Els confident rookies can put up a challenge

MELBOURNE • The Internationals will field six debutants at next month's Presidents Cup, with Ernie Els naming rookies Im Sung-jae and Joaquin Niemann among his captain's picks to take on the United States at Royal Melbourne.

South Korean Im, the PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year, and Niemann, the first Chilean to play in the biennial match-play event, will join other first-time entrants.

They are Abraham Ancer of Mexico, Chinese Taipei's C.T. Pan, China's Li Haotong and Cameron Smith of Australia.

Els' other picks were former world No. 1 and home favourite Jason Day and Canada's Adam Hadwin. Both were in the team at the end of an 19-11 rout at Liberty National in the last edition in 2017.

With Els' team boasting only two players in the world top 20 in Australia's No. 17 Adam Scott and Japan's No. 20 Hideki Matsuyama, his young outfit face a huge task to win the trophy for the first time since 1998 against a powerful US team captained by Tiger Woods.

However, the South African said he was confident his debutants would be ready for the challenge at the Dec 12-15 event, which pits an International team representing the rest of the world minus Europe against the Americans.

"We've got a lot to do but I'm thinking guys who make the team can play," the four-time Major winner said. "I'm not here to hide anybody, I'm here to try to win enough points to get the team over the line.

"Whether that's playing rookies together, so be it... In many instances, this Cup will be an ice-breaker on a lot of fronts."

Woods will announce his four captain's picks today and he is expected to use one of the picks on himself, becoming the first playing skipper since Hale Irwin led the US to a 20-12 win at the inaugural event in Virginia in 1994.

Welcoming the prospect of the 15-time Major champion returning to Royal Melbourne, where he rolled in the winning putt in the 2011 edition, Niemann said: "If I have a chance to play him, it's going to give me more excitement to win the match, more energy.

"It's going to help me more to focus and try to beat him."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2019, with the headline 'Els confident rookies can put up a challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe