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Tiger Woods and Ernie Els the next Presidents Cup captains

Tiger Woods on the course. (Keith Allison/Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0)
Expert
14th March, 2018
5

Tiger Woods and Ernie Els will take on new responsibilities in December next year, when they captain the USA and International sides in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

The Americans have dominated the 12 previous Cups with ten wins, one loss, and a tie.

The latter featured Woods and Els in 2003 in the only play-off, after both teams finished on 17 points apiece.

When it became too dark to continue after three holes, captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player shook hands for the historic tie result.

Woods, who is currently playing his best golf after three years of back problems, has dropped his world ranking from 1199 to 149.

And he won’t give up hope of becoming only the second Presidents Cup captain to be playing. Hale Irwin has the honour from 1994 when the USA won 20 points to 12.

The only time the International side has won at Royal Melbourne was in 1998, with a predominance of Australians in the line-up.

Five times British Open champion Peter Thomson captained the side, with Wayne Grady his offsider, as Greg Norman led the charge with Steve Elkington, Stuart Appleby, and Craig Parry.

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Overall, Phil Mickelson is the undisputed Presidents Cup leader, as the only one to play in all 12 Cups, and the leading performer with 25 career wins – one more than Woods, who has played in eight Cups with Jim Furyk.

Davis Love III has played in six, with Steve Stricker and Justin Leonard in five.

Els, Adam Scott, and Vijay Singh head the Internationals, with eight appearances, from Robert Allenby and Retief Goosen with six, while Appleby, Nick Price, and Mike Weir each have five.

But the Internationals will have to dramatically raise their performance if they are going to compete. Americans dominate the current world rankings, with Dustin Johnson (1), Justin Thomas (2), Jordan Spieth (4), Rickie Fowler (7), and Brooks Koepka (8), in the world’s top ten.

The Internationals have only two – Hideki Matsuyama (6), and Jason Day (9).

To compound the problem, seasoned campaigners like Adam Scott and South African Charle Schwartzel are starting to sink without trace, to 56 and 52 respectively.

The selection format will be changed for Royal Melbourne, with the top eight in Presidents Cup points automatic qualifiers, leaving Woods and Els with four captain’s picks apiece.

Woods will have the greater difficulty sorting out the likes of Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Charley Hoffman, Gary Woodland, Daniel Berger, and Tony Finau for his four selections. No doubt there will be a few more newcomers in their low 20s surfacing over the next 20 months.

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But Els will have to rely on Australian and South African golfers.

Day and Marc Leishmann head the Australian contenders with Scott and Cameron Smith, while the likely South Africans loom as Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Dylan Frittelli, and Schwartzel.

The saving grace for the Internationals will be the Americans find Royal Melbourne hard to handle, especially if it’s blowing a gale.