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THE PRESIDENTS CUP ANNOUNCEMENT
September 8, 2009
STEVE SANDS: I want to take a moment to thank the media here today in Washington, D.C., at the National Press Club for their support of the event here and also via teleconference for all the media around the world that will be asking some questions here of the people on the stage. We appreciate them and want to say thank you for their continued support of this event.
The Golf Channel is extremely excited to be a part of the Presidents Cup for the very first time. We will have live Thursday and Friday coverage on cable. That's exclusive cable coverage. The broadcast partner, as always, will be NBC Sports on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend coverage of the 2009 Presidents Cup.
Let's please say hello to Tim Finchem now.
TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Steve. We're delighted to be back in Washington today. If you recall, we were here just a few months ago in May, the day of the National Golf Day events here in Washington, and as well the annual breakfast for the First Tee. Greg and Fred were here at that time and spoke to the media about their thoughts on The Presidents Cup.
We're back here again today, and actually are this afternoon going to visit President Obama in the Oval Office. I think most of you know that President Obama is serving this year as the honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, and he invited Fred and Greg to come over and visit and was nice enough to take some time from his busy schedule this week and take some pictures of the captains with the honorary chairman and the Cup, so we're looking forward to that. We're delighted that President Obama has agreed to serve as chair, and I think speaks a lot about his commitment to what the game of golf stands for and the charitable commitment the Presidents Cup is involved in.
Today, of course, the captains will fill out the teams, and we're looking forward to that. I think that with that, we will be ready to go. The golf course at Harding Park is set. It's going to be in great shape. It was in great shape in 2005 when we played. I know the players are excited to get the matches going here in a few weeks, and I'd like to get on with their selections.
But before I do that, let me just thank publicly Greg and Fred, not just for serving as captains over the past 18 months, but these two guys have put a tremendous amount of energy into preparing for the Cup, working on their teams, and most recently agonizing over who they're going to select because there's so many players that want to be selected. So I thank both of them for really taking The Presidents Cup up a couple notches, and we're all looking forward to these matches shortly.
STEVE SANDS: Now for the moment we've all been waiting for, the captains' picks, from Greg and from Fred on the American side. Fred, you have some veterans on your team, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, and some rookies on your team, like Anthony Kim. Tell us your first captain's pick.
FRED COUPLES: First of all, The Presidents Cup has been very, very easy, but the last week has been extremely hard. So getting onto my picks would be the 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.
STEVE SANDS: Hard to keep a U.S. Open champion off of the list. Lucas, congratulations. He's joining us via the telephone call. What was your reaction when you got the call from Fred?
LUCAS GLOVER: Obviously very excited, very pleased and humbled. It was a goal to start off the year, and thanks to Fred and Jay for making it a reality.
STEVE SANDS: Lucas will be available via teleconference to answer some questions in a moment, but first we have to go to the other side of the ledger. Just like Fred, Greg, you have some veterans on your squad and some younger guys on your team. Tell us who your first captain's pick will be.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I had a little bit more of an interesting situation than what Freddie had. From my well of great talent that's coming for the International Team, I went to Japan this time and picked a young kid who's done extremely well and just won last week by five shots, and that's Ryo Ishikawa.
STEVE SANDS: Ryo Ishikawa could not be with us on the telephone, but his manager Jumpei Kaneko is joining us on the phone and will read a statement right now.
JUMPEI KANEKO: I'm making this announcement on behalf of Ryo. Please forgive him for not attending today, and instead I'm going to read his statement.
"Hello, I'm Ryo Ishikawa from Japan. It is very unfortunate that I can't join you for this announcement because I'm in the other part of the world, and the local time is 2:30 a.m. now.
"Firstly, I'd like to thank Captain Norman for choosing me as captain's pick. I am so honored to be selected to be a Presidents Cup International Team member. I'm very excited about the opportunity.
"When I met Mr. Norman at The International team meeting held at the Open Championship in July, I felt strong about his leadership, and I really wanted to be a member of his team.
"There are so many great players on both teams, and I'm humbled by my selection to be with them. Although I'll be a bit nervous surrounded by such a great captain and so many great players in the world, I will do my best during the week and hopefully contribute to the victory over the American team.
"Thank you again. I'm looking forward to the Presidents Cup week."
This is a message from Ryo, and he really missed this announcement.
