10 Dec 2019 | Professional golf |

HAYES: Telling it like it isn't

by Mark Hayes

Ernie Els and Tiger Woods during the press conference at the 2019 Presidents Cup.
Ernie Els and Tiger Woods during the press conference at the 2019 Presidents Cup.

It's like politicians saying they don't take notice of pre-election polls.

You hear captains Ernie Els and Tiger Woods speaking at a pre Presidents Cup media conference, but you can safely brush it off as so much nonsense.

Tiger says he had a brief chat with controversy lightning rod and his "very good friend" Patrick Reed on the American team's 24-hour chartered flight from the Bahamas via Tahiti to Melbourne.

"It was not a lengthy conversation," Woods insisted today at Royal Melbourne when asked about Reed's indiscretion last week that has infuriated the entire golfing world, except, apparently, those in the American plane.

"We kept it short and brief, to the point.

"The rules official gave him two shots (penalty). He finished at 16-under, two back of (winner) Henrik (Stenson), and now we're on to this week."

Turn it up, Tiger.

Next questioned about whether or not the Americans were at risk of being too complacent given the respective rankings of both teams this week because they'd read all the press declaring them unbackable favourites.

"For us, there are no press clippings. That's very simple," Woods declared.

"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."

OK, so at least that is an understandable position to desire. But Tiger, are you seriously asking us to believe the American boys don't roll into town with that famous red, white and blue swagger?

Don't get me wrong ... nobody expects Tiger to offer anything different in response to those almost inevitable questions.

It's just that you can't possibly take his answers with anything less than 2kg of salt. Each.

So what about the other side? Is Ernie in election mode? Or is he, as he largely has throughout his career, going to tell it like it is?

The answer, in fairness, probably lies somewhere in the middle. Ernie at least gave out a couple of words you'd expect him to utter if you caught him at the front bar at the nearby Sandringham Hotel.

He wouldn't let on the secrets behind the design or importance of the International team's new logo, only saying the team had warmed to its secret significance.

Els said he had no regrets about what his team members had to say about Reed when asked at last week's Australian Open in Sydney, despite them bouncing around the golfing globe and, intentionally or otherwise, almost illiciting fans to bait Reed at Royal Melbourne.

"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," Els said, with more than a hint of realism.

"But they were pretty new questions (then), and like Tiger, we're moving on; we've got a Cup to play for."

Oh, Ernie!!!!

A golden chance for niggle banished like, well, sand behind a Reed pitching wedge.

"It's got nothing to do with us. 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."

Well why did you say the rest of it, Ernie?

Come on guys! You're legends. We're hanging on your every word.

Oh how I wish this conference could be held in a "Liar Liar" style chamber where the penalty for untruths was much harsher than that issued to Reed.

It would be so much more interesting to hear such words as those with which Ernie finished a polished speech in praise of Woods' stunning career.

"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," Els said politely.

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

Huzzah! Bring that on!!

All week.

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