• Inside the Els vs Woods rivalry

    Presidents Cup Els vs Woods
    The Big Cat vs The Big Easy

    The 2019 Presidents Cup captains have been revealed: Tiger Woods for the US Team and Ernie Els for the International Team. The event at Royal Melbourne in December 2019 will be the first captaincy for both players, and will continue a rivalry that has lasted more than two decades.

    The highlight of that rivalry was their memorable sudden-death playoff at the 2003 Presidents Cup, as they matched scores in a fading light, ultimately resulting in a shared Cup that year.

    A closer look at the Woods-Els rivalry:


    Woods and Els have each participated in eight Presidents Cups as players for their respective teams. They’ve faced each other in eight scheduled matches – but only once in Singles.

    Here are the results of their head-to-head Presidents Cup battles:

    Day 1 Foursomes: Tiger Woods-Fred Couples def. Ernie Els-Vijay Singh, 5 and 4
    Day 2 Four-balls: Ernie Els-Vijay Singh def. Tiger Woods-John Huston, 1 up

    Day 1 Foursomes: Tiger Woods-Notah Begay def. Ernie Els-Vijay Singh, 1 up
    Day 2 Foursomes: Tiger Woods-Notah Begay def. Ernie Els-Vijay Singh, 6 and 5

    Day 2 Four-balls: Ernie Els-Tim Clark def. Tiger Woods-Charles Howell III, 5 and 3
    Day 4 Singles: Tiger Woods def. Ernie Els, 4 and 3
    Play-off: Woods and Els were selected for a playoff after the US and International teams tied in regulation. They halved the first three playoff holes before play ended due to darkness and the Cup was shared.

    Day 3 Foursomes: Tiger Woods-Jim Furyk def. Ernie Els-Adam Scott, 4 and 3

    Day 3 Foursomes: Ernie Els-Brendon de Jonge def. Tiger Woods-Matt Kuchar, 1 up.

    Career match records in The Presidents Cup
    Overall: 24-15-1
    Four-balls: 7-9-0
    Foursomes: 11-4-1
    Singles: 6-2-0
    Overall: 20-18-2
    Four-balls: 8-7-1
    Foursomes: 8-7-1
    Singles: 4-4
    Match partners in The Presidents Cup
    (Number of matches indicated)
    Jim Furyk – 5
    Charles Howell III – 5
    Steve Stricker – 5
    Notah Begay III – 4
    Matt Kuchar – 4
    Fred Couples – 3
    Dustin Johnson – 3
    Justin Leonard – 1
    John Huston – 1
    David Toms – 1
    Vijay Singh – 6
    Adam Scott – 6
    Brendon de Jonge – 4
    Mike Weir – 4
    Ryo Ishikawa – 3
    Mark McNulty – 3
    Tim Clark – 2
    Nick Price – 2
    Angel Cabrera – 1
    Greg Norman – 1


    Tiger Woods was sitting on one side of the patterned couch with muted colours. Ernie Els was on the other side. At the time, they were ranked No 1 and No 3 in the world respectively, and on a collision course that neither could have imagined a few days later.

    The man sitting between them never learned to play golf. He dealt in more serious issues. Nelson Mandela – fours years after completing his historic term as the first post-apartheid president of South Africa – gently placed his left hand on Woods’ arm as the two golfers shook hands. All three were smiling. It was a show of great sportsmanship… and a foreshadow of how the week would end.

    The 2003 Presidents Cup, held at Fancourt Resort in George, South Africa, goes down as one of the PGA Tour’s most legendary events. There was Mandela, his presence providing the event with unprecedented gravitas. There were the captains – Gary Player for the International Team and Jack Nicklaus for the US Team. Els and Woods were at the top of their game, and the Internationals were not yet burdened by the long losing streak that haunts the current generation.

    But as delicious as the setup was, the ending was just as memorable. With the two teams tied at 17 points following the completion of Sunday’s Singles action – Woods defeated Els 4 and 3 in their match – the Presidents Cup rules required a sudden-death playoff between the two players to determine the winner. Woods and Els had been pre-selected by their respective captains to participate in the play-off, and so the showdown began, the outcome of the entire tournament now weighing heavily on their shoulders.

    On the first playoff hole (the 18th), both players converted par putts inside 10 feet. On the second playoff hole (the 1st), Els drained a 12-foot par saver after missing the green to halve the hole. On the third playoff hole (the par-three 2nd), Woods’ tee shot landed 90 feet from the pin; Els was 45 feet away. After their birdie attempts, Tiger was left with a 15-foot par putt and Els had a 6-footer. In the fading light, Tiger made his putt, punching the air in celebration. Els calmly followed by making his par putt to again halve the hole.

