The inaugural World Champions Cup at The Concession Golf Club in Florida sees the Darren Clarke-skippered Team Europe take a half-point advantage on day one.
The unusual format sees pairs from each of the European, United States and International sides compete in nine-hole matches with all three sides involved in each match.
Clarke and Colin Montgomerie lead out Team Europe against the American pairing of Brett Quigley and David Toms, with Steven Alker and Retief Goosen representing the Internationals.
With three points up for grabs on each hole, an outright win nets two points, a shared win gets one-and-a-half and an outright loss nets zero.
Clarke and Montgomerie set the Europeans in good stead in the opening ‘sixball’ session where each player played their own ball throughout. Their 13-point tally from the nine holes was the highest of the nine pairings that contested the morning session and helped Europe to a 31.5-point total from the opening matches, with the United States next-best placed at 26.5 with the Internationals trailing on 23.
“Monty doing Monty things,” was how Clarke described it afterwards. “You know, my first Ryder Cup in 1997 at Valderrama, Seve (Ballesteros, Europe’s captain) put me with Monty in my first baptism-by-fire Ryder Cup and we played on Saturday morning against the great Freddie Couples and Davis Love, the American dream team, and we came out on top that morning.
“I really enjoy playing in his company. He’s obviously a Hall of Famer, he’s done nearly everything in the game, so it’s a privilege for me to play with him.”
The afternoon session saw a ‘scotch sixsomes’ format, where both players on a team would hit tee shots and, having selected the best, play alternate shot from there.
Maintaining the same lineups, Clarke and Montgomerie couldn’t quite produce the same magic, scoring eight points to Toms and Quigley’s nine and Goosen and Alker’s 10, but the early morning scoring had given Europe a platform that allowed them to take a half-point lead at the end of the day on 55.5 points, with the United States in second and the Internationals close behind on 51.5.
“Yeah, obviously looking at our scoreboard we’re leading by half a point,” Clarke said at the end of the day. “It’s obviously a very good start for Team Europe. It was quite an interesting day to try and get used to the format and the scoring and all that sort of stuff, but it was really exciting in that we played hard. As I said, everybody’s going to turn back into proper tournament professionals and we were all trying to win our points.
“For Team Europe, I’m extremely proud of all the guys that were leading after day one. But as we know, that’s only a certain amount of points out of everything we’ve got to play for in the next couple days. But in terms of a start, very good from Team Europe. Very proud of the guys.”