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THE PRESIDENTS CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
May 13, 2009
LAURA HILL: Thank you for being here and your coverage of the PGA TOUR. The Presidents Cup is less than six months away. We are inside five months now and the teams are shaping up nicely with a mix of veterans and young faces, which I'm sure the captains will talk a little bit to today.
As the event enters its 15th year, the history and the connection to the D.C. area is very strong and so we are proud to be here in the nation's capitol for this press conference. Let's take a moment to look back at some of the exciting moments that have built the Presidents Cup into what it is today, one of the great international competitions in golf.
LAURA HILL: At this time I would like to introduce Commissioner Finchem for a few opening remarks and to introduce our captains.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Laura. Thanks for being here today. We are delighted to have our Presidents Cup captains here.
Earlier this morning we are were on Capitol Hill to kick off what we call in the industry, National Golf Day, where the leaders of our various golf organizations are fanning out around the Hill to convey a message to Members of Congress on the economic industry of the golf industry, from the PGA TOUR he perspective, the impact of our events which is estimated at $3.5 billion dollars this year and the charitable impact of golf generally, and the PGA TOUR in particular, so we got off to a good start.
This morning's breakfast was focused on The First Tee where we annually come in and explain to Members what's going on with The First Tee Program, which is the phenomenal success, and Greg and Fred were nice enough to convey their thoughts on that subject to Members of Congress, as well.
But this is about The Presidents Cup and of course The Presidents Cup started here in Washington, D.C. Washington has a long history with the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR golf and the United States Golf Association and the U.S. Open. We currently, as you know, have our annual AT&T National at Congressional. We will be leaving for a couple of years to go to Philadelphia, where we opened up that window for the U.S. Open in 2011, and we look forward to being back here at Congressional for 2012 and the years after that.
We also have the Nationwide Tour Melwood Prince George's County Open tournament here that will be held here the first week in June. This is an event that again dedicated to charity and we are delighted that Steny Hoyer, the Majority Leader in the Congress, is the Honorary Chairman of that event this year. Teo Sodeman is here today. Teo is the event's tournament director, and Teo, congratulations on a nice job on that tournament.
As I mentioned The Presidents Cup started here, the first four times we played in the United States, it was played here in '94 and '96, 2002 and 2005, and we had great finishes every time. We have since played in Australia, South Africa and Canada, as well.
This year we opted to go to the West Coast, but we thought that since with National Golf Day happening today, it would be good to connect with the fans here in the Washington area who were so supportive to launching The Presidents Cup, and to give all of you an opportunity to hear some thoughts from the captains and have an opportunity to ask them anything you might want to ask them.
With that, I'll start with Greg, and Greg, as I mentioned this morning on the Hill, his history with The Presidents Cup goes back to the first one in '94 when we started the Cup. Greg was on the team and was ill and could not play, but I think a number of you were there, and you will recall that he flew up here on Sunday to support the International Team in a losing cause. And then he went on to play in four Cups, and in 1998, led his team to a win over the United States down in Melbourne, Australia.
Greg is one of the most popular players on the PGA TOUR in the history of the PGA TOUR. Over five years, he was the No. 1 player consistent weeks in the Official World Golf Rankings. He's won over 70 times all over the world and has been a global player, two-time British Open winner and Greg, we are delighted that you are captain. I know you have some thoughts to share with this group.
GREG NORMAN: I've watched that tape, the putt Chris DiMarco made, America seems like it has dominated The Presidents Cup, which is the case. This year, it's going to be a different. For us, the International Team, it will be a different result.
But that having been said, when we get to the tournament actual starting time, the final four days where the players get up to go head-to-head, it's more than that. The Presidents Cup is more than that, as far as I'm concerned.
When the Commissioner asked me if I would be interested in being captain of the International Team, it took me a little bit of thought process to decide on it. Obviously it's over a time period over two years, but once I made the decision, I realized the enormity of the impact of the responsibility that comes your way.
And it's not, as I say, the 12 players we are going to put together; it's actually promoting the game of golf on international level, which I absolutely love to do and I've done it my whole career. And just to know that I've competed in Europe and against the European Ryder Cup Team, and I've played against the U.S. guys here in the United States against the U.S. Ryder Cup Team; I was very envious of that as an individual players going up as non-Europeans or non-U.S. players to not get that chance for team camaraderie and spirit. The countries that I grew up with and the respective countries of International Team, we are full of team sports, whether it's cricket or soccer or rugby or whatever it is; we are team sport nations. It was important for us to feel that.
