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RYDER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 12, 2016
Palm Beach Gardens, FL, USA
JULIUS MASON: I'm The PGA of America's Julius Mason and I would like to welcome you to Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota and to the United States Ryder Cup Captain's Picks News Conference.
We are just 18 days way from the first ball being struck at the 41st Ryder Cup, and in just a few moments, we will find out the three names that will join the eight players on Ryder Cup USA who have already secured their spots.
So let's get started and welcome the Managing Director of Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, the president of The PGA of America, Mr. Derek Sprague.
DEREK SPRAGUE: Thanks, Julius. 18 days, it's really hard to believe the biggest event in golf is just around the corner.
And as many of you have seen by walking around Hazeltine National golf club, has transformed into a small city. It's clear that this venue will serve as a wonderful back drop for The Ryder Cup. Patrick, Chandler, Chris and Jeff, congratulations and thank you for setting the stage for the 41st Ryder Cup.
On August 30, we watched European Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke make three picks to finalize his team. In just a few moments, we find out what players are in a spot on Team USA.
On February 24, 2015, we named Davis Love III captain of the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Team. Along the way, he won the Wyndham Championship, battled some injuries endured some surgeries and still never faltering, focused on The Ryder Cup every step of the way.
Davis, please know that there are dedicated PGA professionals around the country and a staff back in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida who are very proud and thankful for your service today.
Ladies and gentlemen, our 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, the man we entrust to bring home The Ryder Cup, please welcome Davis Love III.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, thank you, Derek. Thank you to all your staff, Julius Mason, Susan Martin; Kerry Haigh who is out there building all this stuff as we speak probably, an incredible staff here at the Hazeltine National Golf Club. They have been so supportive -- The PGA of America has been so supportive of any journey the last year and a half, so we really appreciate your support.
A lot has happened since February 2015. The biggest blessing of my captaincy this time is I'm surrounded by vice captains that have an incredible amount of experience, and are enormously dedicated to doing everything in their power to put us in the best position to win.
Jim Furyk, Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods have been incredibly valuable to me and I'll never be able to thank them enough for their devotion to this event. They have spent an incredible amount of time not only over the last year and a half, but in the last two or three weeks flying back and forth cross-country on the telephone, Steve Stricker on a satellite phone the last couple days. They really put in a lot of effort to this and I can't thank them enough.
An August 28, Dustin, Jordan, Phil, Patrick, Jimmy, Brooks, Brandt and Zach qualified for the 2016 team. And today, I'm excited to welcome Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes and Matt Kuchar to our team as my captain's picks.
Before we get these guys on the phone, just a quick couple comments on the guys. Rickie Fowler, he's so excited to be on the team again. We found no weaknesses in his game. He's such a great teammate. He's really confident on the big stage as we've seen in the Olympics, but like in Dubai, he plays well all over the world; he travels well, brings a lot of intangibles to our team. Going to make a great teammate to guys that we already have on the team.
J.B., he's so steady, he's easy to pair. Got a lot of experience. He's consistent and he's been on a winning Ryder Cup Team before in the past.
And then Matt Kuchar, you know, I've been on a lot of teams with Matt. He's great, great attitude for match play. He's a great partner. Like J.B., he's consistent. He's easy to pair. These three guys are who we really all wanted. We're very confident in them. We're excited that we have our 11 players now and we can move on.
This is a tough decision. There were many great choices. I know this is the 11 we want today, and we have another tough decision coming up in two weeks, but we are really excited about where we are today and we're excited to hear from these guys. I know they were excited last night.
JULIUS MASON: Davis, thank you very much.
Rickie, congratulations to another, and welcome I guess to another USA Ryder Cup Team. First, can you tell us where you are right now and where you were when you got the phone call from Captain Love?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, thanks Julius. I'm actually sitting in my office at the house. I got home last night and I got a text from Davis asking if he would be able to hop on a phone call. We were just about to land back in Florida. Had to make him wait for a few minutes, slow plane, but once I got in the car, we were able to get on phone and made the day a lot better after just missing East Lake. Pretty excited to be going to Chaska in a couple weeks.
JULIUS MASON: You look very nice on Skype, but I think your bookshelf behind you needs a lot of work.
