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April 24, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome the South African duo of Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman.
Gentlemen, you've played here in the past as individuals numerous times. Obviously this is the first time as a team. You're both coming in in pretty good form recently too. Had some success, couple top 10s in the last couple months around the world. Talk about being here with Trevor and in this tournament, the Zurich Classic.
ERNIE ELS: It's an absolute pleasure to play with my friend Trevor. We go back a very long time. I've known Trevor since he could walk probably, so we go back. We know each other very, very well.
You know, obviously I know his game very well and he's been a great champion. You know, an opportunity came up to play this event. I wasn't really going to play because of captaincy and so forth, sort of Presidents Cup end of the year. Decided if I could get Trevor to play I'll play this event, so here we are.
I think Zurich has done an unbelievable job of sort of making things a bit more interesting, making the format different. Playing in the different format, I think the guys love it. You know, we've got our eye for December, and that's part of the reason, but also we want to do well through the week.
THE MODERATOR: Trevor, your team is one of five in in competition made up of major champions. You just played well at the Masters a couple weeks ago; obviously a past winner of that championship. Just coming here and playing the team format again, what's that going to be like for you?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. Obviously to have the opportunity to play with Ernie is a huge thrill for me. He's an icon in our country of South Africa and an icon in the game. Like he said, one way or another been following him around since I was about five years old. It's a huge thrill for me to be here and team up with him.
You know, I played this tournament a few times. I think it's a nice golf course and perfectly suited for this format. You know, it's also a lot of fun for us with the Presidents Cup in mind to just have the opportunity to spend a little time with the guys and get to know everybody a little better.
So looking forward to a fun week.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. For both of you, just how important is this week in terms of what you hope to accomplish in December? Obviously doing several things this week. A lot of the pairings have international implications. Talk about this week.
ERNIE ELS: I mean, there is a long way to go before the team is actually selected or the eight guys qualify for the team, and then there are four picks that we have to make later in the year.
So still a long, long way to go. But this event is the only one of its kind, and players that were able to play, we thought we'll look at, you know, getting some of them paired up. It's not exactly what's going to be happening in December, but it's an opportunity for the guys to get playing in this kind of format, playing foursomes and fourball in competition, you know.
But it's quite a few guys not here that's going to be making the team, so it's not our full strength, so to speak. Also, like Trevor says, it's a team building week. We had a great dinner last night at Arnott's, and we had great food obviously there. We had a couple nice glasses of wine.
We're staying in the same hotel, so a bit of team building happening this week. A lot of new, new guys that haven't really been around some of the other guys, and we want to just get them familiar with each other.
Q. One other question: Adam was in here yesterday and he talked about the need to change the culture. How do you do that? How do a captain and assistant captain go about trying to change that culture?
ERNIE ELS: Well, obviously, you know what? We got a different approach to this year's Presidents Cup. I've been around, Trevor has been around. I've been around a lot of them. Being there as a player you know what works, what you like to see, and those are the kind of things that I went back to when he was a player in my mind and said, Okay, what did I like? What did I not like? Then I'm trying to approach it that way.
I've got younger assistant captains, I got guys that have been involved in Presidents Cups in the past. I've got a good mixture of guys. You know, there is something different going on. Let me put it that way.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Obviously a massive hurdle for our team has always been and will always be the fact that we're trying to meld together so many different countries and cultures and languages. So that's always the thing that we've been trying to work on.
For me, as somebody who has played before and watched from the sidelines over the last few years, as somebody who loves Presidents Cup, loves the international team, I'm thankful we've got a guy like Ernie who's obviously not only been a Hall of Fame player, but he's still current, still playing, still playing well, and knows all the players, understands the modern game.
And so I think that's going to be fun for us as a team to have somebody like that leading our team. Yeah, we're excited about it. We're excited to have another opportunity to see if we can find a way to turn the tide.
Q. Ernie, for this year there will be a lot of changes with how the team is selected. How will those changes benefit your team specifically?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think we can get, with a new selection process, I think we can get eight guys who qualify who are really on form, and then with picking four people closer to the date we can get people on form again.
