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PGA OF AMERICA MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 6, 2006
Ryder Cup Captain Announcement
JULIUS MASON: We'd like to welcome you all to the 2008 United States Ryder Cup captain's announcement. As we all get settled, please enjoy the energy and the passion that is the Ryder Cup on the monitors.
JULIUS MASON: Welcome back to Valhalla Golf Club, ladies and gentlemen, and a packed house. Let's meet the members of our head table for a moment. From the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Governor Ernie Fletcher; from Louisville, Mayor Jerry Abramson; also from Louisville, the founder of Valhalla Golf Club; and the general chairman of the Ryder Cup, Walt Gahm; from Kiawah Island, South Carolina, the President of the PGA of America, Mr. Roger Warren; and the 2008 United States Ryder Cup captain, Paul Azinger (applause).
For those of you on the phone lines, that was a real Valhalla welcome.
We also have some guests in the audience joining us that we'd like you to meet. First, from the PGA of America, the Vice President, Brian Whitcomb; Secretary, Jim Remy; Honorary President, M.G. Orender; PGA of America CEO, Joe Steranka; Managing Director, Kerry Haigh; PGA Section President, Gary Bebelaar; PGA Executive Director from the section, Mark Hill; Valhalla general golf course manager, Mike Montague; PGA head professional, Keith Reese; golf course superintendent, Mark Wilson; the other founders of Valhalla Golf Club, Dwight, Gordy and Phil Gahm in the front row; and Ryder Cup tournament director, Tara Guenthner, and a number of her staff joining us this morning.
At this time, ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to ask our operator Matt joining us today for some instructions for today's teleconference.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, to get things started I'd like to introduce the governor of Kentucky, the Honorable Ernie Fletcher.
HON. ERNIE FLETCHER: Let me first welcome the PGA and all of you to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is great to have you here, and we're excited about Ryder Cup 2008.
Paul, congratulations, an outstanding choice. We want to welcome you and Tony here to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It's been a great week for Kentucky. We've had victories with U of L, we've had victories with UK, we had Breeders Cup here, now the Ryder Cup coming. Paul, Kentucky is a place to win. We're excited about you, and we want to say congratulations to this wonderful, wonderful choice.
As we prepare for the Ryder Cup, we've had a team that we put together with Mayor Abramson. We visited the Ryder Cup in Ireland. It is a spectacular event. Please know, Paul and the PGA, that we are preparing and doing everything we can to make the 2008 Ryder Cup one of the best Ryder Cups ever, and we've got a tremendous team.
When I was in Ireland, we invited the world to come to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We said from a place of green grass in Ireland to a place of bluegrass. We want to extend that welcome again to the world to come to Kentucky, to Valhalla, Louisville, and Kentucky, a place of unbridled spirit.
Paul, we are very excited about this. Roger, we want to again say thank you to you and the PGA of America for choosing Valhalla, a wonderful course for a great Ryder Cup 2008.
JULIUS MASON: Now, ladies and gentlemen, we will now hear from Mayor Jerry Abramson.
MAYOR JERRY ABRAMSON: Thank you very much. One of the national reporters stopped me as I was walking in saying, "What's going on in Louisville? Every time we turn around you're on the front page of a sporting event or activity" that is going in an exceptionally positive way, and that's what Louisville is all about, and the energy that we're all bringing to the table, the task forces the governor mentioned, the citizens that have given their time in volunteering to ensure that the event is something very, very special. The type of commitment that the statewide task force is giving, this community will truly be ready when you're ready, Paul, to bring the team in for a victory here in a couple of years.
It's an important emphasis that Louisville has made on sports, to Mr. Gahm who had the dream and the vision of creating this wonderful golf course. Good things don't happen unless great people step up to make them happen, and the Gahm family certainly has been one of those great groups of individuals who have made a tremendous difference not only in golf but a tremendous difference here in Louisville, Kentucky.
Welcome, Paul, congratulations on your selection, and welcome to the PGA back in Louisville once again. We'll be ready and look forward to hosting you in kind of the warm and receptive red carpet treatment that you've received every time when you've come to Louisville. Welcome.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you. And now, ladies and gentlemen, a member of Louisville's First Family, the general chairman of the 37th Ryder Cup, Walt Gahm.
WALT GAHM: Thank you, Julius. I'm honored to be here representing my family, my father Dwight, my brothers Gordy and Phil, the staff of Valhalla, as well as all the members here at Valhalla and the 3,000 or so volunteers it's going to take to put on this 37th Ryder Cup.
