The eyes of the golfing world are on Royal Melbourne this week as Tiger Woods plays in the Presidents Cup for the first time in six years.
- Teams golf competition the Presidents Cup will see the Internationals take on the United States at Royal Melbourne from December 12
- The US team will be captained by Tiger Woods, while South Africa’s Ernie Els will skipper the Internationals
- The competition has been held on 12 occasions — the US has won 10, with one tie and the Internationals’ sole success at Royal Melbourne in 1998
Woods will take on dual roles. He’ll captain the USA against the Internationals and will also be a player.
As a member of the Internationals team that tamed Tiger and his teammates at the same course in 1998, Craig Parry believes Woods may have taken on more than he can handle.
“I hope he goes really bad (laughs). That’s terrible to say but look, being captain and actually trying to play in the Presidents Cup is obviously going to be very difficult,” Parry said.
Woods chose himself as a “captain’s pick” for the biennial teams event which pits the Americans against the rest of the world (minus the European players) using the match play format.
It will be the first time either team has featured a playing captain since Hale Irwin led the USA to victory at the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994.
“If he’s playing a morning round he has to have his afternoon team ready to play while he’s still out on the golf course so I would imagine Tiger Woods is only going to play in the afternoon rounds,” Parry said.
“If he has to play in the morning rounds, he’s thinking about what’s happening in the afternoon.”
Woods admits the role isn’t easy and has “lots of moving parts”.
“All the players know that, the vice-captains know that. We’re going down there as a team to get it done together,” he said.
“When I’m out there playing I’m responsible for that point but when I’m not, I’m responsible for the whole team, it’s something that’s gonna be a lot of fun for all of us.”
A veteran of three Presidents Cup campaigns, Parry believes some of Woods’ expertise will be wasted if he’s not able to pass it on due to his playing commitments.
“He has played there [Royal Melbourne] a few times in the past and he could’ve been passing on that knowledge on the tee to his teammates,” he said.
“If he’s standing on the tee telling his players where to hit it, guess what, they’re gunna try and hit it where he’s telling them to hit it.
“I think it’s actually good for the Internationals team that he is playing.”
The Internationals only triumph came at Royal Melbourne in 1998. Parry played a key role against an opposition that contained five of the world’s top-10 players.
“We got on really well that week, obviously we played very good golf got a little bit lucky here and there and made the most of our opportunities,” he said.
“We also had a lot of experience about playing Royal Melbourne that the Americans didn’t really know, they were coming out to Melbourne for the first occasion to play Royal.
“We had our group split up in a way that there was always someone in a pairing that had played Royal Melbourne in a tournament and had a lot of experience over the opposition.”
The man nicknamed Popeye on account of his large forearms used finesse rather than strength to sink an audacious chip from beside the 18th green to give he and Japan’s Shigeki Maruyama victory over Woods and Fred Couples.
“Oh, it was absolutely amazing. When Shigeki hit me just left of the green it wasn’t a difficult little chip shot, it was more about getting the line of the chip shot right,” said Parry, who won three of his four matches in 1998.
“I’d obviously seen it very well that day, picked out my spot on the green and it landed right on my spot and the rest is history and I chip in and beat Freddy and Tiger.”
The captaincy of the late Australian legend Peter Thomson was a major factor in the Internationals’ 20.5 to 11.5 triumph that year.
Presidents Cup format
- Presidents Cup is played once every two years between the USA and the Internationals
- Each team has 12 players
- Competition is match play, which is decided by holes
- There are 30 matches consisting of foursomes, four-ball and singles
- The first team to reach 15 ½ points wins the Cup.
- There is no prizemoney with money raised from the event going to charity.
“Thommo was fantastic. Very early in the week we had two big tables that were separated in the players’ area and Wayne Grady (assistant captain) moved the tables together,” Parry said.
“Peter had these stories about when he played in the British Open with a borrowed set of golf clubs and won the Open championship.
“He was telling these stories to Vijay [Singh], [Steve] Elkington, [Greg] Norman, [Nick] Price, we had all these players around the table and the egos were left at the door and it was actually a really enjoyable week.”
Parry’s not surprised that the Internationals haven’t won the Presidents Cup in 21 years.
“It’s a lot harder for the Internationals team to get together as one because we are from different nationalities, I know we’ve been playing golf with each other for a long time but not necessarily do we go out and go to dinner with each other,” Parry said.
“After the round, we don’t normally go into the clubhouse and have a drink with each other so we don’t really know each other like the American team.
“The American team is one nationality, they’ve got a lot in common, the Internationals team is very different, it really has to come together via the captain of the team.”
This week the Internationals team will be led by South African Ernie Els who will have Australians Adam Scott, Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman in his 12-man team.
In a bid to capture the spirit of 1998, the only successful Internationals have filmed a video message for the 2019 team.
“Hopefully it’ll spur them on and get them the victory,” Parry said.
Since making his Presidents Cup debut as a 22-year-old in 1998, Woods has won 14 majors, and endured scandals away from the sport, before rebuilding his body, his swing and his reputation.
“I’ve known Tiger for a long long time, we were members of the same golf club in America,” Parry said.
“Different person coming out here now. He’s a lot more mature, wiser and he will not want to be beaten. I remember playing practice rounds with Tiger.
“If we were playing for $2, he’s trying just as hard on that $2 as he was in any major championship.”
The galleries flocked to watch Woods in 1998 and he remains a box office hit in 2019, thanks to his US Masters victory in April. It was the 43-year-old’s first major title since 2008.
“I’ve always said he was gonna win again and win majors and people looked at me like I’m an idiot but he’s proved them all wrong,” Parry said.
“If he wants to get out play and do all his preparation and practice, you’re playing for second best if he’s got his game on.”
The Internationals will start as underdogs against the USA but Parry will be at the tournament if captain Els needs any tips on what it takes to cause an upset.
“The American team is a bunch of champions, they’re major winners,” he said.
“The Internationals team has to come together for one week, get a little bit lucky, things go their way and you never know, we may have the cup once again.”
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