Garcia Jimenez Favorites at World Cup


04 WGC-EMC World CupSEVILLE, Spain -- Chomping on a cigar, his unruly ponytail flowing from his cap, Miguel Angel Jimenez smiled as he said, Buenos dias to the clubhouse guard at the Real Club de Golf.
The guard stopped Jimenez, whose World Cup partner, Sergio Garcia, went right in.
I had to convince them I was a player, Jimenez said. With Sergio there was no problem. He can play for both of us, and I can take a vacation.
Someone should let that guard know: The World Cup starts Thursday'and needs all the players it can get.
The top nine Americans in the world ranking turned down invitations to the last of the seasons four World Golf Championships. Only two top-10 players accepted: Garcia and Irelands Padraig Harrington.
No. 1 Vijay Singh and No. 2 Tiger Woods declined, as did No. 3 Ernie Els and No. 4 Retief Goosen.
Its not a question of prize money. The winning team splits $1.4 million from a total purse of $4 million.
The event also has tradition that dates to 1953, when Argentines Roberto de Vicenzo and Antonio Cerda won. Ben Hogan and Sam Snead were the winners in 1956. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer teamed four times for victory.
Theres just a lot of golf, said Scott Verplank, the 10th-ranked American. Maybe there are a few too many tournaments worldwide. I know you cant play every week. Maybe you could make this a $10 million purse, and I bet your field would be filled.
The Americans are underdogs, represented by Verplank and Oklahoma neighbor and friend Bob Tway.
Garcia chose Jimenez as his partner'the invited player gets to pick his teammate'to make the Spaniards the favorites. Theres another home advantage: The 7,134-yard layout was designed by two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal.
Just because nine Americans didnt want to come, doesnt mean it wont be a great tournament, Jimenez said. If you dont want to come, if you dont want to enjoy Seville, if you dont want to enjoy the sun, the food and the Spanish wine, you are missing a lot. I feel sorry for them.
Harrington and Paul McGinley give Ireland the best chance to challenge Spain. The two won the 97 World Cup, their first big victory as pros.
It will always be special because it was the first event either of us won on the world stage, McGinley said. It was sort of like your first girlfriend.
Harrington and McGinley were a key part of Europes lopsided victory over the United States in the Ryder Cup two months ago. Playing together, they defeated Woods and Davis Love III.
England should be strong with two other Ryder Cup players'Paul Casey and Luke Donald. They didnt play together two months ago, but they formed a successful pairing in the 99 victory over the United States in the amateur Walker Cup.
Casey is drawing attention off the course.
On Wednesday, he stood by comments to English newspapers criticizing the choice of Tom Lehman as U.S. Ryder Cup captain and suggesting Americans were generally annoying. English papers quoted him saying he hated Americans.
I think that Americans do have a tendency to wind people up, said Casey, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has an American girlfriend. When they are chanting U-S-A and there are lots of them, it just makes you want to beat them even more. Thats the point I am trying to get across. But I dont hate Americans.
South Africans Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman won this title a year ago at Kiawah Island. They are trying to become the first repeat champions since Fred Couples and Love won fourth straight World Cup in 1995.
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