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THE RYDER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 20, 2019
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, everyone. I'm The PGA of America's Julius Mason, and I'd like to thank you very much for joining us today at Pfizer Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
We would also like to welcome those that are watching us on Golf Channel and live on Ryder Cup USA's Facebook and Twitter pages and listening on Sirius XM.
We are here today to talk about the 2020 Ryder Cup and in just 19 months, the 43rd edition of golf's most exciting team competition will take place at Whistling Straits right here in Wisconsin September 22 to 27 in 2020. And to lead this conversation, please welcome the PGA director of instruction at The Country Club at Mirasol, the president of The PGA of America, Suzy Whaley.
SUZY WHALEY: Thanks, Julius. Welcome, everyone, and good morning. The 2020 Ryder Cup will be held just about an hour north of here in Kohler Wisconsin and Whistling Straits is a world-class venue designed by Hall of Famer Pete Dye, and we've hosted three PGA Championships before there previously.
The Kohler family has created truly one of the greatest golf courses in America on the shores of Lake Michigan, and it is truly one of the most visually stunning golf courses in the world.
JULIUS MASON: Suzy, why don't we cut to the chase. I think you have some news that you would like to share with everybody today.
SUZY WHALEY: I do have some news. In the history of The Ryder Cup, there's been 28 U.S. Ryder Cup Captains.
On behalf of The PGA of America and the members of The Ryder Cup Committee, it is truly my honor to share with you our next inductee as a U.S. Ryder Cup Captain. He's played three Ryder Cups, including the 2008 victorious team. He's a three-time vice captain including the 2016 victorious team, and he captained the victorious 2017 Presidents Cup.
It is my honor to introduce to you the 2020 United States Ryder Cup Captain, Steve Stricker.
JULIUS MASON: Surprise, surprise. Congratulations, Steve, on being named the 29th United States Ryder Cup Captain.
Do me a favor right now, if you would, sit back, relax and enjoy this video of your golf journey, please.
(Video played. )
JULIUS MASON: So Steve, now it is official. Take a deep breath and talk to us about maybe the emotions you have right now and maybe what this means to your family.
STEVE STRICKER: Yes, thank you, to the PGA and Ryder Cup committee for giving me this opportunity, first of all (tearing up). I'm an emotional guy (laughter) but truly, truly, a dream come true.
You know, an honor to represent the PGA, the competition itself, and truly humbled, really humbled by this -- oh, Joe's here, too, how you doing. (Laughter).
Truly humbled by this opportunity. Because you know, I'm very passionate about this competition and you know, some people see this, and they don't think I'm very passionate about -- or fiery about playing the game of golf and what I do for a living, but deep down, I'm very competitive.
We want to win this more than ever, and I'm here to help in any way -- in any way I can, so I'm very blessed and happy to be here. Thank you.
JULIUS MASON: Congratulations, again, Steve.
Suzy, as a member of the PGA Ryder Cup Committee, you and the captain have made some decisions already on the 2020 calendar. Can you share some of those insights, please?
SUZY WHALEY: We have. The points system is very similar to what you've seen in the last Ryder Cup. All U.S. players will have the opportunity to begin compiling points at this week's WGC MĂ©xico Championship. They will conclude on August 23rd, 2020, at the BMW Championship.
On September 1, Captain Stricker will make all four captain's selections, two days after the conclusion of THE TOUR Championship.
JULIUS MASON: So Steve, what do you think now about having all four picks at once, and three weeks before the actual competition begins?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, with the change to the schedule, scheduling on the PGA TOUR, we have now a three-week period between when the Ryder Cups points end and The Ryder Cup itself.
So we have this time period where we can, you know, make those selections, get everybody on board, the same page, formalize our team, work on the pairings and give our guys an opportunity to rest, get ready, get their games in shape if they need to, and then take part in The Ryder Cup.
But I think it's a good move. We experienced where we waited on a pick last year and that, too, provides a few issues along the way, but now, I think we've formalized a really good system here, and it should be really good.