RICKIE FOWLER: Actually this is one of my last weeks at home. I'm moving. So my house is completely moved out right now. Thanks for noticing, though. (Laughter).
JULIUS MASON: So Rickie, this will be your third Ryder Cup, but the first Ryder Cup for you in the United States. Have you thought at all about what it would be like playing on home soil?
RICKIE FOWLER: I feel like I've had a little bit of a glimpse of it. I got to play in the Walker Cup twice, once overseas and once in the US. It's really cool getting to play on home soil. I mean, The Ryder Cup is a whole different animal and I'm looking forward to that opportunity, having the two overseas, it's going to be pretty amazing getting to play in front of a home crowd, it will be a completely different feeling for sure.
But Hazeltine is a place where I've played well at. I played the U.S. Amateur there, quite a while back now, so I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity to go around the course again.
JULIUS MASON: One more thing before we get to your other teammates. Can you do a quick little squat up, I just want to see what's on your tee shirt. That's what I was hoping it was going to be -- (applause). You do the Skype thing well. Please stay with us, because we'll come back to Q&A, as well.
We would also like to congratulate J.B. Holmes. Thank you for joining us today.
We'd also like to hear what your reaction was when you got the phone call from Captain Love?
J.B. HOLMES: I was very excited. It's been one of my main goals all year to get on this team, and to get that call from Davis was just a very exciting moment. Some of my greatest memories in golf was at The Ryder Cup at Valhalla. So just really excited to get back in The Ryder Cup format and get out there and play.
JULIUS MASON: Really, really nice T-4 finish yesterday. The last time we saw you on a Ryder Cup stage -- get this: This was eight years ago, in Louisville, that's a long, long time. Are you excited about playing on another home Ryder Cup Team, and your thoughts a little bit more on Captain Love.
J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, absolutely. Any time you can get to play in your home country and you know the fans are going to be behind you, it's just a very awesome experience. Like I said, looking very much forward to that.
Davis is just going to be -- I think he's going to be a great captain, great leader. He's been in the situation before and he's played in many Ryder Cups. So he's got a great team around him and it's going to be a lot of fun, and we're just looking forward to getting out there and getting to Hazeltine and play well.
JULIUS MASON: We are going to remind you a couple of times about the success you had in 2008 at Valhalla. And if you don't mind, if you can stay with us, also, for a little longer to take some Q&A we'll be right back with you.
Finally, let's hope we have Matt Kuchar with us. He's there, ladies and gentlemen.
Matt, congratulations on making another Ryder Cup. First, tell us about the challenges you had today about getting on Skype, and then tell us where you were when you got the phone call with Captain Love.
MATT KUCHAR: Excited to be here and such a thrill to be picked. It stinks to have to be picked. This is my first team I've required a pick and it's not a pleasant position to be in.
But when that phone call did come last night, I was on board a NetJets flight with my wife and kids and Zach Johnson, and Zach had a sneaky smirk on his face when the call came in. It was a very exciting moment.
However, this morning, not so exciting, trying to figure out how to do the Skype thing (laughter). I did get on the worldwide web, and from there, we kept going. But I'm excited to have made it all the way here to Hazeltine to see you -- but not in a suit. Normally we see you dressed up a little more polished for a press conference, but you still look good. You still look good, Julius.
But I really am thrilled to be part of this. I was part of that team at Medinah. Davis Love, he's like a brother, like an uncle down here. We love him so much. We have so much respect for him. For me to make this team, I can't wait to make amends and try to bring the Cup home.
JULIUS MASON: Beautiful. We know you're becoming a Ryder Cup regular right now, Matt. This will be your fourth Ryder Cup in a row. You were talking about playing for Captain Love in 2012. You played really well that week.
What sticks out in your mind mostly about what happened in Chicago?
MATT KUCHAR: (Chuckling). I try not to think about it too much it was awfully painful, the end result. To have the lead we had going into singles, we kind of did everything right. It was an amazing week. We had a blast.
And then singles, not much you can do or control as far as trying to get an order of pairings or whatever you want to say as far as captaincy is concerned. The players just have to go out and play and take care of business.
