To say Trevor Immelman had a vested interest in Sunday’s final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions would be an understatement. After all, Australian Cameron Smith, who could perhaps be the heart and soul of the Immelman-captained International Team at this fall’s Presidents Cup, was locked in an intense duel with world No.
1 Jon Rahm. Over the last 28 holes, the two were never separated by more than two strokes. The battle ended when Smith converted a nervy 3-footer for birdie on the 18th hole at Kapalua to edge the Spaniard by one and set the 72-hole PGA TOUR scoring record at 34-under.
Immelman, who was watching the action at home in Orlando with his wife Carminita and their two children, Jacob and Mya, couldn’t have been more pleased for the unassuming 28-year-old from Brisbane who now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Trevor Immelman, statements
“I was extremely proud of him,” Immelman wrote in an email Monday. “I’ve always thought of Cam as a great pressure player, so I felt good about his position all weekend, but Jon Rahm is such a high-class player with so many weapons, you never quite know.
“I will say that I think that this win against this field will be huge for Cam’s confidence. This is all the proof that he needs that he can beat anyone”. Smith’s victory in the first TOUR event of 2022 was assuredly a boost for the International Team, which will try to beat the United States for just the second time when the 14th Presidents Cup is held September 20-25 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.
The way Immelman sees things, though, his team has been trending upwards for a while. As evidence: Thirteen of the 38 competitors in last week’s winners-only event on Maui are vying for spots on the International Team.
Five finished inside the top 10, including Smith and Matt Jones (solo third). “I think it gives us a good boost,” Immelman wrote when asked about Smith’s win. “But really it’s just a continuation of these guys’ great play for a few years”.
Immelman, who played in two Presidents Cups, was one of Ernie Els’ assistant captains in 2019 at Royal Melbourne when the Internationals lost by two points. He was announced as the seventh different International Team captain in April 2020.
The 42-year-old captain has taken a similar analytical approach to his team as he displays while working for Golf Channel and CBS. He has sought out International Team veterans like Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen, picking their brains and discussing ideas.
“Guys who are passionate about our team and want to see us play well and compete well,” Immelman explained during a break from Presidents Cup kickoff festivities in Charlotte last fall. “Just talking about all sorts of things from uniforms and my thinking behind that and what they think we can add or subtract from our previous experiences to try and make this tournament successful.
So, all sorts of things that we're discussing all the time. “My goal would be to have an extremely open and honest relationship with … I call it a squad. I mean, right now we've really got 20 or 25 guys that I'm involving in everything.
And I think open and honest communication is just the best way to get everybody on board. Everybody knows exactly where they stand, how things are going to look. “So, yeah, that those lines of communication are always open with all those players”.
During last year’s Wells Fargo Championship – a time when the U.S. Team was focused on the upcoming Ryder Cup – Immelman gathered potential squad members for dinner at a friend’s house at Quail Hollow.
“It was a lot of fun to get the guys together and start the process and start speaking to them about the golf course and what they'll probably see when, if they make the team,” Immelman said, no doubt mentioning how the infamous “Green Mile” will be rerouted to impact the September event.