    That’s when the action stopped and the conversations heated up. Believing it unfair to continue play in the darkening skies, captains Nicklaus and Player discussed the possibility of simply calling it a tie and sharing the Presidents Cup. Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was involved, and the two captains also consulted their respective sides. Finally, it was declared a tie, with Nicklaus and Player raising their hands together in a show of unity, the likes of which golf may never see again.

    ‘I think it’s the perfect decision,’ Woods said that night. ‘The way the week has gone, it’s the right decision for the game of golf.’

    Els called it a ‘fitting finish’ in the spirit of The Presidents Cup.

    ‘We really beat each other up,’ Els noted, ‘and at the end of the day, I think we were so evenly matched, it would have been unfair to myself and Tiger to win or lose the Cup. It’s a team event, and to play in the darkness, you bring luck into it, also.

    ‘I think it was a fair decision.’


    (will be 43 at
    2019 Presidents Cup)
    Age 48
    (will be 50 at
    2019 Presidents Cup)
    Cypress, California Birthplace Johannesburg, South Africa
    Big Cat Big nickname Big Easy
    79 PGA Tour wins 19
    106 Worldwide wins 71
    2 FedExCup titles 0
    683 Weeks at world No 1 9
    Masters (4)
    1997, 2001, 2002, 2005
    U.S. Open (3)
    2000, 2002, 2008
    Open Championship (3)
    2000, 2005, 2006
    PGA Championship (4)
    1999, 2000, 2006, 2007
    Majors won US Open (2)
    1994, 1997
    Open Championship (2)
    2002, 2012
    Wins in 2001, 2013
    17 career starts
    Best result in THE PLAYERS T6 in 2008
    24 career starts
    18 World Golf Championships wins 2
    8 as player
    (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013)
    1 as assistant captain
    Presidents Cup appearance 8 as player
    (1996, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013)
    1 as assistant captain


    Woods and Els have played in the same PGA Tour event a total of 213 times. Woods won 52 times; Els won 10 times. On eight occasions, they both finished either as the winner or runner-up. A quick look at those eight events:

    1999 Nissan Open: Els won by two strokes at Riviera, with Woods finishing T2 (Ted Tryba and Davis Love III).

    1999 National Car Rental Golf Classic at Disney: Woods won by one stroke at Magnolia Golf Club, with Els finishing solo second.

    2000 Mercedes Championships: Woods beat Els in a sudden-death playoff at Kapalua.

    2000 Memorial Tournament: Woods won by 5 strokes at Muirfield Village, with Els finishing T2 (Justin Leonard).

    2000 U.S. Open: Woods won by 15 strokes at Pebble Beach, with Els finishing T2 (Miguel Angel Jimenez).

    2000 Open Championship: Woods won by 7 strokes at St. Andrews, with Els finishing T2 (Thomas Bjorn).

    2002 Genuity Championship: Els won by 2 strokes at Doral, with Woods finishing solo second.

    2009 The Barclays: Els and Woods finished T2 (with Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker) at Liberty National behind winner Heath Slocum.

    Click here for more on the Els-Woods battles

    STROKE-PLAY RESULTS (213 PGA Tour events in same field)
    52 Wins 10
    115 Top 10s 66
    353 Rounds in the 60s 253
    477 Rounds under par 355
    3,301 Birdies or better 2,735
    69.50 Scoring average 70.97


    Woods and Els have played in the same group in 20 different stroke-play events for a total of 31 different rounds. Woods shot the lower score 17 times; Els shot the lower score eight times and they shot the same score seven times.

    Tiger’s lowest round while playing with Els was a 62 in the final round of the 2012 Honda Classic. Els’ lowest score was a 65 in the third round of the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational. That was the first time Woods and Els were paired in their Tour careers.

    The last two tournaments they’ve been in the same group was at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard in 2012 and 2013.

    Their stroke averages when in the same group: Woods is 69.19, Els is 70.68.

    They’ve been in the same group in the final round five times. The results:

    1998 Bay Hill Invitational: Els won, Woods finished T13.

    2000 Mercedes Championships: Tied in regulation, with Woods beating Els in a playoff.

    2002 World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational: Woods finished fourth, Els finished T15.

    2009 World Golf Championships-CA Championship: Woods finished T9, Els finished T20.

    2012 The Honda Classic: Woods finished T2, Els finished T21.

    Credit: PGA TOUR

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