Ernie is itching to upstage his old rival Tiger at Presidents Cup
Ernie Els and Tiger Woods have a decades-long rivalry and the big South African said on Tuesday he was itching to outmanoeuvre his old sparring partner at the Presidents Cup.
The two have shared plenty of golfing memories, including the 1998 edition of the biennial team matchplay event at the same Royal Melbourne course — the only time the Internationals have won in the 25-year history of the Presidents Cup.
Now team captain Els is keen to “kick the asses” of Woods and his US teammates once again.
“He’s not a bad golfer,” Els said of Woods, who is the first playing captain since American Hale Irwin in 1994. “He’s one of the best, the best of my generation. It was a privilege to compete against him.
“A lot of tournaments come through my mind now where I came close and lost to him, but there were a couple where I got him.
“Where the game of golf has gone in the last 25 years is just remarkable, and it could not be where it is today if it wasn’t for Tiger Woods,” he added.
“So with all that being said and done, you know, we’d like to kick their asses this week here at home.”
To emulate the Peter Thomson-led winning team of 1998, Els will need to use all his knowledge of the world-renowned sandbelt courses, drawing on his course record 12-under-par 60 at Royal Melbourne set in 2004.
Els might have seven rookies in his young team, but he also has veteran Australian Adam Scott, another with intimate knowledge of the course.
“Between me and Scotty, we’ve played the most Cups on our side. I’ve played under numerous captains, great captains,” he said.
“I’m drawing from what I’ve learnt from them. I’m drawing from the players that I played with in all those years, and just giving them what I know.
“We’ve just got to play enough rounds around here to get to know the course better for their sake. And maybe they listen to me — you never know. That would be nice.
“But I’ve got a great young team. I’ve got some experienced players. You know, guys are naturally just standing up; guys who are quite comfortable to speak and I like that. I like the spirit we have this week.”
Along with Scott, who is playing in his ninth Presidents Cup, Louis Oosthuizen, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Hadwin are the only others with experience of the event among the Internationals.
Li Haotong, CT Pan, Abraham Ancer, Cameron Smith, Im Sung-jae, Joaquin Niemann and An Byeong-hun will all be tasting Presidents Cup action for the first time.
Els hopes that crunching the numbers will help give his International team an edge as they look to halt the Americans’ dominance in the biennial event.
The South African said the data had thrown up some surprises.
“The numbers haven’t shown exactly what I expected. It’s funny,” Els told the PGA Tour website.
“A lot of the personalities I wanted together, the data shows they are not compatible.
“To convey that to the players has been tough. As you can expect, certain players want to play together — but I can show them if it is not compatible.
“Now, the good thing is the guys are taking that in and actually listening to me whereas in previous years guys were quite adamant who they wanted to play with.”
Els will reveal his first pairings on Wednesday and said he was determined to stick to his guns over the data-driven approach at Royal Melbourne.
“I just have to keep my head down and keep stressing to the team it is about just that — the team,” he added. “The guys know where they stand. It’s very clear of what we expect and what we are doing on Thursday and Friday, especially.
“I have changed a little bit here and there where if a guy is not far off and they fit personality-wise, but I’m really sticking to my data.
“We have to try something different.”