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THE RYDER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 20, 2010
SCOTT CROCKETT: It's a very special day in the buildup to The Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, a contest against the United States which is now only a mere 73 days away.
Ryder Cups are a massive jigsaw puzzle and I'm delighted to say that one of the key pieces that we put in place here this morning, European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie introduces his vice captains for the match itself. We'll hear from the three gentleman alongside Colin at the top table in a few moments.
But to begin this morning's press conference, I'm delighted to hand over to our European Ryder Cup Captain, Colin Montgomerie for some opening comments. Colin?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Thank you, Scott and welcome everybody, and welcome, George, and everybody here today, and thank you for attending.
Today is a very special announcement. Any team, any winning team, has fantastic support behind the scenes, and it is a great privilege for me today to introduce three very experienced, very passionate and very well respected -- and three people that are committed to the regaining of The Ryder Cup here in Wales in 2010.
I'll start off in alphabetical order with Thomas Bj√∂rn, two-time Ryder Cup player, has been on the winning team on both occasions with 16 victories worldwide, and the first Dane to play in The Ryder Cup. He captained the Continent of Europe side at the Vivendi Trophy last year, and is also chairman of The European Tour Committee; someone that has past experience as vice captain of The Ryder Cup in 2004 under my good friend, Bernhard Langer, and did a marvelous job there and someone that will bring, as I said earlier, passion, experience and respect to his position as vice captain, as we said, in 73 days' time.
Second vice captain, Darren Clarke, five-time Ryder Cup player, and of those five Ryder Cups, four times on the winning team, with victories worldwide and a fellow Committee Member; and who can forget in 2006, the emotion that was played out in front of his home audience in Ireland at The K Club. Again, the passion and the commitment to regaining The Ryder Cup springs entirely towards Darren Clarke and we are delighted that Darren with us on this occasion.
And because it's alphabetical, last but by no means least, Paul McGinley, three-time Ryder Cup player and a three-time winner, nine victories worldwide and so well captained the Great Britain and Ireland team at the Vivendi Trophy last year, and again, a European Tour Committee Member, and who can forget the glorious scenes in 2002 when Paul holed that fantastic 12-foot winning putt at The Belfry to seal victory for Sam Torrance's team.
Alongside myself, that's the three vice captains. I make No. 4, and I say that very much in the fact that this is a team. Very much this, these four of us here, I feel have huge respect from my European Tour Members and respect from the 12 players that will play in The Ryder Cup.
There will be no more vice captains announced. These are the three that will help and hopefully will regain the Ryder Cup. I'm very proud and honoured to have this opportunity here today to speak to you on their behalves, and if Scott would like to take over and to ask any questions of the four of us. But this is very much a team, a European Ryder Cup Team this particular year; that the four of us are working towards the same cause and the same outcome, which is trying our best to regain The Ryder Cup in 73 days' time.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much, Colin. Before we move into the questions that Colin as intimated there, I would like to take the opportunity to ask the three vice captains to say a few words. Thomas, would you like to start, please.
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: It is a great honour for me to sit here today. Obviously when we, as a committee, made the decision to make Monty captain, I think any player that didn't make the team are genuinely honoured to be part of the team behind the scenes and try to help winning back The Ryder Cup. It's of huge interest to every single player on our tour, but it's of huge interest to the Tour as a whole, as well; and the people that sit here at this table today shows how much it means to us that we want to go to Wales, we want to win, we want to get that trophy back.
I've been involved in Ryder Cups and it's been a great honour, and I'm sure to work under Monty will be a great, great experience, and I'm quite sure that we have got a strong team to win this trophy back.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Darren, could we have your thoughts, please?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, as Thomas has said, it is an honour to work under Monty and be part of his team in trying to regain The Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is very special to all of us. We have all been part of winning teams, and a few of us have been part of losing teams. It's much better to be on the winning team. Whatever the three of us can do, Thomas, Paul and myself, to help Monty in that quest to hold the trophy on Sunday afternoon at Celtic Manor with his team, we will do whatever we have to do.
It is hugely important for us, both in terms of, as Thomas said, The European Tour and the players, that the team performs the way that it can perform. The way that it's shaping up at the moment, we look as if we have got a fantastic team. But as I say, I'm just delighted to be part of it and we'll be doing everything that we can to help us regain The Ryder Cup again.
PAUL McGINLEY: There's not much more for me to say. Again, to reiterate what the boys have said, it's a great honour for me. Thank you, Monty, for the opportunity to be your vice captain. I'm really looking forward it. I feel I'm ready for the vice captaincy role this time; I wasn't two years ago.
I'm looking forward to being part of the team. On paper, this will be the strongest European Team ever produced and I'm really looking forward to being part of that. It's going to be -- it's not going to be easy. Ryder Cups are always a very difficult thing and hopefully experience that we can all bring to the table will help Monty make the right decisions and win The Ryder Cup.
