‘Diversity could be our strength’

  • Golf
  • Sunday, 02 Jun 2019

The International Team enjoyed bonding sessions at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

THE past couple of months have been really exciting for the International Team, with many of our potential players producing some wonderful golf and enjoying success worldwide.

In a span of six weeks, we had three PGA Tour wins by Canadian Corey Conners at the Valero Texas Open, C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei taking the RBC Heritage and Korea’s Sung Kang claiming the AT&T Byron Nelson, which have improved their chances of qualifying for the team to face the United States in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Australia from Dec 9 to 15.

I was encouraged to hear all three players saying how determined they are in wanting to fight for their places in the Presidents Cup. Their enthusiasm will help generate a lot of positive buzz and energy in the team room.

Another international player who has caught my attention recently is Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, whom I had the opportunity to play with in Malaysia recently. This kid has got talent and at Bethpage Black, he showed us what he can do with a solid T14 finish to move up to 12th in our team standings.

I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate Brooks Koepka for his impressive victory at Bethpage Black. What he has accomplished in the past few years is nothing short of remarkable, and he is going to be a formidable opponent as part of the U.S. Team in December.

Currently, our top-eight players on the International Team points list consist of four established Presidents Cup team members in Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day while Cameron Smith, Haotong Li, Justin Harding and Abraham Ancer are in good position to book their maiden appearances, with qualifying concluding in mid-August. I’ll then have four captain’s picks to round up my 12-man team in early November following the PGA Tour’s Asia swing.

We’ve already seen on numerous occasions what Cameron can do on the golf course and I’ve been impressed by Haotong and Justin as well following some eye-catching performances. Haotong, whom I played with when he shot that amazing 63 in the final round of The Open Championship in 2017, is tenacious and fiery when he gets into the ‘zone’ and he showed a lot of heart in finishing second to Dustin Johnson in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

We all saw how he backed it up with another strong showing at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play where he reached the round of 16.

I’ve followed Justin’s progress very closely since he started playing on the Sunshine Tour and it’s been amazing to see his rise over the past 18 months where he has won five times in Asia, South Africa and on the European Tour.

It’s been really fun to see how his confidence and game have soared to new heights and Justin showed us at the Masters Tournament that he can become a global player with an impressive T12 finish in his debut appearance. I was happy to see Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace reaching the round of 16 as well at the Match Play which will put our team in good stead when we face what will be a strong US Team led by Tiger Woods.

Leading as team captain for the first time requires a lot of preparation and I believe we had a fruitful week during the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Being the only official two-man team FedExCup tournament on Tour, it allowed our players to bond closer and try out some partnerships in the fourball and foursomes.

Many of our guys opted to pair up with the likes of Jason Day partnering with Adam Scott, Louis teaming up with Charl Schwartzel, Justin playing with Branden, Abraham Ancer getting together with Jhonattan Vegas and Anirban Lahiri combining with Shubhankar Sharma.

As you know, our team is made up of golfers from different nationalities and cultures and it’s important to gel as one team, hence the reason for our new International Team logo which incorporates the respective players’ national flags.

I also liked what my friend, Trevor Immelman said. He believes our team’s diversity can be our strength which I fully agree. This is something we will continue to harness in the coming months as part of our plans to wrest the title from the US.

Speaking of Trevor, I’m delighted and honoured that he, along with Mike Weir and K.J. Choi, have agreed to be my captain’s assistants, joining Geoff Ogilvy who we announced in November at the World Cup of Golf. I have played alongside the three guys in the Presidents Cups and tournaments around the world and I know they have the same passion, drive and determination to create a winning formula for our team.

On a personal note, I was over the moon to become the first golfer to register 300 career top-10s since the introduction of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986 following my T7 finish at the Maybank Championship.

Admittedly, my last three or four years have been a struggle, so I was happy I played some good golf in Malaysia.

Another player who also played some good golf recently was Tiger and I want to congratulate him for his sensational victory at the Masters Tournament. I hear that ticket sales for the Presidents Cup has been very good so do make sure you get your tickets now on www.presidentscup.com and cheer us on at Royal Melbourne.

Bye for now.

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