All in the name of golf

All in the name of golf

They are two great figures of golf, and Fred Couples and Darren Clarke are used to being the focus of attention on a sports stage.

At yesterday's official launch of the Icons Cup at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, the two captains had to weave their way past a crowd of reporters all trying to get soundbites from two of their players - Clarke's cricket legend Shane Warne and Couples' former NBA all-star Ray Allen.

Never mind that this was a golf tournament.

Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, and Clarke, the 2011 Open champion, both acknowledged who the true Hall of Famers in the room were.

"When I saw the team sheets, I didn't know whether to pick the pairings or ask for a few selfies," joked Couples.

Some of the greatest names in the world of sport have landed in Dubai to compete in the inaugural Icons Cup 2015, a new all-star team golf event, which runs today and tomorrow.

Played in Ryder Cup fashion, the event sees sporting superstars from the United States go head to head with a Rest Of The World (ROTW) team.

Current European Ryder Cup captain Clarke, 46, leads a 12-man team, which include former footballers Luis Figo, Dwight Yorke, Robbie Fowler, Andriy Shevchenko and Kenny Dalglish.

Couples, 55, heads a team comprising the likes of Allen, Oscar de la Hoya (former world boxing champion), and baseball Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr and Greg Maddux.

The Icons Cup is a precursor to the Players Cup, which be held at the Tanah Merah Country Club's Garden Course in Singapore from June 24 to 26.

The Players Cup will see an array of current and former football stars head to the Republic in an event pitting Team England against a Rest of The World side.

Both events, created by Worldwide Sports & Entertainment, are aimed at showcasing golf's worldwide appeal.

Said Couples: "There are a lot of kids who don't know golf, but they know basketball and Ray Allen, the football fans know superstars like Figo and Shevchenko.

"That's the beauty of these events. When it comes on TV, everyone's learning about the sport."

COMPETITIVE

Despite the friendly nature of the tournament, Clarke insisted that both teams will be all-out competitive. "We all want to win, we're sportsmen - it's in our DNA," he said.

"People will be surprised at how good some of these guys are. Sheva is a one handicapper, and he's got proper OCD about his golf.

"Yorkie is off three, so he's going to be strong, too.

"But the handicaps are only a partial reflection. With 20 or so cameras on these guys, they will hit some good shots and some bad ones."

Australian Warne, regarded as one of the best spin bowlers of all time, had no doubt every player will be taking the par-71 Dubai Creek course seriously.

"Once you're set in a competitive zone, your next shot is always about being your best shot," said the 45-year-old.

"There's a lot of passionate golfers here. The next two days, you're going to see that passion."


This article was first published on April 23, 2015.
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