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'Big Three' Have Role at Omega Mission Hills World Cup
Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player - golf's legendary "Big Three" - are inextricably linked for their epic battles in major championships during the 1960s and '70s.
When the 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup unfolds at Mission Hills Golf Club in China November 22-25, the legendary trio will once again be on center stage. The three also have quite a background in World Cup competitions. Nicklaus and Palmer played seven and six times, respectively - they were unbeaten the four times they were partners, and Player made a remarkable 15 appearances following his first at the age of 20 in 1956 at the Wentworth Club in England.
Palmer's first appearance in the World Cup came during an outstanding stretch in 1960 when he captured the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, won the World Cup for the United States with the great Sam Snead as his partner, and played in his first Open Championship at St. Andrews, where he finished as the runner-up. "The World Cup played a very important role in the early years of international golf," said Palmer. "What eventually came out of the World Cup was the series of important international events that we have today. It is an outstanding event. I enjoyed the World Cup, and I enjoyed playing with Sam and then with Jack."
As playing partners, Nicklaus and Palmer were stalwarts in the early 1960s. They won the World Cup for the United States in 1963 in France, in '64 in Hawaii, in '66 in Japan and in '67 in Mexico. Of that period, Nicklaus said: "I guess you could say we made a pretty good team. Too much has been made over the years of our rivalry when we actually spent a lot of wonderful times playing and traveling together including, of course, the World Cup.
"I consider Arnold one of my closest friends in the game. Our wives were very good friends and he was always a good companion and a good playing partner. Arnold was always the competitor, but also always the gentleman and friend. My first taste of the World Cup, or the Canada Cup as it was known then, came with Arnold at St Nom-la-Bretche in Paris. That's where the Prince of Wales fell off his shooting stick when I holed a long putt! He fell straight over backwards.
"Arnold and I won again the next year, and I was also fortunate to win the individual title, which we also played for then, in 1963 and 1964. Then after winning twice more with Arnold, I had the opportunity in Florida in 1971 to team with another good friend, Lee Trevino, in what was essentially my back yard in Palm Beach Gardens. We won the team title and it capped a strong three-week stretch for me. Lee and I won the team event by 12 shots, I was fortunate to win the individual title again by seven shots and it followed directly after I had won the Australian Open by eight shots and the Dunlop International also in Australia by seven shots.
"The interesting tie-in with all three victories is they came with the small ball. That was fun, and the World Cup was fun. Good fun. It was always an enjoyable event. It was always an honor to be selected for the United States in the World Cup and to represent your country. I liken it to the thrill and honor of representing your country in a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup. The competition was always strong but, more importantly, I felt the World Cup brought goodwill to the game and to the countries in which they were played. And because they were played in the right spirit, they were a wonderful showcase for international golf and team golf. I was delighted to be part of it for so many years."
Nicklaus played in the 1973 World Cup in Spain where he won the title with Johnny Miller. In seven appearances, he was responsible for six of the record-breaking 23 wins by the United States. Nicklaus lost only one World Cup in which he played - in 1965 when Harold Henning and the incomparable Player won for South Africa.
Of his extensive involvement in the World Cup, Player said: "I remember winning so well with Harold at Club de Campo in Madrid. It was a huge thrill because when you are chosen for the World Cup it is such an honor to represent your country, to travel and meet all the world's leading players. You played in different countries where golf was starting to grow and become popular and you made lifetime friends of great guys from so many countries. I loved it.
"This year everyone should be excited about going to China. What Arnold, Jack and I tried to do all our lives was to promote the game of golf everywhere. The World Cup does that. We must always be thinking about getting more and more people to play golf and there are millions in China who can be encouraged to play. What will that do for the industry?"
The tournament is a 72-hole stroke play team event. The first and third days are fourball (best ball) play and the second and final days are foursomes. South Africa, winners also in 1974, 1996, 2001 and '03, will be bidding for a sixth win in 2007 when 28 two-man teams compete in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup on the Olazábal Course Course at Mission Hills. The 7,400-yard layout was designed by two-time Masters champion José Maria Olazábal of Spain.
The defending champion is Germany, which claimed its second World Cup crown in Barbados in December 2006, when Bernhard Langer and Marcel Siem defeated Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren in a playoff.
For the 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup the leading 18 available players, each native-born citizens of their countries, from the Official World Golf Ranking on September 3 will qualify. These 18 players will select a partner of their choosing from the same country provided each player is ranked in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking on September 3.
Ten countries from the World Qualifying Competitions, to be held September 27-30, will complete the field of 28 nations competing for the first prize of $1.65 million from a total purse of $5 million.
The event, first played in 1953 as the Canada Cup, is set to continue through 2018 - and perhaps beyond - at Mission Hills following the signing of an agreement that brought watch manufacturer Omega together with the club. Canadian industrialist John Jay Hopkins brought to reality a dream that golf could promote goodwill between nationals with the inaugural Canada Cup in Montreal; the event was re-titled the World Cup in 1967.