x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

World is not enough

Once upon a time, the World Cup ranked fifth in importance after golf's four majors. Known as the Canada Cup from its creation in 1953 until 1966, I would lie with a transistor under the bedclothes listening to reports of Scotland's fortunes in far off places such as Puerto Rico, Hawaii or Japan.

The patriotism of the World Cup of Golf was evident when England's Nick Faldo and David Carter desperately wanted to win it ahead of Scotland and they did so in 1998 in Auckland, New Zealand.
The patriotism of the World Cup of Golf was evident when England's Nick Faldo and David Carter desperately wanted to win it ahead of Scotland and they did so in 1998 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Once upon a time, the World Cup ranked fifth in importance after golf's four majors. Known as the Canada Cup from its creation in 1953 until 1966, I would lie with a transistor under the bedclothes listening to reports of Scotland's fortunes in far off places such as Puerto Rico, Hawaii or Japan. Sadly, over the years the event has lost much of its lustre and romance; to many players it is an unnecessary intrusion upon their time.

The United States, for instance, will be represented by Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker at Mission Hills in China this week, when you might have expected Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk to lead their challenge for a 24th victory. No one is more saddened by the World Cup's fall from grace than Sandy Lyle, individual winner in 1980, who says: "I think it is a tremendous pity that the competition has lost much of its original prestige, partly due to the fact that the event has been extended to include countries with little or no golf traditions.

"As a result, in recent years we have seen lesser players shooting 90s with rounds becoming a six or even seven-hour slog." Lyle remembers his individual World Cup triumph in Bogota 28 years ago as one of the highlights of his career. He says: "It was an event I treasured, if only because you could not fail to be inspired by the names on the trophy: Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle (Australia), Ben Hogan and Sam Snead (US), Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (US), Gary Player and Harolrd Henning (South Africa), Seve Ballesteros and Manuel Pinero (Spain), Roberto De Vizenza and Antonio Cerda (Argentina).

"The previous year, Ken Brown and I had taken the victorious American pairing of Hale Irwin and John Mahaffey right to the wire on the final day in Athens and arrived in Colombia with team mate Steve Martin full of confidence. "Our challenge made the most inauspicious start when Steve, who had spent three weeks in South America acclimatising, unwittingly broke the rules. "In all his previous tournaments, players had been allowed to tap down spike marks on the green, a rule not recognised in the World Cup. Steve made birdies on the first three holes and, facing another birdie opportunity on the fourth, blithely tapped down an offending spike mark with the heel of his putter. 'I don't know if you can do that, my son,' I thought to myself.

"The Canadians - Jim Nelford and Dan Haldorsson - were obviously of a like mind amid much frowning and shaking of heads. We were penalised two shots and poor Steve was suitably shell-shocked. We regrouped to finish three behind the Canadians. I was relieved on Steve's behalf the margin was more than his two-shot penalty and I managed to see off the challenge of Bernhard Langer to win the World Cup individual event."

Lyle has few regrets in a career that brought him so many glittering prizes, but the World Cup disappointment of 1987 is a memory that still rankles. "Not least because Kapaula remains one of my favourite venues even if the weather - strong winds and driving rain - was more reminiscent of Helensburgh in November than Hawaii. "With Sam Torrance, we issued a declaration of intent by winning the Pro-Am and were always in contention in the tournament. After 72 holes, we were tied with Wales - Ian Woosnam and David Llewellyn - only to lose the title in a play-off at the second extra hole.

"For the individual title, Woosie [Woosnam] won over that seemingly perpetual runner-up - me - for a deserved victory, having completed his four rounds in the heaviest rain seen in Maui in a quarter of a century for a remarkable 14-under-par. A six-time major winner, Nick Faldo is another who regrets that so few players now seem to regard competing in the World Cup as an honour. He says: "It's puzzling given the cachet the Ryder Cup has acquired over the past two decades. But I was proud to add the title to my collection in 1998, with David Carter. Ireland had won it in 1958, Woosie and David had triumphed for Wales in 1987, and I was desperately keen to see England's name on the trophy before the Scots could get there first.

"I pulled a master-stroke by renting a house beside the course rather than staying in the official hotel which was a good hour's drive. David probably held the preconceived image of me as a loner and I think he was somewhat stunned to come down for breakfast every morning to find me frying eggs and bacon for him. "Before being thrown together in England's colours, we had only been nodding acquaintances so I think he was pleasantly surprised that we gelled so easily.

"I struck a rich vein of form - losing the individual title by a single shot - and I like to think he enjoyed the whole experience as much as I did. I was delighted for him when he sank a 20-foot putt on the final hole to secure an English triumph. "I still regard the World Cup as a historic tournament, so I was deeply chuffed to be a member of the first successful English team." rphilip@thenational.ae