The inaugural World Champions Cup – a triple-header event featuring Champions Tour players representing USA, Europe and International teams – has taken place in Bradenton, Florida, with the home team carrying off the trophy in a closely-fought tussle.
The PGA Tour Champions-sanctioned competition, which was inspired by the passion and tradition of the long-established Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches, was contested across 24 nine-hole matches over three days featuring six-ball and sixsome team formats and singles matches on the final day.
Each team comprised six players from the PGA’s senior circuit, including Miguel Angel Jimenez, Colin Montgomerie, Jerry Kelly, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, KJ Choi, Justin Leonard, David Toms and Retief Goosen as well as playing captains Ernie Els (Team International) and Darren Clarke (Team Europe). A back issue meant that Team USA captain Jim Furyk could not play, leaving vice-captain Billy Andrade to take the reins on the course.
the World Champions Cup was staged at The Concession Golf Club
However, Captain Furyk was on course to support his Team USA players throughout the event and joined them for the trophy presentation. They narrowly held off Team International by just two points to win with an overall tally of 221 points, having taken the lead on the penultimate hole in the final singles group thanks to a David Toms birdie. Team Europe finished third with 208 points.
Fittingly, the World Champions Cup was staged at The Concession Golf Club, named for the famous gesture by Jack Nicklaus when he conceded the final putt in the 1969 Ryder Cup to Tony Jacklin to ensure it ended as a tie. The two golf legends paired up in 2006 to co-design The Concession, a private facility that hosted the PGA Tour’s 2021 World Golf Championships-Workday Championship.
An annual event, the World Champions Cup is set to return to the Bradenton facility again in 2024, while Manatee County, which encompasses Bradenton and neighbouring communities, is also pitching to host the 2031 PGA Championship at The Concession.
Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Elliott Falcione was delighted with the event. Citing TV coverage by broadcasters ABC and ESPN that reached a global audience of 220 million in 170 countries, he said: “Absolutely it has been successful. It’s an honour to have been part of an inaugural event of this calibre.”
The World Champions Cup also got the thumbs up from the participating captains. “What a week, what a format. This thing works,” said Ernie Els. Darren Clarke agreed, saying: “Yeah, it was brilliant. The whole event was fabulous.”
Winning captain Jim Furyk said of his team: “These guys just fought, and I mean fought really hard. I’m just so happy for them. It was a pleasure to be their captain. It was a pleasure to work with them all week. We’re good buddies every week of the year, but to get together as a team is really cool.”