Ernie Els makes his captain's picks for Presidents Cup International team

Chris Condon/PGA Tour

Ernie Els makes his captain's picks for Presidents Cup International team

2019 Presidents Cup

Ernie Els makes his captain's picks for Presidents Cup International team

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Presidents Cup captain Ernie Els went with a combination of youth and experience in making his four captain’s picks to the International Team. Els rounded out his squad by choosing budding stars Sungjae Im of South Korea Joaquin Niemann of Chile and veterans Adam Hadwin of Canada and Jason Day of Australia.

“I looked at guys with long-term form and who had played well for a while,” Els said.

South Korea’s Sungjae Im, 21, who finished 11th in the points standings, has been a picture of consistency. Im was the 2018-19 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year after racking up 16 top-25 finishes in 35 starts and finishing No. 19 in the FedEx Cup. Im, the Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year one season earlier, arguably has been the steadiest performer on the international team and hasn’t slowed down, losing in a playoff at the Sanderson Farms Championship in September and finished T-11 at the WGC HSBC Champions.

Ernie Els announced his captain’s picks during a live stream on Wednesday night.

“He just played his way on to the team with his consistency,” Els said, before telling Im, “You were always a lock in our picks.”

Budding star Joaquin Niemann, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Thursday, will be the first player from Chile to play in the Presidents Cup. He figures to be a staple of the international team for years to come. Niemann turned his season around with the first of back-to-back top-5 finishes at The Travelers in June. Niemann solidified his candidacy by notching his first PGA Tour victory at A Tribute to the Military at The Greenbrier in September.

“What a great kid,” Els said. “He played like a grown man this past season… We’re really going to lean on you, my friend,” Els said.

Canadian Adam Hadwin, 32, competed on the 2017 International Team at Liberty National (0-2-1). He ranked 18th in the standings, but made a late charge racking up top-5 finishes at the Safeway Open (2nd) and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (T-4) in September, and impressing Els with his all-around game.

“I’m happy that it was a good phone call for me,” he said. “Having been on the team once before and experienced it and gone through what we went through in New York and Ernie being there as well, I’m that much more familiar with everything going on and that much more prepared.”

Day, 31, a Queensland native, narrowly missed out on qualifying, finishing ninth in the points standings. The former World No. 1 will be a crowd favorite, but the question is will his game show up when he arrives in his homeland? He’s scheduled to play next week at the Mayakoba Classic, but has recorded just one top-10 finish since the Masters. This marks Day’s fifth consecutive Presidents Cup, and he has an overall record of 5-11-4 in the competition, including 1-3-1 at Royal Melbourne in 2011.

“He brings a lot to this team,” Els said. “He brings leadership, he brings experience and he’s a hometown player, obviously.”

Els has assembled the youngest Presidents Cup team, with the average age of his 12 players totaling just over 29 years old, and one that includes six rookies with the addition of Im and Niemann. Els said he won’t be afraid to throw two rookies into the fire on the first day of competition.

“I threw age out of the equation,” Els said. “These are world class players and they have obviously proven themselves, and they have one helluva future in this event.”

Els isn’t the only one excited by the team’s new blood. Hadwin said their exuberance and enthusiasm — and lack of scar tissue — will be an asset.

“They haven’t experienced losing at all yet, so they are going to be fresh and they are going to be ready to go,” Hadwin said.

The eight qualifiers to the International Team consisted of: Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Abraham Ancer, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Haotong Li, C.T. Pan and Cameron Smith.

Els said he had to make several difficult calls to players on the bubble, including to South Korea’s Ben An, Canada’s Corey Conners, and South Africans Branden Grace and Erik Van Rooyen.

Tiger Woods, captain of Team USA, will make his four picks on Thursday night. The 13th edition of the Presidents Cup will be held at Royal Melbourne in Australia Dec. 9-15. The U.S. has won 10 of the last 12 (10-1-1) and retained the Cup 19-11 in 2017.

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