LOS ANGELES — Ernie Els has made it clear he will not be returning as International captain for the Presidents Cup next year.
Tiger Woods was a little more vague.
Woods, captain of the U.S. team that won at Royal Melbourne for the eighth straight time, says he spoke with Els while boarding the charter to leave Australia in December. Els gave his International team identity and purpose, and it nearly pulled off a victory until a Sunday rally by Woods and the Americans.
"He has set a standard that going forward, they now have a plan," Woods said Tuesday. "It was tough to see him not want to be part it in that way."
Els will be the first International captain to not repeat since David Graham after the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994.
For the Americans, Woods was the third captain in as many cups, following Jay Haas in 2015 and Steve Stricker in 2017. Complicating matters is that the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup now work together with a similar group of captains and assistants to build continuity. Still on the horizon for Woods is a Ryder Cup captaincy.
"I'm struggling with the same issues," he said of a decision to repeat, "because as an American, we have two Cups we're involved in, not just every other year. So the responsibilities on an American are a little bit more."
The tour is likely to decide on the next two captains in the spring.
REALITY CHECK Keith Mitchell can think of only two times when he felt he couldn't beat another player, and they happened two weeks apart at consecutive tournaments he played.
The first was at Bethpage Black when he played a practice round with Brooks Koepka on the eve of the PGA Championship.
“I felt like I was playing pretty good," Mitchell said. “I finished top 10 in Charlotte, made the cut in Dallas. And then I was playing with Brooks and I was like, ‘I can’t beat this guy.' I have never stepped on the tee on Thursday and felt like I was playing for second until I played that Wednesday with Brooks.”
Koepka and Mitchell were separated by less than a yard in driving distance the previous season. Not that day.
“His swing that week, he looked like he was swinging 50%. It was dead straight going further than mine,” Mitchell said. "It was a laser beam down the fairway. He would hit it down the middle, hit it at the flag. He wasn't worried about course management. He did not even pull out a yardage book. Why would he ever look left or right?"
Koepka opened with rounds of 63-65. If it's any consolation, Koepka later said it was the best two rounds he ever played.
Two weeks later, Mitchell was paired with Tiger Woods in the final round at Memorial, and Mitchell again felt overwhelmed.
“When he was 7 under through 12, he should have been 12 under through 12. I thought he was going to come back and win and shoot 60,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell shot 76 that day at the Memorial. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
“I was playing decent,” he said. “I was thinking two weeks later that I was being harder on myself comparing myself to them. Someone told me, ‘Tiger is the best player to ever hold a club in his hand. Brooks is the No. 1 player in the world.' It’s fine to compare yourself, but don't let that be a negative."
NEW NO. 1
Rory McIlroy is back at No. 1 in the world for the first time since September 2015. This is his 96th week at No. 1, ane he needs one more week to match Nick Faldo as the most weeks by a European player.
That's no small task. McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm could all end the week at No. 1 in the world, without having to win the Genesis Invitational.
For McIlroy, it's his eighth time reaching the top of the ranking, and the third straight time he got there without having played the previous week.
Meanwhile, Koepka losing the No. 1 ranking means that not since Tiger Woods in 2009 will a player have kept the No. 1 for an entire calendar year.
Renee Powell has been selected to receive the Charlie Bartlett Award by the Golf Writers Association of America for unselfish contributions to better society.
It's the latest honour for the 73-year-old Powell, who also is in the PGA of America Hall of Fame and was honoured in 2003 by the PGA as its “First Lady of Golf."
She learned the game at Cleaview Golf Club in Ohio the course her father, William, built after returning from World War II and struggled to find a place where blacks could play.
Powell became the second black to play on the LPGA Tour and contributed even more to the game after she stopped competing. She launched Clearview H.O.P.E. (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), which offered a recreational golf program free for female veterans. She has made 25 trips to Africa to host clinics.
She was among the first women to become members of the R&A, and she received an honorary doctorate at St. Andrews. The university even named a residence hall in her honour.
“My life has been one that I never dreamed of,” Powell said. “I look back on my life, when I was 8 years old and discovered racism in school, from teachers and kids in my little community. … Now I have a building named after me in St. Andrews. It’s all because of golf.”
CHAPPELL COMING AROUND
Kevin Chappell is more satisfied with baby steps than one giant leap.
He tied for 25th last week at Pebble Beach for his best result since he returned — a little too early, in hindsight — from surgery on his back at the end of 2018.
The giant leap? That took place last fall. Chappell had a few warmup events on the Korn Ferry Tour and then played in his first PGA Tour event in 10 months at The Greenbrier. He shot 59 in the second round, only to follow with rounds of 73-72 to tie for 47th. That was too low to even earn world ranking points.
The 59 was at least evidence he had it, though Chappell knew better.
“I wasn't able to practice,” he said. “I was able to play 72 holes, which was the test, but I didn't hit range balls. In a dream world, you want to be that good to where you don't need to practice. But it is pretty important. Now I'm able to work on it and sharpen the tools.”
Phil Mickelson said on Twitter he will not play the Mexico Championship next week even if he were to get inside the top 50 in the world after Riviera because his kids are on spring break. This is Mickelson's fifth straight event, which included a trip to Saudi Arabia. Mickelson won in Mexico City two years ago. ... Charl Schwartzel tied for fifth at Pebble Beach and picked up 96 FedEx Cup points. Schwartzel, who missed seven months last year with a wrist injury, is on a medical extension and was given 12 starts to earn 262 points to retain his full PGA Tour card. He has 10 events left. ... Jordan Spieth closed with a 67 at Pebble Beach, the first time since August he broke 70 in the final round.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Phil Mickelson has at least one top 10 on the PGA Tour each of the last 30 years, the third-longest streak in history behind Sam Snead (34 years) and Raymond Floyd (32 years).
“Bending, twisting, turning, moving. Other than that, I'm all good.” — Tiger Woods, on which body movement causes the most inconsistency in his swing.