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August 21, 2000

Peter Thomson

Ken Venturi

MODERATOR: We have a lot of media and a listening audience on PGATour.com, so we'll go ahead and get started by asking Captain Thomson, if you would, to announce your selections.

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Okay. Thank you. It gives me great pleasure to announce my two selections, not necessarily in order. But one is Robert Allenby of Australia, and number two is Steve Elkington, also of Australia.

THE MODERATOR: For the media on the call, Robert Allenby was No. 11 in the Presidents Cup standings for the International Team. Steve Elkington was No. 17. Peter, would you like to share some remarks about those choices?

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Well, I said from some months back that my choices would be two players whom I judged to be those who would strengthen the team, and I'm pleased to think that I've chosen the right people.

THE MODERATOR: Very well. Thank you. Captain Venturi, over to you now for your choices for the United States Team.

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: All right. My one came out No. 11 after being No. 9 going into the PGA. My No. 11 pick - not in order again, as Peter said, not in order - but Loren Roberts is one of my picks. My other pick is Paul Azinger.

THE MODERATOR: Paul Azinger who is No. 24 in the US Team standings.


THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and open the lines now, Captains, and we'll start entertaining some questions. Could we start with Doug Ferguson of Associated Press if you have a question.

Q. Yes. Good evening, Peter. How are you?


Q. Starting with you, I'm curious about Elkington. He's had a series of health problems this year and is now going into hip surgery. Could you talk about any concerns about his health?

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Yes. I'm very pleased to hear or learn from him that he's having some serious treatment on his hip problem, and that he assures me that he'll be ready. Greg Norman has had the same treatment on his hip, and it seems to be some miraculous cure for their complaint. I'm very confident that he'll be very fit - fitter than he's been for years - by October.

Q. Did you consider at all Craig Parry at No. 15?

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Yes, indeed. I considered very carefully several players to make up 11 and 12, and Parry was certainly one of them.

Q. And for Mr. Venturi, could you talk about your pick of Azinger. That seems to be somewhat of a surprise, although he's been playing well this year.

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Well, he's playing well, but Paul Azinger has many, many reasons why I picked him. Because he had cancer in '93, could not play in '94, but then was assistant captain and gave all his help he could. He's a leader. He's a team man. He's a competitor, wonderful match player, showed some great form at the PGA here. And, of course, he just ran away with the tournament in Hawaii. I feel that this could be his swan song, and I think that I will get more than 100 percent from him. And I think everyone will agree with me that - on the team itself - that that was a good pick

Q. Ken, some eyebrows may be raised if Justin Leonard is not one of your picks, particularly after what he did at the Ryder Cup. Could you tell us if he was among your final candidates?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Oh, definitely he was. I had -- I was looking, of course, at -- the big scenario was how it flipped around at the PGA between Loren Roberts and Stewart Cink and Notah Begay, and he had Chris Perry and David Toms. I had to wait until this was over to see what the points were going because that was very close. I had considered a lot of those. Of course Justin Leonard really is -- was a fine pick and could do the job. And that's one of the hard things you have to do, as Peter found out, too. As Peter has said, he talked about Steve Elkington having problems. I got three of them on mine: Hal Sutton, Duval and Lehman couldn't finish a play in the PGA. So they've got all problems there themselves.

Q. Do you get to pick an alternate for illness or injury?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: If one doesn't play, yes, I get another pick.

Q. By when?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Up until the time we start competition. (NOTE: deadline for any substitution due to injury or illness is 12:00 Noon (ET) Wednesday, October 18)

Q. I was wondering if Peter gave a great deal of consideration to Greg Norman, and what was the story with that? Greg made the team. He's going to be an important part of it. But he, too, has an injury. That's what I'm trying to get to. Does he think he's healthy now and ready to play?

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Yes, Jerry. I'm sure that he's healthy and ready to play. He's told me so, and I've watched his performance. It wasn't too good last week. But apart from that, he did well and he assures me that he'll be ready in October and I believe he will be. In fact, I did say earlier that it seems inconceivable to have a Presidents Cup without him. He's a very important part of our team. Even if he's not in the very best of form, he's a great figure to us and we need him.

