherished Rioja wine and cigars in the European team room during the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills, Detroit in September.

For Jimenez, comfort and enjoyment have underpinned his 2004 golfing success.

"I've played very well all year but most importantly, I have enjoyed myself on the golf course," he said. "That's what you need to do to shoot low scores.

"There's not much different in my game this year really," added the European Tour veteran who won this year's Johnnie Walker Classic, Portuguese Open, the Asian Open and the BMW International.

Jose Maria Canizares and Jose Rivero last won the event for Spain in 1984.

South Africans Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini, who won last year's tournament by four strokes from England's Justin Rose and Paul Casey at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, will launch their defence in Thursday's opening fourball format.

Friday will feature foursomes, or alternate shot, action before the format switches back to fourballs on Saturday and then to foursomes on the final day.

The World Cup will be contested by 24 nations with minimum prize money of $4 million.

Teams:

Argentina (Eduardo Romero, Angel Cabrera); Australia (Stephen Leaney, Nick O'Hern); Austria (Markus Brier, Martin Wiegele); Canada (Stuart Anderson, Darren Griff); Colombia (Manuel Merizalde, Jose Garrido); Denmark (Anders Hansen, Soren Kjeldsen); England (Paul Casey, Luke Donald); France (Raphael Jacquelin, Thomas Levet); Germany (Marcel Siem, Kariem Baraka); Ireland (Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley); Italy (Allesandro Tadini, Andrea Maestroni); Japan (Shigeki Maruyama, Hidemichi Tanaka); Mexico (Pablo del Olmo, Alejandro Quiroz); Myanmar (Kyi Hla Han, Soe Kyaw Naing); Netherlands (Robert-Jan Derksen, Maarten Lafeber).

New Zealand (David Smail, Craig Perks); Scotland (Scott Drummond, Alastair Forsyth); South Africa (Trevor Immelman, Rory Sabbatini); South Korea (Kim Dae-sub, Shin Yong-jin); Spain (Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez); Sweden (Frederik Jacobson, Joakim Haeggman); Taiwan (Wang Ter-Chang, Lu Wei-Chih); United States (Bob Tway, Scott Verplank); Wales (Radley Dredge, Phillip Price)

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