And unfortunately, the tide got moving in the wrong direction, and we just couldn't figure out how to right it. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I think those are things you grow from. I think those are things that make you tougher, make you better.
From those things, I hope that great things come and I hope that this is the year that we can experience the triumph.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you Matt, very much. Please hang on with us for a couple more minutes.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now time for the question and answer portion of our news conference.
Q. You have consistently said that the biggest difference between the last time you were a captain and this one is that the U.S. has a plan and that it's a long-term plan for The Ryder Cup. How long has the plan been in place for these picks, or were there questions as late as last night, let's say?
DAVIS LOVE III: There were questions late as last night. I had, like I said, Steve calling in on a satellite phone, but I had Jim and Tom in the room and Tiger on the speaker. We went through a lot of scenarios. We talked about a lot of great players. It was a very, very tough decision. But we kept coming back to these three for now.
I think we all -- I had to caution even the guys in the room; hey, we have another pick in two weeks. Let's think -- let's use our heads a little bit here. But it came down to watching, not J.B.'s last putt or Rickie missing by half a point, wasn't part of the decision, but it got that late. We were still watching at the end, calling guys. When Zach Johnson got the golf course, I called him. When Jimmy Walker got off the golf course, I called him. So we were waiting to talk to our team about where we were.
We were really close two weeks ago to this, but it took us until last night to finish it off.
Q. You've got more experience on your team than the Europeans. Can that experience ever work against you because your guys know what the pressure really is going to be here in a few weeks?
DAVIS LOVE III: No, I think we didn't really look at rookies versus experience. We looked at adding to our team to build the best, now 11, that we could.
Experience is good. We know what to expect. We know how to handle it, how to deal with it. Like Rickie said, Matt said, we've been there. We're going to learn from our mistakes in the past and build on it.
You heard Phil say it a bunch yesterday. We have a plan we've been working on for a year and a half, and that's part of it. We know what happened in the past but we're looking to the future now and building. So I think our experience is really going to help us.
Q. Bubba Watson is the seventh-ranked player in the world. Why not Bubba Watson and what does he need to do at East Lake and THE TOUR Championship to win that final spot?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, we looked at a lot of guys that are in THE TOUR Championship and some guys that aren't in THE TOUR Championship, and we got a long two weeks ahead of us. I'd say the players that are playing in THE TOUR Championship need to try to win THE TOUR Championship and not think about Ryder Cup points.
I think that's the biggest thing I've told several players is it's not a scoring contest at THE TOUR Championship for who gets The Ryder Cup pick.
I'm going to talk to these 11 guys now that we have 11; we've got a game plan, a strategy, and we're going to work on that the next two weeks and announce our pick next Sunday night based on what fits best for our team, not really who shoots the lowest scores in the last tournament.
Q. You've called Tiger your tactician. How much have you relied upon him not only for these three captain's picks, pairings, who is going to play where, what days and what sessions?
DAVIS LOVE III: You know, Tiger looks at things from maybe a little bit higher viewpoint than all of us sometimes. His strategy on the golf course, I think that's where a year ago, if you'd asked me that question, his helping us prepare for a major championship, which this is a big golf tournament, helping us think about the golf course.
You know, everybody just automatically thinks, just look at the scorecard, it's a really long course, we need long hitters. Tiger looks at it a whole lot differently than that. Tiger over the last two or three weeks has made us really think hard about not only pairings but other things that we need to look for in our players. He's taken the stats package that we get and breaking it down to what we really need.
Jim has been my sage advice in my ear and helping me think through situations. There was two or three things yesterday that if Jim hadn't of been here sitting with me, that I would have panicked on; but having him around. Tom had to fly out, he left I guess about four o'clock, and he said he almost got kicked off the airplane because he wouldn't turn his phone off.
These guys give me so much support, so much stability. Tiger has really had us focused on some key things to make these three decisions and how we're going to think about it the next two weeks.
Q. This question is for Rickie Fowler. Rickie, you've been involved in this process of this U.S. change since the task force and all that. Can you just speak to what's been different this time around, building up to this Ryder Cup compared to your past Ryder Cups?
