Thu, 21 Nov 2019

Captain Els names Presidents Cup wildcards

News24
07 Nov 2019, 17:42 GMT+10

Melbourne - Local hero Jason Day of Australia, Canadian Adam Hadwin, Sungjae Im of Korea and Joaquin Niemann of Chile got the nod from International team captain Ernie Els for the 13th Presidents Cup set to begin in just over a month in Australia.

The Presidents Cup will return to Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Golf Club for the third time from December 9-15 where Els will lead the International Team challenge against the U.S. team, led by captain Tiger Woods.

Els, the youngest International captain in Presidents Cup history, was also the first to make four picks instead of two.

With his four picks, Els will lead the most diverse International team in Presidents Cup history.

The local fans will have plenty to cheer about with Day joining Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith, but the team also features players from Canada, Japan, Korea, South Africa and first time contenders from China, Mexico, Chinese Taipei and Chile.

Day returns for his fifth consecutive Presidents Cup and first as a captain's pick. The Australian owns a 5-11-4 record, but has had plenty of success in match play elsewhere on the PGA Tour, having compiled a 22-14-0 record and two victories in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play (2014, 2016).

"He's won 12 times on the PGA Tour. He's played in four Presidents Cups. He's going to come down to Australia as a hometown hero," Els said.

"You know, he won twice in 2018. Five top-10s this season including fifth at the Farmers and the Masters, fourth at Pebble Beach and eighth at the Players. A very solid year. And he brings a lot to the team. He brings leadership to the team. He brings a lot of experience to the team, and obviously he's bringing some home flavour."

After narrowly missing out on one of the eight automatic qualifying berths, Day will return to the site of his Presidents Cup debut at Royal Melbourne in 2011, where he finished with a 1-3-1 record. Day competed at Royal Melbourne two years later in the 2013 World Cup of Golf and teamed with Scott to successfully defend on their home soil.

"I want to thank Ernie, to have the faith in me, and I'm looking forward to catching up with the whole team down in Australia," Day said.

"Hopefully most of the team are at the Australian Open, as well, but it's great to be able to get a captain's pick and I'm looking forward to get down to Australia and play down there."

Hadwin's first as a captain's pick secures a second consecutive Presidents Cup appearance for the Canadian.

"Adam was such a great member of our team the last time under captain (Nick) Price's leadership in New York," Els said.

"I loved the way he interacted with the team. He's got an all-around great game, especially for our team formats in the first four sessions, and he's had a very consistent year with five top-10s."

The 31-year-old Hadwin finished the 2018/19 PGA Tour season with five top-10s, but made his best case for a captain's pick after finishing runner-up in his first start of the 2019/20 season at the Safeway Open, followed with a tie for fourth in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

"With this Presidents Cup approaching and me starting to play some good golf again, I was just hungry for a second chance," Hadwin said.

"That's not how I would like my contribution to the Presidents Cup to be remembered and I'm looking forward to having a second chance down at Royal Melbourne, a part of an incredible International team, and hopefully we can right some of the wrongs that we've had in the past and do captain Els proud."

Im makes his Presidents Cup debut on the back of a memorable rookie season on the PGA Tour, highlighted by 16 top-25 finishes in 35 starts. He was also the only rookie to make the trip to the Tour Championship and earned the Arnold Palmer Award as the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. The 21-year-old convinced Els that he deserved the captain's pick with a strong start to the 2019/20 season that included a runner-up finish in the Sanderson Farms Championship and joint third in the Zozo Championship.

"He's our Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour," Els said.

"He's had one hell of a year and he played his way on to the team with his consistency and coming to the meetings and showing a lot of spirit with the other players."

For Im, it's a dream come true.

"It has always been a dream of mine to make the Presidents Cup, so I'm so happy to have been chosen as a captain's pick," Im said.

"I really want to beat the United States team. There were so many great players that could've been picked, so I'm really thankful that captain Ernie Els chose me. I watched (the 2015 Presidents Cup) from home on the TV when I was in South Korea. It motivated me a lot to make the International team one day."

Niemann's selection came on his 21st birthday and as far as presents go, it doesn't get much better than this.

"I was really excited. I was looking forward to this week because I was going to get the call and didn't know if I was going to make it or not and also because it is my birthday," Niemann said.

"This is really big for my country and South America. Golf has been growing a lot in Chile and this is going to help those kids who are growing up and starting to play the game. I just can't wait to get down to Australia and hopefully have a good week."

The former world No 1-ranked amateur is the first Chilean to represent his country after also becoming the Chilean to win on the PGA Tour with his victory at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in September.

"What a great kid. I want to call you kid, you're my daughter's age, but you played like a grown man this past season," Els said to Niemann during a teleconference.

"Winning your first event on the PGA Tour as a Chilean player at the Greenbrier, that solidified you in my view.

"Obviously in 2018, you came out as a young guy, and had so many top-10 finishes and didn't even have to go to the Korn Ferry Tour to get your card, and you automatically got on to the PGA Tour. So I knew you were a special player then, and you definitely solidified it since the summer this year."

Niemann is the sixth player from South America to qualify for the Presidents Cup, joining Carlos Franco (Paraguay) Angel Cabrera (Argentina), Emiliano Grillo (Argentina), Jhonattan Vegas (Venezuela), Camilo Villegas (Colombia).

He earned his PGA Tour card at 19-years-old and enjoyed a successful first full season on the PGA Tour in 2018/19 that yielded four top-10 finishes in 28 starts. His win at the 2019/20 season opener was a coming-out party for the young talent, who turned a three-stroke final-round lead into a six-stroke victory in West Virginia.

Im and Niemann are two of five players in Presidents Cup history to qualify before turning 22, joining Japan's Ryo Ishikawa (2009, 2011), Jordan Spieth (2013) and Hideki Matsuyama (2013).

The four picks will join the eight players who automatically qualified on the strength of their world golf rankings including the Australians Scott, Leishman and Smith, Hideki Matsuyama (Japan), Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Haotong Li (China), Abraham Ancer (Mexico) and C.T. Pan (Taiwan).

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