Valhalla is our family's, the Gahm family's, dream come true. We've been honored to have two PGA Championships, a Senior PGA Championship and the National Club Professional Championship here. It is very exciting, but now we're having the Ryder Cup, and I guess all we can say is, "Wow, this is big time." So thank you all.
Our goal here in putting on this Ryder Cup is that when people leave after the event is over, they leave our gates, that it will be a memorable experience for each and every one of them, that they will remember the kindness and the hospitality of all the people of our community. Paul, of course that experience would be a little bit better if we have a victory (laughter), so I don't want to put the early pressure on you, but that's the way it is.
Congratulations, Paul, we wish you the best, and anything we can do for you, your wife and your family, please ask.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much. And now, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the PGA of America Mr. Roger Warren.
ROGER WARREN: Thank you, Julius. I have a head cold so I have a little difficulty talking normally.
We are here today and I am here as president to do one of the most enjoyable things we do, to talk about the Ryder Cup. We came off a wonderful experience at the Ryder Cup in Ireland. It was a great experience. Everything about it was wonderful. The Ryder Cup continued to demonstrate why it is the greatest golf event in the world. And beyond the fact that we didn't win, it was clear that the Ryder Cup stood out, stood out for what it means in golf, stood out for what it means to the people who play in it, both winning and losing. The players give everything they could, and in the end the game of golf won because of the Ryder Cup.
We will be coming here with the 37th Ryder Cup to Valhalla, a site we are very proud of as the PGA of America, and we looked at the golf course and we said, first of all, to the members of Valhalla, we want to try to improve the golf club for them so we've been putting it through some changes.
But we've also said we want to make sure this golf course continues to grow and develop and challenge these players, so we'll be putting some changes in place between now and the Ryder Cup that I think everyone will appreciate and enjoy.
I think it's important that we know that the Ryder Cup will be played on a great venue here at Valhalla.
The Ryder Cup has become such an important part of golf history, and it's important we continue its tradition on selecting great Ryder Cup captains. PGA has never made a mistake in a Ryder Cup captain.
The Ryder Cup captain has to be an individual who understands, first of all, what the Ryder Cup means to the game of golf, what the Ryder Cup means to the PGA of America, what it means to this country. So when we go out and we look for a Ryder Cup captain, we look for someone who's had that experience, who's had quality experience and who understands the relationship between the Ryder Cup, the game of golf and the PGA of America.
We feel very proud of the selection we've made for the 2008 Ryder Cup captain. He's the 25th individual to be honored with this responsibility. He became professional in 1981, has played in five Ryder Cups, and certainly has had some of the most memorable experiences in the Ryder Cup, playing against Seve certainly, and it's clear his fellow co-captain, his other captain from the other side, he and Nick Faldo, have had some wonderful times together in the Ryder Cups, and we're looking forward to a continuation of that competition.
We asked Paul Azinger to be the Ryder Cup captain because we know he understands the Ryder Cup. We say to Paul, we challenge him to continue to lead the Ryder Cup in the way that it continues to be, the greatest event in golf, to hold the high standards of the Ryder Cup, of the PGA of America, and finally, to play to win.
We look forward to a win, too, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much. It's nice to be here.
PAUL AZINGER: Thank you very much. First of all, I just thank Governor Fletcher and Mr. Mayor. I appreciate you and the Commonwealth of Kentucky in welcoming me here. Walt, thank you for your efforts, as well. Roger, I want you to know I'm proud to represent the 28,000 men and women of the PGA of America, and I'm going to be equally as proud to represent the United States of America and our next Ryder Cup team.
Just so you know, I'm going to be the captain, not their coach (laughter). Each individual will have a coach and I will be the captain. I think my responsibility is to be very organized, be as thorough as possible, try and figure out who's going to play best with who for the most part. But I believe that the selection process is important, as well, and it's one of the biggest changes we've made. Roger is going to share that with you here in a second.
I just want to say that it is, I think, the greatest honor that you can bestow on a professional golfer is to ask him to captain a Ryder Cup team, and I'm awestruck by it, and I really, really appreciate the opportunity and your confidence in me.
JULIUS MASON: Roger, part two, I think you need to share some news with the audience on the points system.
