International team captain Trevor Immelman had an impossible task in front of him as he made his 2022 Presidents Cup picks. He had to fill up spots that would have otherwise been taken by the No. 2 player in the world, Cameron Smith, as well as another top 20 guy in Joaquin Niemann after both left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf and became ineligible for the competition.
On Tuesday, with two weeks to go until the Presidents Cup begins at Quail Hollow, Immelman made his selections.
Cameron Davis, Si Woo Kim, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, K.H. Lee, Sebastian Munoz and Taylor Pendrith will join Adam Scott, Mito Pereira, Tom Kim, Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama and Sungjae Im -- all of whom qualified on points -- on the international team. Originally, Immelman was slated to have just four picks, but the departures of Smith and Niemann gave him two more openings.
None of these six captain's picks are ranked among the top 40 golfers in the world -- K.H. Lee is the highest-ranked at No. 41 -- but all are intriguing as talents, which will be needed against a loaded United States team. Pendrith and Davis are monsters off the tee. Munoz and Lee are former PGA Tour champions. Bezuidenhout is arguably one of the best putters in the world, and Kim is an immense (if enigmatic) talent who has won three events, including a Players Championship, and lost three others in playoffs by the age of 26.
Kim is the only player with any previous Presidents Cup experience.
One of the international team problems's (among many) is Quail Hollow's length and how little of it the team possesses, which is something they clearly tried to solve with these six captain's picks.
"Quail Hollow is a golf course which rewards length," said Immelman in a statement. "And [Pendrith] is without doubt one of the longest drivers of the ball in our sport. The way he responded to the adversity of a serious injury in his rookie season, rejoined the PGA Tour and had five top-15 finishes in his last six events highlighted by a T2 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, meant that he was someone we couldn't look past."
Immelman joined The First Cut Podcast last week to talk about some of the players on his squad, and he was unsurprisingly high on both Im and Tom Kim, both of whom had terrific years. They will be among the better players on this team and looked at to carry much of the load against the Americans.
2022 Presidents Cup teams
Si Woo Kim
* Projected captain's picks for the U.S. team on Wednesday
The international team is up against both a tepid past and an overwhelming present. Only six players automatically qualified for U.S. captain Davis Love III, but he is expected to pick Jordan Spieth, Max Homa, Billy Horschel, Cameron Young and Collin Morikawa for his captain's picks. With Will Zalatoris' injury, the 12th is undetermined, but the U.S. depth is staggering compared to the international team.
Average @DataGolf ranking:— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) September 6, 2022
Average strokes gained:
The U.S. are currently -500 favorites.
(* - for the fairly obvious 11 US spots, 12th spot still TBD)
Immelman will try and combat the immense U.S. talent with all the talent he has at his disposal. He could have easily gone with some other older players with more experience, but instead, he chose five rookies who are unproven but also not scarred. This is a methodology that the U.S. team actually employed last year against the European Ryder Cup team, and it worked splendidly.
While I don't really expect the international team to ultimately compete with the U.S. squad at Quail Hollow given the depth and strength of the latter over the former, Immelman has at least been wise with how he's gone about constructing his team in the wake of the LIV departures and team anchor Smith not getting another run. He's at least given himself and his team a chance.
The international team has not won a Presidents Cup since 1998 and has never won one inside the United States.