I've experienced it four times, as Tim says, being on the team, and there's no better feeling being in a locker room with a bunch of great guys. And even though you are going head-to-head with them on an individual basis 40 weeks a year, to share their thoughts and feelings as a team was important to me as a player. I sense it's an even greater magnitude now that you are the captain because your responsibility goes beyond that.
I just want to say to Freddie, my opposing captain, our relationship and I said this morning in our speech, my own relationship goes back 30 years and it's been a great relationship on the golf course, off the golf course, and we have a like mind and approach to the success of The Presidents Cup. We both want to win, but the outcome, and I've been consistent in saying this, the outcome for both of us is we want to hand the baton off to the next captain of The Presidents Cup in better shape than what it is. So from my perspective, it's an honor to be here, and be happy to take some questions after Freddie gives your thoughts.
FRED COUPLES: Well my thoughts is Greg hit on several key points, the first being that we have won most of these Presidents Cups. (Laughter) So that's a good start.
But you know, I was chosen after Greg, and it was a year and a half ago at the Northern Trust Open, and Tim came and found me and one of the first things I said is I would like to know who the opposing captain is. And I don't think he told me on that day, but shortly after that.
He gave me a week to think about it, which seemed funny because it should have taken all of about 30 seconds to figure out I want to be The Presidents Cup Captain for the 2009 U.S. Team. But I called him back and he said Greg Norman, and I just went great. Because we have played so much together, practice rounds, tournaments, and you both like to win everything you do and that doesn't happen in golf; and as Greg has said, we are going to do our best to make it a better event; and at Harding Park in San Francisco, it's on American soil.
As I have said several times, if you have not been to a Presidents Cup, basically the International Team is as much American as we are, because most of them play our TOUR. Although Greg will have maybe a couple of players from countries that don't play here that much.
But as far as my team, and Ernie Els and Vijay and Trevor Immelman, and the list goes on and on; we know them as well as anybody. And the best thing about this is that most of the players know Greg and I, because I'm still on the TOUR and Greg is just freshly off of it just a couple of years.
I had my first meeting last week at the TPC and I don't know if you met with many of the guys at Augusta, but he just played there, and at TPC, another 30 guys, and I'll finish with this: The list is getting to where it looks like it's the same guys that play in every other Presidents Cup.
So it will be easy. I have a couple of young players that are looking like they can make the team, but it looks like I'll have the same pretty much guys, and I'm looking forward to directing them as safe and sound as we can to San Francisco and let them take it from there.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: This is sort of a generational change for The Presidents Cup, this is the first time we'll have a Presidents Cup where there's a captain who has played in Presidents Cup competition.
GREG NORMAN: And the assistant captains, too, by the way.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: And the assistant captains.
Q. Setting the table with the pairings, how difficult is that going to be?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think Freddie has every chance of being on the team so he's going to have that interesting dilemma. I think Hale Irwin might have been the last playing captain, if my memory is right, for The Presidents Cup Team. However is it plays out for Freddie, it will it be tough, because we still compete. As Freddie says, he's a little bit younger than I am, so he's on more of a routine on an annual basis.
It's going to be tough because you know how to play. You remember how to play. You're going to be in situations, where I might have dealt with that differently but you have to trust the player. I'm sure those thoughts are going to go through my mind but you have to give them their rein. Their responsibility is to go out there and play the best they can. So you have to sit back and swallow a little bit and just be quiet.
FRED COUPLES: I would answer along the same lines as that, and to go further, when I played on these Presidents Cup Teams, and again, we have had pretty good success at it, but it's a lot of fun. I mean, I watched some of these putts I made and some of the crazy things I did, but it is fun to see Davis Love do well and make a putt, a key putt.
So Greg and I more or less will be driving around in golf carts, running around trying to watch as much as we can, but as he said, it's very challenging. And when you watch other people play, sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard; and the bottom line is, is that everyone is trying as hard as they can. And we'll go up and shake their hand and say tough match or way to go, and that's kind of all you can do.
