Ernie’s plan to topple the might of the USA
ERNIE Els will personally transplant his playbook from the day he ripped apart Royal Melbourne with a masterful 60 to help upset the hotshot Americans at the Presidents Cup.
The cricket-loving captain of the Internationals is looking for his own Ben Stokes, a player to light up his underdogs and rouse 25,000-plus fans each day into vocal home team support.
Golf's greatest boilover isn't going to happen without a Stokes-style Ashes miracle on December 12-15 because the Internationals face an unwinnable challenge on paper.
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In-form Aussie Adam Scott is the sole world top 20 player in the Els armoury against a stellar US line-up with eight top 20 stars already and Tiger Woods able to select four more with captain's picks in November.
None of that is fresh news to Els, who is trying to squeeze every advantage from his players being more strongly bonded than previous teams, better blended in pairs and better prepared for Royal Melbourne's unique challenges.
Deep-dive data, not hunches or two players both speaking Chinese or Korean, will settle duos for 18 foursomes and four-ball matches where the Internationals are so often thrashed.
All the course nuances he learnt from playing two Presidents Cups (1998 and 2011) at the jewel of the sandbelt, plus his stunning 60 at the 2004 Heineken Classic, will be fed to his players.
"I've got all kinds of different plans to show them how each and every hole should be played, the way I think we can get the best out of it," Els said.
"I don't want to divulge too much of what we're planning but basically, from my experience of playing the golf course, I'm giving them that.
"A lot of the Aussies and some of the guys have played the course but to all buy into a certain way to play the golf course will be quite key for us.
"And that's understanding that conditions could change day-to-day from playing in the warm northerly breeze or the southerly."
Els mentioned more than 10 potential captain's picks but, as three of the four, lock in Aussie Jason Day, South Africa's proven Presidents Cup performer Branden Grace and 21-year-old Korean shotmaker Sungjae Im, who had a stunning 18 eagles and 480 birdies on the PGA Tour this season.
Els said being more analytical about pairings was one hot spot.
"We're using a different system and a lot of it's got to do with the data of certain players and so on and matching them up that way," Els said.
"We're put personalities together where that really hasn't worked that well for us in the past. I might have to go more the data way. We'll see."
Els did back Day to rediscover his mojo. The former world No.1 has slipped to No.23 with an inconsistent season with five strong top-10s but more missed cuts (four) than any season since 2012.
"Jason is obviously one of my favourite guys and is always going to be on the list of guys we're going to absolutely look at for the top 12," Els said.
"You know, Jason tried a couple things in his game this year, the different caddie scenario and so forth.
"He didn't have a terrible year, he just didn't have a year like we're used to."
Canada's Adam Hadwin, South Africa's recent Scandinavian Masters winner Erik van Rooyen, Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas, young Victorian Lucas Herbert, veteran Japanese-based Aussie Brendan Jones, Kiwi Ryan Fox and Thai pair Jazz Janewattananond and Kiradech Aphibarnrat were also among names that Els listed as players he'd been watching this year.
Els didn't buy into whether Woods would pick himself as a player-captain but said it was "99 per cent" sure he wouldn't be even though Adam Scott has urged it.
"Scottie has expressed quite a strong mention to me that I should look at myself possibly as a captain's pick but I keep saying to him I've got a lot of other things on my mind," Els said.
"I just say 'probably' not playing because I don't want to put myself 100 per cent out.
"If I win four, five events, (who knows?) but that's probably not going to happen."