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RYDER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 30, 2016
SCOTT CROCKETT: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you joining us for what's a very special day in the journey towards the 2016 Ryder Cup.
I'm delighted to be joined by the man on my left, Darren Clarke, who is of course the captain of The European Team that will defend this beautiful gold trophy at Hazeltine Golf Club in Minnesota from Friday September 30 to Sunday October 2.
We are also delighted to be joined in the front row by a few special guests I'd like to recognise: Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour; and David Williams, chairman of The European Tour; Sandy Jones, Chief Executive of the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland; Ian Randell, Chief Executive of the PGAs of Europe; and our Ryder Cup Director, Richard Hills.
I'd also like to extend a warm welcome to the representatives of The Ryder Cup partners and suppliers who are here in the room with us. As always, you know your support is very much appreciated.
And so to business. There are many important milestones along the way to a Ryder Cup. We had one last week when the nine automatic qualifiers on the board to our left were confirmed for Team Europe. Therefore, congratulations should go to Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Chris Wood on their tremendous achievement in making the team.
Now it's up to the man on my left to add the final three names. Darren it's been 18 months since you got the call confirming you're the captain. Can you believe that time has gone this quickly?
DARREN CLARKE: Everything went very quickly to these past few days. The past few days have been some of the toughest in my golfing career. It's been wonderful to see the team take shape. I've probably watched more golf and watched more stats and just watching how all the possible contenders were playing, and to get those nine up there on the board in front of you, I'm certainly very, very pleased and very proud of the guys that are there.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Can you now also believe, with the nine automatic qualifiers, three remaining spots left to be one of your team and that will be up to you to decide. I trust your excited by that prospect.
DARREN CLARKE: Oh, most definitely. To fly on the plane to Hazeltine, as you said, to try and keep this beautiful trophy back home with us. It's going to be a monumental task, but one that I'm going to have full confidence in the team that we are going to take with us.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Let's turn to the reason we are here today. There are three spaces on that board to our left. I think it's over to you to fill them.
DARREN CLARKE: My first wild card is Lee Westwood. My second wild card is Martin Kaymer. And my third wild card is Thomas Pieters.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you, Darren. You said when your nine automatic qualifiers were finalised, you were pleased with the bend of youth and experience. I suppose you could argue it's the same with your wild card selection?
DARREN CLARKE: In Lee Westwood, one of the most experienced Ryder Cuppers of all time. This will be his 10th appearance. He's played well this year, runner-up at Augusta, playing well at U.S. Open again, another solid open performance, but week-in, week-out he has been very, very solid.
Martin Kaymer, six Top-10s in his recent events, again, another somewhat of a Ryder Cup stalwart. None of us can forget the putt that he holed at Medinah a few years ago, but again, a man I have a massive amount of trust and belief in.
And Thomas Pieters, last week, I played with him, again, as I've done many times over the qualification period, and obviously when we teed up on Thursday morning, Thomas knew exactly why I was playing with him. Prior to that, there was a few other contenders that I was thinking about, as well. But Thomas went out and played unbelievable, shot 62, one of the finest 62s I've ever witnessed and made it look very easy.
And then on top of that, he finished in the manner in which he did on Sunday to which he did to win the tournament. I'm very pleased and proud to have somebody of Thomas Pieters' talent, undoubted talent, part of that team.
Q. Just how tough a decision was it to get it down to those three and how difficult were some of the phone calls to make you've had to do in the last 24 hours?
DARREN CLARKE: To get it down to those three, certainly been very difficult. You know, as I've spoken all along during the qualification process with the way the team was shaping up, that I was going to look towards experience.
And in Lee and Martin, I've got two of the former World No. 1s and guys that bring a wealth of experience to the team. It's just not about playing; it's about the team room and the dynamics and everything that's involved in it.
With Lee and Martin, they were two pretty obvious choices to me. The last one was very difficult. I'm not going to sit here and say otherwise. I had a few different people in my mind. Obviously Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald, regarding their experience, to join those three. But those two, I think they haven't quite been on top of their own games, which I'm sure they will readily admit.
So then it came down to the choices between Russell Knox and Thomas Pieters. That has been an incredibly difficult decision. I haven't slept an awful lot about it. And having to phone Russell yesterday and give him the information is probably one of the toughest phone calls I've ever had to make, because Russell has played unbelievably well over the qualification period with winning WGC and then doing what he did in Travelers.
