THE PRESIDENTS CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 4, 1999
JEFF ADAMS: Welcome, folks. I am Jeff Adams, Media Director for The Presidents Cup. We
are going to have a very informal situation with questions this morning. If we need to do
any follow-up afterwards we can certainly do that on one-on-one. We remind you that the
transcript of our press conference will be on pgatour.com which you can access through the
internet, obviously. Just a little bit of background about the Presidents Cup. We are here
to preview the fourth Presidents Cup which will be October 17th to the 22nd, 1999 right
here at RTJ Golf Club. It will be the third time it will be held at RTJ. It will be the
fourth playing of The Presidents Cup. The International Team, captained by the gentleman
to my right, retains The Presidents Cup having won it last December at Royal Melbourne
Golf Club in Australia; his hometown, I believe. The event raised $2.9 million for 70
charities worldwide, charities that were selected by the 24, actually 25 players; plus the
captain and his assistants. A reminder that on October 20th we are going to have a
teleconference with the U.S. Captain Venturi to, among other things, announce that tickets
will go on sale on October 20th for The Presidents Cup. That will be exactly one year to
the day of the first round matches of the Presidents Cup 2000. We would like to ask your
support in helping get the word out with regard to ticket availability. Peter Thomson and
his wife, Mary, have known in from Scotland, actually via Austin. Peter was over in
Scotland for the R&A annual meetings and then spent a couple of days in Austin and
they are en route to Australia tomorrow with a planned trip to the White House either
today or tomorrow. We are still making final plans as far as that is concerned. Peter is
well-known for many things; top of the list perhaps is five British Open titles; also won
three Australian Opens; nine New Zealand Opens; tournaments in Germany, Netherlands,
Spain, Italy, India, Hong Kong, the Philippines, South Africa, Japan, Canada and the
United States - pretty impressive record. He also won nine SENIOR PGA TOUR events in 1985
which has since been tied by Hale Irwin in 1997. He was awarded the CBE in 1980 and named
by the R&A, an honorary members of St. Andrews in 1982, and successful on and off the
golf course, he has a worldwide golf course architectural business that keeps him busy. If
I am not mistaken that was maybe part of the trip to Toronto.
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Maybe. (laughter).
JEFF ADAMS: Peter just came in off the golf course. They didn't get too wet out there,
but Peter and the superintendent and Sid Wilson and George Burger, General Chairman and
Lance Hartman, Tournament Manager joined out on the golf course to take a look at some of
the changes that have been made to the golf course since 1996. There were quite a few and
Peter would be prepared to talk about that. I would just like to open it up to Peter for
perhaps a few opening remarks about what he saw on the golf course and a preview of
Presidents Cup going forward; then we can ask him questions. Peter.
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Thank you, Jeff. It is my great pleasure to be here back where I sort
of started with The Presidents Cup. As you can understand this has now become a great
passion in my life. At my age I think I am very lucky to be involved with these young
giants of the game. And so from here 'til October next year I will be hardly thinking of
anything else but The Presidents Cup. I still have in mind that -- the glory days of Royal
Melbourne when our team did so well. I am under no illusions that that would happen again
in the United States. But the big challenge now, as I said at that occasion, is for this
international team to prove that it can win this Presidents Cup here on U.S. soil. That
will be the main aim of our team for next year. Obviously it is possible because we came
within a whisker of it in 1996. So that is what I am about. My team had a meeting at the
British Open at Carnoustie, kind of reunion which was a spontaneous occasion where
everybody recalled the moments of Melbourne and also the great times we had here at RTJ in
1996, we spoke of that as well. So our mind is on this contest. We are very proud to be
involved. I know the guys are very intent on making the list and I think it is obvious
that the team won't be different to the last one on both sides. The U.S. Team is already
beginning to look like a new list. My team will still have its same backbone of about six
players like Els and Vijay Singh and Nick Price, Franco and Perry and Elkington certainly
and maybe Appleby. They would certainly be the backbone of the team. But the other six, of
course, are yet to be identified because of the long way to go. But we will have -- both
teams will be a new look so that will make it more interesting. Now I have looked at the
changes to the course here and they certainly looked to me like tremendous improvements.
Some of the little flaws that were, I think, obvious the last time we played have been
eliminated. And it will be even better from the players' point of view, but I think from
spectators, too. So I am thrilled to have seen that this morning. More than that, I can't
offer you unless you ask me.
