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World Cup: Defending champions still underdogs

Welsh duo Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd, shock winners of last year's WGC-World Cup, are under no illusions about their title defence in Barbados this week.

The pair triumphed in Portugal after the final round was wiped out by thunderstorms and accept they will tee off as underdogs in Thursday's opening round at the Sandy Lane Resort.

"I think we surprised quite a few people last year," Dredge said. "And I don't suppose we'll be starting as favourites this year as there are some strong teams in it.

"Plus our form probably isn't quite as good as we'd like going into our defence.

"But it's the sort of event where you can get fired up and come from nowhere," the 33-year-old was quoted as saying by the Western Mail newspaper.

Dredge and Dodd were two shots ahead of England's Luke Donald and David Howell and Sweden's Niclas Fasth and Henrik Stenson when last year's tournament ended prematurely after the third round.

"It was the best rain I've ever watched," Dodd recalled. "It would have been nice to have won over four days but we'll take winning over three days."

It was the second World Cup triumph for Wales, who also won in Hawaii in 1987 thanks to the partnership of Ian Woosnam and David Llewellyn.

Dredge and Dodd are among 24 teams competing in the fourth and final WGC (World Golf Championships) event of the year.

England are again represented by Donald and Howell, who are the strongest combination based on world rankings. Donald is the world number nine and Howell is 16th.

Other teams worth monitoring are Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, who won the 1997 title at Kiawah Island, and Swedish duo Henrik Stenson and Carl Pettersson.

Many of golf's biggest names, including world number one Tiger Woods and twice U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, have declined to take part.

The United States, World Cup champions a record 23 times, are represented by Ryder Cup players Stewart Cink and J.J. Henry. Rory Sabbatini and Richard Sterne will fly the flag for South Africa.

Sandy Lane Resort's Country Club Course in St. James, Barbados will host the event from Dec. 7-10.

Thursday's opening round will be played in a fourball format. Friday will feature foursomes, or alternate shot, action before the format switches back to fourballs on Saturday and foursomes on the final day.

Although being played in Barbados for the first time, the World Cup has twice previously been held in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico staged the two-man team competition in 1961 and 1994.



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