An Internationals squad severely weakened by defections to LIV Golf will be up against a powerhouse United States lineup in next week’s Presidents Cup.
Internationals captain Trevor Immelman watched as his projected roster was decimated by defections from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, barring them from the biennial team matches.
Australia’s Cameron Smith, the world No 3 and Open champion, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, South African Louis Oosthuizen, Aussies Marc Leishman and Matt Jones and India’s Anirban Lahiri were suddenly off the table for the global squad.
“Our team has had a lot of adversity thrown at us over the past year or so, but adversity makes you stronger,” Immelman said. “The 12 guys have worked their butts off. They thoroughly deserve their position. I’m extremely proud of them.”
Masters winners Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott lead an Internationals lineup with eight rookies against an American squad with 12 of the world’s 26 top-ranked players, including world No 1 Scottie Scheffler, starting on Thursday at Quail Hollow.
“We understand exactly the mountain that we have in front of us – possibly the best American team ever assembled,” Immelman said. “We’ll be representing underdogs all over the world.”
The Americans lead the all-time rivalry 11-1-1 with eight triumphs in a row and have never lost on home soil.
“We’ve got the opportunity to be that team that finally gets it done in the US,” Australian Cam Davis said. “It would be a massive moment and we’re all hungry for that.”
The US team won 16-14 at the most recent Presidents Cup in 2019 in Melbourne.
“I don’t think we have to do too much motivation. It was a little closer than we wanted last time in Australia,” US captain Davis Love said.
“We just go in with a lot of confidence and we have to keep that momentum going. Our guys understand that anybody can win any match in matchplay, and if they are not ready come Thursday, somebody is going to jump them so we have to take it seriously and get prepared.”
The Americans feature seven members of the US team that delivered a record 19-9 rout of Europe in last year’s Ryder Cup, including reigning Masters champion Scheffler, fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay, fifth-ranked Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, seventh-ranked 2022 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas, ninth-ranked Collin Morikawa, 13th-ranked Jordan Spieth and 14th-ranked Tony Finau.
Also in the US squad are Sam Burns, Billy Horschel, Cameron Young, Kevin Kisner and Max Homa, who won the 2019 PGA event at Quail Hollow.
The Americans aren’t quite the ultimate lineup, either. Will Zalatoris, ranked eighth, is out with a back injury while Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Kevin Na were lost to the LIV Golf ranks.
Still, the Internationals have only 16th-ranked Matsuyama and 18th-ranked Im Sung-jae of South Korea of the world’s top 20. They are among a record-five Asians on the team, joined by South Koreans Kim Joo-hyung, Kim Si-woo and Lee Kyoung-hoon.
The Internationals also have Canada’s Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith, Aussies Scott and Davis, Chile’s Mito Pereira, Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz and South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Scott has seen eight losses and a draw with the Internationals while Matsuyama makes his fifth Cup appearance and Im and Kim Si-woo make their second.
“I feel a responsibility of going out and winning points as an older guy,” Scott said. “You’re looking for a guy like me to be guaranteeing points. That’s easily said and not easily done. Give the rest of the team confidence, that’s the best thing I can do.”
With a blowout loss expected of them, Scott says the team can play relaxed and free, which makes them dangerous.
“If that can happen, over 18-hole matchplay, it’s a bit of a sprint and if we can get most of our guys playing to their potential for 18 holes, we can win,” Scott said.
It’s a concern Love admits even though he says he doesn’t worry about US complacency.
“We know we are up against it,” Love said. “Trevor is going to have a team that’s got a chip on their shoulder and that’s motivated.
“We have to be careful. Certainly, these guys are not going to take it lying down.”
Immelman conducted a two-day camp at Quail Hollow a month ago that served as a bonding event.
“We’ve got the squad atmosphere,” Immelman said. “We don’t have to match people of the same nationality to get the best out of them.”
© Agence France-Presse