Q. This golf course, some people say that the players have criticisms of this golf
course in the way it has been designed. Do you think it is a good venue for this event and
would you give us a little more detail about the flaws that have been corrected?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: I think, Jerry, there is no course I know that doesn't have some
critics. I can't think of one course anywhere that -- even the old course at St. Andrews
which everybody loved so much, people say, well, it is a big phony or something. But I
don't take too much notice of criticisms on this course. Every golf course is different.
Every golf course has a character. This certainly has it - in the woods of Virginia. This
is not the seaside of the British Isles nor the kind of aridness of Arizona or Texas. This
is very much a Virginia woods course. And as such, I am sure it is one of the best that
there is. It is nine years old, this course, and it is like every course, I think from use
and practice you find little flaws about green contours or shapes or such things. I think
that has been the main adjustment to the course; some of the greens that were too
undulating, I think have been leveled to make more friendly putting without actually
detracting from the difficulty of the place. I suppose that word "Practicality"
is really what is going on. When golf courses started; perhaps at St. Andrews, they came
across all kinds of rough territory until they got to a flat place where they holed out
into; that is where golf started, holing out in a flat place and that is really what we
are after here, this course, and we are after that on any other course. That is the flaws
that I am referring to.
Q. Would you say that was the most significant changes?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Yes. Also a couple of the holes near the end have been lengthened; not
for the sake of extra length - it's got plenty of length- but just to open up the view of
the lake behind the green which adds to the beauty of the place really. That is the 15th
and the 18th. It really is a very beautiful course.
Q. This event will be rather late in the year in the golf season. Is that a concern to
you? I don't know how much you know about the climate here, but is it a concern?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: I understand there is a worry about daylight hours playing two rounds.
But, no. Well, I mean, it may rain any day of the year, I guess. But it will be cooler, I
think, more comfortable; it might be the best time of all to play.
Q. The only concern I have about that is that sometimes you can get frost in the
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Oh.
Q. That could create problems for you on Friday and Saturday.
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Like a delay, you mean?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: All right. Is that a fact? You better ask the tournament director.
LANCE HARTMAN: Well, as a precaution and part of what we do in looking at the time and
with our climate studies, the club and the tournament have taken the steps to purchase
equipment: blanketing, heating devices, to ensure that frost will not delay any play.
That's really where the club has stepped up as a partner in this event and said: We will,
at our cost, purchase the equipment to cover the greens and make sure that frost is not a
Q. You are talking about blankets and heaters and you will cover the greens at night if
you get a forecast of frost?
LANCE HARTMAN: Yes. So that we guarantee that there will be an 8:00 A.M. start on
Friday and Saturday. Only thing that may delay us would be fog as it did in 1994.
Q. I guess there is nothing you can do about fog when you are on a lake; you expect to
have a problem, is --
LANCE HARTMAN: Unless you have big fans. (laughter).
CAPTAIN THOMSON: The players know the course perfectly well. They can play it
blindfolded (laughter) What is a little fog? (laughter).
Q. See, these are problems that I have trying to play golf around here in the fall. We
sat around and drank coffee until the fog left and the frost melts. (laughter).
LANCE HARTMAN: Our studies with the National Weather Service basically have indicated
that the highs during the day are upper 60s; low 70s. The lows are in the lower 50s at
night. That is basically a five-year average that we have taken. We feel as though that is
comfortable where we can host it the third week of October. It is peak leaf season so from
an aesthetic look, cosmetic, realistically the trees should be on fire, figuratively, in
color. That is really going to add a dramatic look to the course.
Q. So you have covered all the bases?
LANCE HARTMAN: We hope. Snow is the one you hope doesn't come into play. Snow and fog.
Q. The 15 years I have lived here, the earliest snow I have seen was on Veterans Day;
that was one of the biggest storms they have ever had too, so I don't think snow would be
LANCE HARTMAN: Everyone quote that.
JEFF ADAMS: We have Jerry Potter in charge of weather. (laughter)
Q. I experienced this every fall....
LANCE HARTMAN: It is a concern and we just hope we have the measures in place. We think
Q. Sounds like you do.
LANCE HARTMAN: Yeah.
Q. This golf course, coming back here for the third time, well, what will that mean?
Your players should be familiar with it.
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Half of them would be, yeah. There will be a new -- probably four or
five guys who have been here before.
Q. Is that a consideration now because some players say they can figure a course out?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Oh, yeah, of course. They are all pro at it and they wouldn't be where
they are on the list if they didn't have that capability.
Q. In all your years of golf are we at a point now where international team competition
is at its peak?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, there seems to be more of it. This week, a team-thing at St.