You know, some people would say he deserved a position on the team. But I took a look at it and put them side-by-side, and I've always been a huge Thomas Pieters fan from when I first witnessed how he hits the golf ball and how he plays. And the manner which he's played golf these past few tournaments: Fourth in the Olympics, to go to Czech and get beaten with a birdie on last green; and then last week to do what he did, to birdie the last three holes to win the tournament in the fashion that he did, just impressed me that much that I found it almost -- well, I found it impossible to leave him off the team. But certainly it was one of the most difficult periods I've ever had to deal with in my golfing career.
Q. When you look down that list right now, six rookies, how confident are you in the strength of your team to go there and make sure that trophy is coming back with you in October?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, I think it's unquestionable that it's going to be a very, very big task ahead of us. Davis's team is also shaping up very, very strongly.
But with this team, those guys have earned their right to be on the team, the top nine. They have embraced the challenge. They have got on there and they are world-class players in their own right.
Obviously with adding Thomas to that list, there is six there, but again, the talent that they all possess, I've got no worries at all about the strength of that team going to America. I'm proud of that team. It's a team that's going to go there and do everything we possibly can to bring that trophy back home again.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Now delighted to say we have all three wild cards on the line with us this morning. Let's start with the newest member of the team and indeed, European Tour's most recent champion, Thomas Pieters.
Before we hear from Thomas, let's have a little look at him in action.
Darren you mentioned earlier you played alongside Thomas in Denmark the first two rounds. Just talk a little about that 62. What was special about that?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, he didn't hole anything for it. Usually somebody shoots a really low number, they hole a couple 30-footers or they chip-in or whatever they do. But he made the game look ridiculously easy. He has the talent to go all the way to the top in the world in my belief.
I've been on Tour a long time; I'm old, so I've seen a lot of players come and I've seen a lot of players go. But he is certainly a talent that's going to get right to the top of the world, I have no question about it. He's a very gifted young man and he's also a very funny young man. He just sent a message before we went on there, saying, "Testing, testing, is your phone off," that's why I was laughing. But needless to say I'm delighted to have him as part of the team.
SCOTT CROCKETT: You can see the new joker in our pack, Thomas Pieters is there. Thomas, can you hear us?
THOMAS PIETERS: Yes, I can hear you. Hi, Darren.
DARREN CLARKE: Hi, Thomas.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thomas, many congratulations on your selection for the 2016 Ryder Cup Team. Just tell us how the last 24 hours have been since you got the call from the man on my left.
THOMAS PIETERS: A little bit crazy, especially closing out the tournament like I did on Sunday, I was just really proud of myself and just actually winning another tournament, you try to win tournaments every week and to do it at that point, with a little bit of pressure on me, was very satisfying, yeah.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Obviously not just last week, Thomas, you did well in the Czech and obviously the Olympics, as well. How much of a motivating factor was The Ryder Cup in those last three weeks for you?
THOMAS PIETERS: Obviously it was huge but I wasn't telling anybody and I was just keeping it to myself because that's the kind of guy I am. I just like to let the golf do the talking. I've been playing well for awhile. Just the results weren't there, and I guess I just had to step it up a little bit at the end. Had some nice finishes, yeah.
Q. A lot is said about your golf game by people who watch you, but what do you feel you will bring to Darren's team at Hazeltine?
THOMAS PIETERS: Points. (Laughter).
Yeah, I just can't wait to actually tee it up and give it a 110 per cent and earn points.
Q. And in terms of how it feels now, how does the reality differ to -- there's been so much speculation, you've been asked about it a hundred times, how is the reality knowing that you're on Darren's team now?
THOMAS PIETERS: It's pretty cool to be honest. It has sunk in and I just can't wait to get on that plane and just be with the team the whole week.
Q. We saw Nicolas Colsaerts, another Belgian, make a Ryder Cup debut back at Medinah in 2012. Has he given you any words of support, advice?
THOMAS PIETERS: Yeah, he said if you make as many birdies as I did, then you'll be fine (laughter).
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much for joining us today. Please don't text the Ryder Cup captain for the next 20 minutes because he might be slightly busy, but we'll let you back to your day there in Belgium. Many congratulations.
