AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - South Korea will host the Presidents Cup in October and International captain Nick Price says he would dearly love to have a golfer from that country on his 12-man team, as long as that player gets in on merit.
Price will also be keeping a close eye on South African veteran Ernie Els over the coming weeks as he looks at the likely contenders for what is shaping up to be a relatively inexperienced lineup to take on holders the United States.
“It would be very important, just from a local interest point of view, to have a Korean player on my team,” Zimbabwean Price, 58, told Reuters during this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.
”It’s fine having (Korean) K.J. Choi as my non-playing vice-captain but we really need a Korean player on the team.
“However, I‘m not going to pick someone just for the sake of it. He is going to have play his way on to the team, and I have made that quite clear from the start.”
The leading 10 players in the Internationals points standings after the Deutsche Bank Championship ends on Sept. 7 will automatically qualify for the Presidents Cup. Price will then add his two captain’s picks.
As of this week, there are two South Korean players in the top 25 in the standings with An Byeong-hun at 11th and Bae Sang-moon at 25th while Korea-born New Zealander Danny Lee is 13th.
“The one thing about Sang-moon, who now has to go and do his military service, he has won on that golf course where we are playing, at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club there in Songdo,” said Price. “So he is a guy that I have really got to look hard at.”
The Presidents Cup, being played this year for the first time in Asia, will be held from Oct 8-11 at Incheon’s Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, where Bae has won the Korean Tour’s Shinhan Donghae Open for the last two years.
“Then Byeong-hun, he basically came out of nowhere to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth but he is obviously a very good player,” said Price, a three-times major winner.
“He hasn’t actually played that well since then which is a little disappointing but I am going to keep my eye on him over the next few weeks with two big events -- here at Firestone and next week at the PGA Championship.”
Byeong-hun, who won the biggest title of his career at the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship in May, missed the cut at the U.S. Open and British Open while finishing no better than joint 20th in his last four starts worldwide.
Overall, Price likes the way his team is shaping up and is especially pleased with his top six -- Australians Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.
His main concern is a shortage of experience, with only seven players who represented the Internationals at the 2013 Presidents Cup in the reckoning for this year’s edition.
“I prefer to have a few more experienced guys in there but what you lack for in experience, you make up for in enthusiasm,” said Price, whose team will be bidding to end a run of five successive defeats by the Americans.
”It’s always a bit of a two-way street that. We will have five or six new guys on the team this year, it looks like, so that’s going to make the pairings a little tougher this year than in 2013.
“That’s why I will be looking at Ernie very closely over the next few weeks. If he shows any kind of form, I am really going to consider him carefully.”
Els, 45, is a veteran of eight Presidents Cups as a player but sits 28th in the standings after mainly struggling on the 2014-15 PGA Tour.
Editing by Andrew Both