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December 10, 2019

Ernie Els

Tiger Woods

Melbourne, Australia

CHRIS REIMER: Good morning from Melbourne, Australia and the 2019 Presidents Cup. We are joined by two legendary captains. Ernie Els has carried the flag for worldwide golf throughout his esteemed career, and Captain Tiger Woods has been one of the most transcendent athletes the sport has seen. Ernie and Tiger combined for more than 160 worldwiearde victories, and the two continue to serve as a bridge between past team members and captains where this event was started, and athletes and young players of today who continue to carry the Presidents Cup forward.

Captain Els, we'll start with you, as our host captain, you put a lot of work and prep into this event. What is the mood in the team room now that the week is here.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, thank you. We're excited to be here in Australia. Yeah, we've been here for a while. Some of the guys played in the Australian Open last week. Other guys came in a little bit earlier on Sunday.

So yeah, we played a couple of holes yesterday. It was pretty rough out there. I felt for those Junior Presidents Cup players. We saw some of the pin placements, and the wind was blowing; it must have been really tough for them.

But you know, we are out here this morning, and going to have a nice prep this morning and, you know, tomorrow again, and get ready for Thursday.

CHRIS REIMER: And Captain Woods, now that you're here with the team, what do you see as the strength of this U.S. squad?

TIGER WOODS: I think our strength is that we are a very deep team. The guys have played well this entire year, and you know, we had 11 out of 12 guys play last week, so it was nice for them to shake off some rust. Get a feel for things.

Today is an important day for us to just walk and to stretch our legs a bit. Getting in yesterday after a 26-hour ride in a luxurious tin can, it's nice to actually get out there and feel some fresh air.

Actually, I think we actually got a fortunate break by not coming out here yesterday because of the wind. The wind has totally switched from the northerlies to out of the south. This is the wind we're going to see the rest of the week, so the guys can start prepping exactly what we are going to have to face the rest of the week.

Q. You were on The Ryder Cup Task Force in 2014. I'm wondering if that was a process that maybe started you thinking about a captaincy, maybe not this early, but certainly got it all rolling as far as eventually taking over this kind of a role.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, when all that happened with us reorganizing The Ryder Cup, that was also at a time when I had no future even playing golf again. I wanted to be a part of the game of golf. I wanted to give back to the game that's given so much to me.

All of the sudden, lo and behold, I'm two vice captains away, played last year, and now I'm the captain. Things certainly changed from that time period now and just happy and so thankful to be part of this group of guys, and not only to help lead them, but also play alongside them.

Q. Could you talk a little bit more about the plane ride, how you got through it, how the team has gotten through it, and if there's any concerns of jet-lag or getting over that flight?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, up front there's a nice, open area where guys could mingle and have fun. There was a lot of card-playing, a lot of trash-talking, a lot of needling. It was nonstop, literally nonstop for over a day.

We're still feeling it. I mean, I know I am. We'll hit that wall sometime this afternoon and got to push through it and get through the gala dinner tonight. I think by tomorrow afternoon, we should all start feeling pretty good.

Q. As a playing captain, how do you go about pairing yourself? Do you pair yourself first? Do you pair everybody else and then pair yourself? What's your philosophy?
TIGER WOODS: It's team first. Whatever we deem as the best possible order for our team, that's what we're going to run with. Plus, also, the ability in The Presidents Cup to pair players against certain groups from the International side. That's always a fun challenge.

Sometimes that determines who goes out when. So we'll figure all that outcome tomorrow afternoon.

Q. I know it seems like a lifetime ago, but 1998, is there anything that you can pull from what maybe the team did well then and apply it this time around?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, one of my teammates is sitting right behind you. Frankie (Nobilo) was on that team.

We joked about it last night. I'm kind of the only survivor from that winning team (laughing) from '98; although I'm captain of the team. I'm not playing.

That was a wonderful time. I still remember that very clearly, how the guys played, the team spirit we had that week. How they individually stood tall. You know, a lot of players back then even, the world never really heard of them, in Maruyama and Greg Turner and even Craig Parry for that matter, and these people stood up. I think they were all 5-0 that week.

So yeah, from that point of view, we talked about that. You know, we are doing this thing as a team. I've got a young team and so forth, as we did back in '98, and at the end of the day, it's 18 holes of match play. We've seen what can happen.

Q. When Jay originally floated the idea of you having some kind of captaincy role, he said you just were not interested, I guess because of your physical condition. Then a few months later, what changed? What made you float your name out there, and could you have imagined that then, you would be a playing captain?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it was talking to Davis and Jay Haas and Fred, guys who have been there before, who were captains, and what we see in this cup and going forward; the lineage of captains that we have potentially set up for the future. I was on that short list of guys just because of my age, and given what we have set up already, who has been a part of The Ryder Cup, who has been a part of the Presidents Cup, and also been a part of the reorganization of The Ryder Cup.

So it was about that time, and so I decided to take the nod. At the time I was jokingly saying I would be a playing captain. I was just getting started with my comeback, and next thing you know, I've won three tournaments since then. It was nice to earn a pick from the captain.

