Cameron Smith was annoyed. Marc Leishman was in disbelief.

The duo had just been told that International Captain Ernie Els did not see them as a likely pair for the 2019 Presidents Cup in their native Australia.

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“Is he serious?,” they thought. A year earlier, they’d finished runner-up in the World Cup of Golf at Metropolitan Golf Club just down the road. They are great mates. Their caddies are also super tight. It appeared to be the most natural pairing on the team. It’s got to be a joke right?

No joke. Els leaned heavily on data during his captaincy, and the numbers did not point to Leishman-Smith pairing. The Australians quickly shook off their initial frustration and bought into Els’ analytical ethos. They played their role, and the proof was in the pudding for Els. His side won three of four team sessions and took a 10-8 lead to Singles before being overrun on Sunday.