United States team captain Tiger Woods and International Team captain Ernie Els will make their picks later this week.
2019 Presidents Cup captains Ernie Els and Tiger Woods have a big week ahead of them.
With the match set to begin in Australia in just over a month’s time, both will make their captain’s picks this week. And, for the first time in Presidents Cup history, each captain will make four picks instead of the usual two.
Eight players have already qualified for each team. They are:
– Hideki Matsuyama
– Adam Scott
– Louis Oosthuizen
– Marc Leishman
– Abraham Ancer
– Haotong Li
– Cameron Smith
– C.T. Pan
United States Team
– Dustin Johnson
– Justin Thomas
– Brooks Koepka
– Matt Kuchar
– Xander Schauffele
– Webb Simpson
– Bryson DeChambeau
– Patrick Cantlay
Who will Ernie Els pick for his International Presidents Cup Team?
International Team captain Ernie Els will hope that having four picks at his disposal will help him build a side capable of winning the Presidents Cup for the first time since 1998. The United States have won eight of the last nine matches, with one tie, which came back in 2003.
It’s no secret that the International Team simply cannot match the United States for strength in depth, and that is reflected in the number of players contending for the four spots on each side. While Woods will have a difficult task whittling a lengthy list down into four spots, Ernie’s job should be somewhat simpler. The players he’s likely to be considering are Jason Day, Sungjae Im, Joaquinn Niemann, Adam Hadwin, Byeong Hun An, Branden Grace and Ryo Ishikawa.
Almost certain to get the nod. He hasn’t had a great season, with no top-three finishes in 20 starts, only five top-10s, and four missed cuts, but he’s easily the biggest name not to have qualified automatically and at least showed some form in winning the MGM Resorts The Challenge last month, a skins event against Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama. Fellow Australian Adam Scott, who qualified on merit, thinks Day should be a shoo-in: “You know, this guy is a vital part of the team as the best player,” he says. “We need to get the most points out of him that we can every time.”
Captain Ernie Els, meanwhile, stopped short of saying Jason Day was guaranteed a pick – but only just. “Jason is obviously one of my favorite guys,” he says. “We’ve obviously got to look at Jason. Obviously we’d have loved to have seen him qualify in the top eight, and I don’t want to give away all my cards here, but Jason is always going to be on the list of guys we’re going to absolutely look at for the top 12. He didn’t have a terrible year; he just didn’t have a year like we’re used to from Jason.”
Deserves a pick and very likely to get it. The PGA Tour Rookie of the Year has nine top-10s in 2019, including a victory at the Genesis Championship. He’s in good form, too, finishing T-11 at the WGC-HSBC Champions, T-3 at the ZOZO Championship and second at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
He also has incredible stamina. Im played 35 events last season, comfortably more than anyone else on tour. That is good news for Ernie Els, who knows Im could play every session in Melbourne if required.
A six-shot victory at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in September shot Niemann briefly into the world’s top-50 and put him firmly on Els’ radar. Niemann turns 21 the day after Els names his picks and is likely to enjoy an early birthday present by getting a seat on the plane to Australia.
The Canadian has a decent chance of a pick. He has five top-10s from 23 starts in 2019, including runner-up finishes at the Desert Classic and the recent Safeway Open, where he made eight birdies in the final round.
Byeong Hun An
The South Korean’s recent form makes him an attractive option. He finished third at the Sanderson Farms Championship and added two more top-10s at the CJ Cup and ZOZO Championship. Finished a respectable T-14 in last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions.
The Australian has a good Presidents Cup record – he went 4-0-0 in 2015 and 1-2-2 in 2017, which was one of the better records in a side that was soundly beaten – but is likely to miss out this time. He’s missed 11 cuts from 26 starts in 2019, including four in his last six starts. That kind of form won’t excite Els.
The world number 104 has been plying his trade on the Japan Golf Tour since losing his PGA Tour card in 2017 after a season that saw him miss 11 cuts in 17 starts. He’s won twice this year on the Japan Tour but his only appearances on a bigger stage have seen him struggle; he finished T-67 at the WGC-HSBC Champions and T-51 at the ZOZO Championship, and missed the cut at the Maybank Championship and Vic Open earlier in the year.
Who will Tiger Woods pick for his United States Presidents Cup Team?