ROGER WARREN: Thank you, Julius. We do have a significant announcement to make about the points system. Really the points system for the 2008 Ryder Cup falls into three sequences.
For the 2006 Ryder Cup we had a process in place that selected players for the team, top ten Americans who earned points. Those Americans who finished in the top ten -- let me get it straight. Those Americans who finished in the top ten earned points. In this last Ryder Cup we gave out only about 58 percent of the points.
We looked at the process and said with the influx of the foreign players on the Tour and some reduced opportunities because of the quality of the play for our American players to earn points, we've taken those people who continued to earn points between the PGA Championship this year and the end of the Tour, and those people will be earning points for that period.
The new system revolves around earning points for money on the Tour. A player will get one point for every thousand dollars that they win if they make the cut in an event. So all American players who play in a Tour event who make the cut will be earning points toward the Ryder Cup. Those players in 2006 that have earned points, those that have finished in the top ten, will get one quarter of a point for every thousand dollars they earned.
We felt it was very important to award those points because those players had been playing assuming they were getting those points. We thought it was important to award those points, so they'll get one quarter of a point for every dollar they earned in that time frame.
In 2007 the only events where American players will earn points toward the Ryder Cup team will be the four majors, Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship. Players will get one point for every thousand dollars they make in that event if they make the cut.
The biggest change is in 2008, the year of the Ryder Cup. Starting January of that year through the entire year to the PGA Championship, players will earn one point per thousand dollars in every event that they make the cut in. The four majors, the players will earn two points per thousand dollars. So the majors are weighted heavier in this process.
We did have a lot of conversations about this between now and the last Ryder Cup. We spent time talking to Paul, we spent time talking to past Ryder Cup captains. We knew that if we had won the last Ryder Cup, the system that we used would have been great because we won, but we can't sit back and look at it and say we can continue doing the same thing.
So it reevaluates the system. We think that this system in collecting points will allow players in 2008, the year closest to the Ryder Cup, to collect points.
Now, we will only be collecting points for the top eight players. We have also decided to give the 2008 Ryder Cup captain four choices rather than two. So the new system has the players earning the right to be in the top eight, and Paul will be able to select four captains' choices sometime following the PGA Championship. We have not determined at this point when that will be. We're going to continue to discuss it. The whole goal is to try to get to the point where Paul feels that he has the players that he needs to come to Valhalla, play the Ryder Cup and win the Ryder Cup.
So to review, 2006, those players that played from the PGA Championship through the end of the year get a quarter of a point for every thousand dollars they earned. Only those players who finish in the top ten in 2006 will get that.
2007, players who make the cut in the four majors get one point for every thousand dollars that they earn. 2008, they get one point per thousand dollars they earn in every event except the majors. The four majors they get two points per thousand dollars, and then Paul will be able to select four captains' choices.
We think this is a system that's going to allow us to continue to get the best playing team or the hottest playing team before the Ryder Cup and give Paul the captain the choices to be able to build his team and his image. So that's the points system, and Julius, thank you.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much for the explanation. Paul, how about it? I see you licking your chops over there. Some thoughts about the new points system.
PAUL AZINGER: Well, my eyes glaze over when I tell you a thousand dollars equals a point. We're going to use a points system. We're going to call it points, but we're going off the Money List essentially.
As Roger explained, if you finish in the top ten in '06, that money counts but only 25 percent. We decided that -- I really wanted a one-year system because I just felt like something a little more current was going to be the best way to ensure that we had the hottest and best American players on the team.
At the same time, I did feel a little funny about excluding the four major championships in '07, so they are their cash value, which of course are going to turn over into points.
By the way, as far as riding up-and-down, we are going to keep the decimal point so that there's no confusion there.
And in '08, we're essentially going to -- like I said, we're not going to use the word money but we're going to go off the Money List essentially, except that the majors are going to be double the money, and that will be converted to points as Roger explained.
I think this is the best way. I think it is the barometer. Money has always been the barometer. I played the PGA TOUR this year, in '06, on an exemption given to me by the Tour because I'm in the top 50 all-time money winners, and it's the only way I was able to play the Tour this year. I had to finish in the top 125 on the Money List so I could play next year. So of course, money again is the barometer.
If I play the Senior Tour, I'm going to be eligible because of where I am on the all-time Money List. The top 30 in the field last week got in because they finished top 30 on the Money List. We are always rewarded based on our earnings, and I just think it is the best way.
