If Cameron Smith really wanted to be on the Presidents Cup team he wouldn’t have moved to LIV Golf, according to International team captain Trevor Immelman after he confirmed his 12-man team for what looms as a lopsided showdown with team USA this month.
Australian Open champ Cameron Davis was a surprise captain’s pick for the team, leapfrogging the likes of fellow US PGA Tour winner Lucas Herbert for a spot in an outfit that has the smallest Australian representation in the event’s history.
Adam Scott, playing his 10th Presidents Cup, is the other Australian player, having earnt automatic qualification on the back of his late-season resurgence that included making the 30-man Tour Championship.
But Smith, the world No.2, and Marc Leishman, who both played in the last event in 2019 at Royal Melbourne, were ineligible after joining Greg Norman’s LIV tour, after which both were suspended by the PGA Tour.
Even after signing with LIV, Smith still was adamant he wanted to play the Presidents Cup, but Immelman said he picked the 12 players who “wanted to be eligible”.
“These are the 12 players that wanted to be on the team. Those are the 12 that I want at the end of the day,” Immelman said on Tuesday.
“If we’re going to get into some really tough competition here in a couple weeks, I want the guys that are committed, and these are those guys.
“I know now that we have 12 players that are hungry, and we have 12 players that wanted to be there, so we go from here.
“We understand exactly the mountain that we have in front of us – possibly the best American team ever assembled if you look at them on paper.”
“I don’t really think I have to play the underdog role up. I think everybody knows it. Everybody sees it clear as day. Our team has had a lot of adversity thrown at us over the last year or so.”
Davis, who won the Australian Open in 2017 and broke through for his first PGA Tour win last year, said his inclusion was revealed at a team dinner at Quail Hollow, the site of this year’s event, after he was “hopeful” of inclusion.
He conceded it had been a “tumultuous time” for golf, and the Presidents Cup, with so many eligible players, including Chilean Jaoquin Niemann and India’s Anirban Lahiri, also joining LIV.
The International team has only won the event once, in 1998, and the loss of star power like Smith is a hammer blow to their chances of turning the tables.
But the 27-year-old Davis, from Sydney, said the players who did make themselves eligible never let talk of who wasn’t there “enter the room” and echoed Immelman’s sentiments.
“We have 12 guys who want to be here, who are excited to be here,” Davis said.
“Regardless of how we go, we are all going to come out of this as better players.”
Sebastian Munoz of Colombia, Taylor Pendrith of Canada and Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa are the other rookies, with South Korea‘s Si Woo Kim the only captain’s pick with past experience in the event.