JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two days after the 44th Ryder Cup was concluded in Rome, details for another international match-play event were unveiled at a news conference on Tuesday at the Timuquana Country Club, the site of this week’s PGA Tour Champions Constellation Furyk & Friends.
World Golf Hall of Fame member Ernie Els called the new event, “a different animal.”
That it is — just not the 800-pound gorilla that is the Ryder Cup.
The World Champions Cup, combining international, U.S. and European teams, will be Dec. 7-10 at The Concession in Bradenton, Florida — a course that was co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin and named for Nicklaus’ gesture to Jacklin in conceding a putt at the 1969 Ryder Cup that resulted in the first-ever tie in the competition.
The players on the six-man teams will be drawn from the PGA Tour Champions, which is co-sanctioning the event.
Jim Furyk, the 2018 Ryder Cup and 2024 U.S. Presidents Cup captain, will lead Team America, Els, the World Golf Hall of Fame member from South Africa will captain Team International and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, the 2016 European Ryder Cup captain, will lead Team Europe.
Stricker, Singh among those added
All will be playing captains and two other members have been named to each team: Defending Furyk & Friends champion Steve Stricker and David Toms for the U.S.; Els’ fellow World Golf Hall of Fame members Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen; and two other Hall of Fame members for Europe, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie.
Three more players will be picked on each team, one each from the final Charles Schwab Cup points list and two chairman’s selections by seven-time PGA Tour winner and TV golf analyst Peter Jacobsen.
TV coverage will be on ESPN and ABC. The tournament is managed by the Chicago-based Intersport, which also runs the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, along with a dozen other televised sports properties such as the Under Armour High School All-American football game and the College Slam Dunk and Three-Point Contest.
Jason Langwell, executive vice-president of Intersport and the World Champions Cup executive director, took note of the fact that every captain and eight of the nine players selected so far are major champions, with five members of the Hall of Fame.
“Our ambitious vision … being to become the fourth global team major in golf, joining the Presidents Cup, the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup as a legacy event in the game of golf,” Langwell said. “We’re excited to be the only one of those that are now going to be featuring three teams all competing at the same time. When you’re building a legacy event like this, you’ve got to have the best of the best. You have to have the best competitors, you’ve got to have the best partners, you’ve got to have the best host facility. We’re excited to have that.”
Can three-team match play work?
The World Champions Cup is the brainchild of Intersport founder and CEO Charlie Besser and Jacobsen. The two are long-time friends.
Coming on the heels of the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup (both won by Europe), could the World Champions Cup show that match play among three teams can work, and would that ever carry over to the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup (U.S. vs. Europe) or Presidents Cup (U.S. vs. an International team, mainly involving countries where golf is popular, such as South Africa, Australia, Japan, Canada and South Korea)?
Two of the World Champions Cup captains doubted it, given the enormous popularity of the Ryder Cup and the increasing history of the Presidents Cup, which launched in 1994.
But the interest in those events could create demand for more team match play and the World Champions Cup also involves the last remaining demographic group of professional golf yet to have its own match play event, the PGA Tour Champions.
“The world of golf, where it stands … the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup … the World Champions Cup is very unique and the timing is right for guys over 50,” Furyk said. “I don’t see the need for any change in future [for the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup]. I’m looking for this event to create its own history.”
Els, who had a 20-12-2 Presidents Cup record, thinks the World Champions Cup will fill the need for match play that involves the entire globe.
“The Ryder Cup is a wonderful competition … what they’ve done with this event is unique also,” he said. “This type of team event for the three entities to play against each other … and the history that will follow is going to stand on its own. I think that’s the way it should be.”
Nine holes, unique format
The format also will be novel: Each doubles match will have pairings from all three teams, playing nine-hole matches, and each singles match will have a player from each team, also going nine holes. The low score on each hole earns two points for their team and the second lowest score gets one point.
If all three teams make the same score on a hole, they all get one point. If one team wins the hole and the other two tie, they get one point each.
At the end of the competition, the team with the most points wins.