Q. We know you've done a lot of preparation getting your game plan and pairings and everything ready. How has the buy-in been from the team, and which players, if any, have been push to go make sure your voice is heard inside that group?
ERNIE ELS: Well, at the end of the day, I'm captain, and between me and Scotty, we've played the most Cups on our side. I've played under numerous captains, great captains. I'm drawing from what I've learned from them. I'm drawing from the players that I played with in all those years, and just giving them what I know, you know. I'm just being me.

You know, you just go accordingly. I know the golf course quite well, so I've given them quite a bit of information there. And we've just got to play enough rounds around here to get to know the course better for their sake. And maybe they listen to me, you never know. That would be nice.

But I've got a great young team. I've got some experienced players. You know, guys are naturally just standing up; guys who are quite comfortable to speak and I like that. I like the spirit we have this week.

Q. You talked about the depth on your team, and the Americans are considerable favorites heading into the Presidents Cup. How do you manage making sure your guys are confident, but maybe not too absorbed by the press clippings and maybe being too confident?
TIGER WOODS: Well, for us, there are no press clippings. That's very simple. Each and every Cup, each and every tournament we play in around the world starts out at zero and this one is the same. So nothing changes.

Q. You've had an amazing year already, but what would it mean for you personally --
TIGER WOODS: I didn't hear the beginning part of the question, sorry.

Q. You've had --
TIGER WOODS: Beginning part of the question. Thanks. (Laughter).

Q. You've had a great year. What would it mean for you to add a Presidents Cup to that?
TIGER WOODS: Add Presidents Cup -- to?

Q. What would it mean to add a Presidents Cup win to your already successful year?
TIGER WOODS: Ultimately, that's up to us as players and our vice captains who do a lot of work between now and Sunday for us to hoist that trophy.

Do I want that to happen? Hell, yeah. All the guys do. But we've got our work cut out for us. We've got a great squad we're going against, and we've got to go out there and earn each and every point.

Q. I know you said yesterday that you have spoken to Patrick Reed about what happened in the Bahamas. That conversation, was that a lengthy one, and what was his explanation after the round? He said it was sort of not what it seemed. Is that what he indicated to you?
TIGER WOODS: It was not a lengthy conversation. Pat and I are very good friends. We kept it short and brief, to the POINT, and as I answered your question yesterday, the rules official gave him two shots. He finished at 16-under, two back of Henrik, and now we're on to this week.

Q. Can I ask you a little bit about what you think about the physics of the greens and the approaches? Newton's laws are probably a matter for Bryson DeChambeau, but you both have experience of this course in your career. How do you feel the ball is going to react on the surface of the green and on the approaches, and what will you do to train your players' minds for those approach shots?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's a good question. It's an unbelievable design. We feel it's a very natural lay of the land, piece of land. Not too many of these kind of pieces of land left to build golf courses on. So Mr. MacKenzie did an unbelievable job, like he does with all of his golf courses, and this one has been left alone, thankfully, for the most part.

And yeah, there are some certain flags and certain conditions where the flag is a destination (laughter). It's not quite a target at times. You know, a lot like Augusta.

TIGER WOODS: (Nodding).

ERNIE ELS: And so forth, where you just can't go at a flag sometimes. As a player and as a competitor, obviously it's almost ingrained that you want to go at everything, and yeah, you've got to play a little differently.

It's a golf course, I feel, the success that I've had on it was that I had certain lines that I played and certain approach lines into the greens, as you say, and a lot of them slope away from you. Some of them slope towards you, right-to-left, left-to-right, really classic stuff. Almost -- you almost play it like a links golf course, but it's in a parkland setting.

So a lot of stuff that's going to be happening running into the greens and so forth.

Q. Another one on the course and the conditions. How hard is the adjustment to get to know the course a bit more quickly, or is that overstated?
TIGER WOODS: Well, we as players, this is what we do. We travel all around the world and generally, you probably get maybe two looks at it, usually a practice round or a Pro-Am, and then you're off and playing and competing.

This is no different. We get two days to get ready, get to learn the golf course. I think the neat thing about it being in a team format is that we're able to converse with one another, pick each other's brains, how are you going to play this, what kind of shot are you going to play here, given different scenarios, talk about alternate-shot, talk about fourball, what are we going to do here.

That ability in itself allows us that we can learn a golf course a little quicker than we would individually like we do each and every week.

Q. Unfairly or not, Patrick Reed seems to be painted as sort a villain. Can you give us some insight into his character and how you expect him to handle that this week?
TIGER WOODS: I think Pat will be fine. Pat is a great kid. He's handled a tough upbringing well, and I just think that he's one of our best team players and is one of the reasons why all of the guys wanted him on the team.

Q. How much do you think your vice captaincies, 2016, 2017, how much do you think it helped you field your personal comeback? Those are some low times were you physically. Obviously you didn't have any idea with your game. Did the guys sort of rally you to get back?
TIGER WOODS: In '16 -- sorry, '17, I wasn't -- I had not hit balls yet, as you guys know, you were asking me, "Are you hitting balls yet?"

