Ernie Els 'threw age out of the equation' by adding two more rookies to his Presidents Cup side with wildcard picks
Ernie Els named Jason Day, Adam Hadwin and rookies Sungjae Im and Joaquin Niemann as his four wildcard picks for this year's Presidents Cup - taking the tally of rookies on the International team up to six (out of 12 players)
By choosing Im and Niemann, Els guaranteed that he will Captain the youngest International Presidents Cup team in history - with an average age of just over 29 years old - for the biennial contest in Melbourne from the 13th - 15th December.
“I threw age out of the equation,” Els said choosing two additional rookies, who both earned their first PGA Tour titles at the start of the new season.
"I didn't go looking for Joaquin who is 20, or Sungjae who is 21, but they made themselves a lock on this team. I definitely wasn't that good at 20, 21, but these guys are world-class players and they've proven themselves. I'm excited by the new blood that's coming in."
The four players will join Marc Leishmanm, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, C.T. Pan
Haotong Li, Abraham Ancer, Louis Oosthuizen and Cameron Smith.
USA Captain Tiger Woods will name his four wildcard picks on Thursday.
24-year-old Sungjae Im, who recently won the Genesis Open and was crowned the PGA Tour's 2018/19 Rookie of the year, was named as the first pick - a choice that Els said was 'always a lock'.
"He's 24th in the World Ranking now," Els said of Im, who will be competing in his first Presidents Cup.
"He's our Rookie of the Year on the PGA TOUR. He's had one hell of a year, lots of Top-10s. Played his way on the team with his consistency and coming to the meetings and showing a lot of spirit with the other players, but Sungjae Im is my first pick from South Korea.
"It was a wonderful season, my friend. Seven Top-10s, and the only rookie to qualify for the 2019 TOUR Championship, that is a hell of a feat. Finishing 19th on the FedExCup points list last season, you were really -- I was already looking at you, but I didn't want to get you too excited when I saw you through the season. Kind of left you alone, but you were always a lock in our picks, so congratulations, my friend."
With his second pick in Niemann, Els made it clear that he doesn't fear having the youngest team in Presidents Cup history.
He announced the young player from Chile, who claimed his maiden title at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier and turned 20-years-old on Wednesday, as his second wildcard choice.
"My second selection is an even younger man," said Els. "It's his birthday. He's in Florida at the moment. He's a young man from Chile, he's 20 years of age, or in another day, Joaquin Niemann, what a great kid. I want to call you kid, you're my daughter's age, but you played like a grown man this past season. Winning your first event on the PGA TOUR as a Chilean player at the Greenbrier, that solidified you in my view.
"Obviously in 2018, you came out as a young guy, and had so many Top-10 finishes and didn't even have to go to the Korn Ferry Tour to get your card, and you automatically got on to the TOUR.
"So I knew you were a special player then, and you definitely solidified it since the summer this year. Congratulations, my friends, on making our team. We are really going to lean on you. So can't wait to see you down in Australia, my friend."
Els next named 32-year-old Candaian Adam Hadwin, who will be playing in his third Presidents Cup in December, and credited his both recent form and his demeanor as the reason behind his pick.
"Adam was such a great member of our team the last time under Captain Price's leadership in New York," said Els.
"I loved the way he interacted with the team. He's got an all-around great game, especially for our team formats in the first four sessions, and he's had a very consistent year.
"You know, five Top-10s, he finished second in the Desert Classic, sixth in his home country, his home open, Canadian Open, and lately he's been playing well, fourth at Safeway and Shriners. Really excited to announce Adam Hadwin as our next captain's pick."
The next pick of the day was perhaps the most obvious one, as Els named former World No.1 Jason Day as his fourth and final wildcard pick.
For Els, picking Day was a no brainer: He not only is from Australia, but he's brings a lot of experience to the team, which is something that will be needed in a team that is 50% rookies.
"This one should be a huge surprise to everybody around the world," Els said. "This is going to be shocking news. I thought I'd leave it for the fourth pick. He's from Australia, former world No. 1, major champion, Jason Day.
"He's won 12 times on the PGA TOUR. He's played in four Presidents Cups. He's going to come down to Australia as a hometown hero. You know, he won twice in 2018. Five Top-10s this season, including a fifth at the farmers and a fourth at Pebble Beach, and eighth place at THE PLAYERS Championship, fifth at the Masters.
"He brings a lot to the team. He brings leadership to the team. He brings a lot of experience to the team, and obviously he's bringing some home flavor."
Presidents Cup International Team