HONOLULU, HAWAII | Abraham Ancer faced Tiger Woods in the Sunday singles at the Presidents Cup last month in Australia just like he said he wanted.
Woods beat Ancer, 3 and 2, and threw a little shade Ancer’s way later, saying, “Abe wanted it, he got it,” after the Americans had again won the Presidents Cup.
Just to be clear, Ancer wasn’t challenging Woods when he was asked several weeks before the Presidents Cup whom he would most like to face in the singles. It was said out of respect, even if it was spun into something more than that later.
For a guy growing up in Mexico and spellbound by Woods’ achievements, Ancer just wanted the chance to play against the 15-time major champion. He saw it as an honor, not a challenge, never imagining the mini-tempest it created.
“I tried not to let it get to me,” Ancer said Tuesday in advance of the Sony Open in Hawaii. “It was a month before in Mayakoba when I got asked the question out of the 12 guys who would I like to play on a big stage. Obviously I would like to play my hero growing up, Tiger Woods. It would be an incredible experience.
“I didn’t only learn from the golf course, I learned a lot about media and how it can get twisted. It definitely got twisted, just the context of how I said things. Maybe Tiger didn’t know how I said it and he just took it from what he was reading or what he heard.
“Maybe it was a little bit of a downer because people didn’t know how I said it. Some people reached out to me like, you were really cocky. I was like, what? I was a little thrown by some of the comments.”
“Coming out of there I feel like I’m a lot better player from being in that spot. We’ll see where it takes me.” – Abraham Ancer
For Ancer, along with C.T. Pan, Sungjae Im and Joaquín Niemann in particular, the Presidents Cup didn’t result in an Internationals victory but it did raise their collective profile, a valuable step.
Ancer, 28, is in his fourth full season on the PGA Tour and he has steadily become a more familiar presence. He finished 21st in the FedEx Cup race last fall, capping it with a second-place finish in the Northern Trust, the first playoff event.
He finished T4 at the WGC-HSBC Champions and T8 in the Mayakoba Golf Classic in his run-up to the Presidents Cup where he posted a 3-1-1 record, reaffirming the pre-event suggestion of teammate Adam Scott that Ancer might be the top points-earner on the International side (Im also won 3½ points).
“Coming out of there I feel like I’m a lot better player from being in that spot. We’ll see where it takes me,” Ancer said.
“It gives me a lot of confidence and shows how I do under a lot of pressure. I felt I did (well) but wanted to do better. There was a lot of pressure on every shot. You feel like I have to make this or I have to pull this off because you’re playing for your team, your alternate-shot partner is right there. You don’t want to put him in a bad spot. Every point counts, every half point counts.”
Playing Woods, Ancer said he was happy with how he wasn’t distracted by whom he was facing and all that came with it. They went out in the first match on Sunday and Ancer felt good about pushing Tiger to 16 holes, lamenting just a couple of poor shots that ultimately cost him.
“I knew going into that match, I just couldn’t miss. I had to play some perfect golf to have a chance to beat Tiger. I thought I played good, I played well. You have to be perfect if you’re going to play against Tiger and it didn’t happen,” Ancer said.
As the Sony Open begins at windswept Waialae Country Club, this could be a breakthrough week for Ancer. He has not yet won on the PGA Tour but finds himself having more chances.
The challenge, Ancer said, isn’t technical. He feels good about his swing and has never been a technician. For him, it’s more about getting comfortable in the moment.
“I just have to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m not trying to think about the win, the win, the win. I just want that to come whenever. I just want to get better every week,” Ancer said.
There is a victory of sorts on the horizon for Ancer. In the coming weeks, he and his business partner will debut their new tequila brand, Flecha Azul.
It’s something they’ve worked on for more than a year, producing five different tequilas. Ancer has been personally involved at every level, now wearing a hat sporting his company’s logo.
It is, Ancer admits, a passion play of sorts.
“I really wanted to put my name on something I’m really passionate about, something I enjoy and something I drink. I don’t really drink anything else,” Ancer said.
“Everybody that knows me knows if I’m going to drink, I’m just going to drink tequila on the rocks and that’s it.”
He knows the stigma that is often attached to tequila. His creation isn’t for the college party crowd at the end of a long night.
“We’re trying to get the culture to understand how tequila works and how good it can be,” he said.
Abraham Ancer faced Tiger Woods in the singles matches at the Presidents Cup just like he wanted. Photo: Ben Jared, PGA Tour via Getty Images
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