Ernie Els is the only name being mentioned as the Captain of the International Presidents Cup team in 2019. By comments made Sunday after a 19-11 loss to the U.S. team, he has already gone to work. Els said he “would absolutely jump at the chance” to be the next Presidents Cup captain for the International team.
Els is one of the nicest guys in golf, soft spoken, and respected by fellow players, officials, and everyone associated with the game. However, on Sunday he was unusually out spoken and didn’t pull any punches in his opinion on changes he felt need to be made before 2019 at Royal Melbourne in Australia.
With 12 Presidents Cups having produced a single win for the Internationals, in 1998 in Melbourne, and a draw in 2003, change would seem long overdue.
“The PGA Tour owns the Presidents Cup. They made the rules. We can’t continue to ask our players to buy in to the Presidents Cup year after year of this. We want to be committed to the President’s Cup, we want them to be committed, but changes have to be made”, said Els, after the 19-11 loss to Team USA.
“To change the rules it has to be a two way street, we want there to be transparency.”
“I want to see the guys be successful,” Els said. “That’s why I agreed to come onto the team [as an assistant this year]. … We’ve got a new generation of kids, and guys come through and they haven’t been through the scars that some of the other guys have been through the years,” Els said.
Els has experienced what his team did this past week, going 1-6 on International teams against Team USA. The 47-year-old Els played in the biennial matches eight times, most recently in 2013. He posted a personal record of 20-18-2 overall.
Both outgoing captain Price and Els would like to have a greater say in how their squad is assembled along with tweaks to the current format.
Els suggested fewer players and matches might help level the playing field.
”I think we can go back to the drawing board with the Tour,“ said Els. ”Obviously playing for less points, I still say would benefit us.
”We’re playing a very deep American side, and I think less points for us.
”We play these team events every second year and the U.S. team plays every year. So they are a little bit more, I don’t want to say prepared. The Americans play team competition every year.
“Like this year, the first three days it took our players that long to figure out the strategy. Then look how they played on Sunday. They are great players”, said Els.
”I think to put pairings together with a very diverse group as we have, is our challenge.
“So I think less matches, less points, will be definitely beneficial to us, but we’ll wait and see, see where we go with the Tour. Like I said, they own the event, and they make the rules.”
One quick fix may be to change the way both teams are selected. Currently the U.S. team is chosen by Fed Ex Cup rankings. The 10 players with the most Fed Ex points from the 2015 BMW Championship till the 2017 Dell Championship made the team this year, plus two Captains picks.
Points earned in 2017 count double, so you are giving more points to players playing better as the Presidents Cup gets closer. Also Fed Ex playoff events, and WGC award more points. In essence the U.S. team gets the best players going in to the Presidents Cup.
The International team uses the Official World Golf Rankings to qualify. The top 10 players at the end of the 2017 Dell Championship and two Captain picks make the team.
The disadvantage for the International team is that the OWGR is based on a two year average of points. In theory, a player who had an outstanding year in 2016, could build up enough points, to have a dismal 2017 year in events, and still make the team. Plus events outside the United States award far less points than those held in the U.S. because of the OWGR formula. The strength of the field is taken into consideration and usually any event not on the PGA Tour has a far weaker field.
As a golf analyst I agree totally with Els, and Nick Price. I believe the U.S. teams are better on paper, but not to the extreme we saw this past week. To me the true strength of a player is exposed in single matches and the U.S. only won three on Sunday. Jordan Spieth has never won a singles match, yet he is No. 2 in the World.
I don’t believe in changing the rules to enable the “other” team to win, but I do believe in a level playing field, and obviously the Presidents Cup current field is anything but.
This made for TV event was never intended to be on the level of the Ryder Cup but it is important enough to golf to a fair test for both teams going forward.
As Els said, “We need to negotiate.”