For me to be able to get four picks is fantastic. Somebody asked me if I thought it would be more difficult to make four picks than two, and actually I don't know the answer to that, but it seems to me like you're going to disappoint more people if you have only two picks than you would if you got four.
I like the idea of being able to pick four players. I like the idea that I don't have to pick them immediately after the PGA Championship. I think that that's just a little too soon, and to be given the luxury to wait one, two, three, four weeks, I don't know, we'll determine that, but I think that I have an opportunity that no other Ryder Cup captain has had, and I really appreciate that. And I love the idea that we're essentially on a one-year system with respect to the four majors in '07.
ROGER WARREN: I do have a follow-up. There was an issue this year with events that were opposite the majors, and we will be awarding points to money won in events opposite a major and opposite another event, but it'll be at 50 percent, half a point for every dollar earned against events that are opposite major events. So that was one other point that we had made that I wanted to clarify.
JULIUS MASON: Now, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and open the floor and the phone lines for questions. Let's first go to the phone lines. If you have a question, please state your name, your affiliation and go.
JOHN HOPKINS: I'm going to put you on the spot with the first question. Will you explain to us over on this side of the Atlantic why you think or why you hope you have more chance of leading America to victory in 2008 than your three previous efforts? What are the qualities that the PGA of America have seen in you?
PAUL AZINGER: Me personally? Well, I would think that they're hoping that I can draw on my past experiences of being in Ryder Cup competition, being in the heat of battle, articulating to my team, players who haven't been on that team, what that's going to feel like, what to expect.
I think as an analyst, I've always been an analyst in my mind since way back in the day and was hired as an analyst to work for ABC, I would see things strategically where I would do things a little differently than captains in the past, and I would try to copy some things that I think have worked in the past.
As I stated before, I'm only the captain and I'm not their coach, and every player on our team has a coach.
I think that one of the most important things that we've done, I believe, is evaluate the selection process for 2008. I just hope that this is a process that will ensure that we have the hottest and best Americans on this team, on this Ryder Cup team. I believe in the very end the responsibility is going to fall on the players, and hopefully they'll be comfortable and hopefully we'll have a little more of a nothing-to-lose and everything-to-gain attitude coming into this Ryder Cup.
I believe for the first time ever on American soil we're going to be the underdogs. I don't think I'm overstating that. Just the reality is that Europe has won six of the last seven. The European Ryder Cup team is fantastic, and they have been for a long time, and it's about time that we genuinely recognize that fact.
So we're recognizing that and we're doing everything we can by what we believe is improving the selection process to try to ensure that we have the best American players and the hottest players on that team.
JULIUS MASON: I think you wanted to add to the reason why.
ROGER WARREN: When we've gone through the selection process for previous captains, that process has always produced someone who understands the Ryder Cup, has got that experience and has a special love and feel for it, and all the captains we've had have demonstrated that.
When we looked at Paul Azinger, we looked at a gentleman who has demonstrated a clear and consistent passion and excitement for the Ryder Cup, and that passion and excitement will excite his players. It will motivate them. He understands it, he's been there, he's been in the face of it, and a lot of times in a tough situation you go to someone who's been there and they can give you that little gem, that little nugget that was there to help them get through it. Paul is that type of sharing person and caring person about this Ryder Cup. We couldn't be more excited about having Paul Azinger going into this process.
He is going to lead this team at Valhalla and begin the resurgence of the American Ryder Cup, and we're going to win it here at Valhalla under Paul Azinger (applause).
JOHN HOPKINS: Paul, would you have accepted the captaincy if you hadn't been able to have -- if the selection process hadn't been changed?
PAUL AZINGER: I would have been reluctant, but I probably still would have accepted it (laughter).
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: Paul and Roger both, how much was the new system based on the FedEx Cup change next year, especially the four captain's picks? And Paul, I wonder if you could try to give us some idea of how late is too late to name your four picks given in '08 we jump straight from the TOUR Championship into the Ryder Cup?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, the FedEx Cup is really the big mystery because there's so much unknown about the FedEx Cup. We don't really know how that's going to play out, especially in '07.
In '08, I think it's widely known now that there are -- seven of the last eight events leading up to the Ryder Cup are going to be FedEx Cup events. I don't really know how the best players in the world are going to react. I don't know how they're going to respond to that type of a schedule. I don't know if because they feel they've already qualified that they'll take some time off.
