DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Ernie Els has seen it all at the Presidents Cup, the highs and lows and even a tie in 2003, but the wins have been all too rare for the veteran International player.
This week, Els and his team mates will be bidding to beat the United States for only the second time in 10 editions of the biennial competition, though the big South African is wary of overstating just how important such a rare success would be.
“It’s just like any other Presidents Cup,” Els, a 43-year-old who is something of a father figure for the Internationals, told reporters at Muirfield Village Golf Club on Tuesday.
“We are coming in, and we want to perform and try and win the Cup back. We haven’t done it since ‘98, and we had a tie in ‘03, so it’s been a while.
“The guys are up for it but I don’t feel any more or less importance. We feel we want to get in there and give it a good showing and hopefully get more points than the U.S. team.”
Asked how he would describe his frustration level with the Internationals not having triumphed since their victory by 20-1/2 points to 11-1/2 in Australia in 1998, Els replied: “Yeah, but we don’t want to over-play that scenario.
“It’s not like we are going in there and trying to lose. We are playing a very tough team and they have got their pairings right. We changed quite a lot, our team (lineup). But I don’t want to make excuses.
“We are here to play, to win the Cup back, and that’s what we are planning on doing. Hopefully we got our pairings right and we can play good golf and make more putts than the other team. But yeah, it’s not fun being on the other side.”
Els, a former world number one who will be competing in his eighth Presidents Cup this week, likes the fact that seven of his team mates at Muirfield Village are Cup rookies.
“We’ve got some youngsters who haven’t been knocked around as much as some of us have, and these boys want to change things, so that’s fine,” he said.
“But there’s a long way to go, as you know. You’ve got to get that right Thursday, start very strong and keep it going all the way through Sunday. It’s not going to be easy.”
Els, the second-oldest player on the Internationals lineup with only 44-year-old Argentine Angel Cabrera ahead of him, is happy to play the role of mentor to some of his team mates.
“I’ve got quite a bit of experience around this place, winning here in ‘04, and I had quite a few good finishes there for a while,” Els said, referring to the PGA Tour’s Memorial tournament which is hosted annually by Muirfield Village.
“A lot of the guys have asked me to be a guide around the course ... telling them where to hit it and how to play some of these par-threes and so forth.
“I’ll keep giving my input, but the guys have got their own game plans. They are great players in their own right. At the end of the day, they are hitting the shots.”
Editing by Frank Pingue