GREENSBORO – International captain Ernie Els says he will have no say in the set-up of Royal Melbourne for the Presidents Cup but still thinks his knowledge of a venue where he holds the course record could help his players in their quest for victory.
The powerful United States team for the biennial event will clearly be the stronger on paper and the Internationals will need every advantage they can possibly muster in December to prevail for the first time since 1998.
In the Ryder Cup, the home team captain dictates the course set-up to favour his team but in the PGA Tour-owned and operated Presidents Cup, the American-based organisation calls the shots both home and away.
South African Els said he was able to successfully negotiate with the tour several things he wanted, including the International team being chosen from a points list based over one year instead of two to reward more recent form.
Other issues, however, proved non-negotiable.
“The course is going to be set up by the tournament officials and that’s a great shame because it’s such a great course,” he said in an interview with Reuters at the Wyndham Championship.
“I know it so well. I could have given my inputs though my years of playing down there and … tried to set it up to benefit our players. It would have been a wonderful way to go into these matches but they’ve set the rules.
“I did bring it up at our meetings but I was voted down and that’s the way it is. It’s not a big issue.”
Els is not exaggerating when he says he knows the course well. In 2004 he shot 12-under-par 60 on the composite layout that is made up of 12 holes from the west course and six from the east.
Even if the course set-up is out of his control, Els still hopes to give his players an edge.
“I’ve got a blueprint to play that course because I’ve played it so well in the past,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of planning and getting the players into the mindset of the golf course even before we get there, so they’ll have a good image and a strategy to play the golf course.
“I feel if they can follow that style of play, we’ll be okay.”
As for his team, Els is likely to lead a very different roster from that which suffered an all too familiar shellacking at the hands of the Americans at Liberty National in New Jersey two years ago.
Only five of the 12 players on that team – Australians Adam Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman, South African Louis Oosthuizen and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama – are likely to be among the eight automatic qualifiers this time.
Three weeks to go before these top-8s are locked in for a trip to @Melbourne 🧐
Full Standings: https://t.co/7lNAU5Isl5 pic.twitter.com/LwY1vhji56
— Presidents Cup (@PresidentsCup) July 29, 2019
Els will also make four captain’s picks to take on the Tiger Woods-led Americans.
The International team, comprised of players from outside the U.S. and Europe, have won the event only once in its 12 stagings.
While that was at Royal Melbourne 21 long years ago, the Americans also tasted victory at the venue in 2011.
Even if it comes too late for 2019, Els plans to keep pushing the tour to relinquish more control to allow International teams to chart their own future course.
“We got a lot of things over the line (this time),” said Els, who has played in the event eight times.
“To have our own committee, our own selection process, our own governance so to speak under their umbrella, I think that’s the next step of negotiations.”