The golfers playing in the World Champions Cup want people to know a few things.
One: They're playing to win.
Two: They're impressed with the difficulty offered by the course at The Concession Golf Club.
The World Champions Cup, a PGA Tour Champions event pitting U.S., Europe and International teams against each other, will be held Thursday, Friday and Sunday at The Concession.
On Wednesday, players spoke with the media about their first impressions of the course and the event.
The general consensus — The Concession won't make things easy on these pros.
"There's a lot of water off the tee," Team Europe's Bernhard Langer said. "Every hole, I think, has water. So you can take the aggressive line or you (can) try to play for the fat part of the fairway. Then the greens are, obviously, the tricky part. They're the main thing. You have to hit the little plateaus to have a reasonable chance for birdie. Otherwise, you could miss a green or you could easily three-putt or worse. And if it is windy like (Wednesday), that makes it that much harder."
Team Europe captain Darren Clarke joked that the course's set-up is not conducive to his typical playing style.
"Playing smart has not always been one of my strengths," Clarke said. "But I'm going to have to try to do it."
Team USA's Jim Furyk announced Tuesday that he would be pulling out of his playing role at the Cup because of a lingering back injury, but he remains with the team in his role as captain. At media day, Furyk explained why the Cup already means so much to the people involved.
"We see these guys on a weekly basis," Furyk said. "We're friends. We know each other's families and their kids. But man, these 18 guys are extremely competitive. (His teammates) get to put on the U.S. flag to represent our country. These six guys, I could not be more honored to be their captain. This is a close-knit bunch."
Although the official announcement of Furyk pulling out was made this week, his replacement — vice captain Billy Andrade — has known this was a possibility for a long time. Andrade said Furyk alerted him to the possibility "months ago" via text, saying his back was not feeling good. Last week, Furyk texted Andrade again and said, "I can't go."
Andrade wants to make the most of an unfortunate situation.
"I'm just honored to be with these guys and I'm looking forward to helping out as much as I can," Andrade said. "We're going to get all our pairings set up, and it is going to be a lot of fun."
Team International's Steven Alker is not the biggest name among players at the World Champions Cup. The 52-year-old Alker never won an event on the PGA Tour, and won just four events on the Web.com Tour (now known as the Korn Ferry Tour). Yet since joining the PGA Tour Champions in 2020, Alker has taken his game to a new level. Alker has won seven PGA Tour Champions events — including the Charles Schwab Cup Championship (18 under par), held Nov. 9-12 at Phoenix County Club in Phoenix, Arizona —and finished as a runner-up in 10 others.
Alker is grateful that his career has led him to this opportunity.
"To be among these guys, playing with some of my golfing heroes — Ernie (Els) and K.J. (Choi) and all these guys — I always looked up to them and respected them. So this is huge for me. I'm just enjoying the moment and I'm looking forward to the whole team format. It's exciting."
The World Champions Cup will get underway at 9:30 a.m. Thursday with a morning session of Six Ball. An afternoon session of Scotch Sixsome play will begin at 12:45 p.m.
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.