Natural selection: Aussies rally behind Els’ Presidents Cup successor

The Aussie trio who came so close to toppling the might of Tiger Woods’ US team at Royal Melbourne in December have praised the selection of Trevor Immelman to succeed Ernie Els as captain of the International team at the 2021 Presidents Cup.

The analytical approach adopted by Els to overturning America’s dominance in the teams event coupled with the South African’s inspirational standing in world golf had the International team poised to complete an enormous upset heading into Sunday’s singles matches.

Led by Woods, the US team overcame a two-point deficit to win 16-14 but the sense within the International camp was that Els had put in place the method required to soon end their string of losses stretching back to 2005.

Els’ decision not to captain the team for a second time at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina was met with a level of surprise but Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith all agree that Immelman is the ideal man to assume the role.

One of four captain’s assistants to Els in Melbourne, Immelman will become the youngest International team captain in Presidents Cup history and all three Aussies are determined to help the now 40-year-old build on the momentum generated in Melbourne.

“Trevor will bring a lot of great insights and value into our team’s preparation due to his wealth in experience as both a player, a captain’s assistant and broadcaster,” said Scott, currently ranked No.6 in the world and looking at playing in his 10th Presidents Cup in 2021.

“He certainly played a big role in our team’s amazing fight against the Americans last year and I’m sure he will be a fantastic leader when we head to Quail Hollow Club.

“Trevor worked closely with Ernie who was a phenomenal captain and established a new template for our team.

“I see Trevor embracing the momentum from Melbourne and making the International team stronger heading into Charlotte.

“I’ll be doing everything I can to be part of his team next year.”

Smith made his Presidents Cup debut at Royal Melbourne and showed himself to be a talismanic figure of the future with his gritty defeat of American superstar Justin Thomas in the Sunday singles.

Fresh from his breakthrough individual title at the Sony Open in January, Smith believes the International team will continue to strengthen under Immelman’s leadership.

“We came really close under Ernie’s captaincy and I see Trevor creating the same kind of impact in our team,” said Smith.

“I also like the fact there will continuity as Trevor was an instrumental member in Ernie’s backroom team.

“Whenever Trevor has anything to say in the team room, all of us will certainly sit up and listen carefully as he’s got so much knowledge and insights in the game.

“Hopefully, I will continue to play well to get into the International Team.”

Like his fellow Australian representatives, Leishman used the disappointment of the Presidents Cup to propel himself to a fifth PGA TOUR title at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and hopes to harness Immelman’s positive approach to topple the US on their home soil.

“To play for Trevor will be another huge goal. He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever met and he’s going to be a great captain,” said Leishman, currently ranked No.15 in the world.

“I just want to play good and do everything that I can to be on the team next year and be a leader again.

“Ernie did a great job and hopefully we’ll get an overflow from all the positive vibes we had from Royal Melbourne for Trevor to carry on from there.

“Trevor should be really proud to be made our captain and we’ll work our butts off to make him a winner and to make us winners.”

The 2008 Masters champion, Immelman saw first-hand Els’ influence in Melbourne and wants to build on what his fellow South African established.

“Ernie found a way to make all the right moves once we got down to Australia, to make guys feel comfortable in the team environment and comfortable in their own skin to where they could really go out there and compete,” Immelman said.

“He gave our team an identity, something we could grab on to. I think that is going to be his legacy moving forward, and it’ll be up to me and the rest of our leadership team in years to come to continue from that platform.”

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