Ernie Els will not return as Presidents Cup captain for the International team in 2021

February 07, 2020

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Ernie Els will not be returning as captain of the International team for the 2021 Presidents Cup.

Els' agent, Rob Goulet, confirmed on Friday what sources associated with the International team had told Golf Digest, that Els, 50, will give way to another choice when the 14th Presidents Cup is contested at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 30-Oct. 3.

Els is currently in South Africa and could not be reached for comment. In a story from Morning Read that also reported Els was not returning as captain in 2021, the South African said: “That’s as good as I can do. I gave it all. This is another change I wanted to make in our team. I get one opportunity, win or lose. You don’t get a second chance.”

Australia’s Marc Leishman told Golf Digest at the Sony Open in Hawaii last month that indications were Els would not be back after the United States team, captained by Tiger Woods, staged a final-day comeback at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December to win for the 11th time. Els subsequently has told others he is not returning.

“We would love to have Ernie back, but I think he made it clear to us he’s not coming back,” Leishman said, referring to the message the South African delivered to the team in the immediate aftermath of its 16-14 defeat. Asked about who might replace Els, Leishman said: “Probably one of the vice captains [would be next].”

Els’ assistants in Australia were K.J. Choi, Trevor Immelman, Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Weir. It is thought that Weir, a former Masters champion, will be named captain for 2023 given that Canada is considered to have the inside track for hosting the next international edition of the matches.

An announcement on the next International captain could come as early as next month.


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Els brought a lot of passion and energy to the captaincy for the International team and was determined to make changes to halt a seven-match losing streak. After America’s 16-14 victory, he spoke adamantly about further changes he wanted to see.

“I know it’s a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, but to really be able to do what you need to do, you need to be almost a separate … you need to be away from the PGA Tour,” he said. “I love these guys, they work for the tour and all that, but to make our own rules, to get our own choices, to do our own thing, it’s hard to explain. But we need to be separate. That’s a long, long process. I don’t think it will happen very soon.

“The Ryder Cup works because the Europeans do their own thing, and the U.S. do their own thing,” Els added. “We’re trying to do it under one umbrella, so under the tour’s office, under their roof, you know, and there’s a lot of things that clash.”

There is no indication whether or not Woods will lead the U.S. team again. Former Masters and Open champion Zach Johnson, who is an assistant to Steve Stricker at the Ryder Cup this fall in Wisconsin, would appear to be the likely successor if Woods doesn’t return. Johnson, Stricker and Fred Couples were vice captains under Woods in Melbourne, but Stricker already was Presidents Cup captain when the U.S. won in 2017, and Couples was a three-time winning captain in 2009, ’11 and ’13.

The U.S. leads the series 11-1-1.