Trevor Immelman on being named Presidents Cup captain, what it was like to hold off peak Tiger Woods at the 2008 Masters
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 11: Assistant Captain Trevor Immelman of South Africa and the International team looks on during their team photo ahead of the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Course on December 11, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Having been one of captain Ernie Els' assistants last year at Royal Melbourne, Trevor Immelman saw first-hand the difference in last year's International team, which played spirited golf before eventually falling 16-14 to the United States in the Presidents Cup.
Now, after being named captain of next year's International team which will take on the U.S. from Sept. 30-Oct. 3 at Quail Hollow, Immelman hopes to cultivate a similar cohesive atmosphere among his squad—always a challenge when several countries, languages and cultures are represented.
"One of the areas where Ernie really did breathe new life into our team was really trying to be able to create some kind of platform, some kind of launching pad to where we could start improve as a team," Immelman said on this week's Golf Digest Podcast (24:45). "Obviously, we've struggled over the years and been beaten up pretty badly.
"But he came with a specific plan as to how we could move forward, and we started to put those wheels in motion over the next year-and-a-half leading up to Melbourne. And then, consequently, whilst our hearts were broken after losing narrowly on that Sunday, we felt good about a lot of the stuff we did leading up to Melbourne. We came up with a pretty clear plan for our team moving forward over the years, and for me, the great news was I was a big part of that...it's something I'm extremely humbled by, honored to be a part of this team."
This week also marks the 12th anniversary of Immelman's victory at the 2008 Masters, where he held off Tiger Woods for a three-shot win and the green jacket.
Immelman held a share of the 54-hole lead with Brandt Snedeker that year, and Woods lurked within striking distance. Heading into that tournament, Woods was in the midst of one of the best spurts of golf ever—he'd won eight of his last 10 starts, including the 2007 PGA, including four straight tournaments to start 2008. Immelman, of course, was keenly aware of his presence all week ... and the fact that, given Tiger's stranglehold on the sport, that opportunity might not come again.
"This guy was winning 30, 33 percent of the events that he was playing in," Immelman said (40:54). "You had other Hall of Famers who were playing great—Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson...so I was very well aware that this could be it for me."
"I actually remember saying to myself on Saturday night—this could be it, this could be your one shot, this could be your best shot. You gotta make sure that you go out there tomorrow, commit 100 percent, have self belief like you've never had it before, and see if you can get it done. Thankfully, I did."
In addition to a terrific chat with Immelman, we also teased our new countdown of the 50 defining Masters moments, discussed the newly released golf schedule and the British Open cancellation. Please give it a listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts.