CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA | Trevor Immelman, who is charged with captaining the International team against the statistically superior U.S. team in the Presidents Cup matches at Quail Hollow Club this week, doesn’t need any motivational material.
The David-Goliath thing is out there for the world to see, and Immelman isn’t ducking it. There’s no use in hiding from the obvious.
For anyone interested in bucking the odds, Immelman offers his own story as an example of what can happen.
“I’m from a small town in Cape Town, South Africa – Somerset West,” Immelman said. “What are the chances a kid from Somerset West would grow up to win on the European Tour, win on the PGA Tour, win the Masters, play in the Presidents Cup, become a team captain and end up the lead golf analyst on CBS?
“It’s a long shot when you look at it that way. It’s kind of mind-blowing.”
Therein lies the underpinning of Immelman’s detailed preparation for changing the lopsided course of the biennial matches that have been dominated by the American side since the Presidents Cup’s beginning in 1994.
With his wife, Carminita, Immelman has immersed himself for two years in items big and small, intent on giving his squad an experience that will linger long beyond the week they spend together in Charlotte.
“South Africans have always had to deal with an element of adversity. Nothing really comes easily,” said Mark Immelman, Trevor’s brother and, like his brother, part of golf’s broadcast universe.
“If anyone is uniquely qualified for this challenge, Trevor is the guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were way more competitive than people think.”
The dynamic of the Presidents Cup matches is sharply defined. The International side has won just once in the 13 times the matches have been played while also squeezing out a celebrated tie two decades ago when darkness prevented a playoff from determining a winner.
In South Korea in 2015 and again in Australia in 2019, the International team pushed the American side deep into the final matches before losing. It has not been nearly as close when the matches have been played in the United States.
For Immelman, a foundation was laid by Ernie Els during his captaincy of the 2019 International side. Els focused on creating an identity for a team that’s made up of players from around the world, blending Asian players with South Americans, Australians with Canadians.
Immelman watched carefully as a vice captain as Els developed team colors, a flag, a shield logo and a sense of camaraderie that he is carrying over into his captaincy.
“Our goal is to elevate this into a franchise and build something that can be long-lasting. Ernie gave us an identity,” Immelman said. “We want to carry on where he left off.”
Immelman was chosen as captain shortly after the 2019 Presidents Cup ended. He was picked by the players to succeed Els, building on a model designed to create more continuity on the International side.
In vice captains Camilo Villegas, Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Weir and K.J. Choi, Immelman has also helped set the future.
“Trevor is another cog in the wheel,” Mark Immelman said. “Ogilvy and Weir will be captains down the road. That wheel is starting to gain some traction.”
Immelman won 11 times in his professional career including the 2008 Masters. Injury issues hampered him after his victory at Augusta. After falling outside the top 1,000 in the world ranking, Immelman played well enough in 2018 to regain his playing privileges on what is now the DP World Tour.
Since then, he has segued into television and inherited the coveted analyst seat previously occupied by Nick Faldo on CBS Sports broadcasts with Jim Nantz.
“With Trevor, everything is measured to the nth degree,” his brother said. “Watch him when he’s on the desk on ‘Golf Central’ or ‘Live From’ on the Golf Channel. That’s his lane.”
Immelman has brought similar preparation and attention to detail to his duties as team captain.
“We’ve tried to think of every little thing to make this week incredibly special for everyone,” Immelman said.
On a personal level, Immelman’s parents lived in Charlotte near Quail Hollow Club for a time, and Immelman nearly won the 2006 Wachovia Championship there, losing to Jim Furyk in a playoff.
“There is almost a confluence of destiny there,” Mark Immelman said.
“Since the Monday after the Tour Championship, I have not spent one second thinking about what could have been. Finally there was a reality. We have 12 players who want to be there and who are hungry.” –Trevor Immelman
Whether it is destiny, fate or – some might say – greed, Immelman’s task has been made decidedly more difficult by the decision of several players to join LIV Golf, taking at least five potentially key contributors out of his lineup.
Cameron Smith, Joaquín Niemann, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz and Louis Oosthuizen would have changed the look and chances of Immelman’s team.
It was not to be.
“I’ve been immersed in (LIV) for eight months to a year, day in and day out. I talked to players, caddies, agents. It has been a gigantic part of my life trying to figure out how this could look and I’ve invested so much time thinking about it and making moves to account for what could happen,” Immelman said.
“Since the Monday after the Tour Championship, I have not spent one second thinking about what could have been. Finally there was a reality. We have 12 players who want to be there and who are hungry.”
Immelman knows what he and his team are up against.
It’s nothing he hasn’t faced before.
Trevor Immelman during the final round singles matches at the 2019 Presidents Cup. Photo: Stan Badz, PGA Tour via Getty Images
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