Partner controversy still lingers over the build-up to this weeks World Cup of Golf as the event closes in.
Both Chris Wood and Russell Knox have come under heavy criticism regarding their selection of partner for the event.
After Danny Willett dropped out of the event through a back injury, Chris Wood was England’s next-in-line representative and elected to choose Andy Sullivan as his partner, thus dropping Lee Westwood out of the event, who had been selected by Willett.
Elsewhere, Russell Knox picked world number 315 Duncan Stewart despite there being the options of Martin Laird, 142nd, Richie Ramsay, 211th, and Marc Warren, 213th, higher up the rankings and it emerges that Knox happens to be best friends with Stewart – a similar relation to the one between Wood and Sullivan of England.
Both players hit back a critics with Russell Knox explaining he ‘doesn’t really care’ what people think and that Stewart has ‘earned his right’ to participate.
Chris Wood took a similar stance.
“It all got ridiculous. I felt like reminding people it was Dan who pulled out, not me.
“There was no fuss when Dan went down the world rankings in August and overlooked me, Sullivan, Hatton, and Fitzpatrick before he came to Lee,” Wood added.
There have been calls, since, for a change in the team-selecting format following a seemingly relation-over-ability selection used by Wood and Knox.
Currently, the top ranked available player from each country competes and selects their own partner. Arguments have been put forward that the competition should enforce a rule whereby the partner is also decided by their world ranking – the next highest ranked available player.
Regardless, Wood and Sullivan will represent England whilst Knox will pair with Stewart for Scotland. The duos will be joined by Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker representing, 25-time-winners, the USA. Hot in-form Alex Noren will play for Sweden alongside David Lingmerth and Adam Scott and Marc Leishman will play for the host country Australia, as the favourites.
A tournament filled with 28 of the world’s lead golfing nations has, by some accounts, failed to attract the biggest names in golf; six of the world’s top 10 all declined to commit, including Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth.
The tournament’s format is unique. The teams play a 72-hole stroke-play event with rounds one and three taking a fourball (best score) format and rounds two and four playing as foursomes (alternate shot). Following a deviation including an individual competition last time out, this is a return to the format used in 2011.
The event returns for the first time since 2013 where Jason Day won on an individual basis and in the team event with Adam Scott at 17-under-par, to claim Australia’s fifth victory at the event. Prior to that, Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland topped to event in 2011 for the United States and the Molinari brothers, Francesco and Edoardo, gave Italy their maiden title in 2009.
Kingston Heath Golf Club hosts for the first time. It’s consistently ranked in the top 50 golf courses in the world and has experience in hosting prestigious events, including the Australian Open and the Australian Masters.
The course is a par 72 at a modest 7059 yards in length, and with carefully designed bunkers and green, meaning precision and accuracy might take prominence over distance this week.
Patriotism and an $8million prize fund are to play for, but there may be an extra point to prove for a few players following questionable partner choices.