JULIUS MASON: Steve, can you bring us a little bit more in side of you and share what you might describe as your captaincy style, what your approach will be?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think communication is my biggest thing. I want to make sure that all these players that make the team know what to expect from me and what I expect from them.
I think just listening to them, giving them a great environment to succeed and be able to put their best foot forward. But I think communication and being up front with them and knowing what I expect from them is going to be the biggest thing.
JULIUS MASON: I think everybody in the room here knows you're a proud ambassador of the state of Wisconsin. What does it mean to you, knowing that you're going to be captaining in your own home state?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it means a lot, it really does. I grew up not far from here. Wisconsin is a tremendous sports state. They back their teams with passion. The Packers, the Bucks, the Brewers, Marquette, the Badgers. You know, every team, there's tremendous support for those teams.
I expect nothing different here for The Ryder Cup or even more so, I've been at these PGAs the last few times here, the last two PGAs that were held at Whistling Straits, and they came out in full force, supported the event, and they support their own. So I'm excited to be here.
JULIUS MASON: You talked about the 2010 and the 2015 PGA Championship, so let's talk a little bit about Whistling Straits as a Ryder Cup venue.
What are your thoughts on it? You're obviously very familiar with it.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think it's a great course for this competition. It provides, well, great scenery, first of all. You feel like you're not even in Wisconsin when you're out there at Whistling Straits. It looks like an ocean out there, not one of the Great Lakes. But truly a magnificent-looking course.
It's a Pete Dye Course, so it's challenging to the eye. There's holes that are real legitimate birdie holes, and then there are some holes that you've really got to suck it up and make -- pars are going to be good. So I think that's going to lend itself to a good match-play course.
JULIUS MASON: You played on your first Ryder Cup in 2008. It was a very memorable week in Louisville, Kentucky. You told me after that, you were pretty much hooked after making your first Ryder Cup Team.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that was an unbelievable experience. At the age of 41, to finally play your first Ryder Cup, it was something that I did and the crowds there at Valhalla Golf Club and Kentucky -- sorry, phone's going off -- put that on the floor (laughter).
JULIUS MASON: You want to tell anybody who that was?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I got a nice text from -- well, John Daly, there you go. (Laughter) I just saw his workout video on the Golf Channel this morning.
What was the question? (Laughter)
JULIUS MASON: I think we were talking about Whistling Straits quite honestly. We were talking about your first Ryder Cup Team and how you were hooked right after that.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it is a very special competition. That does bring out the passion in our players, and you're playing for your country, you're playing for the other teammates, and it's something you want to win at such a high level that sometimes your play, it's tough to bring out the best of your play when you want it so badly.
But from that point on, I was hooked to play, and wanted to make every team, and to now captain a team is really, really cool.
JULIUS MASON: PĂˇdraig Harrington, named the 2020 European Ryder Cup Captain last month. What's your relationship like with him?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, first of all, a friend, a really good guy. I've played with PĂˇdraig over the years. We've known each other for a long time. A truly great guy, unbelievable competitor. Some of the best golf ever played in the game by someone PĂˇdraig played, winning multiple championships in a short period of time.
So I look forward to spending more and more time with him and getting to know him a little bit better, so I look forward to seeing him and again, it will be fun to be with him.
JULIUS MASON: You played on three Ryder Cup teams and you were a vice captain on three Ryder Cup teams. You talked about your passion as a team member, but it was your vice captaincy roles where you really got a good look behind the scenes of the inner workings of The Ryder Cup.
Can you talk about that a little bit?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, there's a lot going on. There's a lot behind the scenes, as players, but then when you see it as captains and then the vice captains, there's just a lot to do and there's a lot to think about and there's a lot -- you've got to take care of the 12 players, but their wives or their partners, everything. And then to get these guys playing their best is always, you know, a challenge, as well.
Yeah, I've learned a lot. I've experienced a lot and hopefully I can use some of that experience this next time.
JULIUS MASON: So speaking of vice captains, do you have any news you want to share with us today about that category?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, and keeping with the consistency that the Ryder Cup committee has put forth for us, I have Jim Furyk as my first vice captain. Jim and I are friends. We go way back, you know, almost rookie years together. I think we were a year separate on TOUR.
