Date: April 24, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

Scott, Day in Royal Melbourne prelude


Jason Day and Adam Scott have confirmed what everyone suspected: that their pairing at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana this week is a forerunner to the Presidents Cup.

International team captain Ernie Els and one of his assistants, Trevor Immelman, are also playing this week and the Scott-Day all-Queensland affair is a live chance of happening at Royal Melbourne later this year.

Scott said today that he asked Day if he would play with him in Louisiana in the PGA Tour’s team format, and Day acquiesced.

“I think everyone can put two and two together,’’ said Scott, whose appearance at Royal Melbourne against the United States from 12-15 December is not yet guaranteed, but likely.

“Ernie has talked a little bit to the media about some of the efforts he's made in trying to bring his team together. We're a long way out. The team is far from set, but trying to get as many guys here to play certainly might help Ernie later in the year.

“And speaking from a guy who's not on the team at the moment, Jason probably is locked up, but I feel like it's important, too, that guys like Jason or myself or some of the senior members of Presidents Cup teams made the effort. This hasn't been on the schedule before, and I've sat through a lot of Presidents Cup beat-downs over the years, and I've kind of had enough of it.

“So I'm prepared to do whatever it takes, whatever Ernie thinks it takes to kind of change the culture in our team. Certainly an effort has been made by a lot of guys here this week that want to do that, that feel the frustrations. I think probably Jason feels the same. So let's try and turn it around, and if this helps Ernie later in the year, then I'm all for that.’’

Day and Scott have played once together in Presidents Cup competition, in foursomes in South Korea in 2015, where they achieved a half. Scott said he believed they would make “a really formidable pairing” should they come together in Melbourne, and that he would push for Els to choose that grouping.

For Day’s part, he admitted today that his performance in previous Presidents Cups was poor, citing fatigue at the end of the season and a poor attitude as reasons. “You can obviously see my results in Korea and I wasn't mentally there unfortunately with regards to being there for the team when I needed, performing for the team. And it showed in my results,’’ he said.

The good news is that he intends turning that around this year, although his back problems are a recurring theme. Day revealed to the media today he had another four epidural injections to get him through the Masters at Augusta National, where he finished in the top five. That followed eight epidurals a few weeks earlier.

Scott has been a leader on previous Presidents Cup teams, appearing for the Internationals eight times from 2003 where they tied with the USA. All seven of his other appearances resulted in losses, but Els’ appointment as captain appears to have given the underdogs a sense of optimism this year.

Said Scott: “I think it's about starting to grow a culture amongst the international players and … and showing everyone who's coming up the importance of this tournament. When you're going up against the Americans, which it seems like their team gets stronger every two years, you can't just be blase and think you're going to show up and compete.

“It's highly likely all 12 of their guys can be in the top 20 in the world. I mean, this is a very hard team — I don't care what course you put us on — to go and beat. So, I think it's starting from the top with Ernie. He's changing the way the captaincy and the assistants, the leadership roles operate, and that will filter down through the players from the top to the bottom, and hopefully this is the start of a new kind of feeling amongst the international players. The younger guys that are coming through need to see our team win and how much we can all care about this.”

Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith and Day are all inside the top 10 on the International team standings at this stage, with Scott just outside but pushing hard. Els will also have his captain’s picks which would likely see a veteran like Scott selected even if he did not automatically qualify.

They are trying to erase a dreadfully one-sided record of 10 USA wins, one tie and one International win (in 1998).

The Americans have awesome power. The 10th-ranked player on the US team at this stage is Phil Mickelson, still ranked 23rd in the world and their team could include five or six of the top 10 in the world.