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Luke Donald feels World Cup is devalued

Luke Donald admits this week's World Cup in Barbados has been devalued by several countries fielding weakened teams.

That is not an accusation which can be levelled at the England team, with world No. 9 Donald partnered for the second year running with 16th-ranked and Ryder Cup teammate David Howell.

However, Donald and Ireland's Padraig Harrington (eighth) are the only members of the world's top 10 competing at Sandy Lane, and England can boast the only team with both players inside the top 35.

Those missing from the top 10 include Australia's Adam Scott, South African duo Retief Goosen and Ernie Els - who won the title in Japan in 2001 but have not played since - and Spain's Sergio Garcia.

The top three players in the world - American trio Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson - all turned down the invitation to play in Barbados, although Furyk was willing to play in Shanghai and Hawaii last month and defend his Nedbank Challenge title in Sun City last week.

Stewart Cink and J.J. Henry make up the American team aiming to win the trophy for the first time since Woods and David Duval claimed victory in Argentina in 2000. Woods and Duval also finished second the following year in Japan but have not played since.

"The USA have very strong players, the top three in the world, so it's a shame they have to go down that low to find their first player," said Donald, who won the event with Paul Casey in 2004 and finished second with Howell in Portugal last year. "It would be nice to have a little bit of a stronger team. It is, after all, a world event, and when you have a nation that has such strong players - and Stewart Cink and J..J Henry are very strong players - to have to go that far down on the list weakens the overall feel of the tournament.

"But I don't think you can just single out the U.S. for not fielding their strongest team. I'm sure other teams this week could potentially field stronger teams. If Tiger, Phil or Jim do turn up, and people know that they are going to turn up ahead of time, maybe that sends a message to the other players that we should be playing here as well. It can create a stronger field that way."

While the United States scrapes around for a team, England have almost an embarrassment of riches these days, in stark contrast to a few years ago when Lee Westwood was the only Englishman in the top 100 in the world.

World number 14 Casey has never been able to defend the title he won in 2004 after Donald, as the higher ranked player, opted for Howell instead, while Ian Poulter (32nd), Justin Rose (51st) and Westwood (53rd) would all have been worthy additions to the team.

"It's a tricky situation with someone having to choose their partner," said Donald, who was a Walker Cup teammate of Casey in 1999. "You'd almost prefer to just make it the two best-ranked players. This year I had to pick just before the World Match Play and Paul obviously went on to win that week at Wentworth."

Playing for the event for the first time since 1999, Colin Montgomerie also noticed the lack of top players.

"It's a shame that the first choice of countries wish not to participate," Montgomerie said. "When we have the three other World Golf Championship events, and all the money they are playing for in the States in particular, this is unfortunately just another one that might not fit in.

"Other tournaments have come into the calendar, there are more tournaments of this value and prize money around than ever before so there is more choice."

December 7, 2006

 




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