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New PGA Tour Champions golf tournament begins in Bradenton this week. What to know

The text message last week wasn’t a total surprise for Billy Andrade.

The United States vice captain had a conversation a few months ago with captain Jim Furyk about Furyk’s back not feeling great.

“Just be ready, be prepared,” Andrade said Wednesday of the conversation.

Then, Andrade said, Furyk let him know he couldn’t play.

Andrade is stepping in to fill the void as Team USA battles Team Europe and Team International in the inaugural World Champions Cup at the Concession Golf Club in East Manatee.

The PGA Tour Champions tournament begins Thursday, with ESPN and ABC airing the action through Sunday’s final round. The format features Scotch sixsomes, sixball and singles matches. However, unlike the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup, the World Champions Cup is a stroke play competition over nine holes.

Team USA’s Jerry Kelly hits a tee shot during a practice round for the World Champions Cup at the Concession Golf Club in East Manatee on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.
Team USA’s Jerry Kelly hits a tee shot during a practice round for the World Champions Cup at the Concession Golf Club in East Manatee on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.

In Scotch sixsomes, both players in each two-man team tee off with alternate shot played into the hole after a tee shot is picked. Two points are awarded to the team with the lowest score, the next lowest receives one point and the highest score gets zero points.

The team with the most points at the conclusion of Sunday’s singles matches wins the tournament, with each team member getting $100,000 of the $1.35 million purse.

World Champions Cup set to begin in Bradenton

Andrade’s inclusion as a player due to Furyk’s back injury means he’ll join Steve Stricker, Justin Leonard, Brett Quigley, David Toms and Jerry Kelly as players to watch on Team USA this week.

“Every hole is its own tournament, really, and you’re trying to win each hole,” Andrade said about the tournament format using stroke play compared to traditional match play.

The U.S. faces an International side comprised of captain Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, K.J. Choi, Stephen Ames and Steven Alker and a European team with captain Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Robert Karlsson and Alex Čejka.

And they’ll do it at the Concession, an East Manatee golf course that plays tough on approach shots and around the greens.

“The greens are pretty treacherous. They’re difficult, they’re elevated and they have so many runoffs and collection areas on all sides,” World Champions Cup tournament chairman Peter Jacobsen said. “So I think this is more of a second shot golf course than it is a tee ball golf course. Fairways are pretty generous, pretty wide. When Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus designed it, I think they had the intent of making it pretty easy off the tee. Not easy, but wide.”

Team USA’s Jerry Kelly hits a pitch shot during a practice round for the World Champions Cup at the Concession Golf Club in East Manatee on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.
Team USA’s Jerry Kelly hits a pitch shot during a practice round for the World Champions Cup at the Concession Golf Club in East Manatee on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.

“But I think the precision is asked for on the second shots. And on and around the greens, that is where matches are won or lost. So you’re going to see a lot of chipping. I’ve always said on The Concession Golf Club, players that have the more superior short game are going to be the ones that come out on top.”

Clarke was in the area last year for some tarpon fishing, but he also got in a round at the Concession.

“I really enjoyed the golf course,” Clarke said. “It was brilliant.”

But it’s also a hard test.

“Even when you think you’ve got an opportunity with like a sand wedge or a wedge in your hand, you’ve got to be so precise to not catch the wrong slope,” Clarke said. “Because you can hit a good shot and it just trickles down off a slope and then you’ve got no shot from there. So it’s challenging, to say the least.”

Thursday’s sixball session begins at 9:30 a.m. Tickets and more information are available at www.worldchampionscup.com/ticket-information/.