BRADENTON, Florida ― After Friday’s second round of the World Champions Cup, which saw Team International clinging to a half-point lead over Team USA, International captain Ernie Els opined that any lead didn’t really mean anything until maybe the last putt.
The inaugural event at The Concession Golf Club didn’t come down to the last putt. But it did the last hole.
Trailing Team International on Sunday by 2.5 points with three holes to play, Team USA got clutch play down the stretch from David Toms and Billy Andrade and overcame the margin to win the inaugural event at The Concession Golf Club.
Team USA finished with 221 points, Team International was second with 219, and Team Europe third with 208. Over the final three holes, the 56-year-old Toms, who won 13 PGA titles from 1992 to 2017, earned 4.5 out of a possible 6 points. One match earlier, Andrade, filling in for injured Team USA captain Jim Furyk, registered 11 points, besting International’s Vijay Singh and Europe’s Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Team USA’s vice captain Bill Andrade, left, watches David Toms drink out of the World Champions Cup trophy to celebrate at The Concession Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
But trailing by half a point after leading for much of Sunday, Team International had a chance to pick up two points and the tournament championship on the par-4 No. 9 closing hole when Toms and Team Europe’s Bernhard Langer bogeyed.
All International’s Retief Goosen had to do was make par to collect the two points and give his team the victory. But Goosen, a winner of two U.S. Opens, hit his approach shot into the penalty area. His double-bogey earned him zero points, while the USA and Europe each earned a half-point.
The format called for three points to be available for each hole. The lowest score earned 2 points, the second lowest 1 point, and the third lowest earned zero. If teams tied with a score, the points were split. If two teams tied with a low score, they each earned 1.5 points, with third place earning nothing.
After the post-match ceremony, each member of Team USA walked into the media interview room draped in an American flag. Later, they poured champagne into the championship trophy and drank from it.
Team International’s Stephen Ames reacts after his birdie putt on the ninth at The Concession Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Toms’ play over the final three holes keyed the USA’s victory. Before taking the half-point lead heading into the final hole, USA had trailed by as many as six points.
“I think, really, what I really liked about this team,” Furyk said, “and I always talk about the personalities and how easy these guys are to get along with, but this is a feisty group. I think we’ve got a bunch of guys who have good short games, good putters, guys that don’t give up, guys that will grind it out and finish a hole for you.”
Another big contributor to Team USA was Jerry Kelly, who played a bogey-free nine holes to earn 12.5 points, the most of any player during the morning singles. Team International captain Els, who earned 12 points during the bogey-free nine-hole morning singles, felt for Goosin, his teammate.
Team InternationalÕs Retief Goosen chips up to the eighth hole during their morning round at The Concession Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
“I really feel for Retief,” he said. “He had such a tough lie there. To be this close at the end of the day . . . yeah, we lost basically the last couple of matches.”
Even Toms didn’t think his team had a chance, particularly when USA trailed by 6 points.
“On No. 8, I had a putt to win the hole,” he said, “and one of the guys in the crowd said something to the effect that it was a big putt. I was like, at that point, I didn’t even know it would mean anything, honestly, because I didn’t know where we stood. I made the putt, so that was good. Then I got to the 18th tee and I heard “USA! USA!” after Billy (Andrade) made his putt and I was like, man, we have to be in good shape.”
Said Team USA Brett Quigley about the format, “It’s beaten every expectation I had. It was just incredible. It was way more fun than I thought it would be and just so much love. The team aspect of it, because every week we’re doing our own thing and we go home and we go to the next week. This week, to have our families here, our caddies so involved and all the players genuinely pulling for each other made it so special.”
“The U.S. guys kept grinding out the 18th,” Els said. “We just couldn’t make that one putt up the hill. I missed it, K.J. missed it, Vijay (Singh) missed it. Unfortunately, Retief had such a tough lie.
“What a week, what a format. This thing works.”