Somehow, though, I feel like it's better for us that the American players are going to be playing in a FedEx Cup Series leading into the Ryder Cup. Although I wouldn't mind having a week off between the TOUR Championship and the Ryder Cup, we're not going to get that luxury. Actually it may end up being okay, but I can't really speculate.
As far as how late is going to be too late to pick players, I'm not sure. We discussed that this morning. We really haven't come to a conclusion yet on that. We're going to try and determine that. I can't really answer that yet.
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: How are you going to fit them into their nice uniforms? What if Tim Herron makes the team?
PAUL AZINGER: Whoever we're going to get the put the clothes together, the apparel together, they're going to have a big responsibility and hopefully will have a big inventory to try to piece that together.
ROGER WARREN: We decided not to let whether or not we could get uniforms ready get in front of picking the team here. That wasn't an issue.
PAUL AZINGER: I think the wives will be more concerned than the guys.
ROGER WARREN: We did in sitting down want to analyze it and decided in discussions realized that the closer we could get to getting a points system that would put it into 2008, the year of the Ryder Cup, the better off we were going to be.
But we also felt it was important to keep the excitement of the Ryder Cup in the players' minds about the Ryder Cup in 2007, and we felt there was no better place to do that than the majors, where all the great players play; they can earn points there.
So I think the focus here was not on what was happening with the FedEx Cup but more with what could we do to help this captain have the opportunity to get the points earned closest to the Ryder Cup as possible to ensure that we had the hottest players and to give him his selection process in a way that he felt that was going to happen, too.
PGA of America is committed to supporting our captains, to give them what they need to win the Ryder Cup, and that's what this process has been about, and I think with Paul's input and Tom Lehman's input in the past, this has been the process and this will continue to be it, and we evaluate it every Ryder Cup, and we think that this is the logical next step for the points system for this Ryder Cup.
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: Roger, a quick follow-up. You had said you don't want to get in the business of judging strength of field, but does going off money allow you to do that, given that some of the stronger fields on Tour are distinguished by the prize money?
ROGER WARREN: We had that discussion again, and we looked at it and we said we want to in the year of the Ryder Cup value the four majors because of what they mean to the game and the value they have to the game. We wanted to allow them the money that was earned on the rest of the events to stand on its own, but we did want to deal with the events that are opposite the majors whose fields typically aren't as strong as others, and that's why we gave them 50 percent of the points.
We feel like we've addressed all of the issues that we feel are necessary in determining this team based on money, and Paul made it clear when we first started talking about it, the barometer, the measuring stick for Tour players is how much money they win on a yearly basis, and we want to give points for that and we think that's going to help us pick the best Ryder Cup team for 2008.
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: For clarification, the fields opposite the World Golf Championships, will they be full point or 50 percent, the ones in Mexico, and I think there's one at Southern Farm Bureau?
ROGER WARREN: They'll be 50 percent.
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: Opposite the World Golf Championships?
ROGER WARREN: Yes.
GARRY SMITS, Florida Times-Union: Paul, how much of the new points system has your fingerprints on it? Can you be specific in any way? Or did somebody come to you with the proposal and you signed off on it? Or did you have an active role with creating this?
PAUL AZINGER: No, I had a very active role in creating this. Actually I made a suggestion -- I said when they first asked me a few weeks ago if I would do this that I wanted them to consider me having four picks, and I felt like we needed to -- I feel like there's two things that really motivate the players out here, and the two things that the players really feel the pressure trying to attain, and the two things are to try to win tournaments that are the most prestigious, and the only other thing that makes me nervous is cash (laughter).
I just felt like it was time for money to be the barometer, and there were some smart guys that were in the room with me, seven of us total, and we just came to a consensus that this was the right way to go, and I would say that all of our fingerprints are on it.
But I'm going to get the blame if it doesn't work (laughter). I would like some of the credit if it does (laughter).
GARRY SMITS, Florida Times-Union: Do you have any ideas on how you can get the American players to play better in doubles competition specifically?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, we don't know who the players are going to be yet. Clearly the European team has played fantastic, and to suggest that if America just plays better that that's good enough is I think a bit of a reach.
I think the reality is that the European teams the last few years have been maybe slightly underestimated by the press, and I think they've been fantastic. When I looked at who the Europeans were playing, I realized that they were going to -- I thought they had the advantage actually in '04. I certainly felt like they had the advantage and that we were clear underdogs in '06.