Tiger has a far larger and stronger pool of players to pick from. Unless he throws in any big surprises, we would expect him to be picking from a list of players comprising himself, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland, Matthew Wolff, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Na, Chez Reavie, Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson, Collin Morikawa and Phil Mickelson.
It’s worth noting that world number one Brooks Koepka, who qualified automatically, may miss out due to a knee injury. If that is the case, Woods will make a fifth pick to replace him.
The captain is almost certain to pick himself, and rightly so. Woods was close to making hte team on merit and then won the ZOZO Championship, making it two wins this year alongside his famous Masters triumph in April. Gary Woodland says, “It would be just dumb,” if Woods doesn’t pick himself, and we’d be inclined to agree.
The 35-year-old has never played on a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup team, but we expect that to change come December. The US Open champ has seven top-10s in 23 starts this year, and played both weekend rounds at the ZOZO Championship alongside Woods, finishing fifth. “I feel pretty good about my chances,” he says.
Traditionally viewed as a matchplay master, that reputation was tarnished somewhat at the 2018 Ryder Cup. But he wasn’t in good form then, and Le Golf National didn’t suit his game. Now getting back to his best, he’s only finished outside the top-25 once in his last 13 starts, including victory at the Northern Trust in August. A top-10 at the WGC-HSBC Champions was probably just enough to secure his spot on the team.
One of the few Americans to come out of the 2018 Ryder Cup with any credit, Finau went 2-1-0 as a captain’s pick at Le Golf National, including a 6&4 singles demolition of European star Tommy Fleetwood. His form has been mixed since a third-placed finish at the Open, but top-10s at the BMW Championship, Tour Championship, Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open could be enough to show he’s hot enough to justify a pick.
Tough to leave out due to his popularity and the fact he’s been a regular on the United States Presidents Cup team for years – not to mention his ability – but he hasn’t played since August after getting married. It will be a big call if Woods leaves him out, but don’t expect Tiger to be afraid of making those.
Has played on every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team since 1994, but even he has pretty much ruled himself out of the running for a pick this time. “I’ve played terribly this year, and even if I were to win this week, I do not deserve or warrant a pick for the Presidents Cup,” he said ahead of the WGC-HSBC Champions, where he finished T-28. “There’s much better players who have played better throughout the year, and so I won’t be on the team this year. But I intend to come back strong, play well and get back on the Ryder Cup team next year.”
The hotly tipped rookie burst onto the scene and won the 3M Open in just his fourth PGA Tour start, but mediocre form since mean he’s likely to miss out in the face of such stiff competition. Recent top-20 finishes at the ZOZO Championship, Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and Wyndham Championship will have helped his cause, but a 74th placed finish at the CJ Cup and a T-71 at the Northern Trust in the same period may raise too many doubts. Expect him to miss out this time but become a regular fixture in the future.
The 36-year-old would be a Presidents Cup rookie but he’s ranked 24th in the world and few players have had a better 2019 than Kevin Na. He won the Charles Schwab Challenge in May and added victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last month. He certainly deserves careful consideration from Woods, but may need Koepka to drop out in order to make the team.
Reavie may seem like a longshot but he is higher in the world rankings than the likes of Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner and Bubba Watson. He finished T-5 at the Tour Championship but his form in his last four appearances mean it would be a shock to see him in Australia. He missed the cut at the Shriners, finished T-46 at The CJ Cup, 70th at the ZOZO Championship and T-60 at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
A respectable six top-10s in 25 starts during 2019 but no top-three finishes make it the kind of season that keeps the bank manager happy but doesn’t grab a captain’s attention. Expect him to miss out.
Only three top-10s in 2019, plus six missed cuts, make it almost certain that Bubba won’t get a pick.
The exciting rookie won the Barracuda Championship in July but the strength of the field there will lessen its impact of that victory on Woods’ plans. Only one top-10 in seven starts since then mean this Presidents Cup has probably come a bit too soon for a man likely to become a regular member of the team in years to come.
Victory at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in March will help his cause, as will top-10s at the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. Those are the highlights in an otherwise fairly underwhelming season, which means Kisner has a chance, but not a great one, of being picked this time round.
Our predicted picks
Jason Day, Sungjae Im, Joaquinn Niemann, Byeong Hun An
United States Team
Tiger Woods, Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau (plus Rickie Fowler if Brooks Koepka drops out)