ORLANDO – Tiger Woods said it was “perfect timing” to become the next captain of the U.S. squad for the Presidents Cup.

He looks to be in perfect position to win again, too.

Both have him beaming.

Woods and Ernie Els were officially named captains on Tuesday for the 2019 Presidents Cup to be played at historic Royal Melbourne in Australia. The announcement came at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, home to this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament Woods has won a record eight times.

Woods is coming off his best two events among the four he has played in his latest comeback following back surgery. After finishing 12th in the Honda Classic three weeks ago, Woods fell one shot short of a playoff in last week’s Valspar Championship.

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A winner of 79 PGA Tour titles including 14 majors, Woods said he has enjoyed the journey of going from wondering if he could ever play again, to wondering if he could play on the PGA Tour again and make a few cuts, to then getting into the mix as he has in his last two starts.

“There’s a process and an evolution to it and it’s been quick, but still I have to say to myself to just enjoy all of this,” said Woods, who hasn’t played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational since winning it in 2013.

“Just because I won here eight times doesn’t mean I’m going to win this week automatically. I still have got to do the work. I still have to go through the process of getting myself in position, but I understand this golf course. I’ve got to do some serious homework tomorrow though, and I really have to get to know and get the feel of how this golf course is playing this particular year, considering I haven’t played here in five years.”

He’ll do so fully healthy after spinal fusion surgery last April. After doctors gave him the go-ahead five months ago, Woods slowly worked his way back, starting with his swing. Then he moved to his short game and then had to get a feel for playing professional golf again. He’s on point with all.

Woods is back to hitting stingers, hitting the ball both ways, hitting the ball long. His short game has been exquisite and his misses have wound up in the correct spots to stay away from big numbers.

“I finally have gotten to the point where my back is good enough where I can let my hands tell me what to do,” Woods said. “My hands tell me how to shape a golf shot. And I’ve built this golf swing that you see out there swinging the golf club around, with my hands. My dad always used to say that that’s the only thing we have direct contact with the club, so trust your hands.

“My right arm and neck aren’t shaking because my back’s out, my nerve’s out, and it’s inflamed, I don’t have those issues anymore. I can trust my hands again, so you see me creating shots and doing different things.”

While he was sidelined because of his back in recent years, Woods was an assistant captain in the 2016 Ryder Cup and the 2017 Presidents Cup. He also will be an assistant in France in the 2018 Ryder Cup.

Woods and Els have a history in the Presidents Cup, with each playing in eight. Woods has a 24-15-1 record and Els is 20-18-2.

The two were also involved in the most intense moment of the series that began in 1994. In 2003 in South Africa, they met in a sudden-death playoff after the two teams ended in a tie at 17. The two matched pars for three holes, with Els making a 12-footer on the second playoff hole and Woods a 15-footer on the third playoff hole.

Darkness fell and the two teams agreed to share the cup. Now they’ll meet as captains – and maybe playing captains. Either way, they’ll enjoy being part of the 2019 Presidents Cup.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the thought of putting together teams and looking at different scenarios, moving guys around and trying to get them comfortable. Having great conversations with them leading up to the cups,” Woods said.

“That’s where I got to know a lot of these guys. I have been out, I’ve been away from the game, I hadn’t been a part of seeing some of these young kids and their development. But now I get a chance to be a part of it with them and it was fun for me and then as I said, it was a natural progression for me to one day become a captain. I didn’t think it was going to be this quickly, but in hindsight it was perfect timing.”


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