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THE RYDER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 8, 2019
Virginia Water, United Kingdom
SCOTT CROCKETT: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. We have been here at Wentworth for not only the Challenge Match in 1926, which was the precursor to the first Ryder Cup the following year, but also, of course, the venue for the 10th Ryder Cup staged just out there on the West Course some 66 years ago in 19523.
Now, while The Ryder Cup is steeped in history, we are here today to look forwards and not backwards.
On that score I'm delighted to introduce the man to my left, Guy Kinnings, who took over the role of European Ryder Cup Director in September of last year and who will be at the helm as we drive this greatest of sporting contests forward in 2020 and beyond.
Guy, over to you.
GUY KINNINGS: Thanks, Scott. I was absolutely delighted to take on the role last year. It's been fascinating for me to see behind the scenes not only of the Tour, but also of behind an event that's become truly extraordinary.
I've been lucky enough to be involved with The Ryder Cup for many years working with players, with vice captains and captains, who have led those teams. I've been involved in golf working on tournaments and with players for nearly 30 years, and I know exactly what it takes to put on something as extraordinary as The Ryder Cup.
To that extent I want to thank our commercial partners who are so supportive of the Tour and The Ryder Cup itself and that would be particularly Rolex, BMW, Aberdeen Standard Investments.
I would also like to thank and pay respect to our formal partners in The Ryder Cup which will be the PGA of Great Britain, represented today by their CEO, Rob Maxfield and Chairman Alan White; and by the PGAs of Europe, represented by Ian Randell.
I'd also like to thank our extraordinary team here at Wentworth led by CEO Keith Pelley. It strikes me that almost everyone in the Tour office was involved in some way to a greater or lesser extent with The Ryder Cup, and they helped create what was only four months ago, a quite fantastic tournament. I'm just very proud to work alongside such a dedicated, hard-working team as them.
However, we are all here for a very particular reason and I'm sure the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted there is a vacant seat on my right, and I think it's probably high time that we sought to fill that seat.
So ladies and gentlemen, it is my absolute pleasure and distinct privilege to introduce to you European Ryder Cup Captain for 2020, Mr. P√É¬°draig Harrington.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much, Guy. Welcome P√É¬°draig and welcome, too, to your wife, Caroline, who has joined us in the audience.
Full details of P√É¬°draig's career are available in the press material that we will be issuing at the end of this press conference, but just to remind you that in addition to being a three-time Major Champion and a winner of 30 professional titles globally, our new captain also possesses a rich Ryder Cup pedigree: He's played in six consecutive contests against the United States from 1999 to 2010, being on the winning European Team on four of those occasions, and he's been a vice captain for the last three contests at Gleneagles, at Hazeltine National, and, of course, at Le Golf National in France last September.
Before we hear from the man of the moment, let's remind ourselves of just some of P√É¬°draig Harrington's many achievements in this game.
Before we open up to questions from the floor, can you sum up your emotions at being named as Europe's Ryder Cup Captain for 2020?
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, obviously I'm thrilled to be named as The Ryder Cup captain for 2020. It's not something I went into lightly. You know, I suppose you could look at this as being a natural progression. You move on from player to vice captain to captain, but it's not something that I take on without a certain amount of trepidation. I really want to be a help. I want to hopefully lead The Ryder Cup and The European Tour in a better place after two years.
But I know we want continuity in Europe. We want to keep moving along and ideally we play The Ryder Cup match tomorrow with the same 12 guys, but I know we're going to a new venue. It's an away match. We're going to have, on average, you know, three more rookies coming into the team, and I have to be a part of that team and ensure that I find an edge to make the team perform to the best of their abilities, get the most out of them and hopefully get a win.
You know, having been a player, having won three majors, I've done a lot in my own personal career, but I know taking on The Ryder Cup captaincy is a different thing. It's a different level and it's something I have to, I'm really conscious that I have to find that edge and add to it. That's something that I don't like lightly.
It's going to take a great deal of my time over the next 18 months, figuring out how can I make our team play to the best of their ability.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you, P√É¬°draig, we'll now open up to questions.
Q. Good afternoon, P√É¬°draig. I know how desperately you wanted this job. Can you tell us, first of all, how and when you were asked the question? And hand on your heart, was it a surprise or like the majority of the people in this room, I imagine, was it something you wore expecting?
