The European Tour season concluded last weekend with the DP World Tour Championship, as Danny Willett took the honours in Dubai and Francesco Molinari was crowned Race to Dubai winner.
However, that does not mean the end of the action for the year and this week sees a special event as the World Cup of Golf takes place in Australia.
After a year off in 2017, the tournament returns to Melbourne but this time it takes place at Metropolitan Golf Club.
The par-72 layout in the suburb of South Oakleigh has previously held the Australian Open, Masters and PGA events, while it also hosted the 2001 WGC-Matchplay.
Through rounds of fourballs on Thursday and Saturday and foursomes on Friday and Sunday, two-man teams from 28 nations will battle it out for the honour of being named world champions.
Inevitably home favourites Australia lead the betting and have an extremely strong pairing with Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith carrying the host nation’s hopes.
Leishman recently finished runner-up at the CJ Cup and also won the CIMB Classic, while Smith was tied third at The Northern Trust and third outright at the Dell Technologies.
The Aussies have won this competition five times, most recently when Jason Day partnered Adam Scott to glory in 2013.
While neither Smith nor Leishman have a major championship to their names, they are both extremely classy operators and will be cheered on by what should be a healthy home crowd.
The Danish duo of Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen may have something to say about that though having won this tournament two years ago. On that occasion they were head and shoulders above the field, finishing four shots clear and have renewed their partnership this week.
Kjeldsen continues to be a canny operator and his solid all-round game seems to be the perfect complement to the improving Olesen. The 28-year-old’s power and putting have seen him to a career-best year, winning June’s Italian Open on the way to an impressive Ryder Cup debut, while he also has two top-10s in his last three starts to demonstrate his form.
The more senior player does not share the same momentum having sat out the closing weeks of the European Tour, with his most notable result in recent months was his tie for sixth at the KLM Open. However, these two seem to work well together and as they showed in 2016, have the attributes to thrive in team competitions.
Despite the competence of the Danes, they are somewhat down the betting and it is England who are backed to push Australia closest.
Confidence is such a huge part of golf and Tyrrell Hatton’s bullish nature since helping Europe win the Ryder Cup suggests he still feels there is more to come in 2018. Team-mate Ian Poulter oren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen was also on the winning side at Le Golf National and he will certainly back himself to shine in Australia, having won the 2011 JBWere Masters in Melbourne, albeit at Huntingdale.
Hatton and Poulter are players that when hot, are sizzling, and both will relish the chance to upset the Aussies in their own backyard and call themselves world champions.
The United States have a record 24 wins in this competition, the most recent coming in 2011 when Matt Kuchar partnered Gary Woodland to glory, while the 40-year-old and Kevin Streelman tied for second in 2013.
‘Kuch’ is back this week to play alongside Kyle Stanley. Stanley maybe a relative unknown to fans from outside the game but has been a solid PGA Tour player for some time, an opinion reflected in his ten top-15 finishes in 2018. The 31-year-old is into the top-30 in the world and is superb from tee-to-green, although the putter can sometimes let him down.
Kuchar is fresh from a recent win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, his first for four years, but as has been the case throughout his career, retains a habit for producing poor rounds from seemingly nowhere. That was his issue at the Australian Open where he went from challenging for the halfway lead to shooting 73-75 over the weekend.
These two can challenge but have gaps in their game that could lead to them falling short.
Belgium and South Korea are also fancied to go well and are both priced at 21/2. Thomas Pieters leads the Belgian charge but has again struggled to repeat his form from 2016 where he shone at the Ryder Cup. Partner Thomas Detry has been in good form, recording top-10s in both Turkey and at the Nedbank.
Like Belgium, the South Korean pair of Byeong-hun An and Si-woo Kim can be pretty streaky but have won on the big stage, An claiming the BMW PGA Championship, while Kim was last year’s Players champion.
Kim has looked sharp in the opening part of the new PGA Tour season and he and An could combine to go low. They could also go high though, and putting it together over 36 holes of foursomes play may prove to be too much.
However, the value bet has to be the Chinese duo of Haotong Li and Ashun Wu.
Wu won the KLM Open in September, his third European Tour victory but it is Li who has taken the headlines in recent weeks.
After winning in Dubai in January, the 23-year-old went a bit quiet over the summer but found his form in the closing weeks of the season. Li lost out to Justin Rose in a play-off at the Turkish Airlines Open and backed it up with a tie for fifth at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
These results came as part of a run of four top-10s in six outings and he could well fire at Metropolitan.
The pair also dovetailed well in 2016, finishing in a tie for second at Kingston Heath so know they can work together.
China would undoubtedly have been longer than their current price had this tournament taken place in the spring but their odds certainly gives punters something to ponder when looking through the market.
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