- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 1, 2013

DUBLIN, OHIO (AP) - Ernie Els remembers them as being a big part of his junior golf foundation in South Africa.

He referred to Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel as leaders on his junior team that traveled the country, with strong voices and a game to back it up. Oosthuizen went on to win a British Open at St. Andrews, and Schwartzel won the Masters.

Branden Grace was another youngster who came through his foundation, a kid from the Garden Route with raw power who needed some polish.

Grace was perched on a sand dune at Fancourt in fading light 10 years ago watching Els, his hero, make a tense 6-foot par putt against Tiger Woods to end the Presidents Cup in a tie.

“That is when I knew I wanted to play golf,” Grace said.

Now they’re together on the same International team at the Presidents Cup. It’s a dream for Oosthuizen and Grace, and it’s a bit uneasy for the Big Easy.

“We just kind of … blended,” Els said Tuesday after a day of team pictures and practice at Muirfield Village. “They’re pros now. They were juniors and then they were amateurs and now we’re professionals and now we’re playing together. It’s very weird. It’s hard to explain.

Louis and Branden and Charl, I’ve known them since they were so young,” he said. “And now they’re playing on the big stage. It’s quite nice.”

Oosthuizen, whose swing is regarded as one of the best in golf, is making his debut and happy to do so. He missed the past three months with pain in his lower leg, back and neck and only returned to competition last week at the Dunhill Links in Scotland.

Oosthuizen and Schwartzel were on the wrong end of a bad haircut Monday night, providing more than a few laughs in the International team room.

Then, they played together against Els and showed that there might be plenty of fight from this team that looks outmatched on paper.

“They won all the money today, the two little rascals,” Els said, choosing his words carefully in front of the cameras. “We had a ton of money we played for and they won the most money. Maybe they can grow their hair with that.”

The matches start Thursday at the course Jack Nicklaus built, the third time Muirfield Village has hosted an international competition _ The Ryder Cup in 1987, the Solheim Cup in 1998 and now the Presidents Cup.

It looks like a mismatch on paper.

The International team has seven rookies in the Presidents Cup and only one player _ Masters champion Adam Scott _ in the top 10 in the world. The only American without Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup experience is 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who is playing so well that he is at No. 21 in the world.

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