Q. Can you just elaborate a little on your decision-making process, because there was the talk for a while in terms of whether Jos√© Maria Olaz√°bal will be part of your team, whether or not you would have a Welshman as part of the backroom staff. Can you talk about the decision-making process and why these three men were the right men for you to choose?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Correct, to answer your initial question, I think Jos√© Maria will be a captain of The Ryder Cup Team in the future. Unfortunately Jos√© Maria is not keeping good health right now. He hasn't played on The European Tour very much this last two years of qualifying, and I feel that it's important that the players assembled here -- and I mean players, assembled here next to me play week-in, week-out on The European Tour are together with the players.
I have spoken to Jos√© Maria and explained the situation, and he -- all he did was wish us the best of luck in our quest. And you know the passion that he shows for The Ryder Cup; in our quest to regain this fabulous trophy.
So at same time, I feel that to reiterate, I think he will be a captain in the future, but unfortunately because of his lack of participation, if you like, within The European Tour the last two years, it was just a sign that he wasn't at that stage to be part of a vice captaincy role.
To answer your question regarding Welsh participation within the vice captaincy role, a lot of deliberation was taken. We have Rhys Davies, who is right -- I think, what, he's 15th as we speak on the list, top nine make it. He has ample opportunity in the next six remaining events to try and make that team, and we hope he does. We'll have 40,000 Welsh there, at least, and of course, the honorary captain of the Celtic Manor Resort is the legendary Gareth Edwards, who will be on a buggy around the course.
So I feel there will be Welsh representation at Celtic Manor, and I'm just very, very happy to announce the three vice captains that I have ton today.
Q. What from your experience in '04, what did you learn that you can bring to this team now?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: I think '04 was a new experience for me, but I was quite surprised to see how important of a role the backroom staff can play with the players. The captain has 12 players for the week and he has a lot of responsibility to go and do different stuff. And somebody's got to be with the team all the time, talk to them, make sure that everybody is all right and feed that information back to the captain, because he can't be everywhere all the time.
I think you need strong people, you need people that the team respects, that they walk into the room and almost gives a captain's feeling when they are in the room; the players wants to come and talk to you; they know that you have the pedigree behind new Ryder Cups. So the players feel like they get some g information but also the captain feels he gets good information from his vice captains. I think that with our experience in Ryder Cups, I think we can fulfill that role, both with the players, but also with the captain.
Q. And Darren, obviously much said over the years about the hardships you've had, and what you did for morale within the locker room, how key do you see that as part of your role?
DARREN CLARKE: I think all of us are part of that role. Certainly in The Ryder Cups that I've been involved in, the team spirit in the team room has been fantastic, and you know, we want to generate as much of that as possible, and that's obviously a part of it that I enjoy even when I'm still playing, I enjoy the part off the course. We want a relaxed atmosphere in the team room and we want to get the best out of our players and we want to help Monty get the best out of his players. And as Thomas suggested, because we have all been there and done it before, I think we are a very, very strong team.
I don't know if there's been a stronger back room team assembled like this before in any previous Ryder Cup, so hopefully we can bring that experience and team spirit and bonding in the team room and get the best out of the team.
Q. Paul, you talked about how proud you were to be selected by Colin. Just how tight is the bond between you four guys?
PAUL McGINLEY: Well, we are all very good friends. We all used to live very close to each other, as well, too. Yeah, well, I think the big thing is we have all been very fortunate in the years we've played golf that we have been involved in successful Ryder Cup teams.
There's a winning formula and fortunately we have been involved in them and we have all learned a lot and we know what works, and it's important that we take those principles that have worked in the past and go forward with them, and, as I say, make some really good decisions and press on the advantage that it looks like we are going to have based on World Rankings; it looks like we are going to be clear favourites. That's something that has not all been the case with European golf. It's always been the Americans who have been clear favourites.
But we'll take that, and as I say, the most important thing is that we make some really good decisions and press on with the advantage.
Q. Is there added pressure with being favoured?
PAUL McGINLEY: There is, no doubt about it. I've been involved with Ryder Cups when we have been underdogs, as well, too.
There's a way of winning golf, and as I say, it's important we take the experience that we all have of winning Ryder Cups, take those principles, take those ideas, both on the course and off the course and go forward with those and make sure that we have the team ready and acting on those principles.
Q. Why specifically have you picked these three people? Can you run through the particular qualities that you see in each that makes you think this is the strongest backroom staff that you can have?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I wouldn't say individually, I would just like to say that the four of us up here, and that includes myself have huge respect from the players that will be on that team, and respect in that team room, respect in the locker room and respect in on the course is vital and I think all four of us, we all speak together on that half. I think this is the strongest team, here -- a non-playing team as we stand here, sit here.
