Four Asian Stars in Prime Position to Make the International Team
With seven weeks remaining until the top 8 players on each team officially qualify for the 2019 Presidents Cup, four Asian players – Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, China’s Haotong Li, C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond – are in the running to automatically qualify for the International Team.
Thailand’s Jazz has moved into position at No. 8 in the International Team standings after a successful June highlighted by his win at the Kolon Korea Open two weeks ago. His fourth career Asian Tour victory along with top-5 finishes in three Japan Tour events also vaulted the 23-year-old to a career-high 52nd in the Official World Golf Ranking.
The Presidents Cup will return to Melbourne, Australia and The Royal Melbourne Golf Club for the third time, from December 9-15, 2019, when the International Team, led by Captain Ernie Els, will take on the U.S. Team led by Captain Tiger Woods.
The golf world was introduced to Jazz at the PGA Championship in May, where he stood up to the brutal test of Bethpage Black to finish T14 in just his second major championship appearance. He had entered the final round in T2 position. A Presidents Cup bid would mark Jazz’s debut in the event and make him just the second Thai player after Thongchai Jaidee (2015) to compete in the Presidents Cup.
“For sure I have a chance,” said Jazz, whose triumph in Korea was his second win of 2019. “I would love to be on the team and I need to work hard. It’s not easy as the events I play in have smaller world ranking points but I will try to get the job done. I’m playing better golf and I’ve got lucky. I’ve worked on everything and there have been improvements and it adds up into top-10s or a win.”
The slender Thai has enjoyed a stellar past 12 months since hooking up with renowned swing coach Pete Cowen, who also coaches the likes of recent major champions Gary Woodland and Brooks Koepka, the world No. 1.
“When I was younger, I heard about Pete. And then Kiradech (Aphibarnrat) started to work with him and introduced me to him. It’s been a perfect combination so far. I want to continue working with him and be the best that I can be. I think he can help me do that. He teaches you to fix your own swing. He’s helped me a lot,” said Jazz.
Matsuyama is seeking his fourth successive appearance in the Presidents Cup and lies fourth on the team points list, thanks largely to his consistent form primarily on the PGA TOUR where he has not missed a single cut since qualifying began last August. The 27-year-old has accumulated six top 10s, including three top fives and 10 other top-25s.
China is poised to celebrate its first representative in the Presidents Cup with the highly talented Li, 23, lying in fifth place on the team standings. Strong performances in the World Golf Championships where he has finished T9, T19 and T11 have put him within touching reach of getting into Els’ team.
“It’ll be special to play for Ernie. He’ll be a good captain. It’s going to be a huge honour, and hopefully, I can get on the team and win the event,” said Li, who is a two-time European Tour winner.
Likewise, Pan is fighting hard to ensure he becomes the first golfer from Chinese Taipei to feature in the Presidents Cup. A maiden PGA TOUR win at the RBC Heritage in April has kept him in the automatic qualifying bracket where he currently lies in sixth position.
“We’ve not had a player on the Presidents Cup team and I want to make history by being the first one,” said Pan. “The Ryder Cup sparks great enthusiasm amongst the fans and that’s something I want to do for golf fans in Chinese Taipei. Our fans don’t have a team to root for … I want to make the team for the fans.”
There have been two occasions previously in 2011 and 2015 when the International Team featured four Asian golfers.
The rest of the top 8 in the International Team standings include Marc Leishman who remains atop the standings, followed by Presidents Cup veterans Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott and Jason Day.
On the U.S. Team, Chez Reavie collected his second career PGA TOUR victory and first in 11 years at the Travelers Championship to move up to No. 13 in the U.S. Team standings. The win came one week after Reavie found himself in contention at the U.S. Open, where he eventually finished T3 following an even-par final round. Reavie, 37, is in search of his first Presidents Cup appearance.
At last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, Nate Lashley collected his first PGA TOUR title by six strokes to move from outside the top 100 in the standings into the top 50 at No. 47. Elsewhere on the U.S. Team standings, Patrick Reed and Brandt Snedeker both finished T5 in Detroit and each moved up two spots to Nos. 20 and 21, respectively.
The top 8 for the U.S. Team remained steady, with Brooks Koepka sitting at No. 1 the standings. U.S. Captain Woods, who will make his next start in two weeks at The Open Championship, sits at No. 12 in the standings.
The top 15 players in the International and U.S. Presidents Cup Team Standings as of July 1, 2019, are listed below. Click here for the full Presidents Cup standings.
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