And the one-year criteria is also good, because, again, we're going to get current people that are on form. The old selection process a guy that wins something last year that carried a lot of points will carry this person through. Even though he starts playing poor golf, he'll still make the team.
This way round you've got to play currently very well, and eight people make the team, qualify, and then the four selections are picked for us. In the past we only selected two. You can't really make that big of a difference.
But now you can really be selective in players that you chose to make up the 12 players. It's a huge, huge difference for us, much more beneficial for us as a team.
Q. Ernie, players and captains talk about taking care the little things. What are those little things? Schedule-wise? Family? What specifically?
ERNIE ELS: There are a lot, even from diet. Like Trevor says, we could have ten nations represent our team. There is a lot of moving parts. Culturally, religiously, I mean, there are a lot of moving parts.
It's quite something when you dig into it. That's why we have great support staff from The TOUR. Our guys are really honored. We've been down to Melbourne, been to the hotel, room selection.
I mean, if you give me half an hour we can keep talking about this. There is a lot of things that really become very, very important. We're really trying to just cover every angle.
Q. And not to overbear with a bunch of Presidents Cup questions, but schedule-wise for you how do you balance wanting to play and get acclimated and taking care of those little things?
ERNIE ELS: Luckily this year I've been paired with quite a few of the potential players, and I've had an eye on some of the guys that potentially could make the team and some guys that I feel need to up it a little bit already.
I've had some private chats to some of the guys. I just want them to play. There is so much big golf coming up, majors coming up, world championship golf events coming up. I want them to really concentrate on their games. When they do well, they'll make the team.
At the end of the day, they're world championship golfers and they want to win big events. I want them to concentrate on that and the rest will take care of itself basically.
Myself, I'm trying to get my form back and trying to play good golf for my own sake and trying to enjoy the game again. You know, I'm turning 50 this year, so my life will change quite a lot in the next couple of months. I'm very committed to the team and pretty committed to playing good golf, so...
Q. Ernie, one more Presidents Cup question: We had Scottie and Jason in here yesterday, and they talked about playing together, how much they're looking forward to that. Kind of interested, are you going to be monitoring them? Thoughts on them as a pairing going forward.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, you don't have to look far. They could be an obvious choice in December. It's not like we are trying anything new. I was really happy for them that they actually wanted to play together as friends. We'll see how they play. Hopefully they play really great.
I think they must be one of the favorites this week of all the teams playing, so it will be great for them to play good. Just want them to have a good time. All guys playing together, I want them to have a good time and get familiar, as I said, with playing these formats.
It is so pivotal. We cannot win the Cup if we don't play these disciplines very well. Foursomes and fourball is very important to winning the Presidents Cup in December.
Now, saying that, not all our players are here. We're trying out some selections. Some of the guys just want to play together, as I said. We'll see how it goes. We've got another plan when we get to December. We just want to get the guys familiar with playing.
Q. Do either of you have a theory as to why Jason and Scottie haven't played together more? Has it been just because you've had so many fresh faces year in and year out that you haven't been afforded that luxury to be able to pair them together?
ERNIE ELS: Well, they could playing together in December pretty easily. Pretty solid pairing right there, so one of those days they could easily play together. I mean, those two guys are on their game. They're two of the best players you'll ever see in the modern game.
Yeah, I'm like you. I would love to see how they score, how they perform this week, and we'll take it from there.
Q. And if I could follow up, could be for Trevor too, but what do you guys think of Justin Harding play, particularly at the Masters? There is a long way to go before the team is selected, but he but obviously didn't hurt himself.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I'm a huge fan of Justin Harding. We actually were born in the same town, down in Sommerset West in the Cape. So we're from the same part of the country. We grew up playing together -- or not together, but grew up playing on the same golf course down in Sommerset West, and so it's a huge thrill for me to see him really starting to break through.
In South Africa we've known about him for a few years now. Guys that know him have been waiting for him to kind of find his voice, so to speak, in the international game. It's great to see him starting to compete so well in Europe and win in Qatar a little while back and transition that game straight here to the States. I mean, his first Masters the guy finishes tied for 12th, I believe.
Really excited that as a player he really doesn't have too many weaknesses, and mentally what's exciting is he's really tough. He's tough. He wants to play well, and won't be intimidated by anybody.
