Internationals captain Ernie Els has spoken all week about “a system”. He promises he’ll share more details on Sunday night, but for now that system is strictly in-house – although Els’ pairings for the opening session of four-ball matches revealed one distinct theme: his rookie players won’t be sent in to battle alone.
There are seven debutants on the International side for 2019 and five of them will see first-day action tomorrow at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Only China’s Haotong Li and – somewhat curiously – Australia’s Cameron Smith will miss out. Of the five rookies who will play, each is being paired with a teammate who has competed in the Presidents Cup before.
Marc Leishman will guide Chile’s Joaquin Niemann in their first-up match against Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods. Canadian Adam Hadwin will babysit Korean Sungjae Im, Adam Scott will play alongside late call-up Ben An, Hideki Matsuyama will show the ropes to Taiwan’s CT Pan, while Louis Oosthuizen pairs with Mexico’s Abraham Ancer in the anchor match.
Interestingly, despite having the opportunity to do so, Els kept Smith from a sparring match against Patrick Reed in the four-ball matches after the Queenslander had plenty of words to say about Reed’s suspicious actions in the sand in the Bahamas last weekend.
For the Americans, playing captain Tiger Woods picked himself in the first match, which was probably a choice based on logistics as much as anything. Playing first should allow him to view more of the other four matches.
Elsewhere, Tony Finau drew the Bryson DeChambeau straw, while it is God-fearing Webb Simpson who will hear the wrath of the Melbourne crowd as the first American player to be paired with Reed. The firepower duo of Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland will bring the US side home in the day’s final contest.
Thursday’s Four-ball matches:
Marc Leishman/Joaquin Niemann (INT) vs Justin Thomas/Tiger Woods (USA)
Adam Hadwin/Sungjae Im (INT) vs Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (USA)
Adam Scott/Byeong Hun An (INT) vs Bryson DeChambeau/Tony Finau (USA)
Hideki Matsuyama/CT Pan (INT) vs Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed (USA)
Abraham Ancer/Louis Oosthuizen (INT) vs Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland (USA)