Q. You mentioned that you were envious of the team camaraderie of The Ryder Cup and watching that; beyond that, what steps did you take back then to help create this event? What role did you have in the creation of it?
GREG NORMAN: From a player's perspective, I was very supportive of the Commissioner when the thought process did come up.
Like I said, the experience of not having that experience was a complete driving force as far as I'm concerned. I was a fairly staunch proponent of an event such as this, and I knew it was going to be difficult, because when you start including the United States and take the European Ryder Cup Team out, that means they have another year. Ryder Cup, you rotate every year. So that means the Americans have got to play another event, and that was touch on the players. I completely understood that.
But at the end of the day, to get the American players support, which was the primary objective, get them on board and okay now we have a great idea and with the Commissioner running with that, I was supportive of it. I knew the international players were very much wanting to have an event like that.
Q. One of the primary goals of the captain is setting the pairings, who is going to play and who is going to be grouped with whom; even though your teams are not set, do you have that running through your mind? Some captains have said it's consuming; is it possible to get too consumed with it?
FRED COUPLES: You hit both points with it. You can get too consumed with it but I'll say I'm not consumed just yet. Our team is getting stronger and stronger. I think you can figure out a bunch of players that will make the team.
For Jay and I, the toughest thing I think any captain has to do is make the two choices, and sometimes those can be very easy, too. But when you're talking about these teams, The Presidents Cup is probably the best team thing, and the other big one would be The Ryder Cup, because everyone plays.
So I've been on Ryder Cup teams and played two matches. I've seen other guys on some other teams play once in the singles match, and I just think that's not fair to anybody. It makes it hard on the team, because we all have friends and we all want to do well and not have players wonder why they are not playing, and in this thing, everyone plays, every day. There's no hard feelings from parents, aunts and uncles, their kids or anything. So I will say, that is a very -- that is a very easy thing. It may sound minimal, but it's an easy thing in my opinion for Greg and I, because we don't have to play anyone.
I don't think pairing my team is going to be as hard as Greg's, and I don't mean that in a bad way, it just that he has international players running everywhere. Half of his team is going to be a piece of cake but that's where he and Frank will figure it out and do a great job.
GREG NORMAN: My dynamics are totally different obviously. You have to take in languages, mannerisms. I'm not going to give up some of the ideas I have in mind about how to find the right balance amongst the players. But my dynamics are totally different from Freddie's.
My choice in the two picks I have, mine is really a tough one because my well of information and well of depth of players is so deep compared to America. I can go anywhere, and I think the International Team may be a lot different than a lot of people think; contrary to what Freddie's team is like, it's almost self -- the list is there in front of you. Mine is going to be different. I wish we had more choices, actually, picks. If I had four pick it is would be great because it would help me balance out the team a little bit better. But anyway, that's not the way it is.
I know Frank and I have already talked about it a lot. I've asked him to watch certain players for me on the horizon. When I go play events, like at Augusta, I played with a couple of young players. Guy to the driving range and watch the young players that I've never played with hit some shots to see what their mannerisms and how they go about it.
So my learning curve is a lot harder and a lot more intense over the next couple of months, and to me really it's going to be from July, probably the U.S. Open to the end of July is going to be my defining moment of understanding exactly who the 14 are going to be; I say 14, because I've got maybe 15, I've got to have that number condensed down for my decision, and then I might just do that. And then all of a sudden the last month or two there might be some kid pop up from somewhere and you go, wow, this kid is hot, he's ready to play.
The interesting thing from my perspective, I have an e-mail Web site coming directly into my office and it's amazing the e-mails I get from players you never even expect to get from, about the interest about playing on the International Team. And that's very encouraging for me, because you go, wow, add another one to the list. You get young kids like Ishikawa who is out there who they think about him, and I think that's a great thing for me to be in my position saying, man, my base is so deep, it's going to be great for The International Team.
Q. Can you go over the message on the Hill today, what was addressed, any sponsorship issues, things concerning the bailout; what was the morning like?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: The morning was a breakfast about the first tee primarily, but it kicked off us going out and talking to Members and the basic message is reminding members that golf is an industry of $75 billion, $76 billion. You put it in these terms: It's the equivalent of the motion picture and publishing industry combined, and that goes for revenue, jobs and overall economic impact. That's part one.