So, yeah, I mean, I think it'll be awesome if he manages to make this team. I think he would be a huge asset for us.
Q. Ernie, what experience have you had with Justin?
ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. I mean, I've played golf with him. Actually last year when he was still coming through the ranks. Played with him in the Asian Tour in Mauritius. Obviously saw what he was doing on the Asian Tour, and as Trevor says, went from there to winning on the European Tour and now transitioning over here.
Incredible story. In less than 18 months he's come from absolutely not having a card on the Asian Tour, only playing in South Africa, to winning on the Asian Tour, winning in Europe, and finishing 12th at the U.S. Masters and getting an invite for next year. This is an incredible story.
And he's got a great game obviously. He can win worldwide and he's a great wind player. Wind will be a factor in Melbourne. If you can play in Cape Town, you can play anywhere in wind. So he could be a great asset to our team.
Q. Just curious how much are you planning to use analytics and data points in terms of how you manage the international team?
ERNIE ELS: I think it's important. Like the modern game, I think a lot of the guys are using data. We're going to do that. You know, we'll play the physical part of the game, the mental part of the game, and then the analytical side of the game, and throw that all together and see what we get, see if we can get the perfect pairing.
Q. And you feel like you've reached a point where whatever it takes mentality to win in December... (indiscernible.)
ERNIE ELS: I mean, the mentality is I think 80% of the battle. If you can get the right mentality in the guys on in the team then you're halfway there. Then your preparation, how well we can know the golf course. I've played there a lot of times. I know the course very, very well. So does Tiger and some of the American players.
But you want to feel like you're going to our home turf, our Australian home turf. It's going to be huge. We want to get the people behind their team, which is the international team. Although they're big fans of the U.S. team, we're going to be their home team, and we want to be regarded as that. That'll give us a big boost, the players a big boost, when they feel they're playing at home and not abroad.
So we got to bit of work to do there, but already down there I feel the Australian public was really behind the vision of the international team, so that's big.
And then all these other things will start falling into place as the team gets more established.
Q. Welcome to the Big Easy. Have you been out on the greens yet and what do you think about the Zurich Classic? Have you played here before? If you have, what did you think about the course?
ERNIE ELS: I have played here before. Thank you very much. Good to be back in New Orleans. Always great to be back here. The food, hospitality, people are great.
I lost in a playoff here couple years ago to Jason Dufner so I've had good success. Obviously playing a very different format. Playing with my friend Trevor here is going to be a lot of fun. Who knows? We might get ours this week. You never know.
Q. You guys have mentioned a couple times about the challenge of meshing different cultures. Is there an easy way to do that? How do you do that? Maybe an example.
ERNIE ELS: Just getting together and spending time together. Normally what we in the past used to do is try and get together the Sunday or the Monday of the event, of the Presidents Cup, and by Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we've really bonded. Every single time I've played a Presidents Cup we were like really a team by the weekend.
We want to try and be a team come Sunday night before the event starts. That's why we keep trying to hang together and play some practice rounds together and just get a better feel for each other.
Last night we were sitting around with people from Latin America and Asia and you talk about what's going on in everybody's lives. That's how you learn. You just spend time. It's not like you can pinpoint exactly what you need to do. It's not like a scientific project. It's just coming together and having a drop of wine and relaxing and talking.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Yeah, I don't think there is an easy way to do it, but I think we've got to find a way to make that diversity our strength. As Ernie touched on, the more time we can get to know each other...
Golf is obviously -- we are really trained and formed in this individual capacity kind of looking out for ourselves and our own game from a professional standpoint. Right off the bat we're not conditioned to be part of a team, so to speak.
But that's where Ernie's leadership so far has been amazing from the standpoint of just trying to break the ice earlier. Yeah, I think if we can find a way for us to really come together I think it could absolutely work to our advantage going forward in this competition.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, there are many unique aspects of this event, one of them is the walk-up music. We're really interested if you've chosen a song?
ERNIE ELS: Still debating that one. I don't know if we should go know if we should go Afrikaans, you know, so could be anything. We'll talk about it today.
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate your time. Good luck this week.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you.
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports