Fred Couples-Captained Squad Routs Darren Clarke’s Team Rest of the World 16.5-10.5
(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) – Team USA Captain Fred Couples said in an early week press conference it was “disappointing” he’d been passed over to lead the U.S.’s 2016 Ryder Cup team.
With his latest match-play triumph at the helm of a national team – a resounding 16.5-10.5 victory in the inaugural ICONS Cup – it’s possible the PGA of America is having second thoughts.
Couples’ lineup of sporting legends took control early in today’s final session at Dubai Creek Golf Club and never looked back, winning nine of the singles matches against Darren Clarke’s Team Rest of the World (ROTW).
“We really had great fun as a team, and then to win the inaugural event is even better,” said Couples. “The credit must go to the guys who made this long trip and then played their hearts out.”
The 1992 Masters champion and former world No. 1 has captained U.S. teams to wins in the past three Presidents Cups (2009, ‘11, ‘13). Many thought this track record made him the logical choice to direct the U.S. when it takes on Clarke’s European squad in next year’s Ryder Cup. Europe has had a recent stranglehold on the Samuel Ryder Trophy, winning seven of the last nine biennial competitions.
But a potential breath of fresh air from Couples was not meant to be, at least for 2016.
The ICONS Cup had a much happier outcome for the 1992 Masters champion. Team USA began the day ahead by one point, 8.5-7.5. The spread could have been much larger, as the Americans jumped out to a 4-1 lead after morning foursomes (alternate shot) play. The momentum continued into the afternoon, with Team USA winning the first four singles matches out on the course. A spirited Team ROTW comeback, however, saw it go 6-0-1 over the final seven matches to set up a compelling final day.
Indian cricket legend Kapil Dev, perhaps Team ROTW’s MVP for the event, did his part to set the tone early with a 6 & 5 win (playing 2-under-par over his 13 holes) in Match 1 to help the internationals draw even on the scoreboard. Unmoved, Team USA quickly snuffed out the rally. It captured eight of the next nine matches, many in convincing fashion.
“I think they played brilliant golf throughout,” added Couples. “They came to the golf course today relaxed, rested and motivated to play well.”
A microcosm of Team ROTW’s day was on full display in perhaps its most anticipated bout, NHL Hall of Famer Brett Hull versus football great Andriy Shevchenko.
Both scratch players, the captains had previously highlighted their skills – Couples admitting Hull had beaten him in a club event, and Clarke calling Shevchenko Team ROTW’s “Rory McIlroy.”
It was Hull, however, who played the part of the four-time major champion, jumping out to a 2-up lead through four holes. Three birdies on the front nine helped increase his lead to 4-up through nine on his way to finishing off the Ukrainian 6 & 5.
“Not bad for an aging and fat hockey player,” exclaimed the NHL’s No. 3 all-time goal scorer after the match. “I had a horror start on the first hole, but then to play 13 holes at two-under par was fantastic.
“I played really well today, while Shevchenko was struggling a bit. But I really enjoyed playing with him because he is such a gentleman.”
Rest of the World captain Clarke said he was proud of the effort put in by his team.
“As you can see, they beat us quite convincingly,” said Clarke. “Today really was their day and they played very well. But I think we competed well. And to bounce back yesterday after the big loss in the foursomes was special. Shame we could not carry on that form to today.”
Super Bowl XVIII MVP and 1981 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen’s 3-0-0 record set the pace for Team USA. Other point leaders included two-time NBA Champion Ray Allen (2-0-1), Baseball Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (2-0-1), Hull (2-1), Stanley Cup champion Mike Modano (2-1) and NFL single-season rushing leader Eric Dickerson (2-1).
Fellow ICC Cricket Hall of Famers Dev (2-0-1) and Shane Warne (2-0-1) led Team ROTW.
The Final Scores (click to enlarge)
ICONS Cup Round 1
ICONS Cup Round 2
ICONS Cup Round 3