RICKIE FOWLER: I would say that I'm probably more excited about this Ryder Cup than the past ones. Being a part of that task force and being with the guys in meetings and getting to see the excitement level and how much The Ryder Cup means to some other players like Tiger and Phil and Davis, when he ultimately got the pick to be the captain, it was special. It made me appreciate The Ryder Cup even more. Not that that was very possible; I mean, The Ryder Cup has always been the biggest thing and one of the main goals to always be a part of the team.
It was a team that I didn't want to miss out on by any means, and I wish I would have been able to make it on points. Didn't want to have to be a pick. But like Kuch said, this is a team we want to be a part of, having Davis lead us, and like I said, this is the one I've been most excited for.
Q. Just to follow up, you were talking about Tiger being a tactician and the stats, and some of the things that you're doing that are different than just being long on the golf course. Can you elaborate on that? You were obviously trying to hold some things back, but the word is, of course, that the Americans have got the length of the Europeans. I'm not sure if you believe that's true when you match up this course and these players. Can you elaborate a little, please?
DAVIS LOVE III: I'm not going to elaborate a whole lot on our game plan strategy. I was just with Bill Belichick last week (laughter) so we're going to grind it out (laughter). That's all I can tell you. (Laughter).
When Jim and Tiger have sat down and looked at the golf course, they are like, there's a lot more to this golf course than 7,700 yards. Trust me, Darren Clarke's a good friend of mine. I've seen some of his stats stuff, you know. We're not hiding anything from each other. He and Rory were talking to me on the practice tee at the Masters this year about how we're going to set the golf course up. They know what's going on, too.
Our job is to come in -- I say we're different than most golfers. We don't really have to love a golf course or have it be our style. We just come in and break it down and attack it. Tiger is one of the best at that.
But we've got guys on our team, we've leaders on our team, that know how to do that. Zach Johnson is unbelievably good at that. Zach has been another sage advice -- Phil Mickelson, nobody prepares for major championships better than Phil Mickelson and Bones. We've got a bunch of guys that know how to break this golf course down. And it isn't, it isn't all about power. So I'm not telling Darren anything he doesn't already know.
Patrick Reed told me something about eight months ago: "You need to look at this a little bit differently. Don't just look at length and strokes gained putting." So there's a lot more that's gone into it.
I think the question tat Rickie was just asked, we just have a lot more arrows in our quiver this time that we're looking at. Because Rickie, all the way to Raymond Floyd sat down in a room in December 2014 and talked about it, what do we need to do.
We haven't struggled with everything. We've just struggled with a couple things. We just needed to fix a couple things. We needed to get all a little bit more on the same page, have a little bit more continuity and consistency, have a little bit better game plan that we're going to run this year and hopefully for the next eight or ten Ryder Cups.
But Tiger, the whole team of guys, have really put a lot into this strategy of the golf course. I think better than we did in any other team than I've been involved in.
Q. Talk about the spectacle of the first tee on Friday in particular, your experience in '93, your first time at The Belfry, and then the five subsequent times you played on The Ryder Cup, and how you evolved into that, and really the feelings that are generated when you step on that tee. I would surmise that it's kind of the equivalent of MMA golf?
DAVIS LOVE III: When I came up yesterday and I saw that big bridge over the No. 1 tee, I started to get excited. I get to walk over it like 12 times on Sunday with 12 different players. It's going to be a blast.
But every time you do it, you're still just as nervous but I'm going to let the three guys on the phone answer that. This is their day and they have all done it before.
JULIUS MASON: Rickie, let's start with you. First tee moments?
RICKIE FOWLER: First tee at The Ryder Cup, there's no other feeling like it. You're never that nervous. You're never that excited. I remember going back two years ago when I was playing, Jimmy Walker was my partner, going through some thoughts of hitting 3-wood or driver off the first tee. And he goes -- he said to hit driver, I said, "Perfect, it's got a bigger face, it's easier to hit" (laughter).
It's an amazing feeling. It's fun. There's no better feeling than hitting a good tee shot off the first. Like I said, there's no place like it.