He was a vice captain for me at the Presidents Cup team last year. I was with him last year in Paris. Truly a great guy.
He brings a lot to the table. I mean, even if it wasn't up to The Ryder Cup Committee to put the next captain in place as a vice captain, I would still have Jim Furyk as a vice captain. He's a good guy, means a lot to me and he'll be very beneficial to the team.
Q. You've been through it as a player and as a vice captain as far as telling guys, sitting out a team competition, the partners. How are you going to handle that when you tell guys that they are going to be sitting, and in particular, team format?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that's the biggest challenge and the biggest obstacle. It first comes when you have to call a guy on the phone and say you didn't make the team. I had to do that with The Presidents Cup, a few players.
Again, I leaned back and looked at what has worked and I think it's that communication. If you're up front with the player, know where he stands, I think that's the best you can do.
Unfortunately, four guys have to sit every match, and that's what makes it difficult and it makes it hard on all the players. It makes it hard on the captains to try to figure it out to put our best team out there. But if the guy truly has the team in mind, he understands that and the team can go forward from there.
Q. Obviously you wouldn't get this honor if you weren't greatly respected by the players on TOUR. I know you don't like talking about yourself but what do you do to earn that respect and to be in the stature that you're in?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, good question (laughter). I don't know, I just -- my upbringing, I guess. Great parents. Treat people fairly. Just try to do the right things, I guess, and kind of earns the respect of other people, but kind of treat people the way I want to be treated.
You know, I've made a lot of friends over the years, and been around long enough where, you know, you're just old, you lose your hair, you gain that respect for being around.
It's nice. It's what I want to do. I mean, it's really, you know, what I wanted to do here is to become this captain here, so it's really, truly an honor.
Q. I know there's always talk before a Ryder Cup how a captain can set up a golf course to favor his team. Considering with the three PGAs, none of them were won by Americans, is there anything that you can do at Whistling Straits to make it for favorable for Team USA?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, we'll always take a look. We can't really take a look now because there's a lot of snow on the ground, but we'll go up when the snow leaves in the springtime and take a look at it.
I haven't been there for quite a few years, but I'm sure we'll look back at some of the past Ryder Cup courses and what's been favorable for the U.S. Team and try to plan according to that.
Q. What makes a good Ryder Cup player?
STEVE STRICKER: I think what makes a good Ryder Cup player is a guy who is playing well, and a guy who puts the team in front of everything, and he'll do whatever it takes to make that team succeed.
You know, a guy who is passionate, I mean, we never have any problem with the passion on our side. I mean, the guys are so ready and willing and fired up to play.
So it's about a guy who is willing to do anything for the team, and obviously is playing well at the same time.
Q. 19 months is going to come quickly. What does your schedule look like in terms of evaluating who the teammates might be on this team and what the venue will look like leading up into this timeframe?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it will come quickly but it's a long ways away, too. Literally, this is the first week where guys can start making points or earning points.
So we have, you know, a long ways to go in that respect, and I'll just keep watching. I'm going to play a lot on the regular TOUR. That's my goal is to be out there as much as I can and be with these guys, hear what they have to stay, hear what some of their needs and concerns are, and then just watch, for now, and be there for any of them that needs anything.
But again, it will be fun. It's a fun process. It will obviously ramp up next year big time, but be watching a lot of golf.
Q. Obviously Cups are announced long in advance. Maybe when did this event, this captaincy maybe cross your mind, and did you start preparing either mentally or trying to work through or work your way towards this moment today and obviously going forward?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know what, it crossed my mind quite a few years ago when we found out that it was here in Wisconsin.
I was part of the task force early on, and you know, they had kind of maybe thought about me and kind of penciled me in four or five years ago. But at that point, I never really took it seriously. It was still a long ways away. Then once I got the captaincy at the Presidents Cup and I was serving under these other captains on Ryder Cup teams, then it became kind of, well, maybe it could happen.
