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Presidents Cup captain eyes Kang, An and Im

Aug 29,2019
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From left: Im Sung-jae, An Byeong-hun and Kang Sung-hoon
The captain for the International Team at this year’s Presidents Cup said Wednesday he’s keeping an eye on some Korean players as possible additions to his side.

In a conference call with international media, South African legend Ernie Els mentioned Im Sung-jae, An Byeong-hun and Kang Sung-hoon as being on his list of candidates for the captain’s picks.

The Presidents Cup pits players from the United States against international stars from non-European nations in match play. The 2019 edition of the biennial event will take place from Dec. 12-15 at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia.

The top eight international players based on world rankings points earned from Aug. 27, 2018, to Aug. 25 this year were automatic selections.

Els will then choose four additional players to round out his team by the week of Nov. 4.

No Korean made the top eight, and Im, a PGA Tour rookie, was the top Korean in the points standings at 11th. An, the 2015 European Tour Rookie of the Year, was 15th, while Kang, who earned his PGA title in May, was outside the top 15.

Though Im doesn’t have a win, he was the only rookie to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship, which was open to the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup points standings. Im finished tied for 19th with a four-round total of even par.

He ended up playing in 35 tournaments, eight more than anyone in the exclusive field at the Tour Championships and an average of 12 more than his competitors.

Im, who was both the Player of the Year and the Rookie of the Year on the developmental Web.com Tour in 2018, posted seven top 10s in his first PGA Tour season.

His best finish was tied for third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard in March.

“For a Korean to represent the great nation of Korea would be great on the Presidents Cup,” said Els, one of whose assistants will be Korean veteran Choi Kyoung-ju.

“Hopefully, Sung-jae keeps playing good, and he gets himself on the team. I’m definitely looking at him.”

An nearly got his first PGA Tour win earlier this month at the Wyndham Championship, finishing in third place for his third top-10 showing of the season. An finished 53rd on the FedEx Cup Standings this season.

He’s sniffed at a Presidents Cup spot twice before. An finished 12th in the standings in 2015, when the Presidents Cup came to Korea for the first time and ended in 15th two years later. On both occasions, captain Nick Price didn’t make An one of his extra picks.

Els said An’s game is well suited for Royal Melbourne.

“He’s had some really great finishes. He’s one of the supreme ball strikers around the world, which I really love and which you need to do in Melbourne,” Els said. “He’s on kind of my favorite list.”

Kang won the AT&T Byron Nelson in May but has missed five cuts in nine tournaments since.

But Els said Kang remains on his radar.

“I love his attitude towards the game,” Els said. “As I’ve said, anybody can still play themselves onto this team. We’ve got some time, and there’s quite a few guys that’s getting hot of late now, and we’ll take them into consideration.”

This season, Kang recorded four top-10 finishes and finished 45th on the FedExCup ranking.

Yonhap