Q. I had a question concerning Loren Roberts. How important was your selection of Roberts as known as a good putter after last time when the International Team won? It was pretty much decided that that was pretty much a putting display on their part. I was wondering if that played a factor in your decision of Roberts, and also Azinger?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Well, Loren Roberts is an excellent putter. I think he would make an excellent partner in the mixed ball and the four ball. The one who I really, you know, had to look at closely but has not been playing well, and he said himself, but Freddie Couples. Freddie Couples has never lost a singles match on home ground. And on the matches he's played, he's 11-3-2 in four competitions. But he said himself he wasn't playing well, he wasn't feeling that good, so he kind of just wrote himself that he really didn't give a desire to be picked.

Q. Could you look at or talk about those other three injuries that you had at the PGA Championship. And of those three, have you communicated with those players? Do you feel as if two months from now any of those injuries are going to be problems or that you'll be okay there?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: We will be in contact. I'm sure that Sutton, I talked with him because he was still here - but Lehman and Duval had left - but Sutton says that it was -- his foot was hurting and he knows what it was and favoring that because his hip. He assured me that he'll be fine. I'm sure none of the players -- I don't think any of them, on Peter's team or my team, if they felt they weren't 100 percent, I think they wouldn't play. I will leave that up to them. We have almost two months now before we have the competition, so a lot will unfold by that time.

Q. I was curious if you could comment about Chris Perry. He made some pretty passionate comments yesterday after he finished his round about his desire to make the team and represent his country. Do you think it might have helped to have some players who have not been in a team competition and would bring a lot of enthusiasm as opposed to those who are playing in a Cup competition year after year after year?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Well, Chris Perry had expressed a great desire to play. And certainly if he had -- if he had just -- if he had shown here a little stronger of what he did, of course if he had won at the Buick Open in Warwick Hills, I certainly would have to -- I would certainly give him a strong point to be part of the team. But he's a young man, he's a good player. But these things, as Peter knows, you know, in any choice we make we're not going to please everybody.

Q. A lot of times the captain has just gone with the 11th and 12th choice. Could you talk about that?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Well, we had the two that did that was Nicklaus and Palmer. Palmer did it in '96, Nicklaus did it in '98. And that is kind of -- that's kind of like just saying, "I don't want to get in this political part of it." You saw that the 11th and 12th in '98, Fred Couples was 11th, he went 2-2-1. John Huston was 12 and he went 0-4-0. So, again, I just -- I mean you have to watch who's coming up, who's doing something. I think the two picks are not as easy as just saying 11 and 12. I think that's an easy way out. I think that -- I don't think that unless it was so, so obvious, 11 and 12, that's the only way that I think I would go, and I think that's the only way that Peter would go.

Q. I'm curious, you had sort of a dual roll yesterday as a commentator and obviously the US Captain. Is it in the back of your mind thinking, "My goodness, what do I do if Bob May wins?"

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: That's a good point. That is -- that was a consideration. You know, you have scenarios in there of J.P. Hayes and you had Dunlop in there. I mean like Dunlop was 36 and he would have moved up. I mean there were a lot of scenarios there yesterday which we were watching. Paul Marchand, my assistant captain, was on the tower with me and we were watching every move everyone was making and where they were climbing to and what they were doing.

Q. I'm curious as far as when you say Freddie Couples kind of took himself out of the running here, had he played well at Valhalla, was it a pretty good possibility he would have been one of the guys?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Very much so. Because, you know, he is really -- he is really Mr. Presidents Cup. If you take the Presidents Cup of '94 and '96, I mean he was brilliant. As I said, he's 11-3-2 in four competitions, and the shots that he played -- I think length is a big factor at RTJ. There's a lot of shortcuts you can take if you're long over bunkers that will -- a short hitter does not have an advantage at RTJ.

Q. You say he had taken himself out. If there were an injury of some sort or something happened, has Freddie said he'd rather not be considered as any kind of a replacement?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: No, he hasn't said that, but you'd have to say he would be a pretty good choice if there is an injury that takes one of the players out, because of his experience there and he knows the golf course. And you couldn't take someone in at the last minute that has never played there. Freddie knows the course as well as anybody that plays there.

