Ben Leong and Gavin Green will team up for Malaysia in this year’s ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf, which will be held at The Metropolitan Golf Club on November 22-25.
Yesterday was the deadline for each country’s leading player to select his partner for the unique team event. 2017 Asian Tour No 1 Green opted for Leong, who is the next best Malaysian in the Official World Golf Ranking in 438th place (Green is ranked 176). Both players will be making their debuts in the tournament.
The 59th staging of the event will see a 56-player field vie US$7 million in prize-money over 72 holes, consisting of four-ball (best ball) play in Rounds 1 and 3 and foursomes (alternate shot) in Rounds 2 and 4.
Along the leading teams are defending champions Thorbjørn Olesen and Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, Australian duo Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter and Americans Kyle Stanley and Matt Kuchar.
Other Asian teams in the field are China’s Haotong Li and Ashun Wu, India’s Shubhankar Sharma and Anirban Lahiri, Thai duo Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Prom Meesawat, Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira and Hideto Tanihara and Korea’s Byeonghun An and Siwoo Kim.
Leong, 32, said he was surprised to receive the call from Green, who was the last player to qualify for the tournament.
“Gavin started off by asking what I’m doing on November 19 and I asked if he is getting married? He said he made it to the World Cup and asked if I would like to join him. I told him don’t ask … it is the World Cup and I definitely want to play in the event!” said Leong.
“I feel honoured and humbled. I didn’t expect to play in the World Cup. I had to reschedule but it is a good thing because it is a World Cup and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the golf course,” he added.
Leong won his first Asian Tour title in 2008 before suffering from a disc prolapse in 2012. He has shown signs of returning to his best form in the last few years and hopes to repay Green’s faith in him. They have gone head-to-head on the local circuit in the past and Leong believes their friendly rivalry has helped them understand each other’s games better.
“We played quite a few practice rounds and went head-to-head a couple of times on the local circuit. I remember I lost to him once in a play-off and got one back from him in another. We know each other’s strength and weaknesses.
“We haven’t played together before in this format so we have a lot of work to do before the tournament starts. This is the first time as a professional that I’m playing in a team format. There’s a lot to learn,” said Leong.
He remembers watching Tiger Woods at the World Cup of Golf in 1999 when Malaysia hosted the prestigious tournament at The Mines Resort Golf Club.
“I remember when Malaysia staged the event and Tiger Woods was there. The crowd was huge! All the Malaysian golfers were there to watch him play. At that time, I didn’t think I could ever represent Malaysia in the World Cup because there are so many good players in Malaysia so I’m really proud to be selected,” said Leong.
Confirmed teams as of 20 September 2018
1. Australia – Marc Leishman / Cameron Smith
2. England – Tyrrell Hatton / Ian Poulter
3. United States – Kyle Stanley / Matt Kuchar
4. Thailand – Kiradech Aphibarnrat / Prom Meesawat
5. South Africa – Branden Grace / Charl Schwartzel
6. Denmark – Thorbjorn Olesen / Soren Kjeldsen
7. Japan – Satoshi Kodaira / Hideto Tanihara
8. Korea – Byeong Hun An / Si Woo Kim
9. China – Haotong Li / Ashun Wu
10. Canada – Adam Hadwin / Nick Taylor
11. Scotland – Russell Knox / Martin Laird
12. Belgium – Thomas Pieters / Thomas Detry
13. Sweden – Alexander Bjork / Joakim Lagergren
14. New Zealand – Ryan Fox / Danny Lee
15. Venezuela – Jhonattan Vegas / Joseph Naffah
16. Spain – Adrian Otaegui / Jorge Campillo
17. Ireland – Shane Lowry / Paul Dunne
18. France – Alexander Levy / Michael Lorenzo-Vera
19. Austria – Bernd Wiesberger / Matthias Schwab
20. India – Shubhankar Sharma / Anirban Lahiri
21. Netherlands – Joost Luiten / Daan Hizing
22. Finland – Mikko Korhonen / Mikko Ilonen
23. Mexico – Abraham Ancer / Roberto Diaz
24. Germany – Martin Kaymer / Maximilian Kieffer
25. Italy – Andrea Pavan / Renato Paratore
26. Zimbabwe – Scott Vincent / Benjamin Follett-Smith
27. Malaysia – Gavin Kyle Green / Ben Leong
*Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo was a late withdrawal. The replacement country and players will be announced in the coming days.