WOODS & ELS NAMED 2019 PRES­I­DENTS CUP CAP­TAINS

Two of golf's big­gest icons set to rekin­dle ndle the magic of the 2003 tie ie in South Africa.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENT -

There they were, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, ar­guably the best play­ers in the world, spar­ring back and forth as the South African sun be­gan to dim. It could be the iconic mo­ment in the sto­ried his­tory of the Pres­i­dents Cup, the two ti­tans of golf re­fus­ing to ac­qui­esce as they traded pars into the night. The un­like­li­est of ties end­ing with the un­like­li­est of re­sults Cap­tains Gary Player and Jack Nick­laus declar­ing nei­ther side a loser, and thus the only draw in the his­tory of the com­pe­ti­tion. Now be­gins Round Two. Woods and Els have been named cap­tains of the 2019 Pres­i­dents Cup, and a chance to fol­low up on that in­cred­i­ble mo­ment in 2003. The lat­est edi­tion of the Pres­i­dents Cup is set for De­cem­ber 9-15, 2019, at the Mel­bourne Golf Club in Aus­tralia.

For Woods, the se­lec­tion rep­re­sents a goal to strive for po­ten­tial qual­i­fi­ca­tion as a player in his re­turn to the game. For Els, it's an op­por­tu­nity to get the In­ter­na­tional Team back on the win­ning side of this com­pe­ti­tion.

For both, a chance at a re­match of that fate­ful Sun­day evening 15 years ago.

“I thought I had him beat for once,” re­called Els, who has fin­ished run­ner-up to Woods in seven tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing two ma­jors, the most of any player. “He had a left-to-right putt, four foot of break seemed like and in dark­ness. I had a pretty straight one go­ing up the hill. But I re­ally thought maybe this time he was go­ing to miss one. But he poured it in. And so I think it could have gone on for a cou­ple of hours more.”

Fif­teen years later, Woods can still re­call the play­off in vivid de­tail.

“We were talk­ing about that then and there that night for a very long pe­riod of time with cer­tain li­ba­tions and we couldn't be­lieve the amount of pres­sure we felt and we both had won Ma­jor Cham­pi­onships, but noth­ing felt like that,” he said. “… As I was lin­ing up my putt I had to see this en­tire hill­side of red and this en­tire team right in my line. And so I know if I miss, we lose. It be­came a re­al­ity.”

The an­nounce­ment of Woods as cap­tain came on the heels of his T2-place fin­ish at the Valspar Cham­pi­onship, his best fin­ish since 2013. The per­for­mance helped lift him to 43rd in the FedExCup Stand­ings and 149th in the Of­fi­cial World Golf Rank­ing. His steady re­turn to promi­nence fol­low­ing spinal fu­sion surgery be­gan with a 12th-place fin­ish at The Honda Clas­sic in mid-Fe­bru­ary and a 23rd-place fin­ish at the Farm­ers In­sur­ance Open. He re­mains in search of that elu­sive 80th ca­reer PGA TOUR vic­tory, but his odds ap­pear to be as good as ever.

“He had a left-to-right putt, four foot of break seemed like and in dark­ness. I had a pretty straight one go­ing up the hill. But I re­ally thought maybe this time he was go­ing to miss one"

Woods will be 43 years old, near­ing 44, when the 2019 Pres­i­dents Cup gets un­der­way, mak­ing him the youngest cap­tain in the his­tory of the event, re­gard­less of team. David Gra­ham set the mark in 1994 at 48 years old for the In­ter­na­tional Team, while U.S. Cap­tain Hale Ir­win was just be­hind him the same year at 49 years of age.

Ir­win played that year, the last time the Pres­i­dents Cup had a play­ing cap­tain, go­ing 2-1 for the U.S. in a 20-12 vic­tory over the In­ter­na­tional Team. Paul Azinger, a cap­tain's as­sis­tant at the time, essen­tially as­sumed the role of cap­tain with Ir­win play­ing, though Ir­win re­mained in the of­fi­cial role.

Whether Woods changes that re­mains to be seen.

“As Hale Ir­win showed in 1994, qual­i­fy­ing as a play­ing cap­tain is cer­tainly pos­si­ble,” Woods noted. “With that said, it's way too early to dis­cuss hy­po­thet­i­cals like that. At this point, I'm go­ing to fo­cus my ef­forts on be­ing the best cap­tain that I can be. If we get closer to the event and this be­comes an is­sue, we can ad­dress it at that time.”

