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New era for World Cup in China

There will be plenty of national pride and $5 million at stake when the World Cup of Golf begins a new era at the world's largest golf club in Shenzhen on Thursday.

The tournament may have lost its place in the World Golf Championships schedule and there will be no Tiger Woods this year, but competition is sure to be fierce among the 56 golfers gathering in southern China to represent 28 countries.

Mission Hills, a complex with 12 premier golf courses all designed by top players, is hosting the event for the second time after 1995 and will remain the home of the tournament at least until 2018.

Miguel Angel Jimenez will fancy his chances on the course designed by his friend and compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal, even if the twice U.S. Masters champion has been forced to pull out because of rheumatism.

The Spaniard will instead be partnered by Jose Manuel Lara, the man he replaced as Hong Kong Open champion with a one-stroke victory at the Fanling course on Sunday.

"Hopefully we'll keep the same mood," said Jimenez. "I enjoy playing in China and have won in Shanghai and Hong Kong, so why not a win for Spain?"

South Africa's team of Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman have both won the tournament with other partners, Goosen with Ernie Els in 2001 and Immelman with Rory Sabbatini two years later.

The United States, champions 23 times in the various manifestations of the tournament over the 54 years since it started as the Canada Cup, will be represented by childhood friends Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum in China.

"I remember ... when we were trying as a high school team to just get past the district tournament," said Weekley.

"Now to be able to go play in China and represent everybody -- well, we sure have come a long way."

Justin Rose is the highest-ranked player in the tournament and he will team up with Ian Poulter, a winner last weekend in Japan, to represent England.

"Ian and I go way back and to have the chance to represent my country with one of my good friends is going to be exciting," said world number eight Rose.

Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd paired up to win for Wales two years ago, while Scots Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren will be looking to go one better than last year's second place after a playoff with Germany's Bernhard Langer and Marcel Siem.

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 then to foursomes on the final day.



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