And part two is, professional side of the game, the significance, which includes sponsor tournaments has a $3.6 billion impact and raised $124 million for charity. We are integrated into communities to raise money for charity.
That's the general message. I don't think we are arguing about anything that's happening right now. We went through a couple of months ago some criticism about whether or not it's appropriate for a company to entertain clients as part of the dollars that they spend; I think that rhetoric has calmed down now. I haven't heard much about it lately.
Most of the reaction I get from Members of Congress is they recognize the value of corporate sponsorship in sports marketing generally, and particularly, with the PGA TOUR which is 100% organized for charitable purposes, and we have always got a good response from members on that subject and we certainly are getting a good response now.
But what happened a couple of months ago taught us a lesson that this is something that needs to be reaffirmed on a regular basis with Members so they have that as a backdrop before public commentary is made. Because some of the comments that were made, they were isolated on a very narrow part of the value equation. Whether you're going have a dinner and have some musical entertainment, I think it's a very subjective thing. Whether you or I might go to a dinner that has Sheryl Crow playing, you might think it's lavish; I probably wouldn't, but then that's my opinion. These are decisions that should be left to companies to effectively use their dollars.
But the value proposition for sponsorship in golf is very, very strong. That's why we have always been sponsored, even through economic downturns. But I don't see anything moving right now from a regular TOUR standpoint that's going to upset that. I think this is all a reaction to some rhetoric and that's a long answer to your question but I hope it answers it.
Q. It seems like everything in golf, given the fact that you guys are going to be in the meat of the football season away from where you've been before on the West Coast, have you reached out at all to Tiger to make sure he's a part of this and given that you guys are such good buddies, have you said to him, we need you to help promote this thing?
FRED COUPLES: He got promoted by making the team, right? (Laughter) I've said this a few times, we tease each other back and forth, and he's going to be a great teammate for everybody. And he's going to be some San Francisco and he's got a lot of playing towards the end of the year, just like the rest of the guys, just like Greg's team. There's a lot going on towards the end.
I think it shapes up to be -- they will be playing maybe seven out of ten weeks with The Presidents Cup ending one of those weeks where all of the guys will be playing a lot of golf. They should be playing great golf, and I expect Tiger to be right there. We have had a lot of laughs about a lot of things, most of them he's laughing at me.
But I'll get the last laugh once he gets there and I start telling him what he's got to do and how to do it.
Q. And he's on board?
FRED COUPLES: On board for playing? Of course, sure.
Q. How significant is it in the fact that the USGA decided to have their U.S. Open this year on a public golf course?
GREG NORMAN: I think it's very significant, and I think it's important. We have to remember that to reach out, like we talked this morning at the Hill at the First Tee Program, we have to reach out to every young player who wants to play the game of golf. I, like Freddie, grew up playing on a public golf course, Victoria Park Golf Club in Brisbane Australia. Without that opportunity, I would never be in the position I am in today.
So for the USGA to recognize that, the USGA is responsible for their constituents, which is how many golfers in America, 26 million golfers, so they have to be very cognizant of where they move these championships to; it's like going to Harding Park for The Presidents Cup. I think it's the smartest move you can do.
You have to balance it out. Yes, there's the RTJs and Royal Melbourne in Australia; I wasn't in South Africa. But at the same time, to balance it out to give everybody who plays Bethpage Black or Harding Park as a public person can now relate to that on television when they turn on the U.S. or The Presidents Cup and go, wow, I remember playing that 14th hole and I didn't do what he did. So that is a great connection. You can't do that at Augusta National. USGA has made a smart move.
FRED COUPLES: I was going to say I did National Golf Day way back in 1992. It actually was an amazing -- the day was great, but everything leading up to it and after; I must have signed 40,000 bag tags that they handed out to all of the people that got the magazines. And then getting off of that, I grew up on a 4,900-yard golf course in Seattle called Jefferson Park, and that's all I ever knew.
So really at that time, one of the only golf courses that I could compare ever playing was Pebble Beach, and I never went down there as a kid, but actually went down and walked on it on the peninsula on the way to Disneyland when I was 12 years old.
It was interesting and I didn't play Bethpage last time, I didn't qualify and I'm not in it yet this year. But these are unbelievable public golf courses. The USGA has chosen a few of them; last year it was at Torrey Pines which was an amazing week, and this one will be probably better. New York crowds are phenomenal and it will be a great event.
