World Cup Last Chance for Golf in 2002

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PEURTA VALLARTA, Mexico -- This is it. This is the last tournament of 2002. It's the World Golf Championships final event of the season, the EMC World Cup, which has been part of the WGC quartet of tournaments for the last three years.

The field consists of two-man teams from 24 different countries with two days of foursomes and two days of four-ball action. The four-ball portion, or better ball as it's more commonly known, will tee off on Thursday and Saturday, while the foursomes are set to go on Friday and Sunday.
 
Eighteen of the teams are comprised of their top available players in the World Golf Rankings, five teams entered via a World Qualifying competition that took place in Asia in October and the final team, Mexico, entered because it's the host nation.
 
The top seed in the tournament is the United States and its tandem of Phil Mickelson and David Toms, who are ranked second and sixth in the world, respectively. This team came together as a result of a change in the selection process.
 
In the past, a country's top player, say Tiger Woods, could pick his own partner. He took Mark O'Meara and David Duval in '99 and '00 but this year, the rules were changed that the top-two eligible players in the World Rankings made up the team. That team would have been Woods and Mickelson but Woods decided to skip this year's event. That left the door open for Mickelson and the next highest player on the list, Toms.
 
These two made quite the pair at the Ryder Cup in September. They went 2-1-1 and were the only team that played all four sessions together for the Americans.
 
Mickelson normally takes off in the later part of the season but since his wife, Amy, is giving birth to the couple's third child early next year, he is trying to get in as much golf as he can. Lefty competed in the Skins Game two weeks ago and took place in the Target World Challenge last week. Get your fill of him this week because chances are the next time you'll see him is at the Masters or maybe the The Players Championship.
 
The second seed is Vijay Singh and Dinesh Chand of Fiji, followed by the Irish duo of Paul McGinley and Target World Challenge winner Padraig Harrington, both members of the European Ryder Cup team and 1997 World Cup champions.
 
The defending champion is South Africa, but the 2002 team looks very different than the 2001 winners. Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini got the call this year instead of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, who represented South Africa last year.
 
Els and Goosen, ranked third and fifth in the world, elected not to play this year but outlasted some of golf's best in victory in 2001. The title came down to a four-way playoff between South Africa (Els and Goosen), the U.S. (Woods and Duval), Denmark (Thomas Bjorn and Soren Hansen) and New Zealand (Michael Campbell and David Smail), but two of the teams needed heroics on 18 before making the extra session. Els drained an eight-foot eagle putt at the last to reach the playoff and Woods chipped in from 40 feet to put the Americans in the hunt. That would be short-lived as the U.S. and New Zealand were both knocked out after the first playoff hole and South Africa made par at the second extra hole to win the title for their country for the first time since 1996 when it was Els and Wayne Westner.
 
The U.S. has won six of the last 10 World Cups, including four in a row from 1992-95 by the tandem of Davis Love III and Fred Couples. Woods and his assorted playing partners captured the other two. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are the only other pair to win four titles. The previous three WGC events had one usual suspect and two surprises walk to the winner's circle.
 
Woods won the American Express Championship in September, Kevin Sutherland took home the Match Play Championship in February and Craig Parry earned his first PGA Tour title at the NEC Invitational in August. The winning team will split $1,000,000 and hoist the John J. Hopkins Trophy, named for the founder in 1953 of the International Golf Association.
 
The 2003 EMC World Cup will be held at Kiawah Island, S.C., and will be played the week of Nov. 12-16. USA has the first two rounds before ABC takes over on the weekend. That's all for 2002 but the Mercedes Championships will tee off Jan. 9-12 where Sergio Garcia is expected to defend his title.