MELBOURNE, Australia – The World Cup this week will offer a glimpse of what to expect when golf returns to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Individual stroke play and world rankings will determine who plays and, for the most part, players will carry the flag of their countries on their golf bags.
After that, the similarities begin to fade.
The World Cup begins Thursday at Royal Melbourne and will have its traditional team component — the Olympics will not have a team competition — and the situation involving Britain and Ireland is much different. That's raised a bit of a quandary for Rory McIlroy: Which country will represent in 2016 in Brazil — Britain or Ireland?
At the Olympics, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as Britain. But at the World Cup, England, Scotland and Wales will compete as separate countries. To muddy the waters a bit more at the World Cup, the tradition is for Ireland and Northern Ireland to compete as Ireland. McIlroy is not competing at Royal Melbourne this week, and is confident it's still his choice which nation he plays for in Rio.
For the international players who are at the World Cup the rules are more cut and dried, and use the same rankings format that will be in place to determine Olympic places.
Players in the top 15 on the Official World Golf Ranking gain access to the World Cup, with the exception that there will be no more than four players for any country. After the top 15, up to two players are allowed per country until the field of about 60 is filled.
Matt Kuchar, who is representing the United States this week with Kevin Streelman, won the last World Cup in 2011 with Gary Woodland. That tournament at Haiku, China, featured four-ball competitions on Thursday and Saturday and foursomes on Friday and Sunday.
Individual stroke-play was instituted this year for all four rounds to mirror the Olympic format, and the best two scores from each country will determine the team placings.
Adam Scott, who will team with Jason Day this week for Australia, likes the change in format and the fact it attracts world ranking points.
"It's an important tournament ... and now it's got that individual focus," Scott said after winning the Australian Masters on Sunday.
"I think it's going to take a step up from where it was. Certainly you can see that a lot of guys are coming a long way to play for a huge purse and world ranking points."
Twenty-five teams are set to play, including Italians Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero, the Irish pair of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry and South Korea's K.J. Choi and Bae Sang-moon.
Fiji's Vijay Singh, who finished third in the Australian Masters, will be one of the approximately 15 players competing only in the individual competition which offers $7 million in prize money. The winning individual player gets $1.2 million; the winning team gets $600,000.
On Monday, Singh was out on the 18th hole at Royal Melbourne practicing putting to various parts of the green.
"I'll take a lot from last week, and know the course coming into the World Cup," Singh said. "I had six of everything yesterday, six pars, six bogeys and six birdies. I intend to learn from my mistakes and play better this week."