Q. What has been your greatest challenge so far as captain? And do either of you plan to employ a coach like Paul Azinger did to help with the personalities of the team members?
GREG NORMAN: I haven't had any challenges yet with being the captain. It's just been a very seamless process to date. I thought maybe getting the clothing -- remember, I've got an eclectic collection of players, from the guys who like to dress European to the guys who like to dress conservative to the guys who are young, the guys who are old. You manage trying to compare a Vijay to a Camilo Villegas. So I have to kind of balance all that out. So that turned out to be a very easy process, because I went European style with quite a few things and the reception was received well.
As for a live coach, I have one sitting right here; I'm married to her. So I have a pretty good leg up on that. Her tough choice is who does she pull for, the American Team or the International Team. (Laughter).
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I'm on the same path. Andy Pazder is here, who has helped me a lot, and it's been pretty simple. And then Greg was talking about Chris. I'm scared to death of the wives, and I have the yips going on. So Julie here has been helping me figure out great gifts for the wives. So I'm going to get to my guys through the wives.
It's been very interesting, I will say, and it's been very easy, too. The clothing was relatively simple, as Greg said, I've got Anthony Kim and Kenny Perry; they are 26 or 27 years apart. And Anthony Kim wears his pants down by his ankles and Kenny Perry wears his up by his chest. (Laughter) And I'm right with Kenny Perry, so our pants will be made the exact same. I'm not picking on Kenny Perry.
GREG NORMAN: I want to see Vijay with a pair of spray-on pants.
FRED COUPLES: Those are weird things and they do come up. You know, it's our decision, and they will wear them and they will enjoy it and I think we will all look great and play great and have fun.
Q. Can both of you talk a little bit more about your playing careers, especially in the majors and the team event has prepared you for the job at hand?
FRED COUPLES: For captain? You know, I think the best thing for me is all the captains, like Greg's been on -- there's other International Teams, too, but I've been on some Ryder Cup teams, and I've taken a lot from Ray Floyd and been on Arnold Palmer's team in the Presidents Cup and Jack Nicklaus, so. I get like nine, eight guys, because Nicklaus has done it a couple of times, where I take a little bit, a little there.
And like you said, talking about Paul Azinger, he did a phenomenal job, but if you look at all the team events, you want to get out to this early lead. It's very rare where you're down three or four points and you come back and win. And in The Ryder Cup, we got up early, and we hung on and won pretty easily, and that's the same thing in any of them.
So we need to get off to a good start, and I don't know how that's going to happen. They have to play well. But I think by playing in majors, you've got to go up to 12 different guys, and I have asked Michael Jordan as an assistant and everyone loves that, and he's a team player. He's won several NBA championships. He's a golf nut. There's times where he can say things. I was texting him a couple hours a day during The Ryder Cup and every text he came back with was positive, and wow, that's a big deal. He can't go out and help the players, that's Jay Haas and I, but he will be out there.
I just don't see anything about what I've ever done really playing golf that's going to really -- my opinion, going to help Tiger hit a ball or Boo Weekley or Nick Watney who possibly can be on his first team ever. I can top them, easily, and have fun with them.
GREG NORMAN: I believe the player is the master of his own destiny when he walks on the golf course. The responsibility for us is knowing how you like things whenever you went into a major championship.
Myself personally I dealt with things totally different than maybe what Freddie would do. I know that approach, and my responsibility as a captain is to make sure that all of the peripheral stuff is eliminated from the players so, when they walk into Harding Park on Monday and Tuesday, they know the following five or six days, it's all about one thing, and that's getting to the tee and playing the best golf they can possibly play. That's all about preparation.
So to me I know how I like to prepare; I know the creature comforts I like to have around me. And knowing a lot of the players who have won major championships that could potentially be on the International Team, they are going to be thinking about the same thing.
So you've got to surround themselves with those creature comforts for them to feel more relaxed and more willing to be able to produce their best golf. And I agree with Freddie, it's not us going out there and saying, all right guys, this is how you play the game; it's about us going out there and saying, everything around you has been eliminated, and you go play your game. And if your game is great, we'll win, and if it's not, we won't win. It's as simple as that.
LAURA HILL: Thank you all for being here and thank you for your attendance today. .
End of FastScripts