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Like I alluded to there a little bit, there seems to be a natural progress at the moment. I seem to be the right time and place for me in my career and in The Ryder Cup profile of other players and whose turn it is.
Just because it seems like it's my turn, it's not just something I walked to and said, yeah, it's my turn, I should do it. It's something I did think long and hard about; was it right. It possibly easier to be a Ryder Cup Captain at home, but I realise it was good timing in my career, but I also realised that it probably was the best chance for me -- sorry, the best chance for me in an international setting going to the US, having me as their captain at this time.
So I felt, yeah, it was the right time for me to go for it, and you know, when you talk to the other players, I certainly have their support. When I talk to the other vice captains and potential captains going forward, it seemed to fit very nicely that I go and do the away match.
Then it really came down to whether I wanted to be in the hat and put what is a successful career, put it on the line -- because you are putting it on the line when you become The Ryder Cup captain. It is a different element to your career. We know a successful captain is great, and a losing captain, you know, it's his fault. I am putting something on the line going out there.
Once I decided that I wanted to take that chance, put myself out there, I think then it was just making sure that The European Tour and the PGA both decided I was the right man, too.
Q. You touched upon it there, and in the 20 years since you made your debut as a player, the role of captain has changed dramatically. Are you excited by it, or would you say you're slightly daunted by it, as well?
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: A bit of both. There's no doubt I'm excited with the whole idea. I hope I can add something to it.
We've had some great captains over the last number of years, and you know, I suppose I've learnt from all of them. I've probably learnt more -- I've actually learnt a lot more as vice captain than you do as a player. It's amazing the difference: As a player, you're very one-dimensional with doing your thing and getting on and performing. As a vice captain, you definitely see more.
It is daunting because you want to do a good job. You want to add to The Ryder Cup, and as I said, Thomas has left it in a very strong place. He did a great job, and all the captains I've played under or was vice captain, I've learned from every one of them and I will try to bring all that together.
Hopefully I will pull it together and say the right things at the right time, and hopefully get a team and get the best out of that team that provide a winning performance.
Q. Just to probe on that point a little further, as you said, nine different captains you've played or vice captained underneath, what bits from each one do you think you will take?
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: I will definitely take bits from all of them. You know, I could go back as far as your Sam Torrance and Woosie, who are very emotional, put their arm around your shoulder and make you believe that they believed in you. They give you tremendous confidence.
But I also played under Bernhard Langer, who is like a schoolteacher, and Bernhard did get involved. He would come on to the tee box and tell you what clubs to hit. I remember getting scolded in one of the team meetings for laying up into a hazard.
To be honest, if I look at all of this, I'm not the fuzzy, cuddly type, either, so I might be more on the Bernhard Langer style of things.
But then you learn from Monty, who gathered the best of everything that had gone on before and put it together.
Paul McGinley took it to a new level, no doubt about that, in pre-match organization. Paul certainly put more into that two years before the match than anybody else had done before, and that's a requirement now.
This is what I said there, it's close on 18 months to go now, a little bit more, but it really is a full-time job, The Ryder Cup, trying to get everything in preparation ready for the match.
Because as I would have seen, Paul's went very well and he was very organised and it really did go smoothly during the week.
Darren was very organised and it didn't go smoothly. There was a curveball and you probably would learn most in that match because a lot of decisions were coming in retrospect and it was just a difficult -- we were always trying to play catch-up. We were playing a great team. So you learn a lot in adversity.
And I think going in with Thomas in France, again, we had adversity but I think we were well prepared. I liked the fact that Thomas relied on his vice captains to have teams ready for him to make decisions, and I would certainly be going down that road.
I will be talking a lot with my vice captains to give them the power and to make them aware that they have to do a lot of the work and prepare a lot of the details, so that when I come -- and it's a limited time during The Ryder Cup. There's a lot of distractions; that they have done the work, the groundwork, that I can come in and make decisions.
I think that's what happened with Thomas's team in France, and it worked very well considering we went down so heavily the first morning on Friday. The backup that Thomas had and his ability to stick with his guns and stay with the same team in the afternoon is really what won it.
