It didn’t take long after Ernie Els had finished announcing his four Presidents Cup captain’s picks for the International Team on Wednesday evening for the question of the moment to be raised: Will U.S. Captain Tiger Woods pick Tiger Woods with one of his four picks?
“Do I think he’s going to pick himself? I don’t think he’s got any choice,” Els said. “He’s in good form, he’s Masters Champion, he’s won recently and he’s played in so many matches.
“Yeah, I think, yes, there’s a very, very big chance he will choose himself,” Els continued. “Under the format, the rules, he only has to play once before Sunday, not that he’d like to play only once. But he could do that, and he’s got a very strong team around him and obviously a good captain. You know, I think it would be good for the event.”
From the initial press conference announcing Woods as U.S. captain during the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational, he has toyed with the idea of joining American Hale Irwin, who did double duty in 1994 at the inaugural Presidents Cup, as the only playing captains in competition history. As recently as September, Woods playfully crossed out the word captain and signed off as “U.S. Team Playing Captain” on his Presidents Cup blog. Then, after winning the Zozo Championship two weeks ago, when asked if he made a good impression for his chances of earning a captain’s pick, he joked, “I think the player definitely got the captain’s attention.”
Count Australian Jason Day, who received one of four captain’s picks from Els, among the players who expects Woods to suit up for Team USA.
“I think he’s going to be on the team,” Day said. “Obviously with the recent win and how he’s playing, I think he’s more than proved himself, and with the previous experience of what he’s done, you know, in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups beforehand.
“Actually, it would be nice (to play against Woods). I think I would actually enjoy that thoroughly, especially going down to a place where I’ve had success at, and then on top of it, playing in front of the home crowd, and against someone that I’ve respected in the golfing world for a very long time.”
But Els, who played Woods to a draw in a tense three-hole playoff with the 2003 Presidents Cup on the line, said he wants no part of a rejuvenated Woods in a rematch.
“A couple years ago when I was the same age as him, I was also going through a golden period and I might have thought about picking myself, but I’m no Tiger Woods on the golf course,” Els said. “There’s nobody that strong.”
This is the first time in Presidents Cup history that both captains have had four picks. Woods will make his selections Thursday evening at 7 p.m. EST. The 13th edition of the biennial competition is scheduled for Dec. 9-15 at Royal Melbourne Golf Links in Melbourne, Australia.
“People want to see him play wherever he goes,” Els said. Not that he’s going to get all the support in Australia. You know, he’s going to be playing against the International Team. But if he wants to get booed, go and play.”