Presidents Cup

At Internationals' bonding dinner for Presidents Cup, chatter about LIV wasn't on the menu

March 08, 2024

Jared C. Tilton

ORLANDO — When prospective members of the International team for the Presidents Cup met for dinner Tuesday night with captain Mike Weir and assistant Trevor Immelman, they already were aware that LIV Golf League players were not going to be a part of their squad in September in Montreal.

That didn’t mean that the subject wasn’t going to come up. And while a few players expressed a mild level of interest in a what-if scenario that could allow LIV reinforcements, the overriding sentiment was that there is no sense wasting time or energy on a situation out of their control.

“I looked around the room, and I thought to myself, ‘You’re going to have to play some really good golf to make the top six [automatic qualifiers]. We are so much stronger than we were two years ago,” said Australia’s Adam Scott, a veteran of 10 International teams. “Obviously, we lost some key players just before Charlotte [in 2022]. But we’ve had to move on.”

About 15 players attended the dinner at a local steakhouse, and the overriding message was one of optimism and unity. Can’t be unified if some players are competing overseas on another tour, which is the case this week with LIV Golf in Hong Kong. Besides, it’s not logical to think that those who abandoned Immelman’s team in 2022 at Quail Hollow Club would just be welcomed back with open arms.

“I know if we tried to field our best potential team, that would make the most sense,” said Canada’s Nick Taylor. “But I go back to the decision those guys made when they left. This is what they decided. I might feel even more strongly if I were on that team in Charlotte, and those guys left right before the matches. That was hard to see.”

“I think we want to concentrate on what to look forward to, what we’re playing for,” Australian Cam Davis said of the gathering. “We have guys who are playing well and that’s something to feed off, and that’s what Mike wants us to focus on. As far as LIV, it’s so far out of our hands, we shouldn’t even think about it.”

Corey Conners, a member of the 2022 squad, agrees.

“The bonding was amazing, the stories, and hanging out together, which we don’t get to do often, and that was very important,” Conners said of the dinner. “We’re all working hard to make the team, and I’m not sure how I feel about them [LIV players], to be honest. It’s a PGA Tour event, and they’re not part of that, and I think we’re going to have an awesome team regardless.”

Nevertheless, LIV has an impressive roster of players who could take roster spots on the International team, led by Joaquin Niemann, who won the Australian Open in December and has two victories in three events this year on LIV. Cam Smith of Australia won the 2022 British Open—and then cashed in a month later by bolting to LIV. Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Marc Leishman are Presidents Cup veterans.

It's not like there’s a huge hole in the International team that will compete at Royal Melbourne—and if three or more Canadians make the squad, the home-field advantage increases appreciably. But a few of LIV players certainly would add depth. It's depth that the American team has enjoyed throughout the series, which explains its 12-1-1 record.

“Look, would it be fun to play with a guy like Joaquin, who is playing great right now? You’d have to say yes,” said one player who didn't want his name published. “Would he make our team better? You’d have to say yes. That’s just being honest. But the guys who were at that dinner, we had an awesome evening together. And that’s our team.”

“There might be some respect there [for LIV players],” Scott said, “but I bet you couldn’t find one player who would say, ‘Yeah, absolutely, let’s add some of those guys.’ And that’s basically because everyone who was there at that dinner wants to be on that team badly. We feel good about our direction.”