PGA Tour Champions now has its own World Cup


BRADENTON, Florida — Who says who can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

In the case of the wonderful world of tournament golf the “old dog’’ is PGA Tour Champions, and the 50-and-over circuit has never been reluctant to try something new. This week, though, it may have gone overboard with its World Golf Champions Cup.

It’s a team competition, which triggers thoughts of the Ryder Cup, President’s Cup and Solheim Cup — but it’s unlike any of those.  They only have two teams competing. The World Golf Champions Cup has three so – while it’s a match play event – it is in reality a “teams’’ competition.

And that’s not all.  The team scores are determined by holes won, not matches. I can’t recall any big-time pro golf event with a concept as different as this one, which tees off on Thursday (DEC 7) at Concession Club in Bradenton, FL.

It won’t even be held over consecutive days. There’ll be eight nine-hole matches each tournament day, featuring team formats and singles but the traditional pro-am will be on Saturday and without spectators.

Matches begin on Thursday after the 9 a.m. opening ceremonies and resume on Friday with ESPN providing broadcast coverage. After the pro-am the event concludes with two waves of singles matches on Sunday. ESPN and ABC will share broadcast coverage on that day.

Unlike traditional match play there’ll be no close-outs if one player leads by more than the number of holes remaining. Every hole matters.

The three teams are Team USA, captained by Jim Furyk; Team Europe, captained by Darren Clarke; and Team International, captained by Ernie Els.  Each team has six players and their leaders will all be playing captains with their rosters filled with recognizable tour stars of the past.

While the event is unusual, it is a big-time event as evidenced by the names of the players, the network TV coverage and the prize money.  The purse is $1.35 million with each player on the winning team getting $100,000.  Each player on the runner-up team gets $75,000 and each one on the last place unit gets $50,000.

I found the team scoring format on the LIV Tour difficult to follow. This one – because it’s so different – might be even more tricky than that, but it’s certainly worth a try. I’m all for pro golf trying new things and this attempt is certainly at the perfect venue.

Concession Club’s leadership has never been reluctant to try new things.  I was among about 20 media members invited to a two-day visit in 2013.  We all arrived and wondered why we were there for a while.  The program started late, suggesting a big announcement might be in the offing.

It came once club member Paul Azinger arrived.  He spelled out the details of the Concession Cup, a biennial team event that brought together the best mid-amateur, senior and super senior players from the U.S. and Great Britain/Ireland  two weeks before the next Masters. It was something different back then.

Later on the Bradenton club also hosted the 2015 men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Championship and the 2021 PGA Workday World Golf Championships.

Concession has my favorite logo in golf – one that honors Jack Nicklaus’ concession of a putt to Tony Jacklin in the 1969 Ryder Cup.  It was a controversial gesture then, some feeling Nicklaus made a great display of sportsmanship in allowing the matches to end in a tie while others thought the spirit of competition was compromised because Jacklin didn’t have to putt out with the critical match on the line.

Jacklin is a Concession member and Nicklaus designed the course. Former PGA and Champions Tour star Peter Jacobsen is chairman of the World Golf Champions Cup and he guarantees that – while the event has an untested format – it will be played at a worthy venue.

“The Concession is a fabulous match play course,  a ball strikers’ paradise,’’ said Jacobsen.  “Missed greens here put a lot of pressure on your game.  There is no way to coast, and you never can take a moment off.’’