DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Brendon de Jonge repaid Nick Price for including him in the Internationals team for the Presidents Cup with another brilliant performance on Friday.
Price was criticized for choosing his fellow Zimbabwean with one of his two captain’s picks but de Jonge justified his selection by teaming up with South Africa’s Ernie Els to win a vital point in Friday’s foursomes.
Playing against Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas, the duo cruised to a 4&3 victory over the Americans in fading light at the Muirfield Village Golf Club.
“We both played great today,” de Jonge said. “We kept the pressure on them from the start which was obviously the key in this format. It was nice to get that win under our belt.”
Despite being one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour this season, and making more birdies (399) than any other player, the 33-year-old de Jonge was a controversial choice for the Internationals.
Ranked 63rd in the world, he was given the nod to play in his first Presidents Cup ahead of South Africa’s Tim Clark, who had represented the Internationals three times before.
When de Jonge was picked, Els, one of the most experienced and respected players in the team, came out in support of the Zimbabwean and asked Price if the pair could play together.
“Nick was in a very difficult situation. When you have captain’s picks, always somebody is going to be disappointed. And obviously in this case it was Tim Clark,” Els said.
“Our views were asked and it was raised. I obviously supported Brendon, because of his play, the way he’s playing, the way he hits the golf ball and the way it suits this golf course.”
Asked whether he felt any extra burden over his selection, de Jonge replied: “No, not really. My point counts the same as everyone else‘s. I didn’t feel any added pressure.”
After a slow start, the pair narrowly lost their opening fourballs match with Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth on Thursday.
But they were unstoppable on Saturday with de Jonge playing the leading role during a round that was interrupted by a heavy thunderstorm.
De Jonge drained his birdie putt at the second hole to give the Internationals the early advantage then found the green with his second shot on the par-five third, setting up Els for an eagle.
The Americans failed to win a single hole and the match was effectively sealed when de Jonge birdied the 570-yard 11th.
”It’s been a ton of fun,“ de Jonge said. ”Ernie is giving me way too much credit.
Editing by Peter Rutherford