ORLANDO, Fla. — When it came time to discuss possible captains for the 2019 U.S. Presidents Cup team, several members of the recent inner-circle of captains and assistants began tossing around names.
Tiger Woods, who has been assistant captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup and 2017 Presidents Cup, chimed in: “What about me?”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who didn’t expect Woods to be interested in the duties so soon, said: “I think we can work that out.”
And so, Woods being named captain came to be officially announced Tuesday at the Bay Hill Club, where South Africa’s Ernie Els was named captain for the International side.
The Presidents Cup, which began in 1994, was a way to include players from outside of Europe in a Ryder Cup-style event, will be played for the third time at Royal Melbourne in Australia — the site of the only International victory, in 1998, when Woods played the competition for the first time.
The U.S. has dominated the matches, posting a 10-1-1 record.
The lone tie occurred in 2003 in South Africa, with Woods and Els going head to head in a playoff after the overall match was tied. After three drama-filled holes with several big putts made by both players, darkness halted the competition and overall match was declared a tie.
“We couldn’t believe the amount of pressure we felt and we both had won major championships,” Woods said. “But nothing felt like that.”
Both players competed in the competition eight times and both were assistant captains in September when the Presidents Cup was played at Liberty National outside of New York City.
Woods said that when he inquired with Monahan about taking on the role, he did ask if he would be allowed to be a playing captain.
“Hale [Irwin] did it in the first year, the inaugural event,” Woods said of the first Presidents Cup in 1994. “So I just wondered if that was an opportunity and he said that there’s nothing in the bylaws that says I can’t do it.
“It’s going to be depending on myself, my assistants and the players, if I happen to get to that point. That’s a bridge that’s a long way away from now to be crossing, but if it does come to that point, it won’t just be my decision, it will be a collaborative effort, what is best for the team.”
Monahan announced two rules changes for the competition that will take place Dec. 12-15, 2019. Each captain will now have four at-large picks, up from two — meaning eight players will automatically qualify following the Tour Championship. And players will be required to play in just one match, as opposed to two, prior to Sunday singles.
When asked if either had given any thought to becoming a playing captain, Woods quickly said, “Yes, I have.” Els, who is 48, said he will concentrate on being a captain.
As for playing, Woods said “I would like to get to a point where I would have to make that decision, get to where I’m playing well enough where either I could make the team on points.”
He then joked, “But I wouldn’t want to have the conversation and go, ‘Self,”’ referring to picking himself as one of the four at-large choices. “I don’t really want to have that conversation, and so let’s just see how it progresses.”
The reason it is even a consideration now is due to Woods’ surprising good play in his brief return to competition following spinal fusion surgery 11 months ago.
He tied for second on Sunday at the Valspar Championship and had a birdie putt to tie, although it was from 40 feet and came up short. In four tournaments, he has a tie for 23rd, a missed cut, a 12th and tie for second.
“Just enjoy this,” Woods said of the possibility of increased expectations.
“If you would have asked me at the Presidents Cup last year, didn’t know. And so for me to go from not knowing whether or not I will ever be able to play the game again to ” he said. “I might be able to play maybe at the tour level, actually I might be able to make a couple of cuts, well I might be able to possibly get myself into the mix…oh, I’m in the mix.
“So there’s a process and an evolution to it and it’s been quick, but still I have to say just enjoy all of this, because at one point, man, that wasn’t even a thought. I didn’t ever even think about playing out here.”
Woods is playing for the fourth time in five weeks, and likely the last time prior to the Masters, at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He has won the tournament eight times but has not played since his last victory here in 2013. For the first two rounds, he is grouped with Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama and will begin play at 8:23 a.m. on Thursday.