Tiger Woods hails opposing Presidents Cup captain Ernie Els as ‘giant of a man’
The 43-year-old said that had been his first impression of Ernie Els, who is captaining the International side against the Americans at Royal Melbourne, back in 1994.
“I played in the Johnnie Walker in Phuket, and damn, was he big,” said Woods of the South African. “I was about 140 pounds. This big giant of a man out there playing.
“He hadn’t won the US Open yet, but he was a young guy on Tour and we had a little bit in common in that regard.
“I was trying to figure out what the hell am I going to do with playing maybe professional golf down the road. We talked a little bit back in ’94 and he took a little liking to me and we saw each other for the next, what, 25 years.
“So, he’s been a great friend over the years and a person that I’ve always enjoyed either playing golf with, going out with and just giving each other the needle the entire time.”
Eleven of the 12 players in the US side, including playing captain Woods, are teeing up in this week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, the odd one out being Dustin Johnson, who is having another week of physical therapy after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery following the PGA Tour Championship in Atlanta in September.
“I’m not going to be yelling at the guys,” said Woods of his style of captaincy for the biennial bout. “More than anything, it’s been about communication. I’ve stressed this the entire time, be open and honest, be frank with me.
“I’ve had a lot of offline conversations with all the players and said, ‘just be frank with me’. It’ll remain in a locked box, it’s just between you and I. If you want to share with the team, share with the team. If you don’t, it’s between us.
“I just appreciate the guys’ honesty. That’s what I want. I’m trying to help them be in the best possible position to go earn points. That’s how we win cups.
“I want them to have a great memorable experience, to come together. We’re never going to have this team again. Every team I’ve been on, that’s one time. You’re never going to have the same 12 guys again.
“This is the 2019 Presidents Cup team, so enjoy, be a part of it. I just want them to go out there and just have the time of their lives doing something that we all love to do, which is compete and play.
“Do something we don’t get a chance to do very often, which is play for something bigger than just ourselves.”