Of course, Woods who served as a cap­tain's as­sis­tant in 2017 could qual­ify on sheer merit. Fol­low­ing com­ple­tion of the 2019 TOUR Cham­pi­onship, the top eight play­ers in the FedExCup Stand­ings and the OWGR will be el­i­gi­ble for the U.S. and In­ter­na­tional teams, re­spec­tively, a change from the top 10 play­ers in pre­vi­ous Pres­i­dents Cups.

That means Woods and Els will have four cap­tains' picks in­stead of the usual two. Each cap­tain's se­lec­tions will be made at a tobe-de­ter­mined date closer to the Pres­i­dents Cup.

“If you look at what's hap­pen­ing in the game right now in­ter­na­tion­ally, you've got HaoTong Li in­side the top-40 in the world from China, Shub­hankar Sharma from In­dia who has played ex­ceed­ingly well,” PGA TOUR Com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han said. “We don't know who is go­ing to come for­ward be­tween now and then, but it's likely that stars from new coun­tries are go­ing to come for­ward with Ernie Els and Tiger Woods lead­ing their re­spec­tive teams. So I think it's just go­ing to take the game deeper and wider than it's ever been, and it's go­ing to con­tinue on the pro­gres­sion of reach­ing all the mar­kets through­out the world in a pow­er­ful way.”

Se­lec­tion for­mat is one of two mi­nor rule changes for 2019. Each player will also play a min­i­mum of one match prior to the fi­nal-round sin­gles matches, a change from years past where play­ers were re­quired to play twice dur­ing the same time­frame.

The U.S. holds a 10-1-1 record all-time in the Pres­i­dents Cup, that lone tie com­ing in that 2003 play­off duel be­tween Woods and Els. The In­ter­na­tional Team's only vic­tory in the se­ries came in 1998, also at the Royal Mel­bourne. This will be the third time in the bi­en­nial event's 25-year his­tory it has taken place at the renowned Sand­belt course, as it was also held there in 2011.

If any­one can re­verse the In­ter­na­tional Team's for­tunes in this event, it's likely Els, who brings a dec­o­rated re­sume in the Pres­i­dents Cup to his first-time role as cap­tain. He has com­peted in the event eight times, tied for most by an In­ter­na­tional Team mem­ber with Vi­jay Sing and Adam Scott.

An as­sis­tant in 2017, he has long been viewed to take over the man­tle from three-time cap­tain Nick Price.

“As an In­ter­na­tional Team it's a home field game for us, so we would like to think that we're go­ing to have the ma­jor­ity of the sup­port,” Els said. “But as Tiger said ear­lier, it's a global sport, kids he­roes are their he­roes, whether they're Amer­i­can, South African, Aus­tralian, Chi­nese, they're go­ing to sup­port the hero and we're fine with that. I think mo­men­tum is a big part in match play, team sport, I think if we can get some putts mov­ing our direc­tion into the hole, like we did in 1998, I think the crowd can re­ally get be­hind us a lit­tle bit more.”

Woods and Els have com­bined for 97 PGA TOUR vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing 20 World Golf Cham­pi­onships events and 18 ma­jor cham­pi­onship ti­tles, with 59 ad­di­tional wins in­ter­na­tion­ally.

There are per­haps no bet­ter play­ers to rep­re­sent the game on a global stage.

“We have been a part of it from the very be­gin­ning, Ernie and my­self,” Woods said. “And we have seen it grow, we have seen it get big­ger, and the fact that we can now be a part of it from a dif­fer­ent side is go­ing to be very ex­cit­ing for both of us, espe­cially given our his­tory of bat­tling each other for the past 20 plus years it's go­ing to be able to fun to do it from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.”

(T-B) In­ter­na­tional Team mem­ber Ernie Els of South Africa re­acts to Tiger Woods on the 9th hole af­ter halv­ing the hole on his way to a 4 and 3 loss dur­ing the fi­nal round of the Pres­i­dent's Cup at The Links at Fan­court on Novem­ber 23, 2003 in Ge­orge,...

Gary Player, Cap­tain of The In­ter­na­tional team and Jack Nick­laus, Cap­tain of the USA team af­ter they agree to share The Pres­i­dents Cup. Novem­ber 23, 2003

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