By Chris Vogt
TWO modern greats of golf slipped into Australia this past fortnight on reconnaissance missions ahead of next year’s Presidents Cup. Ernie Els and Tiger Woods will square off as team captains in December 2019 and both wanted an early look at Royal Melbourne. They made separate visits to the city and its famed course, and both were unabashed in their love of Australia’s best layout.
“We played the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne for quite a few years and I had great success there”, Els recalled during a conference at last month’s World Cup of Golf. “It’s a positional golf course. It’s all about hitting the fairways and then getting in the right section of the green.”
Woods was full of admiration as he spoke outside his hotel by the city’s Yarra River.
“One of the greatest golf courses in all of the world”, he stated, without hesitation. “It’s tough, it’s tricky. Normally over the course of time, a lot of golf courses get modernised, get lengthened, change different angles, add bunkers. But they haven’t done that at Royal.”
Knowledge of course and conditions will play a significant part in team success at the event. It was on the mind of Els when it came to appointing an assistant for the International Team. He went with local boy Geoff Ogilvy, who played his early golf on Melbourne’s Sandbelt.
“Geoff is the perfect selection as a captain’s assistant for our team,” said the big South African. “His love for the Presidents Cup is only matched by his love for Australia and the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. His knowledge of the golf course, his experience with this team, his relationship with our players and his overall passion for the game will be vital.”
Woods won’t have any Aussies on his playing team, but is aware local knowledge will come in handy.
“I have a few names that we’ve been kicking around and trying to figure out what’s best. I have really nothing to announce at this time, but I will shortly, though.”
One thing both Captains are sure of is the buzz that will surround the tournament.
“The fans here have been fantastic over the last two Cups,” said Woods, “and we’re expecting a pretty excitable atmosphere and one that’s electric and one that we’re going to have a lot of fun in.”
Els expects the same, and is hoping his team will draw the majority of crowd support.
“We want the crowd right behind us on that first day on the first tee. We’re going to have a few Aussies on the team, and my job is to get the crowd going. It’s in Australia, that’s the last time we won it. We would like to do that again.”
— Presidents Cup (@PresidentsCup) December 5, 2018