Internationals up against it with Immelman forced to choose five rookies

Bernie McGuire
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Internationals up against it with Immelman forced to choose five rookies

Trevor Immelman poses with the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

The International Team has won one and tied another in the 13 prior hostings of the Presidents Cups that takes place later this month at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.

This writer was at Royal Melbourne in late 1998 when a Peter Thomson led International team humbled the might of a Jack Nicklaus captained American team with an outrageous nine-point ‘Down Under’ triumph.

In a pre-match presser, the American duo of the Masters champ Mark O’Meara and his partner, David Duval publically brushed aside thoughts of losing the opening match against their unheralded rivals of the all-New Zealand side of Frank Nobilo and Greg Turner.

The Thomson led Internationals used the negativity of O’Meara and Duval’s remarks as a positive with the Kiwi duo setting the tone for the three days winning the opening match 1up while the heat and the unrelenting Aussie flies did the rest to hand the Internationals their still only win.

It could also still be their only taste of success since 1998 following International Team captain Trevor Immelman being forced into choosing five rookies among his six picks for the event commencing 22nd September.

Immelman, unlike his USA Team captain rival Davis Love III, has been hit the hardest by the decision, and headed by the PGA Tour, to ban all LIV Golf players from being eligible for selection.

As such, Immelman was forced to overlook Open Champion and World No. 2 Cam Smith along with fellow Aussie Marc Leishman plus the likes of reigning Genesis International champ Joaquin Niemann along with the experience of Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Anirban Lahiri and Abraham Ancer.

Instead, Immelman has selected as his rookies K.H. Lee of South Korea, Cameron Davis of Australia, Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa, Sebastian Munoz of Colombia and big-hitting Taylor Pendrith of Canada.

“These are the 12 players that wanted to be eligible. These are the 12 players that wanted to be on the team. Those are the 12 that I want at the end of the day,” Immelman said.

“If we’re going to get into some really tough competition here in a couple weeks, I want the guys that are committed, and these are those guys.”

Immelman was originally going to have just four ‘wildcard’ picks until so much uncertainty arose about who was joining Greg Norman’s rival league. The only pick with Presidents Cup experience was Si Woo Kim, who played on the 2017 team at Liberty National that lost so badly the matches were nearly clinched before the Sunday singles.

Pendrith joins former roommate Corey Conners — one of the six qualifiers — in giving Canada two spots on the International team for the first time.

Lee was the only pick from inside the world’s top 50 in the world but with Immelman surprisingly not selecting Kiwi Ryan Fox, currently No. 47 in the world.

The six automatic International qualifiers were Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Adam Scott of Australia, Tom Kim and Sungjae Im of South Korea, Mito Pereira of Chile, and Conners.

For Scott, who will no doubt partner Davis, he will be playing in his 10th Presidents Cup but has yet to savour success, though he did feature in the only tie in the history of the event in 2003 when in South Africa.

But while the International team has been hit hard by the LIV Golf banning of players, the Americans have lost the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Bubba Watson.

The six USA automatic qualifiers are a formidable collection headed by Masters champion and World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Sam Burns, PGA champion Justin Thomas and Tony Finau, and with all six among the top-15 in the world.

The Internationals highest ranked is Matsuyama at World No. 16.

“Yeah, I don’t really think I have to play the underdog role up,” Immelman said. “I think everybody knows it. Everybody sees it clear as day. Our team has had a lot of adversity thrown at us over the last year or so.”

Love III will name his six picks later today (Wednesday).

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