The South African was responding to claims that US team member Patrick Cantlay didn’t wear a hat in last week’s Ryder Cup in Rome due to the fact he was upset about not getting paid for it.
Cantlay claimed it was purely down to the fact he didn’t want to get a golfer’s tan before getting married in Rome on Monday, but it then emerged that one of his team-mates, Xander Schauffele, almost didn’t play in the match due to a contractual stand-off with the PGA of America.
Speaking as he joined fellow captains Jim Furyk and Darren Clarke in a call about the World Champions Cup, a new seniors’ team event taking place later this year, Els was adamant that it should all be about playing for the flags of their countries and continents and nothing else.
“It’s all about pride,” said the South African, who played for the Internationals in eight Presidents Cups before being a captain in that clash against the Americans in 2019. “It’s all about your team-mates. It’s all about the history of the event. It’s all about other people who have made the event what it is.
“On the European side, Seve [Ballesteros] comes to mind instantly and all the other guys who started to turn it around for Europe. The likes of Sam Torrance, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and all of those guys under Ton Jacklin’s captaincy then through the 90s and 2000s with guys like Darren and Bernhard [Langer], Ian Poulter and these types of guys.
“On the US, it’s the same thing. You have stalwarts in Lanny Wadkins, Fred Couples, Davis Love and Jim Furyk who have really come to the fore. It’s all about playing for the Cup. I think there’s enough money in professional golf that goes around, so you can make a good living.”
Els was speaking after naming Retief Goosen as the second player to join Vijay Singh for Team International for the new event in Florida on 7-10 December, with Clarke adding Colin Montgomerie to Team Europe’s roster alongside Bernhard Langer.
“I know there’s a lot of effort that goes into these team events,” added Els. “I know from my experience in Presidents Cups. Sometimes you play five matches in a week walking a very hilly golf course and giving it your all and getting it from the crowd the way the US did in Italy last week.
“But you’d take that and you move on. You just try your best to get something out of it. It’s all about the team and the team camaraderie and playing for that flag and for the history. I’d be totally against something like that and I think it’s just a rumour that came up again.”
Furyk said Cantlay’s hat issue in Italy had purely been due to the fact “he’s got a big noggin” and Els revealed something similar had happened to him. “I think the cap just doesn’t fit with Patrick,” observed. “I had the same instance when I played in the Presidents Cup back in the day. I didn’t wear a hat, Look at my head (laughing), you know what I mean. There’s a lot of things swirling around (about the US players and why they started badly in Rome) and, unfortunately, he got the brunt of something false in my view.”