J.B. HOLMES: Just the energy that's around the tee and the crowds chanting and everything, it's just unbelievable. You're so nervous on that first tee. You're not nervous anywhere else. I was glad I got my first one airborne. Then hit it on the green, was able to birdie my first hole. It was an awesome start to a great Ryder Cup.
But that first tee is just an amazing spot and it's the only time you can ever get it is as The Ryder Cup, so it's just an unbelievable feeling.
JULIUS MASON: And Matt, you've seen both sides. You've seen a first tee in the United States and you've seen a first tee in Europe. Recollections?
MATT KUCHAR: I had heard stories of the guys, when we were starting off in alternate-shot and had their plan of guys taking odds and even holes, and the guy that was set to play the first drive on the first hole said, "Too nervous, too nervous, I can't do it," and so they switched the format.
I didn't have quite the nerves of the stories I had heard, but my first tee experience was Wales. I was partnered with Stewart Cink and we walked to the first tee and it was nice to have a partner -- Stewart Cink has been like a big brother to me, a Georgia Tech guy.
But we walked to the first, tee and it's this stadium-style grandstand, and in Wales, they are doing the soccer style. They are all stomping their feet on the grandstands and it literally felt like the whole place was going to fall around us. It was deafening, the sounds.
It was exciting, the energy, to walk on to a first tee and have that sort of passion for golf and energy and to see golf and to see a Ryder Cup is super cool.
Q. You've got one rookie on the team, Europe has six rookies on the team. Do you consider that an advantage, and secondly, how do you keep Brooks Koepka with a jumping out of his skin the first time he steps on that tee ready to play?
DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, I think everything we've done over the last year and a half, we've done to try to gain an advantage over years past. I think we've made a lot of changes and a lot of great decisions, and we're trying -- these 12 guys, when they show up, everything's going to be done for them. We're taking care of as much as we can, gaining as much information as we can.
We're over thinking it for them and Tiger and Jim are helping me whittle it down to what we need, yeah, we're trying to gain an advantage in all this.
Brooks, he's a cool customer. I spent some time with him last year when Jay Haas was considering picking him for Korea. Played some practice rounds with him. Got to know him a little bit better. He's not a rookie. You know, he's a guy that you trust on the big stage. He's very comfortable. He's easy to pair with anybody. I don't look at any of these guys as inexperienced, or like the question earlier; we've got a lot of experience and Brooks is going to be surrounded by experience.
You know me, I'm a glass-half-full guy. We gain an advantage in everything we've been doing for the last year, year and a half.
Q. You have said before that you want the rough to be as little as possible and the course set up for scoring eagles and birdies to get the home crowd into it. Now that we are getting closer, have you changed your mind at all on that thinking?
DAVIS LOVE III: I've yet to find one Tour player that says, we need more rough, on either side (laughter). That was one of the things I talked to Rory and Darren about at the Masters. Even the Augusta National second cut has gotten taller, you know.
But we want the fans to enjoy it. I always say, I want to see home runs when I go to the baseball game. I want to see goals scored. Defense is great, but we want it to be exciting. I think we don't want it to be a power putting contest.
They have gotten a lot of rain -- you guys know, we've gotten a lot of rain. The course is soft. We're doing a great job with it. But we don't need it to be long and deep rough and cool and windy and play really, really hard. We want it to be fun for the players and fun for the fans.
Q. Matt, can you talk about how you see this situation different from your past Ryder Cups with the idea that the U.S. has been -- every year we come into this with the U.S., talk about the U.S. going to win, doesn't seem to happen. But this seems to be a different regime; can you just talk about that aspect to it?
MATT KUCHAR: Every time you go into with high hopes, and you certainly think you've got a great chance. The games are never won on paper; you have to go out and play. It's been fun for me to get to know the guys, and you really form these amazing bonds when you're part of a team, whether it's Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
Now, I think it's my seventh team; it is an amazing bond. Every week there, every year, you get in these, you feel like you become closer and closer with the guys. You rotate a couple new guys in, but for the most part, you have such great feeling for each other. And I know that the U.S. sometimes gets knocked that they are not as close as maybe the Europeans. I always beg to differ; if anybody is ever in the team room, it's amazing camaraderie that we have. It's so much fun to be a part of.
Here, it stinks for me to be on the outside needing a pick. I thought I had a nice year, yet not nice enough to qualify on points. So Team USA is certainly very strong, to have the picks that we've had is fantastic. Right now, there's a guy like Bubba Watson not getting picked and I think he's Top-10 in the world.
I heard, even possibly, this is hearsay, but I heard maybe even Tiger Woods could potentially be a pick. That would be legend-ary, legendary (laughter).
That's just hearsay. It could strictly be rumor. But I mean, I know he's playing Safeway. Imagine Tiger Woods being a playing captain, absolutely incredible. The team just -- that last pick is going to be quite amazing. I don't envy Davis's position. So it's a tough job. But gosh, imagine that, Tiger Woods playing for Team USA, being a captain, that would be incredible -- (laughter)
DAVIS LOVE III: I just said, don't give away our secrets. You're going to get a call from Coach Belichick here in a minute.
MATT KUCHAR: Just saying, that would be incredible.
JULIUS MASON: Matt, you're beautiful, the most powerful two words in the English language is legend-ary. That's good. (Laughter).
Q. Was there a consensus in the room yesterday afternoon early that these were the three guys that you wanted and then you debated and then came back to them or were there other names that were chosen and then discarded?
DAVIS LOVE III: There was not consensus early for sure. It was consensus a little bit late. Jay Haas showed us this system with 3 X 5 cards with everybody's names on them and we shuffled the cards a lot yesterday. But that's why we had, you know, this group of assistant captains to help us.
We went back and forth on a lot of great players, and it was a tough decision. But I would say we were pretty firm about 4:30-ish this time.
Q. Matt alluded a little bit to the chemistry on the team. How much will chemistry play into that final player that you pick, if talent is equal, will you pick the guy you think will get along with the guys best?
DAVIS LOVE III: You know, I've been saying all along, we're a sports team and we have to draft the right player for the right position. There's going to be a lot of stats and a lot of things to look at, but making our pairings, fitting in with the team, doing all the little things that you asked to do -- these three guys filled incredible roles, a lot of different roles.
And again, I'm not going to tell you everything, the roles that they filled. But they made pairings; we brought the best table tennis player in in the last ten years. It's more entertaining to watch him whip up on people at night than probably anything we've done in The Ryder Cup in a long time.
But these guys added a lot statistically, emotionally, leadership, for a lot of reasons, and so the next guy is going to have to step up and fill a role, as well. I haven't really been able to talk to these three guys a whole lot about it. I know Tiger has been wearing Kuch out a lot. He probably blocked his contact a couple times last week.
But now I need to sit down with these three guys before they -- you know, some of them are going to play and some aren't, but I need to sit down with these guys and talk to them about who do you think you would want to play with; who do you think you would want to practice with; which assistant captain would you like to have watching you play when you go out to play on Friday morning.
So all those things we've got to talk about and that's going to help us decide who the 12th guy is.
Q. What are your recollections of playing Hazeltine ten years ago at the U.S. Am, and do you plan to watch your opponents hit this time?
RICKIE FOWLER: It was a really cool experience. It was actually the week I committed to go to Oklahoma State. I was coming out of high school obviously and made it to the quarters where I eventually lost to the guy who ended up winning, Richie Ramsay. So it was a special week for me, playing the golf course, I just remember it being long and tough. It was a fun challenge and it sounds like there's probably a pretty similar setup with what Davis has talked about. I mean, making it playable, but still it's a very tough golf course.
Yeah, I remember I tried not to watch my opponents too much that week just so I didn't get caught up in how they were playing and what they may have been doing. Not sure I'll go with the same approach, but as far as match play goes, a lot of times, you try to stick to your game plan and not worry too much about what's going on. You never want to play too defensive. Sometimes you may have to play a little bit more aggressively depending on what they are doing. But I'm just looking forward to getting up there and definitely appreciative of the opportunity.
JULIUS MASON: Rickie, thank you very much, and again, congratulations on making the United States Ryder Cup Team.
J.B., Matt, to you, too, thank you very much for joining us today and congratulations on making the team.
Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our news conference today. Captain Love, we do look forward to September 25 and the final pick you will make to finalize our team. Thank you very much for joining us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports