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South Africa set for first Women's World Cup

The last time the Links course at Fancourt held a major golf event, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els made one dramatic putt after another until it was too dark to declare a winner in the Presidents Cup.

Now it's the women's turn.

The Women's World Cup begins Friday at Fancourt, with two-player teams from 20 countries testing themselves on the long, rolling fairways and undulating greens that give the Gary Player-designed Links course plenty of character.

``It's a tough, tough course,'' said British Open champion Karen Stupples, who will represent England with Laura Davies. ``You really have to place the ball well off the tee, and even more so with your second shot into the greens because the greens are so tricky.''

One thing is certain: At least there will be a winner after the three-day competition.

The teams will play the better-ball format Friday, alternate-shot Saturday, then stroke play in the final round, when both scores will count.

The Presidents Cup, which put Fancourt on the map in November 2003, ended in a tie between the Americans and an International team comprised of players from everywhere but Europe. Woods and Els were chosen for a sudden-death playoff, and each made pressure-packed putts on the second and third extra holes.

With darkness approaching, captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player decided the teams should share the cup.

Australia is the betting favorite for a couple of reasons. Karrie Webb and Rachel Hetherington are the defending champions, having played together when they won the last World Cup five years ago in Malaysia.

Plus, Annika Sorenstam is not playing. The best player in women's golf decided not to travel halfway around the world to start her season, leaving Sweden with a solid team of Carin Koch and big-hitter Sophie Gustafson.

Meg Mallon is the highest-ranked American and will play with longtime friend and Hall of Famer Beth Daniel.

The tournament was resurrected with support from the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour, and it gives countries like Australia, South Korea, Canada and Mexico a rare chance at team play. The only other event played under a flag is the Solheim Cup, which is the United States against Europe.

The Links course will play as a par 73 at 6,474 yards, but it can be intimidating at any length.

``We can get a feel of the course during the first-round better ball,'' Webb said. ``We might have more of an understanding by the time we play the foursomes.''

She'll have no trouble getting accustomed to her partner.

``I have known Rachel since I was 14,'' said Webb, who's 30. ``We grew up playing amateur golf together. We played for our state, so it is good to do it for our country as well.''

Daniel and Mallon also have plenty of history together.

Mallon won the Women's U.S. Open last year and had two other LPGA Tour victories. She has played several matches with Daniel, a pure ball-striker, in the Solheim Cup.

``We know each other's game so well and we know what to expect out of each other,'' Mallon said. ``Of course, we have played alternate shot, which is the most difficult format, so we don't have to go through the pains of getting to know each other.''

Daniel already has good vibes on the Links course. During a practice round Wednesday, she holed a 6-iron on the 388-yard third hole.


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