This is the strongest team we have ever assembled on and off the course in Europe and it's a great time for European golf, a fabulous time for European golf. We just had great success in America at the U.S. Open, and were very close to having great success in our own open and who knows what's going to happen at the U.S. PGA next month.
But at the same time, this is the strongest team, including myself here, because there's four of us here that are going to make decisions regarding this Ryder Cup from now on, four of us make the decisions from now on, not just me. There will be consultation going on the whole time now with all four of us, and I can honestly say this is the strongest setup that we have had on and off the course.
Q. First of all, can I just get you right on Jose Maria, that you decided he wasn't to be part of the team, rather than him saying he didn't want to be?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, that was right, yes. I made that decision on his behalf I think. I think that it was a phone call that I didn't want, really, to make.
I think the passion that he's shown, you know, the passion that he has; but at the same time, I think it's very important nowadays to be part of the Tour, to be playing, to be associated with the players in the locker room, around the course, and around the whole Tour, and I think that it's important; so, yes, it was my decision, yes, and all I can say to that is we wish him well.
I know he's not well right now to be able to physically play four rounds of golf in a tournament, and we do hope and pray that he comes back to his winning ways.
Q. Why do you think three is the right number rather than two or four?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, there will be four matches out there. There will are four games the first two days, and there's four of us up here. We will be able to control and to analyse and to get the best out of the players with all four of us. So I think four is a good number.
Q. And if you go beyond that, do you think that's too many cooks?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It can be. It can be. I think the four of us up here right now, I think you'll all understand my thinking here, that there's four matches; that's four vice captains, three vice captains and myself. And that's even a mistake in saying four vice captains, in saying that we are a team. We are very much together, the four of us, and we will be making decisions from now on together.
Q. Haven't done the math, but I do know that Darren can still make the team --
DARREN CLARKE: I'll refer that one to the captain.
Q. Well, you must have considered that before accepting this.
DARREN CLARKE: I did but we spoke at length about it, and Monty said that he wants me there one way or the other.
So, you know, if I do happen to play well enough to give him a little bit of an extra headache, not that he hasn't got one at the moment, we shall see. But right now as it stands, I'm outside the team and I'm delighted to be part of his backroom staff.
Q. Are the other two still hoping?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: Well, six weeks to go, and so there's a potential of winning a lot of golf tournaments still. But, no, I think Paul and I both safely can say that we are trying to build our way back into form, and the Ryder Cup is maybe just beyond our reach at the moment.
But that doesn't take away from what we have done in the past, and I think it's a lot of credit to European players and to how we feel about The Ryder Cup that in one way, shape or form. I think every player on this tour would want to be part of the team and if you can't play well enough to be on the team, well, then you are very happy to do this role, because it can make a big difference if you've got people that are behind you as a captain that can help you make good decisions and make the team feel a little bit more comfortable in what they are doing.
So I'm quite pleased to be in this room.
PAUL McGINLEY: Again, I'll agree with Thomas. I haven't shown any form this year since I've come back from my injury which has been very disappointing.
So my immediate concern as a player is getting my form back and having a good finish to the season and climbing The Race to Dubai. So I can safely rule myself out of being a member this year. I'm not going to be in the U.S. PGA or Firestone, which are two big events and they could have huge effect, if somebody plays well in those. I'm quite comfortable as my role as vice captain and I'm looking forward to being part of this team.
As Monty quite rightly said, we will be the strongest team on paper that we have ever produced. Hopefully it will be a very strong team, and we can make some really good decisions and press on the advantage that the World Rankings suggest we have.
Q. Obviously there are few people with more Ryder Cup experience than yourself but what will you take from previous Ryder Cup Captains about selecting your backroom staff and the tournament itself?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I have taken that and respect is No. 1; experience is No. 2; passion for The Ryder Cup commitment to try and win this Ryder Cup back again. All three vice captains fall under every category there.
I've learnt a lot over the six Ryder Cup Captains I've played under. And hopefully we will take the positives from every one of those.
Q. Anything in particular from anyone?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I've spoken at length to every one, all six. I've learnt a lot. I can't say individually what one might have said or individual points of view. All you can say is after The Ryder Cup is finished, you will realise that I have taken a lot from every captain that I've played under.
SCOTT CROCKETT: A question from Martin Dempster of the Scotsman newspaper. Martin Kaymer said he benefitted enormously from getting a chance to be close to the European Team at Valhalla. Do you have any plans of anything similar with younger players who might miss out to be on your team?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: That's a very good question and I think that was a very astute move of Sir Nick Faldo to invite, three, I believe, young potential Ryder Cup players of the future to be on course to witness what it's about. I'm glad Martin took that chance, went over to Valhalla and in readiness for his play and he's currently on the team as we speak.
So I think that will only benefit him, and, yes, to answer that e-mail question, there are moves afoot to have potential Ryder Cup players of the future on course on this particular occasion.