STEVE SANDS: Jumpei, thank you. Please pass along our congratulations to Ryo Ishikawa. We'll be hearing from him in the next few weeks before we head to San Francisco and Harding Park.
Now we'll go back to the American side. Fred, you've already taken the U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover. Your second pick is?
FRED COUPLES: My second pick is two-time, going to be two-time Presidents Cup player, Jack Nicklaus picked him two years ago and I'm picking him again, Hunter Mahan.
STEVE SANDS: Hunter joins us now on the telephone. Hunter, congratulations. What was your reaction when you got the phone call from Captain Couples?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, obviously I was extremely excited. I mean, it's been a stressful couple weeks. I've been trying to make the team all year long, so to finally get the word that I was going to be a part of the team, I was extremely excited, and I just want to go out and thank Fred and Jay for their support and their confidence in me to go play well. I'm honored to be a pick, again, and very, very excited to be playing for my country once again.
STEVE SANDS: Again, Hunter will be available for questions from the media in a couple of minutes. So we have Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan on the United States side; Ryo Ishikawa on the International side. Greg, your final pick is?
GREG NORMAN: My final pick is I've gone to an experienced player who's played before in the Presidents Cup, and that is Adam Scott from Australia.
STEVE SANDS: Adam joins us now on the telephone. Congratulations, Adam. What was your reaction when you got the call from Greg Norman?
ADAM SCOTT: I'm extremely excited to have been picked to play for Greg and Frank. Maybe somewhat unexpected. Obviously it's been a tough year, but I really am humbled by them picking me and feel like that they still have the belief that I can contribute to this International Team, and I really feel like it will be great for my game and also get out there, and I feel like I can contribute points and contribute in the team room, as well. I'm looking forward to meeting up with all the guys in San Francisco.
STEVE SANDS: Congratulations. Three of the four, Hunter, Lucas and Adam, are still on the phones with us, and so are the assistant captains, Frank Nobilo and Jay Haas. We'll now open it up to questions.
Q. Talk about Adam Scott's pick. Obviously he has been struggling lately. You know him well, he was at Medalist this year trying to find his game. Obviously you have faith in him not only in his talent but also that he will find his game in time for the tournament.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think there's more than one thing you look at in selecting a player, and obviously a lot of it has got to do with past experiences. When you look back a year ago, Adam was the No. 3 player in the world. So everybody goes through a slump. Everybody goes through slumps for different reasons; maybe it's not your game but maybe something else is just a little bit out of sync in his life to put him in that situation. I know I've been there and I'm sure Freddie has been there, as well.
In my conversations with Adam and with Frank Nobilo over a period of weeks now, I saw a huge boost of confidence from Adam himself. It's not an easy task, but at the end of the day, he's got the playing skills, and as Adam said, the team camaraderie, what he can bring to the locker room, the support he gives to the other players, the connection and the experience that he's had playing on The Presidents Cup team. He was really a logical choice.
It's no slight on any of the other players. It's a tough decision, but at the end of the day, we've got a commitment out of a player. He has rededicated himself to more of a higher degree, so he's going to be ready come four weeks from now.
Q. Freddie, you had made it known for a long time that you were leaning towards Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan. With as hot as Verplank has been recently and going into yesterday and just his experience in match play, was it a tough decision not picking him?
FRED COUPLES: Um, up until Saturday and Sunday, Scott was probably further back than wanted to be. As Greg just alluded to, there's so many guys that on my team I struggled with it. Lucas I called Sunday night after the PGA, and I told him -- I didn't think he'd shoot 74-81 at the Barclays, but I told him he was on the team. And I told Hunter, you're my guy; if something happens we've got some issues. If Heath Slocum would have played well last week -- it's hard to leave any of those guys.
But Scott Verplank has been on a lot of teams. If we would have won yesterday, that would have been very difficult.
The hardest thing I've had, Dustin Johnson and Brian Gay. Brian Gay has won twice. He's taking it pretty hard, which he should. I was overlooked one time, but I got picked a few times.
For Hunter Mahan and Lucas, I think it's a no-brainer, I really do. As Greg alluded to, the rest of the team, when you talk like that, it sounds like there's a little bit -- it sounds like the other guys aren't capable. I could have gone with Nick Watney and David Toms and felt great, also. I chose the two guys, and that's the toughest thing I'll have to do the whole time, and hopefully they'll go to San Francisco and play well.
Q. Greg, how did you decide on the 17 year old? What were your thoughts going into it? I know Adam had experience. What put you over the edge to pick the 17 year old?
GREG NORMAN: Enthusiasm. He mentioned in his prepared statement at the International Team meeting at the British Open, he was phenomenal. He was engaged, he walked around the entire room, introduced himself to everybody, made sure everybody understood that he wanted to be on the team.
He played well that week. He played with Tiger. He stood up to Tiger. So that tells me that he can deal with a pressure situation. It's not like you're playing 73 straight holes, you're playing 18 holes with great energy, 14 or 15 or 13, depending on how the play goes that day. So he is not afraid of the big moment.
The other thing which came into my mind is he travels with an entourage of about 50 media people, so he's used to that type of atmosphere, that buzz going on all the time, and it doesn't bother him. I think that is a true reflection of his inner personality, as well.
And then obviously winning the other day by five shots was tremendous. This year has been tremendous. It was a no-brainer for me. I like to give young people the opportunity. Obviously he has the credentials, but he has to be given the opportunity at the same time.
As a captain you've got to have faith in that ability, and I have a lot of faith in him.
Q. For both of you, what will you be doing now until the first tee shot that you haven't been doing, and what will you concentrate on more, and specifically have you been thinking about pairings already?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I think you just asked that question and caught the tail end of it about pairings. My guys aren't set in stone, but they're very close to it, and I think they all want to play with Tiger and now they all want to play with Steve Stricker. Every text I'm getting is, I want to play with Steve, I want to play with Steve.
We both have phenomenal teams. I hope they all stay healthy and get to San Francisco in one piece, and when Thursday comes, I just don't want to get in their way.
GREG NORMAN: From my perspective just making sure the players have got a clear mind going into the event. Some of them still have golf tournaments to play. Just made sure like with Adam, for example, when I spoke to him at length when I was out in California, I asked him what his schedule was going to be, and he's willing to put another tournament schedule on his list just so he can practice and get ready for The Presidents Cup. He asked me my opinion where I should go. So that was more of a bit of a mentoring to a larger degree.
Yes, there's going to be pairing issues. I'm going to be studying the golf ball issue, which player plays with what golf ball, how they feel about a certain golf ball, how a certain player feels. Frank Nobilo and I have done a tremendous job of doing some past background checking and performance checking, trying to marry the guys up the best that we can. Now it's just doing that and balancing that.
The most important thing for me is keep away all the outside issues. Let the boys just go play golf that week. Arrive, play golf, and if they do that, they're going to play their best golf.
Q. My question is for Greg. I understand, Greg, that you visited Harding Park last week and I believe maybe even played the course, and I was curious your impressions and how that might affect the competition, sort of a style that will fit Harding Park well.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I went to play Harding Park because I haven't experienced it before. I was out there for the press announcement but never actually played it. I wanted to see what type of golf course it was. And that had some bearing, believe it or not, on my picks. The golf course is a very good players' golf course. We've seen past champions there of the highest of caliber.
Obviously you really have to drive your golf ball around there and you have to drive the golf ball long. So that came into my factor of who I was going to pick.
The golf course, I think it's a heck of a golf course. I actually like the layout the way I played it, which I believe is a different layout than what the regular tournament layout is. The balance of the golf course is great. I thoroughly believe it's going to suit the aggressive player.
Now, when I played it was very, very soft. There was a lot of fog around. October I believe is a little bit drier so the golf course may change its characteristic by then, but I was impressed by the golf course.
Q. How did you play?
GREG NORMAN: How did I play? Not good enough to get on the team. (Laughter.)
Q. Greg, this is an obvious question coming from a Canadian. I'm just wondering where Stephen Ames figured into your thinking, if he did.
GREG NORMAN: Stephen Ames figured into it. I went down to, I think, No. 31 on my list. I had to take a lot of things into consideration. Stephen was on the list, but unfortunately, like with Freddie, a lot of the guys lose out. At the end of the day, you hope the guys take it in the spirit of what it's all about and maybe one day they'll be sitting in our chairs like we are right now having to make these tough decisions, and I hope they respect and honor those decisions, but yes, Stephen was on the radar screen.
Q. I have a question actually for both captains. In line with the Harding Park question from Ron, Greg, how do you think the course plays to your players' strengths, and also, if you could both talk a little bit about the home field advantage of being in the U.S. and how that plays into the results.
