Woods brings X-factor to Cup in Melbourne

With the presence of an in-form Tiger Woods, the 13th Presidents Cup is shaping up to be the biggest in its 25-year history.

Published: 09-Dec-2019      Updated: 10-Feb-2020 By Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press
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International captain Ernie Els is bracing for an in-form Tiger Woods to inspire his United States team to further Presidents Cup supremacy in what promises to be the biggest edition in its 25-year history.

The biennial teams event is run by the PGA Tour and pits the US against a rest-of-the-world side, with the 13th edition starting on Thursday at Royal Melbourne.

With the Americans winning 10 of the 12 Cups, it has struggled to attract the attention of the higher-profile Ryder Cup in which America play Europe.

But this week's event is a chance to garner as much attention given Woods will cap his whirlwind comeback year by becoming a rare playing captain.

The 43-year-old stunned the sporting world when he claimed a 15th major at the Masters in April before bagging a record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour victory in Japan in October.

Last month, the golf great used a captain's pick on himself and signed off on the decision by placing fourth at his own tournament in the Bahamas which finished on Sunday.

Woods and a star-studded American side including Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland then boarded a charter flight from the Bahamas.

Organisers are expecting crowds of 30,000 at Royal Melbourne on each of the four days of competition.

Four-time major winner Els is preparing for Woods to do anything to avoid captaining a losing side.

"Obviously, he's very competitive," Els said.

According to sources within the US team, Woods intends to play up to four matches this week.

"He's won the Masters and won in Japan. When he's healthy, he can play at a very high level," Els said.

Turning 44 later this month and struggling to play a full schedule while battling chronic injuries, the Presidents Cup could be Woods' last chance to play on any American team.

It is why Els has been inundated with requests from International players to face Woods in the Sunday singles.

"The youngsters look up at him but they definitely want to have a piece of him," Els said.

Adding to the hype this week is that polarising figure Patrick Reed - one of Woods' captain's picks - was involved in a cheating scandal that erupted in the 18-player World Challenge.

Former Masters winner Reed was given a two-stroke penalty when television cameras captured him making improper swings in a waste bunker during the third round.

He was sanctioned for flattening out sand behind his ball with two practice swings but insisted he didn't improve his lie despite conceding he had moved sand, and therefore violated the rules.

International team member Marc Leishman said fans at Royal Melbourne now have extra ammunition to sledge the controversial Reed, who has dealt with accusations of cheating and stealing from teammates during his college days.

"It was pretty ordinary, to be honest; it didn't look too good for him," Leishman said.

"There's opportunities there (to sledge Reed) ... he's brought on himself."

International player Louis Oosthuizen, who was second to Matt Jones at the Australian Open, said it was only victory, not controversy, that will get fans interested in the cup.

The Internationals have claimed the President Cup just once, at Royal Melbourne in 1998, and tied in 2003.

"We need to get our name on the trophy again and show the Americans we're here to play," South African Oosthuizen said.

"We're here to win the cup and not just show up and have a good week."


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