To try to say that I can get a bunch of guys to play better -- I don't even know who they are going to be yet, and let's face it, there's going to be a little bit of anxiety from some of the guys who played on this Ryder Cup team year in and year out, many of them actually knowing they've attained that spot based on their performance the previous year, they're not going to know that as much.
I think when they do make that team, whoever they are, we're going to assume there's a couple guys that are going to get back on this team, we all know who they are, but to say how am I going to get them to play better, I don't know at this point because I don't know who they are yet. I will try to react and respond to the individuals and personalities and hopefully we'll have a formula that got the hottest players there and that's what's going to make the difference.
MIKE HENRY, Bradenton Herald: Paul, congratulations.
PAUL AZINGER: Thank you.
MIKE HENRY, Bradenton Herald: Do you feel that it's a misconception about how motivated U.S. players have been in the last couple Ryder Cups, and how much of a challenge do you think it'll be to get all 12 guys motivated toward the common goal?
PAUL AZINGER: I think the greatest misconception is that the Europeans are more passionate about the Ryder Cup than we are. Clearly they look like they have more camaraderie, giving each other headlocks and nuggies and patting each other on the back and all that. But the reality is that when their team wins the first session in the morning and then wins a session in the afternoon, then they're going to look that way.
I hope that Americans, the press don't forget what 1999 was like when the American team made that comeback. If there ever could be more passion showed and more excitement than was shown in that instance, you've got to show me where that would come from. The American players are passionate and they are hungry and starving to do well in this event. Believe me, they are. But the reality is that they've been behind a lot lately, and it just doesn't show.
Actually let's just assume we get ahead early. I think the criticism will be for some reason Europe is not as passionate this year. The team that's ahead will look the most enthusiastic and passionate, that's just the way it is.
MIKE HENRY, Bradenton Herald: As a follow-up, is there some work to be done to generate more interest among casual fans to get the interest to the level it seemed to be in the early '90s?
PAUL AZINGER: I think when the competition is pretty well -- the outcome is decided three or four matches into it on Sunday, the interest will tend to wane. The way to drum interest back into this Ryder Cup is to be competitive, and we have not been competitive the last few Ryder Cups. That's all it's going to take, really.
MIKE HENRY, Bradenton Herald: Will this affect your playing schedule to any degree at all?
PAUL AZINGER: Not next year, it won't at all. As a matter of fact, I plan on attempting a full schedule next year and really not thinking about this too much.
Judy Rankin gave me some great advice the other day. She patted me on the shoulder and said, "Paul, just make sure you don't peak too early." I know what she's talking about, so I will just go about my business next year.
I think '08 will be a little bit different and I might have to alter my schedule -- I have to stay exempt next year so I can play in '08.
JEFF SHAIN, Miami Herald: Congratulations, Paul. I'm curious, again, with the FedEx Cup schedule that leads into '08 and no break, how much are you concerned and how much are you going to have to work to avoid burnout with players that are playing seven of eight events possibly leading up, particularly with a certain left-hander who we don't see very often after the middle of August?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, that's really the big unknown, the big mystery. Obviously if Phil were to be one of the guys that qualified for this team or if I choose to pick Phil Mickelson, I think it'll probably help Phil to play his way into the Ryder Cup. But I can't really know that for sure because I don't really know how many events the superstars will have to play to be able to be in the final FedEx Cup event, which is only going to be the top 31 players, I believe.
I'm not sure, because we don't know how it all plays out yet. So that's the big mystery, really. In some ways I think it can be really good if a guy is forced to play seven out of eight weeks and then go to the Ryder Cup, that might be really hard on him.
JODY DEMLING, Courier General: Paul, Jack was here a little over a month ago and announced the changes to Valhalla. You've played here. Just talk about this course for a Ryder Cup venue. And then the second part of the question, have you talked to any past captains? I know Tom when he was named captain said he had talked to some other guys about what they did in the process from here on out.
PAUL AZINGER: Well, the golf course I think will be fantastic for match play. Jack has come in, and I think they've resculpted and recreated great viewing areas to handle an event like this.
We're going to have massive amounts of people here, and there's only going to be four groups on the course at any given time until the Sunday singles. It's going to be a little tricky to get that many people around and have enough viewing area to be able to see what's going on. So they're addressing that.
