Courtesy of www.presidentscup.com
05 March, 2019: Hello everyone! It’s a great privilege for me to have this opportunity to share my views and provide updates on the International Team’s preparation and progress for the Presidents Cup at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Australia in December.
For starters, it’s been a really good past few weeks for our prospective International Team members as we reach the halfway point of our qualification process.
Looking at the current top-eight and those around the fringe of our points standing following the conclusion of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, I’m happy to see several familiar names featuring on the list including Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Si Woo Kim.
All four players have plenty of Presidents Cup experience behind them – Jason has played in four editions, Louis has featured in three, Adam has played an amazing eight times while Si Woo made his debut two years ago. Experience is an important element for any team and having players like those listed above will be key when the qualifying race concludes in August.
I’m pleased to see two other Aussies, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, continuing to occupy the top-two spots on our points list. I can only imagine what the fan support will be like come December when they are joined by both Jason and Adam on the first tee at The Royal Melbourne. Given how sports-crazed the fans in Melbourne are, I can’t wait to experience the buzz and electricity of the atmosphere.
With the PGA TOUR season getting into the thick of action now, it’s fun to see guys like Jason producing consecutive top-five finishes at the Farmers Insurance Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Adam finishing runner-up at Torrey Pines and tied-seventh at the Genesis Open. Si Woo, whom I’ve gotten to know quite well recently, has also shown the kind of form that helped him win THE PLAYERS Championship in 2017 following back-to-back top-five finishes at Pebble Beach and the Genesis Open.
Speaking of the Genesis Open, I called for an International Team meeting during the week which included some 24 golfers from 11 different countries and five different continents. It is amazing to actually be reminded that our team will represent so many nations and continents from around the world that it reinforces our decision to introduce a new International Team logo which features each player’s national flag as part of the logo.
I really enjoyed getting our players together that day as I updated the guys on my plans and asked for their views as well. It was also good to see new and young faces in the room, absorbing everything that we talked about, and I think some of them will force their way into my team and contribute towards our cause to regain the Presidents Cup from the U.S. Team.
Our senior members also shared their views and experiences with the younger guys and the meeting certainly helped us bond better as a team. This was only the second time we were meeting after our first get-together during the U.S. Open last year and I’m planning for several more of such meetings later this year.
I also got to play in the first two rounds at the Riviera with Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Charl Schwartzel. Both players unfortunately missed the cut that week – perhaps it was due to the pressure of playing with their captain! However, I was really pleased to see them bouncing straight back in the following week. Kiradech finished an impressive tied-third at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship while Charl enjoyed a tied-sixth result in Puerto Rico.
I’ve known Charl for a very long time as the Ernie Els Foundation supported his career when he was coming through the ranks and being a Masters Tournament champion and four-time International Team member, he can certainly be a vital cog in my team.
Through my regular travels to Asia, I first came across Kiradech many years ago and he caught my attention with his aggressive style of golf. Golf fans call him Asia’s John Daly which I can seem the resemblance and this guy can really play. I believe his tied-third finish in Mexico City was his fourth top-five result in the last five WGCs, which to me is a wonderful record and speaks volume of his game and capabilities.
I’ll certainly be monitoring Kiradech’s progress very closely in the coming months, as with the likes of other young and exciting golfers including Abraham Ancer, Haotong Li and Shugo Imahira, who have played some unbelievable golf to put themselves in good positions. March gives me a unique opportunity to see the guys play against the best field in golf at THE PLAYERS, then play in a rare match-play format at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. I’m sure the fight to gain the top-eight automatic places will intensify over the coming months.
As for my own game, I’ve been working hard and the results are starting to come together; at Pebble Beach I was tied-28th and and at Riviera tied-56th. I’m teeing it up at the Honda Classic at PGA National this week, a tournament which I won back in 2008. It’s always a great week at PGA National and a good opportunity to catch up with Mr Nicklaus who does such a wonderful job with this tournament. Being out there competing with the guys still gives me a buzz and it helps me keep in touch with our International Team players as well.