MELBOURNE – Captains for the Presidents Cup usually get the most attention for the wild-card picks that fill out their teams and the pairings they create. Ernie Els might have done his best work long before that point.
The Presidents Cup is a PGA Tour creation, and so it was the PGA Tour that created a flag for an International team representing countries from everywhere but Europe. It had wavy blue and gold lines. What it lacked was history, and a sense of identity.
Els changed all that.
The International team now has its own logo, which is more of a shield. The identity comes from each player having the flag from his own country in the middle of the shield — nine flags for this team, the most ever in 25 years.
“We've always played under the flag, but we've never really had our own identity, so to speak," Els said. “Guys like that. ... I explained to them exactly what it entails, what's behind the whole thinking of how we brought the whole thing together,.
Els said he first unveiled the new look to players at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock and received favorable reviews.
The flag is a nice touch. The Solheim Cup on the LPGA Tour once put the flag of players' home state on the golf bags. What makes this logo more meaningful is the shield in the background.
Abraham Ancer of Mexico said it was inspired by three patterns. The first one is the Celtic knot, which stands for unity (or friendship), loyalty and faith. The second is a coat of arms to represent strength. The last one is a pair of flag sticks in opposite directions to bring golf into the equation.
“It's brilliant,” said Louis Oosthuizen, who played three Presidents Cup matches under the old flag. “Ernie has been on this for a while. We need to get that identity of what we are and what we playing for and who we are as a team. To do something like that, and have that emblem, it's really made a big difference in our team.”
Whether it helps them make putts and win points is to be determined this week at Royal Melbourne.
Bryson DeChambeau promised a new physique during his two months off, and that's what he brought to the Bahamas and Australia.
The objective was to get bigger and stronger, pushing himself in the gym. DeChambeau didn't say how much weight he gained or muscle he added, but he was noticeably bigger, and set himself up for some expected ribbing from the U.S. team.
"I call him, 'Skinny.' He'll get a chuckle out of it, but he's a big dude," Xander Schauffele said. "I don't even know what size he is. I think LaCoste had to customize a shirt for him. It might be a double-XL, triple-XL, I have no clue. He's quite a specimen right now."
DeChambeau struggled in his return at the Hero World Challenge, finishing 15th in an 18-man field, 15 shots behind.
"I'm getting comfortable with it really quickly," he said Tuesday. "Today was the first day where I felt like, 'Wow, I'm OK. I'm back to where I was a year-and-a-half ago in regards to ball-striking. ... I stopped doing it because of injury, so let's try and get back to that — stronger, bigger — so I could tolerate more.
"I did it today for the first time and in this wind, I had incredible control of my golf ball off the tee."
DeChambeau has not won since Las Vegas a year ago.
WHEN IN AUSTRALIA
The PGA Tour's digital team decided to bring a taste of Australia to the American players who had interview sessions Tuesday. They carried a tray of vegemite on small pieces of toast.
Most tried it. Not everyone liked it, including Hideki Matsuyama. Webb Simpson was more diplomatic when he tried it and said, “There's nothing I can compared that to.”
Patrick Cantlay didn't get the opportunity. He was talking about the nuances of Royal Melbourne when he saw the plate out of the corner of his eye. Cantlay kept talking. And talking.
Before long, the person holding the tray moved on to another player.
EYE ON DESIGN
Royal Melbourne will play at 7,047 for a par 71, which is relatively short by PGA Tour standards, and it will play even shorter given the firm, fast conditions of the historic course Alister McKenzie designed.
Does that make it easier? Patrick Cantlay didn't find it that way. He made two birdies during a practice round Tuesday.
“I don't think it's too short and it really does a great job because there's no rough and it's so firm, that you can't take some of the lines,” even if the wind were to switch, because your ball would go actually too far and go into the bush or native area," he said. “I think it actually does a really good job of protecting itself from the bomber.
“Length becomes less of an issue with these firm golf courses, and then combine that with it's very difficult to get the ball close, he said. ”So a shot that's feeding the right way into the green and has the right weight will get closer than somebody that has driven it down there and just trying to land it on the flag stick."
Patrick Reed can attest to that. One of the prettiest shots he hit all day was a 9-iron hit with 85% power that landed next to the hole and bounced over the green.
“There's no one way to play any of the golf shots out here,” he said.
Stu Francis had been nominated as the next president of the USGA, with the vote coming in February at the USGA annual meeting in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
The USGA also said it would do away with the women's committee in 2020. It said in a release that with so many duties being taken over by the executive management team and the executive committee, there was no longer a need. Positions of secretary, treasurer and general counsel — previously part of the election — all will expire in 2020, with duties being assumed by the staff.
As for the executive committee, terms for members is expanding from one year to three, with a two-term limit. The presidents's term will increase to three years. Previously, it was two one-year terms.
By winning the season-ending event, Ryo Ishikawa became the 14th player to surpass 1 billion yen for career earnings on the Japan Golf Tour. That converts to $9.32 million, about $300,000 short of what Brooks Koepka earned this year. ... Golf gets another mixed team for the second straight week. Annika Sorenstam played with her father in the PNC Father-Son Challenge last week. Lexi Thompson is playing with Sean O'Hair in the QBE Shootout this week. ... The average world ranking of the U.S. team at the Presidents Cup is 12.3, the best ever for these matches that date to 1994. Adam Scott is the highest-ranked player from the International team at No. 18.
STAT OF THE WEEK
All but one of the 24 players at the Presidents Cup — Tiger Woods — had not turned pro when the International team won in 1998 at Royal Melbourne.
“I think we're almost at that point.” — Louis Oosthuizen, when asked if the International team has to win the Presidents Cup to keep fans from losing interest.