South Africa won golf’s World Cup for the fifth time – and the second since the event came within the World Golf Championships umbrella – when Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini claimed the title with European nations filling the next four places at the Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
England’s Paul Casey and Justin Rose produced a magnificent closing 67 in foursomes to snatch second place from France with Germany fourth and Ireland – 17th at the halfway stage – moving up into a share of fifth place with the United States.
However the South African pairing of Immelman and Sabbatini, seven strokes ahead after three rounds, seldom looked like being caught on the last day despite shooting over par for the first time in the tournament. They finished with a 73 to add to previous scores of 70-69-63 to lift the WGC-World Cup with a 13 under par total of 275.
England, who shot 66-67 over the weekend, took second place on 279, nine under par, with the French team of Raphaël Jacquelin and Thomas Levet taking third on 280 with a birdie at the last for a final round of 71. Germany’s Alex Cejka and Marcel Siem also closed with a 71 for outright fourth on 202 while the Irish pair of Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley matched England’s weekend haul of 11 under par (66-67) to tie the USA for fifth on 204.
The South Africans effectively won the title on Saturday with a third round 63, giving them a formidable seven shot cushion going into the last day.
Immelman, who began the year by winning the South African Airways Open on The European Tour International Schedule, ended the season in the same way at Kiawah.
he said: "Basically, it's a fantastic feeling. Any time you win an event is great but winning when representing your country is a tremendous honour. We played well as a team all week."
With seven birdies, England tried to turn the screw on South Africa, but were never closer than three strokes behind. However, in two years together, the Casey-Rose pairing has finished third and second and the latter said with a smile: “We’re working our way up – last year second and the natural progression would be first if we both play well enough to get back. We’ve proved to b e a very strong partnership.
“I think this weekend we really gelled well together and backed each other up and we needed it and that was fantastic” added Rose.
Casey, whose pulled tee shot at the 17th cost England a bogey they could ill afford, commented: “Justin and I set a target of 66 on the range this morning. We thought that would really challenge, and certainly lock up second place. We almost got it. I’m very happy with the way we played and it’s just frustrating that we didn’t play better in the fourballs. In foursomes, we gelled nicely.”
France, who started the day in the final group alongside South Africa, tried hard to close a seven shot gap on the leaders but were unable to make progress, despite two South African bogeys in the first ten holes.
In the end, it was left to Jacquelin to sink a 15 foot birdie putt on the last and he bemoaned France’s World Cup luck several thousand miles apart. He said: “It’s disappointing not to have finished second – and worse to have lost out to England twice in a day after the Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat!”
Levet added: “We played really well all day from tee to green but couldn’t make a putt until the very last hole. At least we got one to make absolutely sure of third place. Raphaël and I have now finished eight and third so we are going in the right direction.”
Germany, the first round leaders, came back strongly to take fourth and Cejka said: "We fought all the way. it was the first tournament for Marcel but he showed he can play.
Harrington and McGinley, winners of the last World Cup played at Kiawah Island in 1997, were unable to replicate that success, but at least showed their true mettle over the last 36 holes.
Starting out on Saturday morning they were 17th of the 23 nations but a 66 on Saturday and a five under par 67 in the closing foursomes propelled them through the field to a share of fifth. McGinley said: “Unfortunately we didn’t start the tournament until the weekend. Considering we were so far behind at halfway, fifth isn’t bad.”