It's been a process. It's been in the back of my mind, and then obviously the last year or more, it's been a little bit more realistic. And then I got the call from Suzy in December, and had to try to keep it a secret.
SUZY WHALEY: Which you did well.
Q. Just a simple question. Does playing so close to home add any added pressure or make you more at ease?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I don't have to play, so that's a good thing. I think it puts us in a better position to try to win. You know, home-field advantage in The Ryder Cup is a big deal, and so I think it puts us in a good spot.
Our passionate fans, Wisconsin fans, are going to be there and U.S. fans from across the country are going to be there to support us. That's what's important, and that's what helps us -- we saw it at Hazeltine, so we're looking forward to much the same passion from the fans and excitement level, and it brings out I think a little bit better side of our player. You know, they play a little bit better. It's good to be home.
Q. This is going to be the first Ryder Cup with the new condensed schedule on the PGA TOUR. Do you think it's going to be an advantage to have a little bit of downtime between THE TOUR Championship and The Ryder Cup, as opposed to last year, you had THE TOUR Championship, everybody gets thrown on a plane and next thing you know, everybody is in Paris?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, for sure it helps. It helps both sides, really. There's European players that are playing our TOUR and they are playing the Playoffs and it's a busy stretch. Usually that last month or two, guys are playing eight out of nine weeks or eight out of ten, nine out of ten. They are playing a really busy schedule.
So with the schedule being a little bit different, it gives everybody a little bit of chance to kind of take a deep breath, relax, work on things if they need to work on things, and then prepare and get ready for this.
Q. President Trump closely follows golf and this will be just a few weeks before the reelection. Will there be more pressure on the U.S. Team to do better or to win?
STEVE STRICKER: Say that again? (Laughter).
Q. Sure. President Trump closely follows golf. This will be just a few weeks before the election. Will there be -- will you feel more pressure --
STEVE STRICKER: No.
Q. -- for the U.S. to win?
STEVE STRICKER: No.
Q. Why not?
STEVE STRICKER: Why? Well, we're not going to be thinking about President Trump while we're out there playing golf. Our guys are going to be focused on winning this trophy right here.
I know he's passionate about it. He handed me the Presidents Cup trophy when we won last year. You know, so I know he'll be watching, but we'll be thinking about this trophy right here in front of us.
Q. There's been talked about and asked of you many times and others, but in your own words: Why do you think Europe has won four out of five, why are they so good at this and why is it so hard for you guys to break through?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, and that's something we're always asking ourselves, too, because we don't lack the passion or the intensity or the players. We have some of the best players in the world, and so do they.
They have just come up with some key putts. Paris, I truly believe in that home-field advantage. The course was tailor-made for their players. And we just didn't play well.
You know, it's a tough turnaround, like I said, from the Playoffs, THE TOUR Championship, to hop on a player there in Atlanta and get over there. And they are doing the same, too. I'm not making excuses.
Just they rolled with it and hit some of those key putts and at times we've been able to do that and other times we have. This is a new year and this is a new Ryder Cup coming up. I'm looking forward to it. Our guys are looking forward to it.
It stung again last year after winning at Hazeltine, and so the guys are fired up. They are ready already to try to get it back, and we're looking forward to it already.
Q. What's the biggest takeaway or thing you've learned from being a vice captain in the years past and captain at the Presidents Cup that you can apply here in 2020 at Whistling Straits?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think just being there for the guys, and the communication I think is a huge part. Knowing where these guys stand, whether they are going to play a match or not; whether they are going to sit.
You know, just giving them the opportunity to have a great environment to play in. Davis Love taught us that. He made it so good for these guys, and made them feel relaxed and comfortable, and that's what it takes.
You know, it's hard. You've got to treat it like it's just a normal day of golf, and it's just -- and it is just golf. But to try to get the best out of your players, you've got to take a step back I think at times and just say it is golf, and although it means a lot, but just the communication part I think is going to be a big deal for me.
JULIUS MASON: Questions? Questions twice, Milwaukee?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our news conference for the day.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports