NZ Golf Magazine | July 2019 | 17 Leishman, who won the CIMB Classic in October and leads the standings. “I've played three President Cups so far, two in America, one in Korea, so to play one in Melbourne again with all my friends and family there is going to be awesome. Hoping I can continue this form, be a leader on that team. Hopefully we can give the Americans a bit of trouble.” Those elder statesmen should mix well with a blend of young, rising stars from around the globe. Chief among them are Pan, China’s Haotong Li and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, all of whom are expected to become the first- ever representatives from their respective countries. Li, ranked No. 5 in the standings, is still closing in on Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR. But that hasn’t stopped him from dominating the game abroad. The 23-year-old has six top-five finishes internationally since the start of 2018, including a win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and runner-up finishes at the Turkish Airlines Open and Saudi International powered by SBIA. “Representing my country means a lot to me, having done it in the Olympics and at the World Cup,” he said. “If I am fortunate and able to play in the Presidents Cup and play for Ernie Els, I would be very happy. I know I'm not representing China at the Presidents Cup, but I would be a Chinese player on the International Team, and I know the people in China would be watching and rooting for me and for the International Team. I would love to play in Australia later this year.” Pan, meanwhile, sits right behind Li at No. 6. He’s backed by his first career TOUR victory in April at the RBC Heritage, when he grabbed the lead with a birdie at the 16th then held on with pars on the final two holes to outlast Matt Kuchar by a stroke. It came one year after a gut- wrenching 72nd hole cost him a win at the Wyndham Championship, which he helped deliver to Brandt Snedeker when his tee shot sailed right, hitting the cart path and bouncing out of bounds. “It definitely changed my perception on the last couple of holes down the stretch of what I should do,” he said. “The last three holes I would say I played really well here, a lot of good shots just because I told myself I need to focus on the details, the little things, and just stay in present. That's something I didn't do at Wyndham.” Pan’s newfound ability to close would be a key asset to Els in his attempts to solve the International Team’s recent struggles. “It would be my biggest honor to play under Captain Els,” Pan said. “I definitely want to do my part to win the Presidents Cup. And back home in Taiwan, we don't have a Ryder Cup in Asia. And I just feel it's kind of unfortunate for the golf fans back home in Asia. And I think the Presidents Cup will be something like that. And it will inspire more kids to play golf or inspire more people to follow golf.” Ancer is still waiting on his own elusive first win. But he’s come close a few times—he has three top-12 finishes so far this season—and that’s been enough to land him at No. 10 in the standings. He’s just ahead of South Korean’s Sung Kang, who earned his first career win in May at the AT&T Byron Nelson. A Mexican has never played in the Presidents Cup, and only five Latin Americans in total have ever done it. For Mexico to potentially join the career ranks of Argentina (Angel Cabrera and Emiliano Grillo), Colombia (Camilo Villegas), Paraguay (Carlos Franco) and Venezuela (Jhonattan Vegas) means a great deal to him, he said. “Playing in the Presidents Cup will be historic for Mexico, and obviously for me it will be a dream come true,” he said. “It’s one of the tournaments and events that you really want to (be part of). I mean, you always dream about it and see it on TV and stuff, and it will be incredible if that happens. That’s definitely one of my goals for this year.” Every player, from Australia and South Korea to China and Mexico, has a roster spot in mind. The list of varying countries, cultures and beliefs may be vast, but everyone has the same common goal: A chance to beat the Americans in December. “The (response) has been awesome. Goosebumps, that's what we want,” Immelman said. “It's an incredible achievement to make this team, and to represent our International Team as well as representing your individual country. We're wanting to create the vibe that it is something that’s extremely special, that you want to achieve in your career. So it's awesome that guys are starting to feel that way.” How Els ultimately opts to put those all of these puzzle pieces together is still to be determined. The world will be watching to see what he decides. The International Team hasn’t won since 1998, and hasn’t tied since 2003, when he and Woods famously dueled into the darkness in South Africa. The stakes have never been higher. “We’ve got a different approach to this year’s Presidents Cup,” Els said, coyly. “Being there as a player, you know what works and what you like to see, and those are the kinds of things that I went back to in my mind. What did I like, what did I not like? I’ve got a good mixture of guys. “You know, there is something different going on. Let me put it that way.” Ernie Els, captain of the International Team speaks at the Presidents Cup International Team Reception after the 2018 World Cup of Golf at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. →