Q. Peter, I wanted to ask you about your guys -- I think you've got eight different countries represented this year. Anything you can to do to bring them together? If you could talk about that, and what they know of RTJ and if you're going to recommend any of them go up there in the next month?

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: We've got four new players on the team, four different players from the team that played in Melbourne. Robert Allenby's played Presidents Cup before. So three new fellows who haven't played Presidents Cup before. It's my role, I suppose, to get them charged up and doing well. But, you know, we are a team. These fellas bond together, I think, from the match to match over the two years. And we had a nice meeting together a couple times this year, and I think they're very excited about their prospects and that we don't need to go there too early; I don't believe in that. They'll get the hang of that golf course in two or three practice rounds. So we'll be meeting there, in Washington.

Q. I had one last question for Ken Venturi. Considering Paul Azinger, considering what you said about this being his swan song, we all know his history at the Ryder Cup and his leadership abilities, do you see him being a captain down the road?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Oh, I definitely do. I think he would be a marvelous captain, I think either Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup. I think Paul is respected. You can't find someone who is not more liked than Paul Azinger. I think at a time when he kind of winds down, sometimes they get captains there a little too early. Peter and I - I don't speak for Peter - but we have no ax to grind. We don't play against them. So I consider that the kind of captain you'd like to have. But I think Paul Azinger would make a wonderful captain. They would be missing the boat if they didn't pick him down the line.

Q. Ken, did you have a conversation with Rocco Mediate at the PGA after his injury, and if you did what was that conversation like?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: No, I didn't see him. In fact, I saw him on the practice tee and I talked with him after his fine performance in Michigan. That was a sad thing because I watched him in practice rounds, and he was just plain magnificent, driving the ball well, longer than I've ever seen him drive it. Then to have that happen to him, sit in that chair and throw out wrist and his hip and everything, that had to be devastating to him.

Q. Ken, have you looked at all at potential pairings and would you consider putting Notah Begay together with Tiger?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: That would be an obvious choice, yes, it would be. But they're compatible. There are a lot of scenarios here that you have to look at and watch them in what they do. And we have 12 players, but we play 10 . And leaving off two is not as hard as leaving off four. But you look at it, and Peter does it too, you have to go with, you know, compatibility and how they can play off each other.

Q. Peter, a little bit off the subject, but we talked a couple years ago about the best of the century and you still fancied Hogan over Nicklaus. I'm curious now, after what happened yesterday, how you would stack up Woods with Hogan and how you could compare possibly what he's done this year compared to what Hogan did in '53.

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Well, I think it compares very well. I've often said it's very impossible to compare players from different eras because there are different incentives involved. And people grow up in different ways. Tiger's grown up as a young athlete from the time he toddled; whereas in Hogan's life, of course that was not possible. But I'm amazed at Tiger's performance. I'm in awe of him. I think this year he's really come through, I think he's swinging better than ever before. There's never been a player like him frankly. And I don't say there never will be another one. I think there will be a lot of Tiger Woods coming in the future. That's my opinion of him.

Q. Is this the best season of golf you've ever seen?

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Well, it must rank with such -- I remember Hogan in his heyday. He was equally awesome and very nearly unbeatable. The two compare pretty well I think.

THE MODERATOR: Peter, would you like to make any closing comments? We may not be speaking to you for a while until we get closer to the Presidents Cup. Do you have any parting thoughts for your opponent?

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Well... No, I think Ken and I have agreed that this is going to be a very memorable event, and we hope it has all sorts of sportsmanship attached to it and a great result. And may the best -- the better team win. I'm looking forward to it. I think all my 12 players are as well. It's a big thing in our lives, and it's a great honor to be playing the United States.

THE MODERATOR: Ken, any closing comments before we go?

CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Peter mirrored my thoughts. He and I think a lot alike on this. I'm looking forward to having my team up there. As I said, as Peter knows, I got as many friends on his team as I have on my team. But we both have the same goals. We're both traditionalists. As I say and he just said, too, we will do our best and may the best team win. And that's all you can say.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. We appreciate you joining us this morning. Congratulations on your picks and we will see you in Washington.


CAPTAIN KEN VENTURI: Peter, look forward to seeing you.

CAPTAIN PETER THOMSON: Yes, Ken. Me, too, seeing you.

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