Q. With the buildup to The Ryder Cup so far, is there any sense of learning from the mistakes of a couple of years ago? There seemed to be some interesting additions around the locker room with DJ Spoony and the drummer from Iron Maiden. Are you trying deliberately to make this a more statesman-like affair?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No, I'm not. I wasn't there at Valhalla, so I wasn't aware of the locker room or whatever was going on.
I always had this view to captaining and my captaincy and how it would be. I think I've learnt a lot, as I said, from the six Ryder Cup Captains that I've played under, and I can't speak for the one that -- the recent one that I wasn't available for, but at the same time, yes, I've learnt from Bernhard Langer; I've learnt from Sam Torrance; I've learnt from Ian Woosnam; I've learnt from Mark James and from Seve and from Bernard Gallacher.
So I feel that this is a huge responsibility that the four of us have here, and a huge responsibility that the 12 players will have, as well, and it's only right that this is taken seriously. It's a very important role that we have, a responsible role that we have in trying to regain this Ryder Cup. In these economic times, we realise that a home win is very important for us, to The European Tour in general, and, yes, it's a very serious role and a very responsible role and one that we have taken not lightly.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Another question from Jock McVicker, The Daily Express. You touched on it earlier, but The Open was only the second time in 50 years that there wasn't a U.S. player in the top six. Do you recognise there's a danger of perhaps some over-confidence regarding the result at Celtic Manor?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Not with the four of us on this table, no. There is no complacency. There is no -- anything to do with over-confidence here. We know these matches are very, very close. You only have to look back at the first record win that Europe had in 2004 in America of 18 1/2 - 9 1/2 victory in America; 11 matches, that particular competition went to the last hole and we happened to win nine of them. If that was the opposite way, we wouldn't have just won in a record margin; we would have lost the Ryder Cup. That's how close The Ryder Cup matches are, and we are in no illusion here at all how difficult the task this will be to attempt to regain this Ryder Cup and everything we have put in place for those 12 players to do so.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Paul, from Bernie McGuire, congratulations. You touched on this earlier but how this announcement different to when you were announced as Nick's vice captain a couple of years ago? You said you felt more prepared to be a part of this team.
PAUL McGINLEY: The last time I felt I was very close to making the team and right up to the very last event I had a very good chance of making the team. My form was good.
Since then obviously I've had trouble with my injuries in the last sort of year, 18 months, and as I say, I haven't caught fire at all and I haven't caught any kind of form in the last 18 months. I'm still working hard towards that and I still very much want to compete at the top level, and I feel that I will get better in time and my form will come back in time.
Having said that, I feel mentally I've moved on a bit as well, too. I'm now a little bit distanced from in terms of I'm one Ryder Cup away from when I played last, which is two Ryder Cups ago. So there's a gap now of a Ryder Cup that I didn't play in. I see things a little bit differently, having watched Valhalla from a distance last time and I think I've learned a lot from being captain of the Vivendi Trophy last year.
As I say, it's an honour to work with Monty, I think he'll be an excellent captain and with Darren and Thomas, as well, I think we make a good team.
As I say, The Ryder Cup brings a lot passion and it's a lot of fun to be involved in, the most fun I've ever had playing golf has been being part of a team event and I'm looking forward to it. I'll reiterate what Monty said, I think it will be a very, very difficult Ryder Cup. Ryder Cups are always difficult, the Americans are going to be coming out very, very strong; and we lost the last time and it's important we win it back, not just for us, but for The European Tour, as well.
Q. As you said it's an extremely strong Ryder Cup Team on paper, but you may have to use your three picks on players in the world's top 20. I know you have to work with the system you've got, but would you have liked perhaps The European Tour qualification would be the first one and then the world list, those who don't qualify for The European Tour be second, that way you can pick the strongest players from around the world?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: We have a strong team either way. I could pick two teams that could beat each other on any given day. So there's no -- there's no problem with the fact that there's five from The European Tour points list and four from the world. It can be either way and you'll still have a strong team.
Yes, our players have performed brilliantly worldwide, so much so that there are a number of issues that have to be addressed in the fact that these picks, right now, you'll see there's a number of world stars -- and I mean world stars, that aren't already qualified within that team. We have six tournaments to go. They know the situation they are in. We know the situation they are in. And I've spoken to most of those players over the last month, and they know the position they are in.
So it's a matter of getting them to be on the team so that the picks can be used as picks and not just for the sake of, okay, well, I have to pick, as opposed to want to pick.
I think that those picks right now, are the biggest headache we have, but a very positive headache at the same time, a very positive one, because we have never had so many champions, world stars, top 20 players in the world, that aren't in The Ryder Cup team and that proves how strong we are.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance. Colin, Thomas, Darren and Paul, it goes without saying that every one of us in this room wishes you all the best at Celtic Manor in 73 days' time.
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