Jason Day’s hopes of extending the Australian presence at the Presidents Cup to four have been given a boost with International team captain Ernie Els declaring the former world No.1 one of his “favourite guys”.
There are just 102 days until the International and star-studded American teams will meet at Royal Melbourne Golf Club to contest the Presidents Cup for a 13th time with three Aussies already guaranteed to be on Els’ team.
In the wake of a tumultuous year in which he registered five top-10 finishes on the PGA TOUR and missed last week’s Tour Championship, Day narrowly missed out on joining Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith as one of the eight automatic qualifiers for the International team.
Committed to play both the ZOZO Championship in Japan in October and the Australian Open the week prior to the Presidents Cup, Day is likely to need to show just glimpses of his best golf to earn one of Els’ four captain’s picks.
Closely monitoring someone who has been part of the past four Presidents Cup teams, Els said that Day’s status within the game will ensure he is among the very leading contenders when his four selections are announced on 4 November.
“Obviously we'd have loved to have seen him qualify in the top eight,” Els said.
“I don't want to give away all my cards here, but Jason is always going to be on the list of guys we're going to absolutely look at for the top 12.
“Jason tried a couple things in his game this year. He tried a different caddie scenario and so forth. You know, he didn't have a terrible year, he just didn't have a year like we're used to from Jason.
“We've got a long time to go. Before December comes I'll have a chat with Jason personally and see where we are, and we'll make that decision when it comes.
“There's a bit of time to go, but Jason is obviously one of my favourite guys.”
Immediately following Day in the standings following the BMW Championship were Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, Korean Sungjae Im and South Africa’s Justin Harding but Els hinted that form over the next two months will be crucial.
South African Erik Van Rooyen continued his excellent European Tour season with a win at the Scandinavian Invitation last week, Branden Grace and Adam Hadwin are both past Presidents Cup players while a fifth Australian, Brendan Jones, is also in calculations.
“I've said to the guys in the meetings that I'm not scared to choose rookies,” Els said, a member of the International team’s only success at Royal Melbourne in 1998.
“If I see a rookie playing really good golf and he's up for it, then I'll go for him. I'll go get a rookie.
“But they've got to really show me something to go down the list that far, because I've got guys knocking on the door like Jason and I've got Justin Harding and I've got Jazz, who's won twice on the Asian Tour this year.
“I know it's going to be difficult for me, but at the end of the day, I want to look at rookies who are showing a lot of promise and then guys who have had wins in the past.
“I'll speak to the top eight. We're going to have a lot of discussion about who their new four friends are going to be because they're going to have to play together and blend as a team.”
As for the urgings of Adam Scott that Els should consider himself for a captain’s pick given his affinity and success at Royal Melbourne, the four-time major champion didn’t close the door completely.
“I have to at least win two, three, four times before I can consider myself to be on the team,” Els replied.
“I keep saying to Scotty, I've got a lot of other things on my mind, so it will be very difficult for me to be able to play and captain the side.
“There's probably a 99 per cent chance I'm not going to play.”
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