Experience, youth mix in 2011 Presidents Cup opener

Experience, youth mix in 2011 Presidents Cup opener

Presidents Cup veteran Ernie Els will play alongside 20-year-old Japanese phenom Ryo Ishikawa.
Andrew Brownbill/AP

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Ernie Els, the most experienced player on the International team, will play with his youngest teammate, 20-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, when the Presidents Cup gets under way on Thursday.

Els was a member of the winning 1998 International team at Royal Melbourne and is a three-time winner of the Heineken Classic on the same course, including a round of 60 while winning in 2004.

On Wednesday, captain Greg Norman made Els and Ishikawa, who only arrived at the course Tuesday, his opening group in the foursomes.

"We knew Ryo got in late and only had one practice round,'' Norman said. "Ernie shot 60 around this golf course so he knows how to play Royal Melbourne. He has a lot of experience here. The two of them are communicating extremely well.''

Els isn't quite the oldest on the International team – his South African countryman Retief Goosen is eight months older, although they are both now 42 – but Norman figures his track record at Royal Melbourne will help Ishikawa, who's playing here for the first time.

"A bit of experience for a guy who has come in as a rookie on Royal Melbourne, which is going to help him more, especially on alternate shot,'' Norman said. "So Ernie telling him to where to position the ball on the fairway for where Ernie wants to play his second shot in; so it was a natural pairing as far as we could see it.''

Ishikawa is used to being around an older guy at the Presidents Cup. In 2009, after celebrating his 18th birthday a few weeks earlier, Ishikawa beat then 49-year-old Kenny Perry 3 and 2 in singles.

WARBLING WATSON: It's not destined to be a YouTube sensation, but Bubba Watson said Wednesday he enjoyed himself at the Presidents Cup gala when he was asked to dance by Australian singer Delta Goodrem.

The American danced with Goodrem, and even tried to sing a few notes. When the duet was finished, Goodrem went over and kissed Watson's wife, Angie.

“With that music, obviously I didn't sing very well,'' Watson said. “It was fun she called me out of the crowd. I was a little nervous, but stayed out of her way enough. She sounded pretty good.''

Watson and Webb Simpson will lead the Americans out on Thursday in the first fourballs match against the International's Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa.

COIN FLIP FIASCO: The plan for the American team was to win the coin toss for the opening pick for pairings, then defer to the International team.

One problem.

There was no coin toss. Instead, the United States had the choice as defending champion, and deferred.

International captain Greg Norman went first in 2009 at Harding Park because, as U.S. captain Fred Couples explained, he was the visiting captain. But now the defending champion gets the choice, and Norman had to pick first again.

Norman countered by naming Tim Clark and Frank Nobilo to be the first team out – those are his assistant captains. Couples thought for a moment and said his team would be Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

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