Tiger Woods, Ernie Els named Presidents Cup captains
Orlando, Fla. — Ernie Els was always the logical choice to be the International team’s next captain in the Presidents Cup.
Tiger Woods at first thought it might be soon for him.
That changed a couple of months ago when Woods asked PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan about the U.S. captain for next year’s matches in Australia, and the usual suspects were mentioned. Monahan asked if anyone had been left out, and Woods added another name to the short list.
Woods and Els, who both played eight times in the Presidents Cup and were involved in a high-stakes playoff that ended in a tie, were introduced as captains Tuesday. The 2019 matches will be Dec. 12-15 at Royal Melbourne, the latest the event has been held.
Woods was an assistant captain when the American won for the seventh straight time, 19-11, last year at Liberty National. In early discussions about the next one, Woods said he was more comfortable serving as an assistant.
“But then after a little bit of thought I said, ‘You know what? That sounds like something I really want to do,’” Woods said. “I called Jay up and said, ‘Might you be interested in me possibly being the captain in 2019?’ Silence. And he said, ‘Yeah, we might be able to work that out.’ So here I am.”
Still to be determined is whether Woods plays.
Coming off his fourth back surgery, Woods took a big step in his comeback last week when he finished one shot behind at the Valspar Championship.
“I would like to get to a point where I would have to make that decision, get to where I’m playing well enough where I could make the team on points,” Woods said. “But I wouldn’t want to have the conversation and go, ‘Self.’ And so let’s just see how it progresses.”
Hale Irwin was the only player-captain in the Presidents Cup in 1994, the first event, and he had Paul Azinger handle the captaincy when Irwin was playing.
Woods and Els are forever linked in the Presidents Cup. The matches ended 17-all in 2003 in South Africa, and the rules then required captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to put one name in an envelope for a sudden-death playoff in case of a tie.
Both made par on the 18th hole in the playoff. Els had to make a 12-footer to stay alive on the second hole. As darkness fell, Woods had to make a double-breaking putt from 15 feet for par. Els followed with a 6-foot par putt. Nicklaus and Player agreed the cup should end in a tie.
“We couldn’t believe the amount of pressure we felt, and we both had won major championships,” Woods said. “But nothing felt like that.”
The International team has won only one time, in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, when the matches were played Dec. 10-13. The American team had most of their fun in the casinos or Christmas shopping online. The second time at Royal Melbourne was Nov. 17-20 in 2011, and Woods holed the clinching putt in a 19-15 victory.
Next year’s matches will present a few changes in qualifying and format.
Both teams will get four captain’s picks instead of two, and qualifying will end after the Tour Championship, which is expected to be early September. The picks will be closer to the matches. Also, teams must use players at least once (previously it was twice) before the singles matches.
Woods also was an assistant captain at the Ryder Cup in 2016, and he will be an assistant for this year’s Ryder Cup in France.
“It was just a natural progression to one day become a captain,” Woods said.
He will be 43 when the matches are played, making him the youngest captain in Presidents Cup history.