Next up is the man that ensured that Europe would retain The Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012 and will be making his fourth Ryder Cup appearance, having played in Europe's last three triumphs. Before we hear from the two-time major champion, let's have a look at Martin Kaymer in action.
You were there at the green at Medinah when March tine holed that putt. Tell us what he will bring to the team.
DARREN CLARKE: Obviously Martin brings experience, as you said there, two-time major champion, one of the most renowned golfers in the game of golf that we have. He's a very cool, calculating player. He plays golf in a very meticulous fashion and I'm very, very fortunate to have Martin on the team. He's a man I admire and hugely respect.
SCOTT CROCKETT: As you'll see, ladies and gentlemen, we're delighted to be joined by Martin from home in Germany. Thank you for joining us and congratulations on your selection for The Ryder Cup Team.
It's often said that once you play in a Ryder Cup, you never want to miss one. I assume you're very much looking forward to making your fourth appearance in a row.
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, absolutely. The thing was, the first time I played The Ryder Cup, it was very overwhelming. That's why I was very happy that Lee, that he took me under his wing and he took care of me, playing a little bit golf under different circumstances.
Then 2012 was obviously a very special one for me because then I really got to know the feeling, what The Ryder Cup really means to us golf players. And in 2014 was probably the most enjoyable Ryder Cup I played.
So therefore, I didn't really want to miss out on that 2016 Ryder Cup and I'm very glad that Darren gave me his trust, and I'm sure it will be a very successful week for all of us again. It's a lifetime experience and I'm very, very glad for Thomas, as well. I played with him in the final round in Denmark last week, and I was so impressed the way he played golf, but also the way he handled the mental side.
You know, it's very difficult to qualify for The Ryder Cup, and I had a similar situation 2008 and I missed it out, because I missed the cut in Gleneagles. So I didn't make it on the team, so therefore, he handled it a lot better than me. I think he will be ready for The Ryder Cup.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you, Martin.
Q. You've talked a lot in recent weeks about what's best for the team, whether it was you being selected or not. What is it about you that makes you best for this team?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, obviously I put everything I have into my golf. And especially when it comes down to The Ryder Cup, since it was a little bit of a shift in 2012 when I really had that possibility to make something amazing happen, not only for my career, but for the history of European golf and of The Ryder Cup. It really means a lot to my heart.
You know, it's a wonderful possibility to play golf under those circumstances, and finally I can enjoy playing The Ryder Cup a lot more than I did in 2010. So I think the experience is one thing and I put all my heart in it, and I think that's all you can ask for and that's all I can give.
Q. And Darren, in terms of Martin, that experience, the same will go for Lee Westwood, how vital is that for you to have that in the locker room with these rookies in The Ryder Cup?
DARREN CLARKE: All along in the process, I was talking about balancing the team, and in order to do that, we needed some experience.
Martin brings a wealth of experience, along with Lee, and they are guys that the first timers also all look up to. Martin is held in very high esteem amongst all his peers. Everybody wants to play with him, so it's going to be quite tough. But he's a man that we all hugely respect and everybody in that team room does. He brings his golf, but he also brings his persona to the team room, as well.
Q. And finally, Martin, I know fourth Ryder Cup, but how exciting was it to get the phone call from Darren to say you're in?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, it was a bit of relief. That's all I was hoping for and fighting for for the entire year. I had two goals, it was the Olympic Games and making The Ryder Cup Team. Fortunately Darren helped me with one. The other one I did on my own.
It was a relief, but now the time starts again to prepare, prepare for the biggest sport event in our sport; well, the biggest golf tournament, really, and I'm really excited, because it gives you a little bit of motivation again, even though it's almost the end of the year, but it's still a massive highlight coming up, especially playing in America.
Yeah, it was a short phone call, it was only a minute or so. But I was just very glad for the words that Darren choosed, and it was very, very nice. I can promise that I will play with everything that I have because it means a lot to me.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Martin, thanks very much for your time at home today and good luck, we'll see you at Hazeltine.
Last but by no means least, the man who will move into double figures in appearances when he tees up at Hazeltine National next month. He also needs just two points to equal The Ryder Cup points record held by Sir Nick Faldo. Before we hear from Lee Westwood, let's have a look at the Englishman in action.
Darren you know all 12 players on your team very well but perhaps nobody better than Lee John Westwood. What's he going to bring to your side.