Q. Just finally from me, it has been the worst-kept secret in golf. I'm sure you've been inundated with messages from players over the last few months and not just the last couple weeks. Who have you heard from and what have they had to say you?
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: I'm very encouraged by the support I've got from the players. It has been, I believe, unanimous in their support. Not just the past captains, who I would be close with, but the current players who are going to play under me, they are all very supportive.
I know they want continuity. It's a very important thing to have that continuity, but their confidence in me is hopefully going to be well placed and it does make my job easier that I feel I have the confidence of the mares.
And yeah, they have all spoken to me publically. They have spoken to me privately, and it is very important that I have that feeling of support, because I have to be a confident captain as much as I need to have confident players.
Q. You've spoken about "trepidation" ahead of this. You've used the word "daunting." Is that because you've been so successful as a player, three majors, more than 30 wins, that taking this role is something that you have to prepare all over again for and it's a blank sheet and you've set yourself extremely high standards as a player.
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Some of it, yes, I've had a successful career and you want to always be successful in the golfing spirit because of what I've done.
But I think more of it is just you're trying to beat a U.S. Team away from home. They are great players and a great team, and it's not an easy task. I am well aware, it's a win or nothing. That's the way it goes. You go out there and win, you're a successful captain. You lose, you're not.
It is daunting. Some of it's a little bit outside my control. I will concentrate on what I can control, but yeah, it does reflect on my career how this goes, and I'm aware that I could have passed up on this and just kept on going as a nice tournament golfer.
But I'm like everybody else who takes on The Ryder Cup; when you're a Ryder Cup Captain, you're putting a lot of, I suppose, the history of your game; your legacy you're putting on the line.
Q. And given what you've just said, how seriously did you consider passing it up?
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: When did I consider it seriously, I was certainly thinking and considering it. I don't think I ever thought I wasn't going to do it, but I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons.
I wanted to be clear that I didn't just walk into it because it was the next thing to do in my career. I wanted to make sure that I was doing it because I believed in it and wanted it and felt I could add to it.
So it probably was unlikely that I was ever going to skip it, but I had to be clear that I was doing it for the right reasons.
Q. You say understandably that it's a full-time job. Does that mean that you already think the price you'll pay for taking this captaincy is the next two seasons for you as a player?
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: In some ways. I've reached a stage in my career where I enjoy playing golf. I'm not as stressed about everything that goes with it in terms of, you know, a younger time in my career, like if I didn't eat the right food and get in the gym and have my physio and all this. There was an element of, oh, well, how can I perform.
I've got to a stage in my career, that, yeah, I like to do those things if it fits in my schedule, but I can still go out there and play and enjoy myself on the golf course. In my own golf, I do feel like I can be competitive. I go out there, and if I'm coming down the stretch against any of my potential teammates, I feel like I can win in that situation. But I don't put myself under the same pressure. I don't worry about it so much.
You know, there is an element of The Ryder Cup, there's quite a number of things to be done outside of my golf, and I don't mind. I don't mind going for a dinner for a couple of hours and sitting down and having a nice meal with sponsors or actually business meetings or things like that. That's kind of where I've got to in my career.
I feel like I can handle the both of them and the way I'm handling it is not getting too uptight about my golf.
Q. Just one thing about your style of captaincy. You spoke about Bernhard Langer being someone who you might follow because he's a multiple-major winner who was a captain; he won away from home. Jos√É¬© Maria Olaz√É¬°bal won away from home. You're a multiple-major winner. Does it give you a recognition edge in America that they know who you are and you've won a major in America?
P√É¬ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, I think it does fit nicely that I have performed and played in the US. I would be reasonably well known in the US. The event itself is not too far from Chicago, which has a nice Irish base.
Yeah, there are a lot of good reasons for me to be the captain in the US and all of them should be helpful to me and the team in terms of support and just every captain is going to get a good welcome.
So at the end of the day, there is a little element of it, yes, for sure, but everything really lines up. This is a good -- you know, I'm the right man for the job at this time.
But going back to the Bernhard Langer thing, it's more I'm the same personality as Bernhard Langer than anything else.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Ladies and gentlemen, again, thank you for your time. P√É¬°draig, I think it's best to say that everyone in this room wishes you all the best over the next 20 months as we lead to Whistling Straits in 2020. Thank you, everyone.
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