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South Africa look to defend with new team

South Africa will underline their strength in depth if Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini can retain their title at the WGC-World Cup of Golf starting on Thursday at Seville's Real Golf Club.

The South African duo won last year's tournament by four strokes from England's Justin Rose and Paul Casey at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, and are back together this week in the absence of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.

"I think if Ernie and 'Goose' had played, they would have been very, very heavy favourites," Immelman told reporters on Wednesday.

Three-times major winner Els is world number three while Goosen, who won his second U.S. Open this year at Shinnecock Hills, is ranked four.

"It would have been a weird feeling, though, for South Africa to be defending but (we two) not to be here," added Immelman.

"Ernie was semi-interested in playing but Retief's wife (Tracy) is very close to giving birth, so they thought they would give Rory and I another go at it.

"I think we've got a good chance."

The playing format for the week is a mix of fourballs and foursomes, and Immelman expects the two rounds of foursomes, or alternate shot, to be the telling factor.

"Like I said last year, we just both felt very comfortable (with foursomes), we kind of fed off each other," he said.

"But this week it's going to be interesting because the guy who tees off first is going to have to hit all the tee shots on the par-threes and (on) three of the par-fives.

"The par-threes are tough, long and demand good iron shots."

Spain, in the shape of Sergio Garcia, the second-highest world-ranked player in Seville at number nine, and four-times 2004 European Tour winner Miguel Angel Jimenez, will start as tournament favourites given their form and home advantage.

Garcia, twice a winner on the 2004 PGA Tour, is unconcerned that several of the world's leading players have opted to skip this week's team event.

"I don't care who is showing up," said the 24-year-old Spaniard. "I'm going to try to beat whoever is here."

Nine Americans, including Tiger Woods, U.S. Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III, turned down the chance to represent the United States in Seville. In their place, Scott Verplank and Bob Tway will fly the U.S. flag.

World number eight Padraig Harrington, the highest-ranked player in the field, will partner his Ryder Cup team mate Paul McGinley for Ireland.

The Irish pair, World Cup winners at Kiawah Island in 1997, are strong contenders, as are England's Paul Casey and Luke Donald. All four players were members of Europe's triumphant Ryder Cup team at Oakland Hills in September.

Another Ryder Cup player in Seville is Frenchman Thomas Levet. He partners Raphael Jacquelin, with whom he finished third at Kiawah Island in 2003.

The tournament begins on Thursday with the opening fourball format. Friday will feature foursomes 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 (Bradley Dredge, Phillip Price)

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