International skipper Ernie Els’ most recent Presidents Cup blog coincided with the countdown to the last four weeks available to impress both he ad U.S. captain Tiger Woods for the remaining four picks on each team for December’s matches at Royal Melbourne.
Both will be clearly looking to select guys that are in form, especially Els given his pool of available players – according to Official World Golf Rankings – doesn’t run nearly as deep as the options available on the American side of the ledger.
“It’s going to be huge for us to pick the right players to join the team, and my job is already gotten tougher due to how well some of the guys have played as of late. A nice problem to have.” Els remarked in his blog.
“Joaquin Niemann’s win at The Greenbrier was only a matter of time. He’s just an immense young talent who has a successful career ahead of him. And then to be followed up by Sebastian Muñoz is just a testament to the growth of golf down in Latin America.”
“Sungjae Im is another who has shown a lot of consistency this past year and capped it off with Rookie of the Year honors on the PGA TOUR. He played 34 events last season and has seen his form continue with a runner-up finish two weeks ago.”
“Several players from Korea have my attention including Ben An, Sung Kang and Si Woo Kim, who competed on the 2017 team. Even Adam Hadwin, another 2017 team member, was back in contention this past weekend at the Safeway Open.”
Els, like Woods, will have high hopes that some of his ‘veteran’ players can overcome any recent form lapses to force their hands, rather than potentially wasting a pick based on a hunch that they have performed well in this arena before, therefore they’re good odds to do it again.
The standout in that category for the Internationals is Australian Jason Day, a winner at RM in the Individual and Team World Cup of Golf in 2013 and a Presidents Cup stalwart since his debut at the same venue in 2011. South African Branden Grace is another who sits in this category.
“We’d have loved to have seen him (Day) qualify in the top eight, but he is always going to be on the list of guys we’re going to look at for the top 12. He didn’t have a year like we’re used to seeing from him, but we’ve still got a long way to go.” said Els.
Woods has the uneviable task of trying to select from a stellar group that includes U.S. Open champ Gary Woodland and a gaggle of perennial U.S. team members in Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau and 49-year old Phil Mickelson (pictured), who has not missed a Presidents Cup since it’s 1994 inception.
Will he go to the tried and trusted or will he take the chance to blood a young gun like recent PGA TOUR winner Cameron Champ on the international stage? Will he be the one to end or continue Mickelson’s incredible Cup run?
Of course, Woods and his assistants will also have to make a call on whether he himself will fill one of the four spots and no doubt, the PGA TOUR and Presidents Cup organisers will have a keen interest in that decision given he remains the game’s ultimate drawcard from a spectator and broadcast standpoint.
The next four weeks of global tournament play will be crucial to the hopes of the team aspirants and its going to be fascinating to see what these two longstanding rivals come up with- and who’s hopes and dreams they’ll be forced to disappoint in the process – when their Captain’s picks are announced in early November.