• Lemke Column: Presidential Appeal

    Lemke Column: Presidential Appeal
    Presidential Appeal

    Dustin Johnson was the big winner at The Masters and drove away from Magnolia Lane wearing that famed Green Jacket which is a dream for any professional golfer, writes GARY LEMKE in the January issue of Compleat Golfer.

    Only the tiniest percentage ever get to realise that lifelong goal, though. But there was another big winner from the week at Augusta, even though he didn’t get to swing a golf club.

    Trevor Immelman won The Masters in 2008 so, like ‘DJ’, he has had that Green Jacket experience, but he wouldn’t have been reflecting too much on the 2020 Masters once he signed off from his golf commentary duties that week. Instead he will have taken great delight when running his finger down the final leaderboard.

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    Staring back at him will have been the names Cameron Smith, Sungjae Im, Dylan Frittelli, CT Pan, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Abraham Ancer and Sebastian Munoz, for starters. Those eight players finished inside the top 20 on The Masters leaderboard. Another three players – Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Sung Kang – also placed in the top 30 and between 31st and 40th came Adam Scott, Si Woo Kim and Christiaan Bezuidenhout. A quick tally and Immelman will have seen 14 names that would have him licking his lips.

    Immelman, the 41-year-old South African, is captain of the International team at the next Presidents Cup, to be held at Quail Hollow Club in September 2022, having assumed the duties after Ernie Els came so close to breaking the United States domination of the competition in 2019. The US have won the last six tournaments in a row and have won 11 of the 13 that have ben contested so far.

    Unlike the Ryder Cup, where the US have found the going tough against Europe, at the Presidents Cup they have managed to see off the ‘best of the rest’, which essentially is what the Internationals are.

    However, Immelman could well be spoilt for choice when he assembles the 2022 vintage to try to turn the tide for the Internationals against the US.

    Smith has the look of a thirsty trucker who has just arrived in Sydney after several days driving through the Outback, but he is a 24-year-old who has already won twice on the PGA Tour and has two top-10s at Majors – at The Masters and the US Open. At Augusta in November he became the first player in Masters history to shoot sub-70s in all four rounds.

    He also saw off Justin Thomas in singles competition at the last Presidents Cup and could well be Australia’s next big golfing star.

    He and the 22-year-old Korean Sungjae Im finished in a tie for second behind Johnson, but Im – if he can postpone mandatory national service in Korea – looks to have all the tools to become the next big thing out of Asia. He too showed Els glimpses of what was to come when he lost only one of his five matches at the last Presidents Cups. He was on track to finish 2020 inside the world’s top 20.

    All the other 11 names all contribute in various forms to a team that would be packed with experience, youth, Major winners and future Major champions. Obviously the list wouldn’t stop there for Immelman and the European Tour is only becoming stronger.

    The golfing community has become used to saying that when it comes to the Presidents Cup, ‘It’s always an interesting contest at first, but the Americans always win’. Looking at the World Ranking you might expect that to happen, but as Europe have shown down the years, it’s about how well the team gels as a unit and not a bunch of top individuals that resemble the Harlem Globetrotters.

    Immelman will be counting his blessings that the Internationals are building a formidable squad.

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