Ernie has SA trio on his Presidents Cup radar

Ernie Els (Getty Images)
Ernie Els (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Ernie Els has hinted at the possibility of selecting South African trio Branden Grace, Erik van Rooyen and Justin Harding among his four allowed Presidents Cup captain's picks.

Four-time major champion Els will make his wildcard selections in the week of November 4.

Louis Oosthuizen was the sole South African to have automatically qualified for the tournament set to take place at Australia's Royal Melbourne Golf Club from December 9-15.

The other seven qualifiers include seasoned veterans Marc Leishman and Adam Scott (both Australia) and Hideki Matsuyama (Japan), while newcomers to the Presidents Cup scene are Abraham Ancer (Mexico), Haotong Li (China), Cameron Smith (Australia) and C.T. Pan (Chinese Taipei).

Speaking at a press conference this week, Els admitted that former world No 1 and Jason Day would be a "favourite" pick.

"There's still a long way to go. November 4 is quite a long ways away, and we've got to look at how guys position themselves," Els told the media.

"You've got Erik van Rooyen and he just won a tournament in Europe and he's been an up-and-coming player. There's rookies and there's guys like Jason (Day) who's been out there before who's kind of just looking from the outside in. Branden Grace is another one, Jhonattan Vegas, there's Adam Hadwin... There's a bit of time to go, but Jason is obviously one of my favourite guys."

Despite the relative lack of inexperience in his team, Els revealed that he would not be scared to choose another rookie in the side and mentioned Harding and Van Rooyen (again), who have both won this year on the European Tour.

"... Guys like Erik van Rooyen, that kid won - I've said to the guys in the meetings that I'm not scared to choose rookies. 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," said Els.

"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.

"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."

The United States have won 10 of 12 prior editions of the Presidents Cup, with one tie (famously at The Links in South Africa in 2003) and one International victory - in 1998 in Melbourne.

Presidents Cup

Compiled by Lynn Butler, Garrin Lambley

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