The course itself, there's a couple very interesting holes out here, and I think of the 13th hole being one of them, a shortish par 4 with an island green that actually we talked about this morning possibly moving that tee way up and having it play somewhere like the 10th at the Belfry, depending on the way the green holes and if we can work a tee in there if there's not already one there.
Of course, the 18th hole, if matches happen to get to that point, a lot can happen. I think it's a terrific golf course for the venue.
I actually talked to Tom Lehman just for a little bit. I plan on spending a little more time talking to Tom, and I have spent some time on the phone with a couple of the captains, but I want to talk to Hal Sutton, I'd like to talk to Curtis, Lanny, Tom Kite, Tom Watson, talk to all of them just a little bit, Raymond Floyd, just dos and don'ts, just get a little input, how to deal with these guys, the PGA of America, stuff like that (laughter).
KENT TAYLOR, WAVE TV, Louisville: What role will Ryder Cup experience play when you're making your forecast this week? How important is it to have experience playing in the Ryder Cup?
PAUL AZINGER: Experience is an intangible I've always felt, but I think experience is something that can be vastly overrated, as well. I certainly wouldn't want a player who is laden with experience who isn't playing well.
So I'm not going to let experience be the main key in my picking this team or in making the four picks. I really want to spend my time focusing on who's hot.
One of my best Ryder Cups was in '89 and I was a rookie, I had no Ryder Cup experience, but I hit the ball as well as I could hit it and I played fantastic the whole way around. Chip Beck and I were 11-under par against Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam and beat then 2 & 1, as one of the most well-played matches, 9-under par after 17 holes and lost. We played fantastic, and I was a rookie and so was Chip Beck. I ended up beating Seve Ballesteros first match out on Sunday as a rookie.
I think we can make too much of experience. As I said, I believe experience is the intangible, but I want players that are red hot if I can find them, and that's what I'm going to look for.
GARY MONTGOMERY, WDRB-TV: If you would just address what we hear often, whether it's true or not, that the Europeans are more hungry when it comes to the Ryder Cup and they play a little harder and better as a team.
PAUL AZINGER: That seems to be what is perceived, but I think I addressed that earlier because the perception is they're more hungry because they're winning the first session in the morning and winning the next session. It's clear that it means a lot to them, let's face it. But Europe was down for a long, long time when it came to Ryder Cup, and they're not down anymore.
If you want to think that the American team won't be as hungry as the European team the next time around, I think you'd be making a mistake. I think that America as a whole, PGA of America as a whole, and I think the PGA TOUR players as a whole are tired of getting beaten, and I just think that they will be very hungry this go-around, I really do.
FRED COWGILL, WLKY, Louisville: Jack Nicklaus says the American system is all wrong, that it does not breed winners; that in Europe with smaller fields with individual countries involved that more winners are bred simply by the number of tournaments; and that this system based on money, that the players essentially are fat because there's so much money involved and it's not breeding actual champions. Do you agree with that, subscribe to it, and if so, what do you do about it because it means overhauling the whole system?
PAUL AZINGER: Well, I would be completely against making the fields smaller. I mean, I just feel like if you want to eliminate a player's ability to make a living, I think that's a mistake.
Why Americans aren't winning as many tournaments I think can be summed up in essentially two words: Tiger Woods is winning most of the tournaments.
He won more than 50 percent of the tournaments that he played this year, and that's mind boggling to me. He played 15 events and won eight of them. Vijay Singh won nine tournaments in one year a few years back, as well. It's hard to really put your finger on it, though.
I look at some of these young players who hit it longer than I ever hit it, hit it more solid, putt just as well and have tremendous short games and they have one win, two wins, three wins. Why haven't they won 10 or 11 times? They're at the age where they should have 10 or 11 wins.
I don't know the answer to that entirely except for the fact that the last ten years there's a guy that's won, what, 55 events. He's stolen a lot of the opportunities away. He's set tournament records in just about every tournament he's won. There's a whole other standard out there, and right now it's as hard for us to win as it was for the guys who were playing against Jack.
I don't know, I mean, that's the best answer I can give you.
Q. Just talk about you had some heated battles with Mr. Faldo. You guys have shared a TV booth now together for a few years. Just talk about going against him as a captain. I guess this weekend when you guys were together, did you talk about it a little bit already? It's got to be kind of exciting and it's a good rivalry?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, it'll be a good rivalry. It'll be exciting, I think. It adds a lot of intrigue.
