Johannesburg – With the Presidents Cup just over a month away, there will be a distinctly South African flavour to golf's International Team, with six of the country's players currently eligible for the October tournament.
Australia's Adam Scott heads the international team rankings while Ernie Els is in second place, and Charl Schwartzel in third. Louis Oosthuizen (ranked fifth), Branden Grace (7), Richard Sterne (8) and Tim Clark (10) are well-placed to make the team.
The biennial competition, which pits non-European international players against an all-American side in a matchplay format, is modelled on the Ryder Cup. It is scheduled to take place at Muirfield Village Golf Club, in Ohio, from October 1 to 6.
The Americans, led by Tiger Woods, are heavy favourites for the clash.
The top-10 ranked international players automatically qualified for the team and, with Zimbabwean non-playing captain Nick Price in charge, he could add to the number of South Africans with his two 'captains picks' at his disposal.
George Coetzee, just outside the top 10 in 13th spot, would have impressed Price over the last two years with his performances on the European Tour and stood a good chance of taking one of those two extra spots.
Other South Africans further down in the standings, with more of an outside chance of being called up, are Jaco van Zyl (25), Thomas Aiken (28) and Darren Fichardt (29).
In 10 editions of the Presidents Cup, the international team had been victorious only once, when the event was held at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in 1998.
Price and Els were teammates that year, and the Big Easy is the only remaining playing member of that team from 15 years ago.
Els, 43, will make his eighth appearance in the tournament after his debut in 1996. It will also mark his fourth consecutive event after missing out in 2005.
Tim Clark, Gary Player's captain's pick in 2003, will make his fourth appearance, should he maintain his 10th spot in the standings.
His debut was in the year the tournament was held at Fancourt's Links course, in George. Woods and Els were slugging it out in a sudden-death playoff before the light began to fade and the two captains decided to call it a tie.
Player described Clark as his 'bulldog' 10 years ago, and 'The Umkomaaster' will bring experience, solid iron-play and clutch-putting to the team.
At 25, Grace had enjoyed a stellar 2012 campaign, where he won four times on the European Tour.
Sterne is a potential debutant at number eight in the standings. He made a steady comeback from long-term injuries which plagued him in 2010 and 2011.
Schwartzel will make his second start, while Oosthuizen – if he fully-recovers from a hip injury which forced him to withdraw from the Open Championship in July – will make his debut.
However, Oosthuizen has only committed to return to competitive golf the week before the Presidents Cup gets underway.
Price said he would make a call on Oosthuizen only once the 30-year-old was back in competition.
“I spoke to him recently, and he's not going to play until the Dunhill Cup, which is the week before the Presidents Cup,” Price said.
“So we really won't know if he's match fit, or not, until the week before. Being one of the top four or five players I have on the team, it's a concern.
“But for most of us, or me anyway, I said to him, just get healthy first. That's the most important thing. I don't really want him to injure himself further.
Price said Oosthuizen would keep him posted on his progress while he was recuperating in South Africa. – Sapa