I said, "No, I haven't." But it was neat being around guys, getting to know them, and then a couple months later, I was starting to hit golf balls and started coming back. I think my relationships from the time in '16 at Hazeltine and then in '17 at Liberty, I think it helped probably post when I started hitting balls; and I started playing practice rounds with a lot of guys at home up at Medalist. It was great because I got to forge those relationships. Some of those guys are so young, when I was on the way out, they were coming in.

So that certainly helped probably, well, post-surgery, and once I started back playing again.

Q. The shield that you launched last year, I know you have a big future aspiration for that; has it already hit home for the players what the shield could be one day?
ERNIE ELS: The logo, yeah, the boys like it. We discussed that, even last year at Shinnecock at the U.S. Open, that's when we kind of unveiled it to a lot of the players, and they really liked it. I explained to them exactly what it entitles, what's behind the whole thinking of how we brought the whole thing together, so they like it.

Q. Are you going to keep those things secret?
ERNIE ELS: We'll keep it in-house. There's a couple of things that we can draw on, you know, going through the matches. We've always played under the flag, but we've never really had our own identity so to speak. Guys like that.

Q. Are you happy for the boys, specifically in Sydney, with respect to Patrick Reed, they have actually been pretty outspoken. Are you happy for that little bit of niggle to creep into the week?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think it's only natural. These guys are competitors. Obviously they didn't like what they saw, and they came out and obviously you guys asked them questions about it and they were pretty new questions, and like Tiger, we're moving on; we've got a Cup to play for.

It's got nothing to do with us. It's basically on what's happened, and I think Tiger's dealing with it and Patrick's dealing with that. We're getting ready to play the Presidents Cup. You know, we think everything's basically said. There's nothing more to be said.

Q. You battled Tiger so much times over the years as a player. What was your reaction when you found out that you were going to be -- that he was an obstacle in your path as a captain, and what's that like for you? Earn well, you know, he's not a bad golfer, you know what I mean. He's one of the best, the best of my generation. It was a privilege to compete against him.
I know I would have had a couple more events under my belt, but still very proud to have played with and against Tiger, and after all these years, to be friends with him is another privilege. It's been a long ride. I've known Tiger since the early 90s when he was still a junior player, and we've shared a lot of moments together. A lot of tournaments come through my mind now where I've came close and lost to him, but there was a couple where I got him, you know, here and there (chuckling).

But it's been a real privilege to have played in his era. Where the game of golf has gone in the last 25 years is just remarkable, and it could not be where it is today if it wasn't for Tiger Woods.

So with all that being said and done, you know, we'd like to kick their asses this week here at home (laughter).

CHRIS REIMER: I'm sure the feeling's mutual.

Q. If there is, in fact, a negative reaction to Patrick by the fans here this week, could that influence how much you play him?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm sure somebody's going to say something out there. But I think that in general, all the times I have been to Australia and have played here, the fans have been fantastic. They are the most knowledgeable, the most excitable fans. They love their sport. They are going to come out and it's going to be bipartisan, as it should be. They are going to root for the Internationals more so than they are us. There's nothing wrong with that.

But I think that we're going to go out there and compete and we're going to enjoy playing one of the greatest golf courses in the worlds in front of some enthusiastic, incredible fans, and we're going to have a good time doing it.

Q. How aggressively are you likely to approach the short par 4s and par 5s, and do you hold any concerns for the greens considering how fast they were last time?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the par 5s are a different animal because you can push the ball up there and get it in an area in which you can get up-and-down or possibly two-putt for your birdie or have a putt at eagle. The driveable par 4s are difference, because if it's as fast as they say it is right now, the fairways, you just can't control your ball on the ground if you hit driver and try to go for it. The ball could roll out 60, 70, 80 yards. We'll take a look at it over the next couple days. As I was saying earlier, it's nice to have this wind instead of the northerly we could have played in yesterday.

So this is the forecast for the rest of the week. The guys will be taking a look at it and talking about it as a team trying to final group out what we're going do and also who is going to be hitting what ball and what that ball does and we'll have a pretty good understanding of what we need to do come Thursday through Sunday.

Q. What went wrong for the U.S. Team in '98 here, and what are the lessons that you will take from that week that you will try to pass on to your players?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the guys, the season ended right around Halloween, think THE TOUR Championship ended, right around there, usually October, November 1, somewhere around there is usually when the season ended, and quite frankly, most of the guys didn't play. They put the clubs away. Rested for a month and a half, and we came down here.

The guys just weren't sharp. Unfortunately we didn't come in as prepared as we needed to do, and the International Team was loaded and they put it on us. They flat-out outplayed us and we couldn't respond. Our games weren't sharp enough to respond, and unfortunately that led to a blowout.

CHRIS REIMER: Ladies and gentlemen, now the International Team is already out practicing, the U.S. Team starts at 9:00, so I know you captains are ready to get out there. Thanks for coming in.

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