Andrews. You have got to include that, haven't you, in what you are speaking of? Then
there is the World Cup somewhere soon which is pairs. I suppose we do have more team golf
Q. Do you find it is difficult to get players in a team-frame-of-mind?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Not in our case or I suppose it should be "My case." This
particular team; it is called the International Team, is already bonded by the fact that
most of them play in the U.S. as a kind of category of foreign players. So they
automatically gravitate together and feel that they have got a like purpose and like
problems and so on. They are already a bonded group. So I don't have any problem like
having to pull them altogether. They are already such. I think that is lucky; and maybe
one reason they do so well. Also, I have said this before, too. They have a point to prove
and that is that until recently they have been ignored, for instance, the Ryder Cup has
taken center stage and, therefore, no Australian or South African or Japanese is involved
in that contest. My team feels that leaving them out is not a very nice thing to happen.
So they are making a point that there is a third force of team golf in the world and that
is this International Team. If we are lucky enough to win this contest next year, I think
we would be able to claim that we are an undisputed top team and they want to do that.
Q. Do you feel at all that this maybe doesn't carry as much weight as the Ryder Cup or
is this on par?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Let me put it this way to you: The Ryder Cup is of no consequence
whatever to the citizens of Australia.
Q. Which brings us to another point: How much was the victory last December significant
in Australia at all and do you foresee a carryover?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Yeah, it was the biggest golf occasion we have ever had in Australia
and I think every Australian citizen had a feeling that it was Australia's team; which, of
course, it wasn't. But nevertheless, we had that feeling about it. It wasn't a group of
strangers coming to play golf on our doorstep. It was our team. It was capital letter
O-U-R, "OUR Team." And when the next contest takes place, there will be a couple
of million Australians looking at it on the TV in the middle of the night. So I am sure
that is where we stand.
Q. How significant would it be for your team to come here and win on American soil?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, I did refer to that. That is our aim and if we pull it off, it
will be of immense joy and satisfaction because we know that that is the most difficult
thing in golf, I think, for a team to come and beat the U.S. on U.S. soil.
Q. Why do you think it is?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, I acknowledge that the U.S. Team is the strongest team of
golfers and we would naturally be underdogs and if we knock off the favorites, well, that
has special joy and significance.
Q. Do you use at all what happened in the Ryder Cup as motivation; does that even
factor into it?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, I watched very closely and having captain experience I felt I
could sense certainly what was going on there from by both captains. But, anyway, it is
none of my business what went on there; I am just an observer like you.
Q. This is another subject that I think we have talked about before. You see the times
where we might have some form of combination as with the Ryder Cup and The Presidents Cup
and meet every other year; how would that work?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: That is the key question. I would like to see it happen, I tell you
that first. I'd like this to be a three-corner contest. But I think it is unlikely; if not
impossible, because of the vested interest of the US PGA and the British PGA who actually
together own the Ryder Cup. They are not likely to surrender anything, any point or facet
of it to the Presidents Cup. I would expect that they would see The Presidents Cup as some
kind of threat, but then that is their business.
Q. But if players get to the point where they say: We don't want to have to do this
every fall because in America the players are potentially going to be the same, "the
heart," as you would say, of the list would be the same players....
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Jerry, if they need to make a choice and they don't want to play every
year, I hope they choose to play The Presidents Cup. I think that is not unlikely because
of what has gone on up to now at the Ryder Cup.
Q. There was talk, things written about etiquette in golf in view of what went on at
the Ryder Cup. I guess my first question would be: What is your definition of proper golf
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, I am a traditionalist. I find punching the air, for instance, to
be out of order. I think that should be stopped. I find that provocative of crowds and
galleries and also intimidating to opponents. I don't think it has any place in golf. You
don't do it in club life; I don't think that has a place. Anyway, that is me personally. I
am telling you the truth like I usually do. That is typical of my attitude to etiquette.
Q. We are out etiquette then in all of our sports?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, I just comment that apologies were made. I didn't tell them to
do that. It was spontaneous and I think that was correct.
Q. Have we gotten to a point though because golf has been become so popular there are
several people in these crowds and galleries who maybe don't have --
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, this is a little different which -- I think we are referring to
the team behavior.
Q. I understand what he is asking about how the players are becoming more boisterous,
shall we say. But that in turn is not just the players, it is also feeding the crowds and
they are sort of feeding off one another?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Yeah, you are probably right. I don't think this has happened in The
Presidents Cup. I am sure it hasn't where I have been involved. I hope it doesn't. But it
may. It may.
Q. That is what I am asking because of how --
CAPTAIN THOMSON: If it does tend that way, somebody after I am gone will have to tackle
it because I just feel the next Ryder Cup is going to be ugly.
