Veteran Aussie professional David McKenzie believes Tiger Woods’ American Presidents Cup team will lose nothing with the inclusion of Rickie Fowler, declaring the California native a bigger drawcard than the man he has replaced, world No.1 Brooks Koepka.
The American team boasting arguably the greatest single collection of golf talent in one side will arrive in Melbourne next Monday to take on an International team that has gathered en masse for this week’s Australian Open at The Australian Golf Club.
A knee injury suffered during the CJ Cup in Korea ultimately forced Koepka to withdraw from the US team, Dustin Johnson declaring on Monday that he will make the trip to Melbourne despite missing this week’s Hero World Challenge hosted by Woods in the Bahamas.
Fowler is no stranger to the Melbourne sandbelt given he was runner-up to fellow American Mark Anderson at the Master of the Amateurs at Yarra Yarra Golf Club in 2009 and along with Matt Kuchar finished tied for second at the 2016 World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath Golf Club.
A close friend of the late Jarrod Lyle who has continued to show his support by sporting the Leuk the Duck pin in support of Challenge, Fowler is immensely popular among young fans in particular and according to McKenzie will add significantly to the Presidents Cup atmosphere at Royal Melbourne Golf Club next week.
“Personally, I think Rickie Fowler is a bigger drawcard for kids and young people than Brooks Koepka,” McKenzie said on the latest PGA Golf Club podcast.
“Brooks as a player has had more success but I see kids even at Champions Tour events dressed in their orange Puma hats.
“I was still playing on the Web when Rickie was one of the top amateur golfers. There was a Nationwide Charity event that we used to play in Columbus, Ohio. They invited all the All-American players to come and play and even then with Rickie, you could tell the way the ball came off the club was different to all the other players.”
Enjoying his most successful season the Champions Tour in 2019 where he qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and banked more than $US600,000 in prize money, McKenzie is surrounded by over-50s with experience in team events.
The likes of Corey Pavin, Jay Haas and Colin Montgomerie have captained teams in Presidents and Ryder Cup competitions and McKenzie spent part of his Champions Tour campaign picking their brains as to the secrets to team success.
“I’ve been able to ask them how they go about preparing their teams for the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cups and it’s been really interesting,” McKenzie added.
“Getting the players together is important to find out who they want to play with as a partner, what sort of equipment they use. The difference in golf balls is a massive thing, probably more than you realise.”
That team camaraderie that the US team can foster on an annual basis is a factor that McKenzie believes is the biggest obstacle to a second win by the International team at Royal Melbourne.
“The Europeans are a fantastic team, they play as a team really well and in my opinion why they beat the Americans so often,” said McKenzie.
“The Americans are a good team but bringing together an International team is a massive challenge for Ernie Els and (Assistant Captain) Geoff Ogilvy.
“That’s the biggest challenge they’ve got, to try and get them gelling as a team.”
Els and Ogilvy will have the opportunity to build on the International team’s cohesion this week at The Australian with the two major winners in the field along with International team members Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith, Abraham Ancer, Louis Oosthuizen, CT Pan and assistants KJ Choi and Mike Weir.