Ernie Els has filled out his International Presidents Cup team, making four captain’s picks on Wednesday (at least in the United States) to get the full 12 players he needs to take on Tiger Woods’ American team in December at Royal Melbourne in Australia.
Els has a good half-dozen names from which to choose, and he ultimately decided on youth and relative Presidents Cup inexperience, selecting Canadian Adam Hadwin, Australian Jason Day, Chilean Joaquin Niemann and South Korean Sungjae Im.
The South African said Niemann made himself a must-pick player with his performance to end the last PGA Tour season and his breakthrough win at The Greenbrier to open up the 2019-2020 PGA Tour season. Sungjae Im has played a marathon schedule in his first season-plus on the PGA Tour, and he’s proven himself again and again to be a world-class player.
“I didn’t go looking for Joaquin who is 20, or Sungjae who is 21, but they made themselves a lock on this team,” Els said. “I definitely wasn’t that good at 20, 21, but these guys are world-class players and they’ve proven themselves. I’m excited by the new blood that’s coming in.”
Els had it down to a pair of Canadians for one slot, and he went with Adam Hadwin over Corey Conners. While Conners has arguably played better in 2019 in total, Hadwin has kicked off this new season well.
With Jason Day, Els was adding a veteran to a team that needed it. Day, who hasn’t played his best in 2019 and is plotting a 2020 resurgence, will be making his fifth Presidents Cup appearance. Day wants to finally break through and get a long-needed Internationals win.
“I’ve spoken to Jason through the year quite a few times. He absolutely is 100 percent in,” Els said. “He wants to rectify a lot of things, but I told him this isn’t a one-man-show. He’s a world-class player and a player who can play under pressure. That’s what we need, players who can play under pressure.”
The Big Easy has forged a team with six first-timers, just behind the Presidents Cup record of seven first-timers for the Internationals in 2013. The average age of the International side continues to get younger, with this team coming in at just over 29 years old on average.
The Internationals will be the most diverse by country in the event’s history with the dozen players from Australia (4 players), Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea, Mexico and South Africa. This is the first time players from China (Haotong Li), Mexico (Abraham Ancer), Chinese Taipei (CT Pan) and Chile (Niemann) expanding the Internationals map, which covers everywhere on the planet outside of the United States and Europe.
The Internationals haven’t won the Presidents Cup since 1998, at Royal Melbourne, against a fairly indifferent American side. In 2017, the US nearly won the competition on Day 3 of the four-day event at Liberty National in New Jersey. However, with a revamped format in 2015 and playing a home game in South Korea, the Internationals nearly pulled off a win.
With Woods set to make his picks Thursday evening, there’s a good chance Woods will have a team of 12 players that include 11 ranked higher in the current Official World Golf Ranking than the highest-ranked International player (Adam Scott at No. 17 in the world).