ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Tiger Woods and Ernie Els shifted their decades-long friendly rivalry onto the international stage as they were officially named captains for the 2019 Presidents Cup on Tuesday.
Woods, who holds the matchplay competition’s record with 24 match wins for the United States, and Els, who has won an International side best 20 matches, will lead their teams to Australia for the 2019 edition on Dec. 12-15 at Royal Melbourne.
The announcement was made in the Latrobe Room at Bay Hill, site of this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational on the PGA Tour.
Els and Woods have frequently shared golf’s main stage.
Four-times major winner Els of South Africa has been runner-up to Woods seven times in his professional playing career, including twice in majors — the U.S. and British Open in 2000.
Woods and Els served as captain’s assistants in the 2017 Presidents Cup, when the 12-man U.S. team won 19-11 at Liberty National in New Jersey for their 10th Cup victory against one loss and one draw in the biennial event.
Els and Woods also shared an iconic moment at the 2003 Presidents Cup when they faced off in a sudden-death playoff to decide the competition.
They battled evenly through three tension-packed playoff holes before failing light forced officials to declare the event in South Africa a draw.
“Tiger and I have had some great duels in the past, and I look forward to the challenge of going against my longtime friend yet again in 2019,” said Els.
Els might even have to stomach Woods once again wielding a golf club in the matchplay competition.
Woods, who has launched a comeback after his spinal fusion surgery a year ago, finished joint runner-up by one shot last week at the Valspar Championship. He said on Tuesday with a smile that he had thought about a possible playing captaincy.
The 42-year-old American acknowledged there was a lot of time and a lot of golf to go before the teams are set.
“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,” said Woods.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said having contemporary giants such as Woods and Els captain the Presidents Cup teams could have a huge impact on the event and the game of golf.
“I think it’s huge for two reasons. One, they’re going to bring the world at large to the Presidents Cup as they have done every time that they’re competing on a global stage,” he said.
“And in doing so they’re likely going to be bringing forward future stars.
“We don’t know who is going to come forward between now and then, but it’s likely that stars from new countries are going to come with Ernie Els and Tiger Woods leading their respective teams. So I think it’s just going to take the game deeper and wider than it’s ever been.”
In addition to the naming of the captains, two format changes were announced.
Each player will only be required to play one match prior to the final-round singles instead of two as in past competitions.
Also, the top eight players for the International and U.S. team standings will automatically qualify following completion of the 2019 Tour Championship. Captains will later select four wild-card picks instead of the two they had previously.
This will be the third Presidents Cup to be held at venerable Royal Melbourne, designed by Alister MacKenzie, who also designed Augusta National.
Editing by Ken Ferris