It’s US Open week, obviously a huge week in the calendar, so it seems like a good time for an update before we get down to business at Pebble Beach.
We’ve continued to be pretty busy planning for this year’s Presidents Cup. The past couple of months have been exciting for the International Team, with many of our potential players producing some wonderful golf and enjoying success worldwide. In a span of just a few months we saw three PGA TOUR wins by international players: Canadian Corey Conners at the Valero Texas Open, C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei at the RBC Heritage and Korea’s Sung Kang at the AT&T Byron Nelson. That’s improved their chances of punching a ticket to Royal Melbourne for sure.
As a group, we’ve had some nice get-togethers recently, especially at the Zurich Classic. We got the chance to try out a few pairings that week. There’s a long way to go before we get to the stage where we have our eight qualifiers and four captain’s picks, but it got the guys used to playing a different format, playing together in foursomes and fourball, so that was a constructive exercise. It was also good for team building; we stayed in the same hotel, had a great dinner together…drank a few glasses of wine! It all helps break the ice, gets everyone familiar with each other before we get to Australia. By the time the gun goes, you need to feel like you’re a team, so we need to hang together as much as possible and play some practice rounds. It gets everyone bonding as team.
There’s always a lot to do behind the scenes, but I’m embracing the whole process. The more you look at it, the more there is to consider. We might have 10 nations represent our team, a lot of different cultures, food preferences, and so forth. Even the room selections in our hotel are a factor. I liked what [captain’s assistant] Trevor Immelman said during our press conference together at the Zurich Classic. He believes our team’s diversity can be our strength, which I fully agree. This is something we will continue to harness in the coming months as part of our plans to win this thing back from another strong American team.
Golf-wise, the build-up to this week’s US Open has admittedly not been what I’d have hoped. There were a couple of so-so performances, where I didn’t really get things going, and then suffering a slight back strain going into the Memorial was a disappointing situation. I hated having to withdraw there. So it was a frustrating 3-4 weeks, but we’re right back on track now. I received some good treatment on my back and rested-up for a few days. Since then I’ve been hitting balls, playing some golf and, touch wood, the back feels fine.
So, we’re here at Pebble Beach. And what a place. This is almost like holy ground for us golfers. US Opens are always special, but Pebble Beach adds a little extra magic and it’s great to be back in this spectacular setting. The week could hardly have started any better, playing a practice round on Sunday with Branden Grace and my nephew Jovan Rebula (pictured below), who as many of you will know won the Amateur Championship last summer. I’m a very proud uncle. It’s wonderful to see how he’s developed as a player, and here we were together at the US Open playing Pebble Beach in the sunshine. It doesn’t get much better than that for me.
Before we get underway on Thursday morning, a couple of important functions were in the diary; firstly, a World Golf Hall of Fame ceremony on Monday evening to celebrate the ‘Class of 2019’ inductees Retief Goosen, Peggy Kirk Bell, Billy Payne, Jan Stephenson and Dennis Walters. Then on Tuesday I’ll be enjoying the company of former winners of this great championship at a US Open Champions Dinner; that should be a night of lively conversation!
While we’re on the subject of the US Open, a quick heads-up about a prize competition coming up later this week. I won both my titles in ’94 and ’97 using Cleveland Wedges. Great clubs. And this week my friends at Cleveland are generously giving away one of their latest wedges to one lucky winner. As I said, look out for that on Twitter @TheBig_Easy.
Before we sign off, we just need to recap on a couple more events on the Els for Autism South Africa golf series. The guys were at Mount Edgecombe on 16 May. Our Host was Desiree Stone and our sponsors on the day were By Union. Many thanks to Nick Keary for supporting Els for Autism. A special thanks also to Kevin Stone who cancelled his trip to the PGA Championship, where he was going to watch his son play, in order to lend his support to this day. Much appreciated Kevin. Congrats to the day’s winners Mo Hussen and Sanjay Chetty on 49 points.
Next up on the schedule was Royal Jhb & Kensington GC, an event made possible due to the generosity of Dr Ratshidi Rammutla, the Ramson Cross Foundation, and Netcare. An impressive turnout of 120 players had a great day on the newly upgraded East Course. Paddy Rogan and Kevin Smith won on 47 points. Once again we thank Imperial KWS Logistics for their ongoing support of this series, which continues to raise valuable funds for Els for Autism.
Okay, that’s it for now.
Follow me on Twitter @TheBig_Easy.