Q. And could that carry over into the next Presidents Cup (inaudible) --
CAPTAIN THOMSON: I don't believe it will. I think the problem with the Ryder Cup
started some years ago. I wasn't present. I didn't really take much interest, but at some
point there was some sort of crowd abuse, I think, of the U.S. Team. Then what has
happened is a retaliation of that. I mean, every golf fan - a real fan knows what took
place, say, in England eight years ago, whatever it was. So what happens now is
retaliation; it is hidden retaliation; that is what is going on.
Q. You think it is more confined to that --
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Yes, and we haven't had such a hit in our Presidents Cup contest yet.
I hope we never have. If there is no hit, there is no need for retaliation. That is my
Q. Do you find that the crowds are far more boisterous around the world now in golf?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: The answer is yes. They are noisier because the crowds are bigger. But
it is now expected, I think, for them to cheer and whistle and things like that. I find a
problem with that.
Q. Do you think that -- going back to where we were before -- that maybe that involves
the players being more demonstrative or is that just the crowd not quite being informed on
CAPTAIN THOMSON: No. I think the crowd, by its increase in number now includes people
who want to do that; who have a feeling they want to play a part, audience participation
and that is a natural progression, I guess. I think The Presidents Cup up to now has been
the perfect example of crowd participation. I mean, they applaud good shots no matter who
hits them. They applaud the winning team; quite rightly. I think that is where we are at.
It is very wholesome.
Q. Talk about your team now - we are too far away to know specifics about it - but you
have said it might change in character with new players coming on. I think the man that I
was talking about was Greg Chalmers last year when he won just before the event. A man
like that, would he be a possibility?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Indeed. He is logically one of the possible captain's choices if he
doesn't make the 10. I mean, he has been battling very hard and, I think, gallantly here
in the U.S. this year - pretty hard from that situation of being a part-timer, I suppose,
you'd call him, wouldn't you?
JEFF ADAMS: He has got his card this year so he is playing a full schedule here, but it
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Yeah, and he has been battling and he hasn't quite found how to do it
yet in the U.S. so -- whether he makes the Top-10 in the rankings next year or not, he
will be a consideration, I promise you.
Q. Most of the public here if we talked to them about the Presidents Cup I think the
first thing they would say would be "Greg Norman." So where does Greg fit?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, if he wants to play, I am pretty certain that he will play. I
will add to that. I will say the team needs him.
Q. Do you have much contact with him at all?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: No, our paths cross here and there because I have a different
lifestyle and different travel. I don't live in Florida.
Q. You see him in January in Australia?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Yeah, I saw him. Well, I saw him in August in Australia briefly. I saw
him at Carnoustie.
Q. When you are together do you talk Presidents Cup?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Well, not at this stage, no. It is not of particular concern at the
moment or up to now, but as we get near the time I will certainly be having a big chat
Q. Do you hear other former players, when you see them in off-years, do they talk
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Yeah, it is a big thing with them.
Q. How much do you think the victory last year has helped word golf -- let's say
Australian golfers because so many Australians were there, or golf in that part of the
CAPTAIN THOMSON: It has raised the interest in professional golf. But professional golf
is not the real golf. The real golf is club golf and public links golf and
once-a-year-golf; that is the real golf. There is a rub-off with good televised golf and
big occasions. There always is that renewed interest; public green fees go up. There is
more club golf played and so it is a kind of a rub-off from these big events. Some people
take up golf because they have seen it on the television. So I think the answer to the
question is it has had a big impact. I think golf sales have gone up and club sales and
membership lists got longer; things like that.
Q. Do you see an increase in your business, in your other endeavors?
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Yeah, we have had quite a boost since last year in Australia. There is
a sudden surge in new courses being planned; may be traceable to The Presidents Cup. Of
course we have become more affluent, but as a result of our peace-keeping efforts now in
these team wars, we have got to foot the bill, so we are going to be less affluent.
Q. How will the Olympics affect your involvement with The Presidents Cup in any way?
Will the folks in sports be taken up by the Olympics next fall or --
CAPTAIN THOMSON: Until it is over and it will be over in September and we will be back
to normal. You can sense that I live in Melbourne; not Sidney (laughter). We are worried
that all the people in Sidney are going to come down to Melbourne for the week and foul up
our traffic and all that. (laughter).
JEFF ADAMS: Thank you very much. I will remind everybody about October 20th and Ken
Venturi's teleconference and at the same time, that is the date that tickets will go on
sale. Thank you very much Peter Thomson and Peter with ASAP Sports and everybody for
End of FastScripts