Golf

Woods coy on playing role as Els brushes off Reed drama

Just how much of the Presidents Cup does Tiger Woods intend to play? He might know, but he's not letting many others in on the game plan.

The first Presidents Cup playing captain in 25 years will keep Ernie Els and the International team guessing until Wednesday afternoon after stressing he would adopt a "team first" mentality at Royal Melbourne.



Ditto Els, who knows his pairings for Thursday's fourball opener. Not that he will tell until he has to make the official announcement.

There's been speculation Woods plans to play four of the five sessions of the Presidents Cup, leaning heavily on his assistants Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker. It would be a monumental achievement for someone who, despite winning three tournaments since his comeback, is long removed from the rigours of a full schedule on tour.

Asked on Tuesday how he would inject himself into the pairings, the 15-time major winner said: "It's team first".

"Whatever we deem as the best possible order for our team, that's what we're going to run with. The ability in 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. We'll figure that out [Wednesday] afternoon."

Less than 24 hours earlier Els said he knew how the pairings would work for the International side, overwhelming outsiders against a United States team brimming with firepower, even allowing for the absence of world No.1 Brooks Koepka. Els also won't be elaborating until he needs to.

The two captains couldn't dodge the Patrick Reed controversy, which Woods flew into headfirst on Monday afternoon when arriving in Melbourne. It lingered a day later.

"Captain America" Reed will have little sympathy on the fairways and greens around Royal Melbourne, having been saddled with a two-shot penalty for improving his lie in a waste bunker at Woods' own tournament in the Bahamas last week. It has given the event an edge it has rarely had.

Australian stars Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith have expressed their displeasure with Reed's actions and subsequent explanation, lighting the fire for a volatile Presidents Cup when the tournament has traditionally been one-sided (the International side has won only once, at Royal Melbourne in 1998).



"I think it's only natural [they react like that]," Els said. "They didn't like what they saw and obviously you guys asked them questions about it and they were pretty good questions, and like Tiger we're moving on.

"We've got a Cup to play for and it's got nothing 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. There's nothing more to be said."

Woods couldn't have said it better himself. He's spoken to Reed about what to expect from the Australian crowds. Reed, last year's US Masters champion who presented the green jacket to Woods at Augusta earlier this year, will speak to the media on Tuesday afternoon.

"I think Pat will be fine," Woods said. "Pat's a great kid. He's had a tough upbringing and he's one of our best team players and one of the reason all the guys want him on the team.

"It wasn't a lengthy conversation [we had]. Pat and I are very good friends. It was short and brief, to the point. And as I answered your question [on Monday] the rules official gave him two shots, he finished 16-under and two back of Henrik [Stenson] and we're onto this week.

Pat's a great kid. He's had a tough upbringing and he's one of our best team players and one of the reason all the guys want him on the team

"I'm sure somebody's going to say something out there. I think that in general all the times I have been to Australia and played here the fans have been fantastic. They're the most knowledgeable and fantastic fans."

Els is bringing together players from nine different countries, the most cosmopolitan International side in Presidents Cup history. Australian Adam Scott will line up for a ninth appearance in the event, spearheading the charge alongside compatriot Marc Leishman and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama.

Asked about the Woods effect, Els joked: "He's not a bad golfer. He's the best of my generation and it was a privilege to play against him. I'm still very proud to have played with and against Tiger.

"Where the game of golf has gone in the last 25 years is remarkable. It would not be where it is if it wasn't for Tiger Woods. All that being said we'd like to kick their arses this week."

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