Tiger Woods and Ernie Els Named 2019 Presidents Cup Captains
ORLANDO, Fla. – Add the title of “captain” to Tiger Woods’ golfing resume.
On Tuesday, the PGA Tour announced that Woods and Ernie Els have accepted invitations to serve as captains for the 2019 Presidents Cup at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia.
Woods will pilot the U.S. team, while Els oversees the International squad.
Last year, Woods was an assistant captain to Steve Stricker in the Presidents Cup, and he previously served as a vice-captain to Davis Love III in the 2016 Ryder Cup. Woods will reprise his role in the latter this September for American captain Jim Furyk in France.
Els succeeds Nick Price, who led the last three International teams.
Woods and Els have had many great battles during their careers, with the latter finishing second to him seven times, twice in majors. None was more memorable than the 2003 Presidents Cup in Fancourt, South Africa. The match ended in a 17-17 deadlock.
By rule, each team placed a name in an envelope in case of a tie, and they would decide the outcome in a sudden death playoff. Not surprisingly, Woods and South African native Els were picked.
After parring the first hole, Els converted a pressure-packed 12-foot par putt on the next hole to extend the playoff. With darkness falling, Woods drained a double-breaking 15-foot par putt on the third hole, but Els matched him with a testy six-footer.
Following a lengthy debate, team captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player decided to share the cup.
“After working as a captain’s assistant for Steve in 2017, I realized that I wanted to captain the 2019 event at Royal Melbourne,” Woods said at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, where he is competing this week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of past captains like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Ken Venturi, Fred Couples, Jay Haas and Steve Stricker.
Woods has learned a lot from his past team experiences and believes the American side is ready for the challenge.
“The core group of players on the U.S. team have a lot of talent enthusiasm and great camaraderie,” he said. “They are easygoing and fun to be around off the course, but extremely competitive inside the ropes.”
Although the Yanks have won nine of the 11 competitions, Woods expects a fierce and friendly match. Built in 1926, Royal Melbourne is the oldest golf club in Australia.
“I have no doubt that Ernie will have the International team ready to go in Melbourne, and I cannot think of a more fitting captain to carry the tradition of goodwill through the competition than Ernie Els,” he said. “The Sandbelt courses of Australia are some of my favorite in the world, and I’m looking forward to seeing Royal Melbourne again.”
As a player, Woods has competed in eight Presidents Cups (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013). He is the only player to make the winning putt three times, clinching trophies in 2009, 20011 and 2013.
Woods is coming off a runner-up finish last week at the Valspar Championship, his top showing on the PGA Tour since tying for 10th at the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Competing in only his fourth event of the year and fifth since 2017, Woods fashioned four consecutive sub-par rounds and shared second with Patrick Reed, one stroke behind winner Paul Casey.
Woods is playing in back to back tournaments for the second time this year, and has great memories at Bay Hill. In his last start here in 2013, he won for a record eighth time. Woods also won a U.S. Junior Amateur title at Bay Hill in 1991.
Woods was close to the late, great Arnold Palmer. They met at the U.S. Junior.
“I got a chance to shake his hand for the first time on the last hole,” Woods said.
After turning professional in 1996 and moving to Orlando, Woods and Palmer had dinner together and talked on the phone. The King became a sounding board.
“We had a number of conversations about so many different topics,” said Woods. “About life, golf and adversity. He was one of those people I could always turn to.”
Woods’ children, Sam and Charlie, were born in the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.
“We had a huge connection,” Woods said. “I will always have respect for him.”
As tournament host, Palmer always greeted the winner at the 18th green with a firm handshake.
“That always made it special,” said Woods.
One of golf’s most beloved figures, Mr. Palmer died from heart complications on Sept. 25, 2016. He was 87.
“He loved being Arnold Palmer,” said Woods.
On Tuesday, Woods spent about 90 minutes at Bay Hill fine-tuning his short game and putting. He will play in the pro-am on Wednesday.
“I’m probably more restricted than I used to be,” said Woods, who spent Monday recovering from last week and hit the gym. “I try and get my work in and get out. Staying there and lingering on the range for three and four-hour sessions, that’s just not happening anymore.”
Bay Hill measures 7,419 yards and plays to a par-72. The purse is $8.9 million, with $1,602,000 going to the winner. Marc Leishman (-11) is the defending champion.
Woods will play the first two rounds with good friend Jason Day of Australia and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan. They start Thursday on the 10th tee at 8:23 a.m. ET and Friday on the first tee at 1:08 p.m. ET.
Golf Channel will televise the first two rounds from 2-6 p.m. ET. They will carry early coverage on Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET, then pass the event to NBC from 2:30-6 p.m. ET.
The presence of Woods in the hunt last Sunday at Innisbrook Resort resulted in NBC’s highest-rated non-major telecast since the 2013 Players Championship.
According to figures released this week, the Valspar Championship saw 27.2 million minutes streamed across Golf Channel/NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, making it the most streamed PGA Tour event ever for NBC, and the fourth-most streamed golf tournament for the network besides The Open Championship in 2016 and 2017, and the Ryder Cup in 2016.
Woods helped attract record galleries at Innisbroork, many hoping to see him claim his 80th PGA Tour victory and first since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
He didn’t disappoint. On Sunday, Woods ignited the crowd by sinking an improbable 44-foot birdie putt on the 17th green to pull within one stroke of the lead.
Here were some reactions on social media:
BIRDIE AT 17. LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Are you kidding me @TigerWoods ?!?
@TigerWoods from deep. What a putt! So great to see him competing like this on a Sunday.
Has any other athlete ever moved the needle for an entire sport like Tiger for golf?!? Maybe MJ, Serena …idk. Man that’s crazy.
I know what I’m pulling for …
Well done @TigerWoods! You’re getting there my friend. Sure it won’t be long!
Tiger woods, I love you
I just found myself punching the air in my hotel room in India when @TigerWoods makes a par putt. #come on #comeback #GOAT
Love watching golf. More fun when @TigerWoods is contending.
Golf became fun again thanks to you.