But it is still America versus Europe, not Nick versus Paul. I have gotten to know Nick. I've said this in the booth a few times, I probably knew him for 20 years before I heard him complete a sentence (laughter). He never was much for conversation when you played with him. We had our rivalries, and he had said a few things about me and I had said a few things about him.
But I really enjoyed getting to know him. I think he's going to be incredibly thorough, and I think he'll do a really, really good job for the European team.
He is in a little bit of a tough spot. I mean, when your team wins six out of seven, you're expected to win. When your team loses six out of seven, you're expected to lose. I have more of an everything-to-gain, I think, situation than he's in. There's going to be a little more heat on Nick to get it right, and I think a little more of the microscope will be on Nick if he gets it wrong.
Bottom line is it's up to the players, and I think Faldo and I will be -- you might get a few good quotes out of us along the way, and we'll probably banter back and forth and take a few shots at each other. But the two years we spent I think -- as a matter of fact, he text messaged me literally two minutes before I walked in the door, just congratulating me, and "What a shock," he says. "Congratulations, what a shock."
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: Quick one for Roger and then for Paul. Roger, I'm sure as thorough as you are, you went back and played back this points system, say the last team or last couple of teams. Did you find any massive changes? I hope you did or think you did anyway.
ROGER WARREN: Doug, we went through a lot of permutations and I'm not sure we went through this one. We did go through this one, and I don't think that we saw significant changes in terms of what the top eight players would be using this system when we went just the top eight. Everything that we had done, we went through and looked at top -- when we were just doing ten, there were some changes, but I don't believe there was anything other than perhaps one player, and I don't remember who it was, in the top eight.
I think all the things we looked at, we went back and played it again, what would have happened in 2006 and what would have happened in 2004, and there wasn't much difference in the top six to seven to eight players based on this.
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: What makes you think for either of you that this will make a difference? They still have to make putts, right?
ROGER WARREN: If you're asking me that, you're absolutely right. I think what we're going to do is do the best we can to make sure Paul has the best team, but in the end whatever team is out there has got to play better than the other team for the chance to win. It is all about playing.
Paul has said that a couple times; he's not their coach, he's their captain. It's going to be about the motivation of the players, their ability to get out there and play better than the Europeans. We just want to make sure that, as we've said, we're very detailed. We want to make sure we give Paul the best opportunity to have the best team of players out there, and then they go out and play.
PAUL AZINGER: I do think that there is going to be one clear distinction in '08, and that's simply that there is not going to be a single player on our Tour that's going to know in January of '08 that they're a lock for that Ryder Cup team, including Tiger. I mean, for him to finish out of the top eight on the Money List would be shocking and for me not to pick him to obviously be more shocking (laughter). But the reality is nobody is going to have qualified for this team based on their performance in '07. It's going to take an '08 performance.
In the past when there's been this assumption that you're going to be on the team and then you just play along as the Ryder Cup comes, almost as what is expected, perceived as, "Oh, here's another one," think now there's going to be an appreciation for all the players that they have actually had to earn it the year of, and I hope that that makes a difference.
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: Paul, I was just curious, of the four teams you played on, which captain was your favorite, for lack of a better word, and what traits made it that? If there was a captain you particularly enjoyed playing under, who was that?
PAUL AZINGER: It would just be horrible if I said which one was my favorite.
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press: That's why I asked you (laughter).
PAUL AZINGER: I know. I'll say I'm not going to answer that. I'll say that they were four distinct captains.
Raymond Floyd was fantastic. He put it on us. He put the pressure on us. He called us out and he called us out at the gala dinner and put a lot of heat on us.
Dave Stockton was very organized and thorough and left no stone unturned.
Tom Watson had an incredible theme for us when we showed up in 1993, and we stuck to that theme. It was almost a mission statement.
And Curtis Strange was unbelievable, and he had the burden of an extra year as captain, and Curtis -- I loved Curtis Strange. I just think he got a bum rap for the fact that we didn't gut it out and play better on Sunday because of some of the criticism he took. But Curtis, I could not have done a better job in my eyes, and unfortunately we didn't play well enough on Sunday and he took the heat for that.
JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, the news conference is coming to a conclusion.
Some housekeeping items: Transcripts of today's news conference will be up on PGA.com momentarily. We will wind up putting up highlights of Paul in Ryder Cup competition and from the PGA Championship in 1993, his victory there, up on the satellite at 11:15 a.m. eastern time today.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much (applause).
End of FastScripts