One to back: Sweden

Even with the withdrawal of Jason Day, the Australians look a formidable prospect on home soil for the World Cup.

Prices of 5/1 for Adam Scott and Marc Leishman to triumph seem fair enough.

The combination of Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell is also very tempting at 14/1 and I may have both in my portfolio.

But just above the Irish at 12s, it is the Swedes for whom I’m opting. There isn’t a more in form player on the planet than Alex Noren.

The Nedbank Challenge victor has had a season for the ages, triumphing four times.

He didn’t win at the DP World Championships in Dubai but he was admirably consistent in a top 25 finish (71, 69, 69, 71).

It worries me that he’s played an awful lot of golf, having had just one week off since the Alfred Dunhill.

But he’s got a great partner in David Lingmerth to share the load.

On the fringes at the Nedbank, where he finished 13th, his accurate driving (15th on the PGA Tour last year) could be key.

The each-way bet: Italy

I can’t take my eyes of the 28/1 on offer for the Italians and their World Cup hopes will sink or swim on the back of Matteo Manassero.

World

Partner Francesco Molinari is in splendid form.

He won the Italian Open in September and then tied for 6th in the HSBC and posted another top 5 in Dubai last week.

Sandwiched between those was a tied 4th at the Shriners on the PGA Tour. Molinari looks very close to winning.

Manassero is a conundrum. Streaky doesn’t describe it and there’s a bunch of missed cuts in his 2016 package.

Tied 55th at the Nedbank doesn’t seem too promising either but he found a top 20 the week before at the Turkish Airlines Open.

Every now and then – think the Scottish Open – he throws in a top class performance.

If he can avoid putting his partner in trouble over four days in Australia, the Italians could be a big threat in this format.

The dark horses: Scotland

Easy to dismiss the Scots on the basis of former abattoir worker Duncan Stewart being half of the partnership but you’d be missing a trick.

world

The Challenge Tour player has had a stunning year, winning in Madrid, collecting top 10s in the Najeti Open, Swedish Challenge, Cordon Golf Open, Kazakhstan Open and the Foshan Open.

It left him 10th in the Race to Oman rankings and secured his European Tour card for 2017.

Crucially, Stewart played junior golf with partner Russell Knox in the Highlands before linking up with him at Jacksonville University. They know each other’s games extremely well.

It’s a slight concern that Stewart hasn’t played foursomes for about 12 years but he’s got a rock solid partner in the Travelers Champion

Knox is also in fine form, having recorded successive top 10s at the CIMB Classic and the WGC-HSBC Championship.

Third last time out at the OHL Classic, there are far worse bets out there than the 50/1 available on the Scottish lads.

One to swerve: England

It’s not that they can’t win, it’s that they have every excuse not to and – at 11/1 – that makes them a bit short for me.

Chris Wood has spent the best part of a week embroiled in a war of words with Lee Westwood, after the latter’s travel plans were ended when the BMW champ opted for Andy Sullivan after Danny Willett pulled out.

world

Regardless of how Wood has tried to sweep this issue away, Westwood’s fury and his repeated need to defend his position must have left an impact.

Wood was impressive with Justin Rose at the Ryder Cup. He has picked Sullivan because they’ve played lots together in the past, but he’s been steady without being spectacular since returning from Hazeltine.

Sullivan recovered well from an opening 76 at the DP World Tour Championship last week. But he has now played in six of the last seven weeks. How much more does he have in the tank?