BRADENTON, FL.- A number of firsts highlighted this year’s inaugural World Champions Cup at the beautiful Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida. This premier event featured Team International, Team Europe and Team USA represented by 18 of the world’s best senior tour golfers squaring off over three days of competition that renewed some of the game’s most storied rivalries as the teams battled for international pride and global bragging rights.
The Concession course, designed by Jack Nicklaus in association with Tony Jacklin, is routed through native stands of oak, magnolia and pine. This championship layout takes its name from one of the most historic moments in Ryder Cup history, when Nicklaus conceded a crucial two-foot putt to Jacklin at Royal Birkdale in 1969, resulting in the first tied Ryder Cup ever.
2023 World Champions Cup
Teams – Each of the three teams competing in the World Champions Cup consisted of six players, who were all active PGA Tour Champions members.
Format – The first two days included one three-match session of Six Ball and then a three-match session of Scotch (Modified Alternate Shot). There were two members from each team in each sixsome. A total of three points were awarded on each hole and based on each team’s individual result. Each team completed each hole, and all matches were played in their entirety (nine holes).
The final day was reserved for Singles Matches. Six threesome matches in the morning and six in the afternoon. Each match featured one player from each team. The player with the lowest score on each hole received two points, second lowest one point and highest score received no points. Whenever players finished with the same score on a hole, they split the point(s) between them.
Payouts – 1st Place – $100,000 per player | 2nd Place – $75,000 per player | 3rd Place – $50,000 per player. This year’s total purse was $1.35 million.
Day One – The first day of play was a major learning experience for both players and fans alike. The first inklings that this wasn’t just another senior PGA Tour event, but a unique undertaking that would send six players, on three different teams with their six caddies to the first tee with the same starting time. This was all of that, coupled with the first tee shots heard around the world, as the inaugural World Champions Cup found itself added to the PGA’s history book.
The first nine holes saw three groups of sixsomes tee off the first tee playing a best ball format with 2 players from the USA, Europe, and International teams on each sixsome. The second nine holes were also played on the front nine with the same sixsomes. A modified alternate shot was the format for the second nine.
The end of the first day the leaderboard showed that the teams were well matched with Team Europe in 1st place at (55.5), Team USA in 2nd place (55), and Team International in 3rd place (51.5). The format used on the first day would be repeated on the second day.
Day Two – The second day found the starting times rotated with the first team yesterday dropping to the last spot. It also found both the players and spectators more comfortable with the same format being used again. It also seemed that the flow of six players moving together around the course was much smoother and to some degree at a faster pace.
The biggest difference in the second day was the movement made by the Team International (111.5) that saw them move from 3rd place on Thursday to 1st place on Friday. It also saw Team Europe (101.5) fall from 1st to 3rd place. While Team USA (111) held on to 2nd place heading into the final day on Friday.
Day Three – A Pro-Am tournament was played on Saturday with scores not being included in the final results.
Day Four – The morning threesomes started out an hour earlier in an attempt to finish things up prior to the forecasted rain. Team International (111.5) was holding to a .5-point lead over Team USA and a 10-point lead over Team Europe.
Although they were all playing the same nine holes for the seventh and eighth time today, things were much different as sustained southerly winds at 10-20mph were causing problems on the course throughout the morning round. The standings after the morning round had Team International (167), Team USA (165.5) and Team Europe (153.5).
The afternoon threesomes found a leaderboard that looked like a horse race between Team International and Team USA. Team Europe needed to get off to a quick start if they wanted to be considered a legitimate contender for the Cup.
As the last threesome stepped up to the 9th and final tee, the winner was still in doubt. Only .5 point separated Team USA (219.5) from Team international (219). Still to finish was David Toms of Team USA and Retief Goosen of Team International.
The final leaderboard showed the numbers with Team USA (221) winning the first World Champion Cup, Team International (219) finished in 2nd place, while Team Europe (208) just couldn’t make up the deficit from the morning’s round and finished 3rd.
If having a good time, while trying to win the Inaugural 2023 World Champion Cup and the international bragging rights that goes along with it, the reactions of the players, as they finished their final rounds showed that there is no question that goal was successfully met.
ESPN commentator Michael Collins asked USA Team Captain Jim Furyk, “I gotta tell you there can only be one first timer what does it feel like what does it feel like to be the first-time winner of the world Champions Cup?”
Captain Furyk responded, “I’m so happy for this team. These guys are awesome. We’re all good friends. When we needed it today Billy Andrade won the 9th hole and David Toms the 8th hole. I mean we were 2 1/2 points down but in in a flash, after two of the last three holes all sudden were a half of point up.”
Collins then asked David Toms, “You talked to me about being flattered by being the anchor. Did you really think it was gonna come down to you?”
Toms said, “Well, I really didn’t know what was going on and then I started hearing ‘USA, USA’ on the last on the last green so I’m like we gotta be close and some guy was yelling at me on #8 that my putt was huge.”
Toms continued, “I cannot believe it came down to me making a bogey on the last hole. I mean it’s like we had to play great as a team all week to have a chance we did that and I’m just proud of everybody.”