FRED COUPLES: Well, Harding Park, I want to say we had a world event five years ago, and Tiger Woods won it. It played dry and fast, very, very small greens, and it's a pretty good golf course for ball strikers. I've got to believe both teams are very stacked with guys who can play the game.
Home field advantage, you know, it is San Francisco, it is the U.S. I'm expecting that to be a little bit of an advantage or a lot of an advantage. But our guys know what to work on. I think most of them have played it.
But like I say, as Greg said, too, it's a great, great golf course. And I consider it to be a course where length will help, but accuracy with your irons is a must there. They're very small greens.
Q. Greg, your thoughts on playing in the U.S. and obviously a lot of your guys are coming from far away. Will you try to get there earlier to get them acclimated to the time change and just the crowd, too, being in the U.S., how that affects play?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think there's going to be a time change for a lot of the players, whether you're from the USA or from the International Team. They're going to have to come from the East Coast or somewhere along the line. A lot of my guys may come -- Ishikawa will have to come in from Japan, so there will be a bit of a time change with that. These guys are used to time changes. It's in our DNA in a lot of ways. So from that perspective, you know, I'm not really worried about it.
As a home field advantage, let me think. I would say the expats in San Francisco are probably the same as the expats in New York, so I think we've got a pretty good advantage of maybe quite a few Australians living in San Francisco. Obviously from an Asian influence, as well, San Francisco is going to have that with a lot of Japanese there.
It should be that way anyway. I think there should always be a little bit of home field advantage. It's going to flop in 2011 when we get away. So sometimes it actually spurs the underdogs, which we will be, because we don't have the home field advantage, the underdogs along a little bit, and I think that's going to be a great stimulation that I can use for my 12 guys.
Q. Greg, you're going to have a guy that speaks Spanish, a guy that speaks Japanese and a guy that speaks Korean, which is going to be a little bit complicated. I'm wondering if you've figured out how you're going to pair those guys off. And then for Fred, I'm wondering who he's going to have interpret for Lucas.
GREG NORMAN: What about Australians, what about Fiji we've got on our team and all that stuff we've got on our team, too? I think I know all the guys, even Ishikawa, he speaks a little bit of broken English, but wants now, in our discussions that we've had, he wants to speak directly. He doesn't want to have an interpreter with him. So here's a 17 year old kid who's thrust in the limelight of the golfing world and he wants to walk on his own with the language barrier. So he's going to be a fast learner in that regard. So I don't have any concerns about any of the other guys. They're all great guys, and I don't think the communication is going to be a problem.
Q. Fred, you played with Dustin Johnson a couple times this year and spent quite a bit of time with him prior to the Masters, so you've seen his talent up close. Can you say if you had a third pick it would have been Dustin, and what about him makes him attractive to an International Team, and what in the end kept him off the team?
FRED COUPLES: Well, that's a great question. Jay Haas is on the line, too, and we went at it from the time Dustin started birdieing every hole on the back nine yesterday. I was going to say Sunday, but on Monday. And I called up or texted a few people and said I was going to sleep on it, and basically it was because of Dustin.
He has put together a great, great year. I played with him at the PGA with Phil, and the talent is all there. I think even Greg could speak about him all day long, too. It's just that it's a gut feeling.
I think Hunter was my pick all along, and he did nothing to push his way off the team, whereas Dustin did everything to make me basically make about 40 more calls last night, and I didn't sleep too much. But Jay and I decided on Hunter. But Dustin will be on a lot of teams, believe me.
Q. I just wanted to follow up on the issue of Harding Park's greens, which as you know has been an issue in the months leading up. Greg, how did you find the greens, and if Tim can address that situation in advance of the event.
GREG NORMAN: Well, to be honest with you, there are some concerns. I think the superintendent out there I had a great conversation with for about 45 minutes when I was on the golf course. I think he's ahead of the curve on it, no question. There's four weeks to go. The course are starting to dry out a little bit. As long as the sun gets onto that golf course, they'll be fine. There was no question there was damage to some of the greens, but all in all, they've got enough time there to make it work.
TIM FINCHEM: Yeah, I think what our agronomists are looking at is comparing it to 2005, and they feel like we're right there. We had the same issues. We were softer late in the summer, and then by October the dry period coming in, the people were able to get the golf course where we wanted it to be. If it's a normal weather pattern, we feel very optimistic we'll be able to get that done again this year. The concerns we had a year and a half ago have largely evaporated. There was a little bit of damage, but we feel now we're on the right track and we'll be ready in four weeks.
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