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Robert Karlsson brings his analytical eye to World Champions Cup

The golfer known as "The Scientist" will play for Team Europe against Team USA and Team International.

Robert Karlsson said he's expecting to be challenged by the three-team format of the World Champions Cup, held Dec. 7-10 at The Concession Golf Club.
Robert Karlsson said he's expecting to be challenged by the three-team format of the World Champions Cup, held Dec. 7-10 at The Concession Golf Club.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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Robert Karlsson has thought a lot about how this will go.

Karlsson, the owner of 11 wins on international golf tours, will represent Team Europe at the World Champions Cup, a PGA Tour Champions event held Dec. 7-10 at The Concession Golf Club.

Known as "The Scientist," Karlsson is an analytical golfer who uses his head over his heart when playing and planning his rounds. 

As a two-time Ryder Cup player — and twice more serving as a vice captain — Karlsson, 54, is experienced in team golf. But he's never played in an event like the World Champions Cup, which will see not two, but three teams go head-to-head-to-head in an event which will see golfers participate in three different formats over three rounds. 

"I think it could be challenging," Karlsson said. "To play two teams at the same time, it's tricky mentally. It is something I have been thinking about. You can't just play to your opponent (like in traditional match play) because there's two of them over there. There's different things to keep in mind." 

Karlsson will represent Team Europe, captained by Darren Clarke. Jim Furyk will captain Team USA, while Ernie Els will captain Team International.

Each team has six players including the captains, who all were scheduled to play and who all have won Major championships. On Tuesday, Furyk pulled out of his playing role with a back injury. He will continue his captain's duties.

Also on the rosters are other Major championship winners like Justin Leonard (USA), David Toms (USA), Bernhard Langer (Europe), Retief Goosen International), and Vijah Singh (International).

The winning team's golfers will take home $100,000 each, while second place will get $75,000 each and third place will get $50,000 each. The event will air on ESPN and ABC. 

While the event might not have the intensity of an event like the Ryder Cup in its first year, Karlsson said he and his teammates will be playing to win, not just to enjoy the course and the Florida sunshine.

To prepare for the event, Karlsson has been practicing daily at Congaree Golf Club in Jasper County, South Carolina, a course he said has comparable greens to those found at The Concession. He's never played The Concession, and he wants to be ready.

He also knows the other teams will be serious about their preparation.

"All three teams are strong," Karlsson said. "It's going to be some good golf played. I'm sure of that. Hopefully it will be a format (fans) can understand easily and quickly. That's always something when you try something new. Can people figure it out? But I think this should work."

On the event's first two days, the morning wave of action will see golfers play Six Ball, where each player plays his own ball. The lowest score between a pairing's golfers will count as the pair's score. The afternoon wave will be played as a Scotch Sixsome, where two players from each team will act as a pair, alternating strokes after selecting their best tee shot, and going against a pair from both opposing countries.

These two formats have the same scoring stipulations. The pair with the lowest score on a given hole will receive two points while the pair with the middle score will receive one point, and the pair with the highest score will receive zero points. If pairs finish with the same score on a hole, those pairs will be awarded the same number of points. 

Day three of the event matches all the players in singles matches. Again, the golfer with the lowest score on a given hole will earn two points for his team, while the middle score earns one point and the highest score earns zero.

All the matches on all three days are played over nine holes. The event will only utilize The Concession's back nine.

As for which players will pair up, and the strategy required to conquer each format, that's where Karlsson gets intrigued. He's eager to sit down with Clarke and the rest of his teammates to plan a strategy. 

"You're trying to figure out who works together," Karlsson said. "You have to think about the course as well. Are there certain players suited to certain holes? And what is the weather going to be like? So you have to wait and see."

The Concession Golf Club will once again receive worldwide attention when it hosts The World Champions Cup on Dec. 7-10.
Photo by Jay Heater

With three teams in the mix at the World Champions Cup, there's more to think about with matchups than a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup. But whatever is decided, Karlsson is confident it will result in a great competition for fans to watch. In general, Karlsson said, team events tend to bring out the best in the competitors. The reason? Golfers don't want to let their teammates down. 

"Normally, if you're not playing well, you can use a week almost as a practice week and take something with you (for the future)," Karlsson said. "But this week, I don't think your teammates are going to be happy with you if you used it as practice. It's 'game on.' You want to be at your best from the first tee to the last hole." 

Karlsson said he's looking forward to chit-chatting with the other golfers as much as he is playing golf. Normally, Karlsson said, golfers do not have much time to socialize with each other. It is usually at breakfast, he said, which is a setting appropriate only for surface-level talk, not things like updates on each other's kids or other important things. At the World Champions Cup, golfers will get the evenings to sit down and catch up. 

Karlsson has played 70 events on the PGA Tour Champions since joining the tour in 2020 and he never has missed a cut, although he has never won an event. He's been a professional golfer since 1989.

He still takes a measured approach to every round he plays. The biggest difference now, Karlsson joked, is that golf is more painful than it used to be. But he still has the same love for the game that he did as a young adult, and the drive to challenge himself — and to overcome that challenge. 

"It's hard to improve on what you did at the top of your career," Karlsson said. "But you can improve on what you did yesterday. You can learn. You know what you need to do to be more competitive the next week. Everybody here (on the PGA Tour Champions) still loves that. And you trust your abilities more. You figure out what works for you." 

"The Scientist" is always on the lookout for better processes and results. The World Champions Cup will be a chance for he and his teammates to do that once more, while also being something new. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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