Taylor Pendrith spent a lot of time on the couch in his south Florida home this year. He fractured his rib after The Players Championship in March and couldn’t do much of anything through his recovery. When one of the longest hitters in professional golf can’t swing a club, there wasn’t much to do – except sit on that couch and watch his ranking fall.
But Pendrith came back with a vengeance in late summer, notching five finishes inside the top-13 in six starts in his return, including a tie for second at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, where he was in the final group on Sunday for the second time this season on the PGA Tour, and a tie for 8th at the Tour’s second-to-last FedExCup Playoff event.
And then he was back on that same couch, getting a call from the Presidents Cup’s International Team captain Trevor Immelman. The 31-year-old Canadian, a rookie on the PGA Tour this season, was one of Immelman’s wildcard selections for the squad at the biennial competition in two weeks at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club.
It happened fast. He got a text on a recent Sunday night. Pendrith didn’t have Immelman’s number saved in his phone. A call came on Tuesday, from an Orlando area code. Immelman. That was it. He was in.
A moment that Pendrith didn’t see coming, but a moment he was none-the-less thrilled about.
“To be picked by Trevor is amazing. It’s an honour to be part of this team and hopefully, I can bring some good stuff to the table,” said Pendrith. “Obviously we have a big task ahead of us and it would be a hell of a story. But we are all there for the same reason. We want to play the best golf we can.”
Pendrith joins an International Team that already includes fellow Canadian Corey Conners. Mike Weir is one of the Vice Captains, too. This is the first time in the competition’s history where more than one Canadian will participate, and the pair are eager to tee it up together.
Conners was quick to say how world-class Pendrith’s driving game was. That was one of the big reasons Immelman picked Pendrith in the first place. Pendrith averaged just over 316 yards off the tee this year – good for 10th on the PGA Tour.
“Whoever (Pendrith) gets partnered up with will be in for a nice treat hitting some shorter shots into greens then they would be used to,” Conners told Sportsnet, with a laugh. “He’s had multiple chances to win this year and putting the bias aside of him being one of my closest friends, I think he’s an incredible addition to the team.
“I think all the guys are happy to have him on the squad.”
Conners and Pendrith stood next to each other at their respective weddings, and their wives are best friends – both from Listowel, Ont. It makes a ton of sense for them to get paired together, as Pendrith’s driving would be complemented by Conners’ top-five-on-Tour iron game.
“I think we’d be a good team. It would be really neat to play with Corey and I think all of Canada would love that,” said Pendrith.
But Immelman was non-committal on an all-Canadian duo, merely calling it ‘an option.’
“We don’t have to match people of the same nationality to get the best out of them,” said Immelman.
Although Immelman heaped praise on Pendrith and his game, one of the reasons the Canadian was considered for the squad (he was 18th in the points standings) was because of a handful of International Team potentials leaving the PGA Tour and going to the new LIV Golf Invitational series. Thanks to some big-time paydays, the Saudi-backed rival circuit scored world No. 2 Cam Smith and young star Joaquin Niemann, to name two.
Instead, Immelman was left with six picks to fill his squad with Smith and Niemann – who earned enough points to be automatic additions – being suspended from the PGA Tour for their defection.
“It was still pretty frustrating at times,” said Immelman of the process of having to round out his team with new faces. “Glad it’s all over right now. A couple weeks ago was definitely tough. But the thing that excites me the most is I know now… when all these guys came together as one, I know now that we have 12 players that are hungry, and we have 12 players that wanted to be there, so we go from here.
“I don't really think I have to play the underdog role up. I think everybody knows it. Everybody sees it clear as day. Our team has had a lot of adversity thrown at us over the last year or so.”
The other picks Monday were Colombian Sebastian Munoz, Australian Cameron Davis, South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and a pair of South Koreans in Si Woo Kim and K.H. Lee. Only Kim had previous Presidents Cup experience.
Fellow Canadians Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Hadwin – a veteran of two previous Presidents Cup competitions – were left off the squad, despite being higher in the final points standings than Pendrith.
Immelman said Pendrith’s distance, along with his recent hot hand, tipped the scale in his direction.
“Mac Hughes and Adam Hadwin, they were on the shortlist for sure. Two guys that I have a great amount of respect for,” said Immelman. “But at the end of the day, we had to try to find a way to blend different things together, whether it be through team chemistry, whether it be through matchups with the golf course and how we believe the golf course is going to be set up.
“We feel like Taylor's distance off of the tee and the fact that he's one of the best drivers of the ball really does give him a huge advantage.”
And now, despite a lengthy layoff and being a Presidents Cup first-timer, Canadians have a bonus reason to be excited for the competition in two weeks. Pendrith is ready to make some noise.
“Obviously we’re big underdogs on paper and everybody thinks it’ll be a massacre, but I think we’re going to show up ready to compete and hopefully make it a good week,” said Pendrith. “Anything can happen in match play. We’ll have a couple of good teams out there that will hopefully shock everyone, and we’ll see what happens.”