By Steve Keating
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – What the world of professional golf will look like when the next Presidents Cup is staged in Montreal in two years’ time is unclear as the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series feud over the sport’s structure.
That messy squabble directly impacted this year’s event at Quail Hollow Club, robbing both the United States and International teams of the services of top players who had left for the breakaway Tour.
Without the deep talent pool available to U.S. captain Davis Love III the International team were particularly hurt as the Americans went on to claim the golden trophy for a ninth consecutive time on Sunday with a 17-1/2 to 12-1/2 victory.
But that dispute may have provided an unexpected opportunity that could pay dividends in 2024 with International captain Trevor Immelman forced to blood new players in the Presidents Cup pressure cooker.
Immelman was pushed into a late overhaul of his team after losing talent like British Open champion and world number two Cameron Smith of Australia, Chile’s Joaquín Niemann and South African Louis Oosthuizen, who were suspended by the PGA Tour for signing on with the LIV venture.
That resulted in the International team arriving in Charlotte with a Presidents Cup record eight debutants on their 12-man roster going up against a powerpacked U.S. lineup that featured nine players in the top 15 of the world rankings.
Canadians Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith, Colombian Sebastian Munoz, Australian Cam Davis, South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Chile’s Mito Pereira and South Koreans Kim Joo-hyung and K.H. Lee all received a baptism under fire.
“It’s just the beginning for this team, really,” said Australian Adam Scott. “I think you’re seeing a lot of guys here who will be returning on the next one.
“I think the U.S. team’s really going to be up for a hell of a fight.”
One player the International team is predicting big things for is 20-year-old Kim Joo-hyung, who also goes by Tom Kim.
The Presidents Cup was the coming out party for the charismatic and hugely talented South Korean, who oozes charisma and magnetism that even allowed him to pull in American fans.
The youngest player in the field, Kim impressed with his fearless and playfulness, providing the spark that energised his team mates.
“This young kid has burst onto the scene in the last six months, he’s been such a tremendous gift to our sport,” said Immelman. “He has an ability to be a global superstar.
“We’ve seen he has the game but what I’ve learned about his personality and his heart and what he stands for this week, man, I am a huge fan.”
“I met him for the first time in person at The Open this year on the 4th hole at the Old Course, and immediately he made an impression on me.
“He’s just wired different.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Charlotte. Editing by Peter Rutherford)