(Reuters) – Ernie Els wants Australian golf fans to make it clear that his Internationals are the home team when they face the United States in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in December.
Only three Australians — Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith — are among the eight automatic qualifiers on the global side, but captain Els wants the galleries to get on board as the team’s 13th man.
“I want that to be known to the Australian public, that that is our trump card,” he said in a teleconference on Tuesday.
“They need to support us. The whole world, we are playing as one team, and we would love to have the Australian public right behind us.”
The South African well remembers from bitter experience the 2007 event in Montreal where Canadian fans were lukewarm in their support of the International team in matches that did not involve local hero Mike Weir.
And while Els understands that Australian golf aficionados will enjoy a rare look at the likes of Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, and captain Tiger Woods if he chooses to play, he would prefer it to be a quiet appreciation of the Americans.
As well as Australians Scott, Leishman and Smith, the other automatic qualifiers for the International team are Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, South African Louis Oosthuizen, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, China’s Li Haotong and Taiwan’s C.T. Pan.
Els has two more months to ponder his four captain’s picks, and he said late-year form will be an important factor.
Likely candidates include Australian Jason Day, South Africans Erik van Rooyen and Branden Grace, South Koreans An Byeong-hun and Im Sung-jae and Thailand’ Jazz Janewattananond.
Day, number one in the world as recently as 2017, failed to qualify for this year’s team but Els suggested he was likely to be picked.
“I’m not very worried about Jason,” Els said. “I would love to have seen him qualify in the top eight.
“He didn’t have a terrible year. He just didn’t have a year like we’re used to from Jason.
“We’ve got a long time to go. Before December comes I’ll have a chat with Jason and see where we are … Jason is one of my favourite guys.”
The International team, comprised of players from outside the U.S. and Europe, have won the biennial event only once in 12 stagings — at Royal Melbourne in 1998 when Els was part of the victorious team.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney)