Ryder Cup duo of Cink, Henry teaming for U.S. again at World Cup

Wednesday, December 6th 2006, 2:03 pm
By: News On 6

ST. JAMES, Barbados (AP) _ Stewart Cink doesn't know why so many top Americans turned down a chance to play in this year's World Cup. He's just thrilled they did _ it gave him another chance to represent his country.

Cink is in the World Cup for the second straight year, this time teaming with J.J. Henry in the final World Golf Championships event of the season, which starts Thursday. Six other American players ahead of Cink in the world golf rankings declined invitations, but the four-time PGA Tour winner happily agreed to play.

``The longer I go on playing on the PGA Tour, the more I get a kick out of playing for the United States,'' Cink said. ``It's just something that never gets old and whether it's the President's Cup, the Ryder Cup, the World Cup, whatever, it's just a lot of fun.''

Cink chose Henry as his World Cup teammate largely because of their success together at this year's Ryder Cup, where they were among the lone American bright spots in another easy win by Europe.

Now, they'll aim to be the first American victors at the World Cup since Tiger Woods and David Duval won in 2000.

``We did make a great team,'' Henry said. ``When we played together at the Ryder Cup, we played awfully good and I think we're comfortable with each other. We have similar games and styles we play. We both hit the ball about the same distance. Heck, we both putt with belly putters.''

Cink and Henry halved both of their fourball matches at The K Club, plus found out during the Ryder Cup buildup that they each have a lot in common _ even both having sons named Connor.

``It just seemed like a natural fit and it still does,'' Cink said. ``We're going to have a good time this week win or lose, and I think that's what it's all about at the end.''

The World Cup _ at Barbados' famed Sandy Lane for the first time _ is a stroke-play event that uses a match-play sort of format, calling for four-ball (best ball) competition Thursday and Saturday, then foursomes (alternate shot) Friday and Sunday.

Wales' Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd are the defending champions, with other top pairings including England's Luke Donald and David Howell and Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley.

Cink was seventh among Americans in the world rankings when the invitations for the World Cup were issued in September. Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson all passed, as did David Toms, Chris DiMarco and Chad Campbell.

The U.S. was hardly the only nation to see its top-ranked players decline a chance to come to Barbados and play for a chance to win a $700,000 per-man winner's prize.

Australia's eight highest-ranked players said no, before John Senden _ No. 89 in the world two months ago _ took the invite. South African stars Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman all skipped their chance, leaving Rory Sabbatini (who teamed with Immelman to win the World Cup in 2003) as the top choice.

Then again, the Aussies and South Africans may have had some good reasons, too.

Barbados is nearly 6,500 miles from Johannesburg and 10,000 miles from Sydney _ while the tiny eastern Caribbean island is a mere 3 1/2-hour flight from Florida.

``Nothing against Stewart Cink or J.J. Henry. They are very strong players,'' said Donald, the No. 9 player in the world. ``But to have to go that far down on the list, it weakens the overall feel of the tournament just a little bit because they could potentially field a much stronger team.''

But some players, including Harrington _ at No. 8, the highest-ranked player in the field _ defended the Americans who decided not to play World Cup.

Harrington said he thinks the format would have been better served by an in-season date and an once-every-four-years format, not the end-of-year timeframe that the event typically uses.

``The European and Asian players, we're all playing in-season now,'' said Harrington, who'll again team with Paul McGinley and be among the favorites on a course they visit and practice on each winter. ``Most of the players here have played recently. The U.S. guys, a lot of them haven't played in six weeks.''

The U.S. has won this event 23 times, but only once since it was incorporated into the WGC schedule in 2000. And Henry said he believes that, even without the likes of Woods and Furyk, he and Cink have a strong chance of ending that drought.

``Are we 1 and 2 in the world for the United States? No, we are not right now,'' Henry said. ``But at the same time we are honored to be here and we're looking forward to competing.''