International team captain Ernie Els has pleaded with Aussie golf fans to not be blinded by the star power of the American team and provide a genuine home-ground advantage when the Presidents Cup returns to Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December.
Saturday will mark 100 days until the two teams gather in Melbourne where the biennial matches will be played for a third time at the sandbelt’s iconic venue, Els hoping to replicate the success of the International team of 1998 only this time as captain.
Australians Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith have qualified to play for Els from December 12 but the South African legend sees those Aussies who will make up the majority of the massive galleries to be his team’s secret weapon.
The US team will boast at least six of the current top-10 players in the world – potentially seven should captain Tiger Woods select himself – but Els has urged fans planning on being in Royal Melbourne to put home allegiances ahead of adoration for the game’s best players.
“I want that to be known to the Australian public, that that is our trump card, is that our people are going to be the Australian public in Melbourne come December,” Els said as the countdown intensifies.
“Their team that they need to support is us, the International Presidents Cup side, who's going to represent not only Melbourne but the rest of the world.
“Us Southern Hemisphere people have quite a reputation to beat up on each other when we can in cricket or rugby or athletics for that matter or any other sport, but this time we're playing together as a team.
“Australians, South Africans, the whole world, we're playing as one team, and we would love to have obviously Royal Melbourne and the Melbourne Australian public right behind us.”
Admitting earlier in the week that Jason Day was in line to be the fourth Australian to make the team when the captain’s picks are announced on November 4, Els said that how the Australian players perform will be key in establishing a positive environment for the International team.
“We've got three of them in Adam Scott and Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith who's qualified on the team, and then possibly Jason Day,” said Els.
“I think the Australians will play a huge part getting the crowd behind us.”
Bringing together a team of golfers from all across the globe with associated language barriers has been something of a hurdle in the way of International team success since the Presidents Cup inception and this year will be no different.
For the first time Mexico (Abraham Ancer), Chinese Taipei (CT Pan) and China (Haotong Li) will be represented in a Presidents Cup but Els sees it not as a challenge, but a potential strength for his team.
“Because we are such a diverse team from right around the world we have a huge following,” said Els, who played 40 matches and won 21 points in eight Presidents Cup appearances.
“We have people from Asia, from Mexico now, we've got possibly Canada. We have an audience of billions of people if you look at the countries' numbers.
“At the end of the day, we've got a bigger following than the American team.
“On paper, people are not giving us much of a chance. I mean, the whole of the US Team is in the top 20. We have one player in the top 20, and that's just the way it is.
“But you know, somebody is going to win 15 and a half points, and at the end of the day, that's our aim. To try and get 15 and a half points somehow off of this unbelievably talented team, and that's that.
“It's the score on the board that counts so we've got to try and get the guys assembled, and that's the kind of mindset I want to get at them.”
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