DARREN CLARKE: He's going to bring everything. Lee and I had a very successful Ryder Cup in all our Ryder Cups. He held my hand a few times through The Ryder Cup and I held his hand a few times through The Ryder Cup. We've been very, very best friends for a long time. I haven't selected him because of that. I selected him because he brings somebody else that no one else can bring to The Ryder Cup. This is his 10th one. There is nobody that has that amount of experience on the team.
He will be somewhat like the general amongst the team. He has the game and the experience and the knowledge how to deal with the team room. Anything he says, everybody sits up and listens. Every team, that's what makes Europe the team that we are, because there's always guys that want to learn and want to get better, and you can't have a better guy from a playing point of view than Lee Westwood in that team room.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Many thanks for joining us this afternoon and congratulations from everybody here in the room on your selection.
I know golfers are always looking to the future, but you, Lee, must be immensely proud of your record in The Ryder Cup, being on seven European winning teams.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, incredibly proud. When I look back over my career, it's provided most of the very special moments and something that I love looking back on. As Darren said, he sort of knows firsthand what I can do in The Ryder Cup and what I can bring.
It was great to get the call yesterday and get a pick, which you know, myself and Darren are very close. I didn't want to have to put him in a position to pick me. I would have liked to have played my way on. But obviously I was very relieved and thrilled at the same time to get the pick.
SCOTT CROCKETT: This will be your fifth Ryder Cup on U.S. soil, so there's perhaps nobody better equipped to tell us about the task that faces Europe. Give us your thoughts on the challenge ahead?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it's going to be a very tough task. You can't make any bones about that. The U.S. side is going to be very strong but we are equally as strong. It's a great mix of experience and youth.
The rookies on our team are experienced at playing over in the States. Danny Willett is obviously the Masters Champion and we have people that have won U.S. Amateurs and thing like that. I think it's going to be a very close contest. Obviously the crowd will be on their side but we've come up against that before. And I think we're, you know, ready to give our all, and like Darren said, he's got a very strong side and he's got a lot of options for partnerships.
Q. The experience is obviously huge. Darren talks about you being a general for the team. How do you see your role within the locker room of this Ryder Cup Team?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, general is above captain, so I'm not sure I feel like that. I'm going to leave all the big decisions to him.
But obviously it's always nice to have experience on the golf course and off it, in the team room. It's nice to have another option. Darren's got some great vice captains that he can fall back on. But if he needs to pull me to one side and have a chat and ask me my thoughts, I'm happy to do that; I can fall back on ten Ryder Cups.
Q. You've got a great friendship and Ryder Cup history with him, as well. Does this Ryder Cup, playing for a team captained by Darren, are you more determined to win this than perhaps any of the nine beforehand?
DARREN CLARKE: I think all The Ryder Cup teams and all the players that I've played along have been pretty determined, but with Darren at the helm, it's going to be extra special. We'll all be trying hard for Darren, and we want to keep that gold trophy on this side of the Atlantic.
Q. How special is it to have Lee on this team for you, just on a personal note?
DARREN CLARKE: On a personal note, it's wonderful to have him here, but as I stressed, he wouldn't be here unless I thought his golf merits his position on the team, and Lee knows that.
Obviously from when I was appointed the position early last year, I said, right, you need to play and you need to get yourself making that team, or if not, as close as possible, and he's shown that this year. He could be having a green jacket on as opposed to Danny. And he was up there in so many tournaments again. His golf has been of a standard that I have no doubts in my mind whatsoever that he is deserving of his place in this Ryder Cup Team.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you, Darren, and thank you, Lee, for joining us this morning, and we all look forward to seeing you at Hazeltine in a few weeks' time.
That just about wraps up proceedings here, thank you for your attendance here today. It's perhaps fitting that the final words come from Europe's Ryder Cup Captain, Darren Clarke.
DARREN CLARKE: Well, ladies and gents, I think we all wanted to know who the three picks were going to be. So did I. This is the team that we have. This is the team that I've massively proud of. Those guys are all hungry for success.
I've spoken to every one of them via on the phone or via text this past 24 hours. They are all extremely excited. They cannot wait to get on that plane to go to Hazeltine and do all of us, all of Europe, proud, and I certainly know that they will do their best and hopefully we will bring this trophy back home with us. So thank you all very much.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you, Darren. I think it goes without saying that every single person in this room wishes you and all your 12 players the very best at the end of September. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, safe journey home.
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