Magnificent seven: Els' Internationals 'feed off' rookie energy

Melbourne (AFP) –


International captain Ernie Els hailed his seven rookies after taking a 4-1 Presidents Cup lead Thursday and the experienced Louis Oosthuizen said the veterans were feeding off the youngsters' energy.

There was concern ahead of the biennial match play event at Royal Melbourne that the newcomers could be overawed by the experience.

But it has proven to be the opposite, with the Internationals leading after the opening session for the first time since 2005.

Among the first-timers, South Koreans Im Sung-jae and An Byeong-hun, along with Taiwan's CT Pan and Mexico's Abraham Ancer all tasted victory in their maiden Presidents Cup matches.

The only newcomer to lose was exciting Chilean 21-year-old Joaquin Niemann, teamed with Australia's Marc Leishman, but the defeat was at the hands of 15-time major winner Tiger Woods and world number four Justin Thomas.

Two rookies, China's Li Haotong and Australian Cameron Smith, did not play Thursday.

"I think a lot of us are feeding off the energy. We have a great bunch of rookies on the team," said Oosthuizen, who is playing in his fourth Presidents Cup.

"I've said this a few times -- they are in great form, and watching them play a practice round, us senior boys are trying to feed off their energy," said the South African.

"I was just a passenger today in a car watching Abe (Ancer) just playing unbelievable golf. So it was fun to see him, how motivated and focused how was on the golf course, and we are all just in a good place," he added.

- 'We are his soldiers' -

The Internationals have failed to win the Presidents Cup since 1998 and Adam Scott, playing in his ninth edition, said the debutants were not carrying any scar tissue from the previous defeats.

"I think they don't know any different, you know. They have just come out and won matches today. It's a nice way for them to start their Presidents Cup careers," he said.

"I hope that gives them a lot more confidence for the rest of the week and they play with that confidence."

Im, 21, credited Els for his flying start, which included an eagle on the first.

"Surprisingly I wasn't too nervous. I was going to hit a three-iron off the tee but Ernie came up and advised me to hit a driver since the pin was to the left and obviously it worked out really well," said the US PGA Tour's 2019 Rookie of the Year.

"I feel like our teamwork was great. When I wasn't playing well, Adam (Hadwin) would cover for me and vice-versa. I think our teamwork really helped make our match great."

Pan, the first player from Taiwan to play in a Presidents Cup, also paid tribute to Els, who showed a video on Wednesday during a team function of the International team's sole victory in 1998, also at Melbourne.

"He has a system going in. We are his soldiers, so we follow his instruction, and that's what we did today, and it worked great," said Pan.

"He's done so much preparations the last few months. It's working."