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Golf: Harrington can't wait to play for his country; GOLF: WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, PORTUGAL, STARTS TOMORROW McGINLEY: IT'S A SHAME OTHERS DON'T FEEL SAME.

Byline: Michael SCULLY

PADRAIG Harrington is relishing the prospect of flying the flag for Ireland again this week - but Paul McGinley can't understand why a lot of the big names in golf aren't competing at the World Cup.

The Irish duo are previous winners of the prestigious tournament - having claimed a famous victory at Kiawah Island eight years ago.

And they will go into action at the Vilamoura course in Portugal from tomorrow confident of doing well.

Some of that confidence comes from the fact that many of the top players in the world rankings are not travelling for the event.

European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie has decided to play in Japan instead of representing Scotland.

And the US team will be considerably poorer for the loss of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Chris DiMarco, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, David Toms, Davis Love and Fred Couples - all of whom declined the invitation to play alongside Stewart Cink.

Instead, it is the emerging talent Zach Johnson who will partner Cink.

However for Dubliners Harrington and McGinley, it's an event they wouldn't miss for the world.

"I like the World Cup and I am keen to play," commented Harrington. "I just like representing Ireland - it's a big deal for me and for Paul. There are not that many opportunities in pro golf when you can represent your country and this is one of them.

"It comes down to what you played as a kid. Golf is a selfish game, but myself and Paul played team golf for Ireland as youngsters and Ireland is a country that excels in team events."

McGinley, who recently broke into the world's top 20 with his magnificent win at the Volvo Masters in Valderrama, takes a slightly different viewpoint.

If they win, Harrington and himself could walk away with victory spoils worth in excess of EUR500,000 each - but McGinley would like to see a stronger field.

"There's a huge amount of history and it's a shame it does not attract the top players in the world.

"It's important to us - we don't view it the same way. I've never missed an opportunity to play and I never would."

England send their top two in David Howell - conqueror of Tiger Woods in Shanghai on Sunday - and Luke Donald, but Montgomerie's decision to skip it means that Scotland are represented by Stephen Gallacher and Scott Drummond.

The list of absentees is as long as it was last year when Donald and Paul Casey pipped Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez by one in Seville, with Harrington and McGinley third.

The system used is that the leading 18 players of different nationalities in the world rankings are eligible and if they enter then they select a team-mate.

But in addition to the United States stay-aways there is no Ernie Els or Retief Goosen for South Africa and the decisions of Vijay Singh, Michael Campbell, David Smail, Mike Weir, Stephen Ames, Nick Price and Thongchai Jaidee not to play mean Fiji, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwe and Thailand are not even in the field.

Even this Monday the European tour website could not name the partners for Japan's Yasuharu Imano - their eighth-ranked player - and South Korea's KJ Choi, while the total number of rejections is a staggering 31.

Wales have Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge, 75th and 82nd in the world, but at least their top two.

In addition to the four home nations America, Argentina, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, India, Japan, Paraguay, South Africa, Korea, Spain and Sweden were exempt.

Portugal have a place as hosts and Colombia, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan and Venezuela complete the 24-team line-up.

Scotland have yet to win but England have taken the title twice - Nick Faldo and David Carter in New Zealand in 1998, then Donald and Casey a year ago - while Ian Woosnam and David Llewellyn were champions in 1987. Harrington and McGinley followed Harry Bradshaw and Christy O'Connor in 1958 as Irish winners.

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EYES ON THE PRIZE: Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 16, 2005
Words:676
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