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JERSEY CITY, N.J. – International Team veteran Adam Scott, desperately seeking to end the U.S. dominance in the Presidents Cup, wants captain Ernie Els to consider picking himself to play at Royal Melbourne in December.
The 49-year-old Els currently is 99th in the International Team standings and will not be among the top eight players who automatically qualify after next week’s BMW Championship. But Scott cites the World Golf Hall of Famer’s match play experience, as well as his success at Royal Melbourne, as reasons for a potential Captain’s pick.
“There is no doubt Ernie should put himself in the mix for a pick. His experience at Royal Melbourne counts for a lot and I think it could potentially balance out the team nicely,” Scott said.
“He is one of the smartest and best match players in history. You got to have it on the table. I don’t think we are getting that far outside the box picking Ernie Els. Let’s be real. That’s not a big risk.”
The four captain’s picks for each team will be announced in the fall. The Americans could have their own player-captain in Tiger Woods, who enters this week’s FedExCup Playoffs ranked 12th in the U.S. standings.
Woods, who last year stated his goal of being a playing captain, has not ruled out the possibility. Neither did Els when told of Scott’s comments, although he did say the likelihood of it happening was extremely low.
“I would love to play,” Els said Tuesday night prior to meeting with prospective team members in this week’s THE NORTHERN TRUST field. “I have a great record there, I’ve got the course record there, but I have other things I need to focus on.
“If I find real great form in the next couple of months, then maybe there is a 1 percent chance but no, it’s not really an option at this point. I want to be driving the ship, I want to be in the engine room. I want to be there for the guys. It is hard to be a cheerleader and play golf.”
Scott, currently fourth in the International Team standings, will be making his ninth appearance in the biennial competition, which is set for Dec. 12-15 at Royal Melbourne.
He’s suffered through the U.S. team’s dominance, with the Internationals losing the last seven Presidents Cups. The historic tied 2003 Presidents Cup – where Els battled Woods in a sudden death playoff in fading light – was Scott’s first team appearance and his only sniff of success.
Sensing things need to be shaken up, Scott hopes his thoughts on Els will at least be considered.
“If any captain from our side has the credentials, it is him,” Scott said. “Ernie has played a lot this year. He is competitively sharp enough and around Royal Melbourne -- where he doesn’t have to play every match -- you can’t take it off the table.”
Els’ success in match play are considerable. The South African has won seven match play events in Europe, his most recent in 2007. He also holds the International team record for most matches won in Presidents Cups with 20 (20-18-2).
In addition, Els holds the course record at Royal Melbourne, a sublime 12-under 60 en route to winning the 2004 Heineken Classic. That was the second of three consecutive wins at the course.
But the last of Els’ 19 PGA TOUR wins was the 2012 Open Championship, where Scott coughed up a four-shot lead with four holes to play. Els’ last worldwide win was the BMW International Open on the European Tour in 2013.
This season, Els ranked 182nd in the FedExCup with only one top 25 result. He has just one made cut in his last nine PGA TOUR starts. But Scott says his captain still has something left in the tank.
“I played with him in that record round of golf,” Scott said. “That 60 was the best golf I ever saw. And lately I’ve seen some pretty nice play from Ernie – even in the British Open this year (T32). Now Royal Portrush and Royal Melbourne aren’t exactly the same course, but they are not far different in that you have to manage your game around there. Length is not the biggest factor.”
While flattered by Scott’s comments, Els also has his own ideas about team construction. Once his first eight players are locked in. Els will go to work with his analytics team. He intends to pick his pairings -- and of course his captain’s picks -- based off statistics.
Getting his players on board to a specific game plan for Royal Melbourne and a specific partner they may not agree with will take a lot of management. The International Team has long had the problem of bringing together multiple nations in quick time.
Els doesn’t see the same issue for his counterpart Woods.
“It’s a big task for us to get over the uncomfortable zone and then get them comfortable to my thinking and how I want to approach things,” acknowledged Els. “So I need to be managing the team. On the other side with Tiger … well they are very familiar with each other and it’s a settled atmosphere.”
Els knows the International team has historically held its own in Singles play, but in the Fourball and Foursomes sessions, they’ve crawled into deficits that have proven too deep to overcome. With his focus on statistics, Els has warned his picks could come from anywhere on the list of eligible players.
“It’s not necessarily the next four on the list, it’s the next best complimentary players to the eight we will have,” Els said.
“At the end of the day, it is the four team sessions leading into the Sunday session that will make or break us. I’ve got a lot of things I am going to give them. A lot of information about the course and I’m going to ask them to play the course a certain way. If they can buy into that it will make my selection process a bit more comfortable.
“I don’t think analytics ever came into the equation back in the day but now we have a process where we look at it to match up the players. Then we have to find a way for them to connect their personalities.”
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