The Presidents Cup will get a tremendous shot in the arm Tuesday when Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are named captains for the 2019 matches in Melbourne, Australia, sources told Morning Read.
A phone message left by Morning Read with a PGA Tour official who has responsibility for administering the biennial Presidents Cup was not returned.
After the Americans’ 19-11 blowout victory against the Internationals last year at Liberty National, the Tour decided to pull out the big guns to boost competitiveness in a series that the U.S. leads, 10-1-1. Woods and Els offer two of the highest-caliber names in golf. The buzz surrounding Woods, who returned to competition this winter after nearly a year off for back surgery, has ramped up with his co-runner-up finish Sunday at the Valspar Championship (scores).
In 2003 in South Africa, Woods and Els were pitted against each other in a sudden-death playoff to decide the Presidents Cup. After three holes, most of it in near-darkness, the match was declared a tie, the only one in the event’s history.
“It definitely isn't going to hurt, considering what happened in South Africa,” American Jim Furyk said of the Els/Woods captaincies. “We're going to see that  tape 4 billion times.”
The Presidents Cup has found tremendous corporate support with Italian carmaker Alfa Romeo, Citibank and Rolex, but the matches lack a competitive balance. The Americans have won seven in a row.
Many golf observers think that the Presidents Cup, unlike its biennial big brother, the Ryder Cup, needs an adrenalin infusion. Woods, an American and the most accomplished and popular golfer in the past 20 years, and Els, a South African and an international star, combine competitive energy and golf stature.
“I think that they're competitive against each other and they have been competitive against each other for a long time,” said Jack Nicklaus, a four-time Presidents Cup captain, said of the Woods-Els pairing. “So that's good.”
Captains alone will not change the outcome, a position that former International captains Greg Norman and Nick Price have expressed.
So, expect some type of format change to reduce the number of points from 30 and minimize the American depth, plus perhaps other tweaks for which Els has lobbied. It would give the underdog Internationals a better chance for their first victory since 1998.
“I still believe that 28 points will be a better competition, like the Ryder Cup: four games on every match,” said South African Louis Oosthuizen, who has played in the past three Presidents Cup matches. “We never have the depth in our team, so we always struggle eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, sort of. And to put 10 guys out is difficult. You can sort of put eight guys out and feel you’ve got a good chance. I don't mind if they sit me out for three days and I only play singles; I've got no problem with it. I'm part of the team, and I think that that's going to be a big thing they would try and change.”
With Woods as the captain, has he given up any hope of making the team on his own merit? When asked last month about being named as an assistant to Furyk in this year’s Ryder Cup, Woods hinted at being a player-captain.
The Presidents Cup has not had a playing captain since Hale Irwin went 2-1 for the Americans in a 20-12 U.S. victory in 1994. The late Arnold Palmer was the most recent player-captain in the Ryder Cup, in 1963, when he went 4-2-0 in a 23-9 American victory at East Lake in Atlanta.
Regardless of whether he would be playing or leading as a non-playing captain, Woods has “got a good feel of the team room,” Furyk said.
“The guys respect him. He's reached out in those team rooms and really been a big part of helping the younger players and being alongside of them and then also helping the captain with some difficult tasks and asks and X's and O's. Plus, he has a leadership mentality. He likes to have a direction and loves to take off with that and be successful.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli