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RYDER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 17, 2017
SCOTT CROCKETT: My name is Scott Crockett, Communications Director of The European Tour, and I'm delighted to welcome you all to the press conference which is the culmination of the Year to Go celebrations.
It's great to see so many people here in the heart of Paris, but we also welcome many viewers around the world both on television and through our various digital platforms.
Without further ado, let me introduce the two men who have not only been central to the last two days of activities but who will be of course, the figureheads of the United States and the European Ryder Cup Teams when the 42nd playing of this great contest is staged at Le Golf National next September.
Ladies and gentlemen, can I ask you to give a warm welcome, please, to the 2018 captains: From the United States, Jim Furyk, and from Europe, Thomas BjÃ¶rn.
Jim, just to start with you, it's been a busy few days since you arrived on Sunday. Just give us your thoughts on the Year to Go itself and how much you're looking forward to being back here next September.
JIM FURYK: I'm absolutely blown away by the last two days to be honest with you. My gratitude, really, to Ryder Cup Europe, to the country of France for their hospitality, and what an amazing number of events.
Last night we had dinner at the Palace of Versailles, an unbelievable, unbelievable night. This morning, breakfast at the resident of the President.
Today, we got to emulate, got to hit the same shot that one of my idols, Arnold Palmer hit about 40 years ago. I can't imagine packing that all into two days. It's been a phenomenal, phenomenal two days.
Now, mark that with the event being played at a great golf course at Le Golf National. Since I've been named captain, I've had so many European players that were playing in the United States ask me if I had been to the site; had I been to the venue. I was able to get here in the summertime but before that, they described the golf course, and the expectations were high. They talked about it being one of the three best, one of the five best courses that they play on The European Tour. Spectacular venue.
I heard about the stadium-type setting on 15 through 18. Usually when your expectations are so high, when they talk about something so grand, it never really lives up to it, and I was pleasantly surprised when I came in July. I was able to play the golf course on a special day with my father, with my son, with Tabitha's father, my father-in-law. The four of us played. I was pleasantly surprised.
I was able to drive the course the day before with my father and take some notes and get an idea of the feel of the golf course, and it is a fantastic, fantastic site, not only for medal play but I think it will provide a lot of strategy for match play and then the setting with the stadium-like atmosphere and that finish.
Thomas and I talked yesterday walking with the juniors, that finish coming down 15, 16, 17, 18; the amount of people, the noise, the cheers, the crowd in that area is going to be an incredible site.
Look forward to it. Really, that all marked together, the site of Paris, the support of the country of France, a wonderful golf course. This could really be the most grand setting ever in Ryder Cup history. So to be a part of it, I feel very fortunate.
I'm honoured to represent my team, the Ryder Cup Team from the United States, and honestly against a good friend of mine in Thomas. We met at this event, I believe, in 1997. I have a lot of respect for Thomas. It's been nice to meet Grace this week, and I think one of the things about this event that Thomas has mentioned numerous times on this trip is how it all started, really, two sides coming together. It was a friendship match bringing both sides of the pond together, and I think we both have an admiration for the event, have an admiration for Thomas and the way he's conducted himself on the golf course over the years.
It's in our best interests and in our heart and in the best interests of the golf tournament to kind of conduct ourselves in that manner and the teams in that manner, and I think that's what you can expect.
I know we have both been working and trying to set things up for our team, but this kind of feels like the official start to our preparations for The Ryder Cup. I'm excited to be here, and I'm so thankful and I appreciate the hospitality you all have put forward with us, so thanks.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thomas, of course you've been a regular visitor to France since your appointment as European Captain. Give us your thoughts on the past couple of days, and obviously looking ahead to the next 12 months of the journey for yourself.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Well, I can only say what Jim said. The last two days have been everything that France is. It's shown everything that it can do, and ever since I was appointed, there's been a lot of conversations about we can deliver the best Ryder Cup ever.
Well, we're off to some start, that's for sure, the last two days. It's been amazing. It's been -- European history is very special. It's very special to each country in Europe, and when you come to this country, there might not be a country in the world that has a greater history and has more pride in its own history and we certainly lived that the last few days.
France has shown me that it's ready to take on one of the great sporting events in the world, and when we come as golfers and now as Ryder Cup Captains to a place to try and understand all the work and all the things that goes into hosting a Ryder Cup, it's really difficult until you start talking to people.
We went to school yesterday and we saw kids on the golf course, and to realise that this country is now taking in so much to present themselves and deliver a Ryder Cup that all of the golfing world can be proud of.
This is one of the first times we come to one of the big cities in the world to play The Ryder Cup, and when this match unfolds over those three days and the end of September next year, you're going to have Paris as a backdrop, and it's going to be delivered in a completely new way. It's going to be an event that I don't think we've seen in the game of golf before.
On top of that, Jim and I are very fortunate to be captains of these teams. We've had long-standing careers. We've been involved in a lot of Ryder Cups, and now we stand here as captains.
I very strongly, as Jim, believe in the friendship of this Ryder Cup, and it's certainly changed over the years I've played. It was very much two divided teams when I started out in my first Ryder Cup, and now we're great friends across the team rooms. But I always believed it's much more fun to beat your friends than people you don't know, so we'll have a bit of fun with that over the next year (laughter).
But I also think that the Ryder Cup provides so much more to the world than just a game of golf over three days. It touches hearts. It goes to 200 countries around the world. It goes to hundreds of millions of people that are watching it, and it shows it's an event, in a world, that's a little bit fragmented at times today. It can touch all of us, and I believe it's our job as Ryder Cup Captains, not only to lead our teams, but show that sport and the game of golf can bring a lot of people together.
Q. For both of you, you have that long-standing friendship, but have you learned anything new about each other perhaps in the last 48 hours about the style of captaincy you're up against?
JIM FURYK: I'm going to go with no. I think that Thomas has been very sly. He's been very well thought-out in his remarks but I don't think he's given me a darned thing this week (laughter).
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: No, we're keeping secrets. (Chuckling.)
Well, I think we both stick our heads down and play our golf that way. We have an obligation together to deliver Ryder Cup, but when it comes to captaincy, I'm sure those cards will be kept very close and I guess that's the way it's supposed to be.
We have good conversations because we also understand that, you know, we have an obligation to the game of golf and to deliver a great Ryder Cup for those 24 players, as well.
But no, there's not much given away, and I didn't expect it, either.
JIM FURYK: It's pretty early in the process.
Q. This is another one of those big milestones along the way before getting to the matches themselves, and being here in Paris and seeing the engagement here at the golf course and in central Paris, how much has that fueled the desire in both of you to be a winning captain here next year?
JIM FURYK: I'm blown away, as I said earlier with, the beauty and the French have, what, a history for flair; that's what they are known for. Well, they definitely outdid themselves at this event. I never I imagined the dinners, the breakfast, the shot off the Eiffel Tower, I could have never imagined that in my wildest dreams going up as a young player.
But I don't think there's -- you know, it doesn't take a lot for our players to get excited about playing in a Ryder Cup, and surely it's on both of our lists to want to be the captain and want to be part of a winning Ryder Cup Team. That would never change.
Q. You both worked under other captains. How important is that in the way you're going to captain next year? What have you learnt from that process?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: You learn something from every captain, either people that you worked with and also people that you've seen on the opposite side.
I think you've got to take all those things into account but also knowing that, you know, I see The Ryder Cup as a moving thing.
The way Seve captained in 1997 might not be the way to deal with the modern golf player. At that time it was 12 players and a captain in a room together and trying to figure out how to play the game of golf. Today it's very different. The modern golf player is depending on a lot more people and there's a lot more demands on a professional athlete today than maybe there was in the late 90s.
So you've got to move with those times. For me, that's probably one of the reasons I'm sitting here. At that time it was very much on merit. It was very much on what you had done in the game. You could argue that there's a lot of people that's done more than me in the game that could have been sitting in this position.
But I've had a respect and a response from our players that they would like me to do this and probably because I feel -- they feel and I feel, that I can move with those times and deliver a job for them that they would like.
So you've got to go with the times. You've got to approach it differently today. But you can always pick up something from everybody you meet that has something to do with this game.
Q. At Hazeltine, it seemed as though the team came together on and off the course, be it through the Task Force or whatever. If that's the case, how did that happen, and how are you going to continue that into next year?
JIM FURYK: I think the perception sometimes of the team coming together, off or on the golf course, has a lot to do with the outcome, if that makes sense.
We always look a lot happier during a winning year. We always look a touch more sad during a losing year. It seems as though winning cures all. But that being said, we've had a very close-knit team for the last handful of years. We have a lot of young players on the team now that hang out a lot off the golf course. They are a tight-knit group. It's been fun that they have sparked some energy, not only on the golf course, but in the team room for us year-in and year-out.
But it's been a fun process getting to know them. You want a good mix of players in your room but I'm surely thankful for some of that young, I guess exuberance, and a spark of life that we've had for the last few years. It's been fun.
Q. (Will there be any French players on the team and when will you be announcing your other vice captains)?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: To be honest, when it comes to the team, I have one job and that is to deliver the 12 best players in Europe. You know, wherever they are from. That's for me not of great concern.
I get this question all the time in France: Is there going to be a French player on the team. I get the question when I'm in Denmark; is there going to be a Danish player on the team. Obviously me being Danish, I would love to see a Danish player on the team and being played in France, I would love to see a French player on the team.
But I also have a greater respect to the team, and I want to take the 12 best players in Europe to The Ryder Cup in 2018. Not really, to be honest, thinking too much about where they are from. I believe we are up against a very strong side and we should preferably have the 12 best players in the team to have a chance of winning.
When it comes to my vice captains, you know, I've announced one in Robert Karlsson and that works very well for me. I'm at a moment in time where I don't feel any urgency to announce anybody else. Things are progressing well for me, and when I feel I'm ready to announce another vice captain, I will.
I feel that the vice captains are very important to the team and it's also very much a team decision; talking to players and seeing what they feel about which people they would like to have around them.
I'll make that decision in due course, but at the moment in time, I don't really have a timeframe on the vice captains.
Q. (Would you make a strong recommendation to your players to come here to play the course before The Ryder Cup next year, perhaps at the HNA Open de France?)
JIM FURYK: Well, I think it was important -- the question was whether or not I would like my players to come here to play in France to see the golf course and scout the golf course. I think that's one of the reasons I came this summer.
I plan on being here this summer sometime in July, as well, and I would like to, depending on those players schedule. They may be playing The Scottish Open or they may be playing the John Deere at home in Illinois.
Depending on their schedule, I will put an invite out. I will try to schedule a time; that if the players can make the trip and would like to make the trip. And again, we seem to have a bunch of players that hang out together, I would love to see them make a trip here before The Open Championship or after The Open Championship and see the golf course. And by then, we'll have a good idea, maybe not of which eight players are going to qualify but who is in position and who has a great chance to qualify for the event. I'll extend that invite to maybe the Top 15, 20 players to see if they would like to come play.
Now, I realise everyone's different. We have obligations and we have events that we may want to play, and so I would love to see some of them come. But it's not going to be a requirement. I don't think it's going to be -- the question was, is it going to be a strong recommendation; I think it's going to be an ask and an invite and I would hope to see some of those players.
Q. Hazeltine was obviously your first experience of losing a Ryder Cup either as a player or vice captain. How much did that hurt and how much does it motivate you to regain the cup next year?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: I'm a professional athlete; losing always hurts.
You've got to look at Hazeltine and look at there was certainly a transition on The European Team, and an American Team that played unbelievably well, and it became a very difficult task for Darren and the team from earlier on in the week. And sometimes, I think we lose track about that there's two extremely capable sides standing across from each other, and there's only one that can win.
And it was the Americans' turn to win. They played better than we did. It motivates you in the way that you know the feeling of standing with this trophy on Sunday night. It's a great experience. It's a great feeling for everybody involved and that reaches way beyond the team; that reaches to family and friends, wives, girlfriends, and everybody that's involved. There's something special about that moment, and those Sunday nights when we won Ryder Cups are some of those moments that I'll treasure the most in my life. I made some friendships over Ryder Cups that have lasted me through my whole golf career.
It motivates you, but I think just winning motivates you. Working hard in this game, and I've worked hard in all my career as a player, and now working hard as a captain, it's the thing that motivates me. Having an end goal as a sportsman is always something that's great. When this trophy stands at the end of the road, then you work towards it and hopefully you can come out victorious in that quest when you set out on it.
But well knowing just on the other side of this trophy sits a man with exactly the same hopes and exactly the same dreams; and only one of us can win when we come to that Sunday in September next year. But I'll do everything I have in my power to deliver a team that can win The Ryder Cup.
Q. I would like to know with your experience, how much does the fact playing on home ground count? Is it something very important or is it something -- obviously the European players are from so many different countries. Do you believe you believe be playing on home ground and how do you both relate to that advantage if there is an advantage?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Well, as the home captain, yeah, I believe obviously in any sport there's a home advantage because the crowds are going to be bigger from your side. They are going to be behind you.
We know this golf course well. That's got to be something that we're going to feel comfortable about. But when you bring 24 of the best players together against each other, you know, they can play any golf course in the world. They can stand up against adversity. They can stand up against anything, because that's why they are the best players in the world.
Does it play in? Yes, it does, a little bit because it can be tough to play in America, but also athletes have this thing in them that they like playing when it's tough. They like to try and show that they can overcome that, and I'm sure that in Jim's team there's going to be some of that.
But we love this golf course. We love this city. We've come here for many years, and we believe that we are going to bring a team here that can win on that golf course. I believe we could win on any golf course in the world, but there is a home advantage in the sense that, you know, we know the golf course very well. But is it going to play out to our advantage during the week? Maybe, maybe not. Time will tell.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I agree a lot with what Thomas said. You give the best players in the world two or three days of practice; they should be able to learn a golf course. But surely in a Ryder Cup-like setting, in sport in general, any home match is definitely an advantage just from a crowd perspective.
My hat's off to the European crowd for -- they make a lot of noise, even in small numbers in the US, the Europeans, it takes about 30,000 Americans to drown out, with "USA" chants, 2,500 Europeans with their songs and chants. We definitely are enamoured with their skill-set and the way they work together.
That being said, I think The European Team also knows this golf course and seems to like this golf course a lot. Obviously doesn't have a team yet but I hear that a lot from the European players. Everyone has a lot of respect for the golf course.
And we have 25 years of scars to overcome. That being said, I will have a lot of young talent on my team. I'm anxious to see how they handle that challenge, and surely, Europe has handled those away matches far better in the last 25 years than we have.
So we might have to take a page from their book and try to figure it out, and again, I'd like to see how those young guys react and hopefully a little better than we have in the past.
Q. (Regarding tickets and do you expect large crowds.)
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Well, in that sense, I think that first of all, I think that's a question for other people than me and Jim. We don't set the ticket prices. But I believe The Ryder Cup is going to be sold out. I believe that the Ryder Cup is going to be watched by an extremely large amount of people on TV.
So spreading a message is important. It's important to spread a message in France about the game of golf. But I think that's done so much through the Federation and the work that they do.
And when a nation like France has taken on The Ryder Cup, you know, they don't only do it because they want to have the three days of The Ryder Cup in September 2018. They have done it to develop the game of golf in France, and when you see all the work that's gone in there to do that and the success they are having with developing the game, you know, you've got to say that that's a success in itself, and The Ryder Cup brings so much more than just, as I said before, competition and the three competition days. It leaves a legacy in the country for the game of golf and the French Federation has certainly taken up that task to leave a legacy after The Ryder Cup.
JIM FURYK: I agree a lot with what Thomas said. Surely sport is very important to this country. We talked earlier about the World Cup, The Ryder Cup, the Olympics. My hat's off to Paris, to the country of France, for being able to bring all those events to this area.
Obviously it's evident the hard work that the federation has put into not only this event in securing The Ryder Cup for Paris, but also how hard they have worked to make sure that the event is fantastic.
So look forward to it, and from what we've heard this morning, it sounds like ticket sales have been very, very good. I expect that to be the case and expect large crowds as we usually see.
Q. (Do you see any French golf stars coming in the future and who will be the one to win a major championship?)
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Well, you don't have any big French stars. You know, when you play on The European Tour, and you see the amount of French players coming through, and you look at players like Victor Dubuisson, Alex Levy, you just saw Romain Wattel winning a few weeks ago. There's always French talent there that are coming through and winning golf tournaments.
A big French superstar is that one that wins major championships. Well, there's a lot of countries around the world that doesn't win major championships. I'm from one, so I should know (laughter). You know, that's kind of the way it is sometimes.
Golf is not a game that limits itself to a nation and where you're from. You know, there's more golfers in the British Isles. There's more golfers in America; and therefore, more talent and therefore they have more winners from those countries.
I think sometimes in countries that don't have the tradition and the history, you've got to show a lot of respect to the guys that break those barriers and try and do something, and in France, I really, really believe you have some unbelievable talent.
It's only a matter of time before that guy breaks through and he wins that major championship. And who it's going to be, I'm in no position to tell, but I've been honoured to spend time with the junior elite team. I've seen the amateurs play from this country and I see what great future lies ahead of them; and one of them are going to step up to the plate one day and do it and you're all going to be very proud of him. But sometimes it takes a little bit of patience and wait-out for that guy to come to the fore.
It's just the way sports it sometimes, and traditions are not here, but as those barriers are broken down, traditions are changing and a golf player from this country will definitely rise to the too much the game one day.
Q. (Do you expect Tiger Woods to play in The Ryder Cup?)
JIM FURYK: So I guess just recently, I think yesterday, Tiger posted a video of him swinging a driver. I've been told; I've been busy with Year to Go, but I've been told he's been cleared to continue kind of all golf activities.
So I'm correct with that -- am I right? Have you heard that, as well, Thomas?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Yes.
JIM FURYK: I think that's great news. The swing that I saw on that video looked a lot like Tiger Woods. It reminded me of his swing of the past. It probably still needed a little speed. He probably still needs a little bit of golf strength maybe. He likes to call it reps.
But we really don't know when Tiger will be healthy. We really don't know when he'll return to competitive golf. And the last part of that question was, does the U.S. Team need Tiger Woods to be a part of the team.
I will say that Tiger Woods is a great resource and would be a welcome to the team, whether that would be as a playing personnel or whether that would be as a vice captain. He's been a great resource and a great person to have in the team room, so I'm hoping he will be part of that team.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Anymore questions? Going once? Going twice?
If there are no more questions, all that's left for me to do is thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your attendance this afternoon. One again, recognise our two captains, Thomas, Jim, thank you very much, and we wish and your respective teams all the very best at Le Golf National in September. Thank you.
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