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THE PRESIDENTS CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 18, 2011
LAURA HILL: We are pleased to welcome 2011 U.S. Presidents Cup team captain Fred Couples to the line, a busy day and weekend with players securing their positions on the team. I'm just going to quickly read down from No. 1 to No. 10 so everyone has the names of the guys who have qualified now: Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, David Toms, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk.
Captain Couples, I'll turn it over to you. Obviously a young team, five guys who will be making their first Presidents Cup appearance, but then you also have some veterans today come through and secure some spots on your team. Maybe just some opening comments on your team coming together and looking forward to Australia.
FRED COUPLES: I think the team came together very nicely. Obviously I'm not playing any or hitting any shots, but I was a nervous wreck pretty much all day yesterday and today. And we all have been on a lot of teams and we have guys that we want to make the team, and there were some guys that gave it a great, great effort.
But I think our U.S. Team is shaping up to be, as you said, a young team, and a polished team, and we've got some guys who hit it a long way. We've got some guys that are great putters. But to make any team or to play as well as all of these guys do, you do better than just hit it a long way and make putts. They are great guys and those eight, ninth and tenth spots were hard fought.
As of yesterday, I was on the phone with a lot of friends and we were all, you know, talking about days where we qualified for the U.S. Open or U.S. Amateur in the old days, and you played 36 holes and then you had five guys going out there for three spots. It seemed like with Snedeker playing his tail off and Billy Haas and Rickie Fowler and Bo Van Pelt and Zach Johnson, that anything could have happened. And then of course with Mark Wilson leading after two days, you know, any of those guys that make this team in the eighth, ninth and tenth spots would have been very fitting.
Par but I do like our team and I was on the phone with Jay Haas a lot today and hoping for the best for Billy. It's a struggle. I've been on these places where you want to make these teams so bad that you actually forget you're trying to win a golf tournament and I think that's what Bill was foremost trying to do today and let everything take care of itself.
There is next week, and we won't talk about the picks at all because we do have one left, but what a team.
LAURA HILL: David, thanks for joining us and congratulations.
DAVID TOMS: Thank you.
LAURA HILL: Fred was giving a preamble about how great the team looks coming together with some rookies, but obviously players like yourself joining with some experience, maybe talk about the pressure this week to make sure you sewed up that spot there.
DAVID TOMS: Well, I mean, obviously it was a team that I wanted to make. I had been grinding pretty hard all year to try to make the team, and then it basically came down to this week and on a golf course that was pretty difficult for me, long, hard golf course, and the weather got tough today. I just hung in there.
In the end, I played well enough to make it, so you know, something that was a goal of mine all year to be a part of, and through the middle of the summer, everything was great and I was playing well. I went in towards the end of the summer and got hurt, and it was tough, but I finished it off the last couple of months playing better.
And I'm just excited about it. I like it -- I've been to Australia a couple of times. Golf is really good over there. The fans are great and just look forward to being part of a team with a good mix of players and guys that I haven't been on a team with before. So should be a lot of fun.
Q. There's no problem obviously getting players fired up to play on the national team --
LAURA HILL: What he says is that there's no problem getting players fired up to play for their country in an event like The Presidents Cup, but is there something that you do as a captain that you learned from 2009 that you would do anyway to get players fired up and on the right track if they were to get off to a bad start and if you have any examples of that happening in 2009.
FRED COUPLES: That's a great question. When I was lucky enough to be chosen the captain, the first guy I chose was Jay Haas as my assistant as far as someone I thought was a smooth operator and very patient, a very smart guy, and he's always been a big help to me.
And then obviously I picked Michael Jordan as a special assistant to really get everyone fired up and someone who has been in the crunches winning NBA championships and playoff games.
David can probably answer a few questions; it's a one-week period. So there's no saying that you get our best player, whoever it is, and plays the whole year long, and the week before is out practicing or tweaks his elbow or his neck stiffens up on the flight, and he may not play as with well.
So what you try and do, is you try and get everyone to have a good time. We all want to win. That's pretty simple. I don't want to sit here and say in San Francisco the week was a picnic and this guy did that and that guy did this. But the pairings are very important.
For me personally when I'm out there, I remember when Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink, we paired them up for reasons in San Francisco, and they didn't beat anybody, and we would be out there and I would tell Lucas, "Can you just -- how about tie a match and get a half a point." You know, you try and laugh. I don't go out there and pat people on the back. I have had captains that have done that. You're playing as hard as you possibly can. And just because you're on The Presidents Cup team doesn't mean you're going to be ready to play your best golf, and you've just got to grind it out.
That's kind of what I like to see and that's what my guys will do. And they are great, great players. At the end of the week, we win as a team and we lose as a team, but in the six days that we are there, we are going to have a great, great time.
There will be no -- you know, the seriousness will be when they tee off and they know what they are doing. You just let them go and like I say, on Sunday, we may be the losing team and I may have made a mistake or two or someone may have missed a putt or a shot. But, we are all doing our best.
Q. The follow-up question to that was, can you think of any specific examples from San Francisco or from any of The Presidents Cups or Ryder Cups that you've played on, that a captain took a player aside and tried to give them some support.
FRED COUPLES: Oh, I am sure. But I think it's done individually, so there have been captains that have pulled me aside, Dave Stockton and Ray Floyd -- all of them do.
But as far as, are we going to be in Australia and am I going to pull Jim Furyk aside and ask him something? Of course not. Am I going to ask him in front of four other players, you know, hey, we need you to get going; no. I mean, you all kind of go as a team. Once we get there, David Toms and Matt Kuchar are going to work on their games out on the range. We will probably have teachers there. They get ready on Tuesday, Wednesday and then Thursday it starts.
But under no circumstances have I been on any teams where captains have ever done a bad job. I mean, they all do a great job. They all are their own people. Ray Floyd was very, very serious. Dave Stockton was not. Tom Watson was incredible. Tom Kite in Spain was a great captain, and of course we have had Jack Nicklaus a couple times. He's more laid back than you think and he just let's us play.
Q. Can you think of -- or would you be comfortable talking about any examples, you said that Ray Floyd and Dave Stockton talked with you and Jack or Tom; any specific examples, if you got off to kind of a poor start --
FRED COUPLES: Oh, no, it would never be during a round. If I didn't play well one day, you know, I've had some back issues and I've had -- where my game isn't great. But no, they would come up and say how do you feel. And in golf, it's not like, you know, you see these other sports, you get a pitcher out there in the seventh inning and the pitching coach goes out there and says how do you feel; he's going to say great.
You've got other guys that I can play with at a different time that I feel comfortable with. In my opinion, the pairings are the most important thing. I want everyone to hit the ball solid, to hit the ball well, to have a good time. That's an understatement. But what I want is them to go out there and feel like when they tee off, that we have all -- all 15 of us, including the 12 players and three captains, have put them in a position with a partner that they feel very comfortable with.
When you -- it's very easy for me to say, you know, four teams, bing, bing, bang. And then you have got to prepare your other four guys that are not quite as easy. That, to me, is when you talk to players. It's never -- you never tell a guy, hey, you're 3-down after four holes, let's get going. They know; they know they have got to get going. They are pretty bright guys and they have been on teams.
Now, there may be a young player, Nick Watney that I know very well; Webb Simpson I don't know very well at all, but I'm pretty good at feeling people out pretty quickly. I certainly will find out from their caddies, too, you know, does Webb like this guy or that guy; does Webb want to play early, does he want to be first off, does he want to be in the clutch, sixth group out there, and those are questions that you find out.
But at no time have I ever had a captain that kind of went up to me and said, "You've got to get going here."
Q. I was thinking more after a match, let's say a guy has played two matches and he's 0-for-2. Do you go up to him and a, "Listen, don't panic, you're going to do fine," whatever it is?
FRED COUPLES: No. No.
Q. The last question is, it's clear that you base your pairings on a comfort level for people?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I would hope so, yes. That's correct.
Q. So there's nothing beyond that more specific, like you want players who hit the ball the same distance?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, like David is on the phone, we were paired one time. We got beat but we actually were paired pretty well, and he -- I'm not this because he's on the line. He's one of my favorite players by the way he plays. I truly enjoyed it.
When I went to bed that night, I wasn't thinking, my God, I've never played with David Toms, what's going on here. I like his style. I like the way he plays. I like his mentality on the course. So it was pretty easy.
I've had pairings before where I kind of questioned the thought, but I never went up to the captain and said, "You know, what are you doing here." But I know it happens. It usually happens when you don't win, and that's when a guy will come up and say, you know, why did you put us together, we didn't have a shot.
But comfort in golf is always good in a team. It certainly helps. You'll have guys the same every day -- whether it was a match or better ball or just a different shot, but you do want to be comfortable. When we get out here, we are coming together here, if you have a guy that hits it a long way and puts it in the rough -- and you know, as David said, Royal Melbourne is one of the all-time great courses, and I think putting is a huge factor, huge greens, beautiful golf course, and you go down the list, we have talented players.
Q. You said you were really nervous on Saturday and Sunday, I'm really curious as to why after watching golf today, has it made the decision even harder with a bunch of the guys not playing as well as you could have hoped?
FRED COUPLES: Well, to be quite honest with you, I thought they played some pretty good golf. We had some guys on our team that are solid at making the team that didn't play their best, there's no doubt. I watched it all, but to be honest, we all have our favorite guys, and you know, it comes down to this; Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and David Toms are eighth, ninth, and tenth, and Snedeker, Haas and Rickie Fowler and Zach Johnson all have great shots, and obviously if Mark Wilson, if he were to win, he would have made the team.
But that really is added pressure. If you're Hunter Mahan and you're out there thinking you're in eighth place, and then after 36 holes you look up there, and Bill Haas is leading and you're in third place guy that is a lot of pressure. They are all playing good golf and they all want to be on the team -- (interference) -- and they all made it. Now Jay Haas is my assistant captain. His son is killing himself to get on this team, and I'm sure the last nine holes, not only did he feel like the pressure of trying to win, but he knew that if he just hung in there and finished strong, he would have made the team and pushed out Jim Furyk and that's added pressure. So I feel for all these guys.
But I was nervous for not just the eighth, ninth and tenth, but all of them. I think until you get there and you really start to pay attention and you're grooming a team together by watching, it's much easier to play, and these guys worked hard the whole year. I think it's fitting to be quite personal about this, that going in there, we had ten guys and when we left, we had the same ten guys, and they played very hard to lose by one putt or $20,000 when they have played 30 weeks, 40 weeks of golf to get to this place. So that's why I was nervous.
Q. Have you been surprised at the reaction that you got so far from naming Tiger to the team so early and only leaving yourself one pick?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, there were reasons that I did that, and I think I've stated those number. So when you say I left myself one pick, I had two picks and I feel like Tiger Woods is very deserving of the one. The people that I have talked to, a good percentage, like the pick. There's a handful that don't. But it's all really irrelevant to me.
Sometimes it gets a little loose that, you know, we are certainly an individual sport, but if Tiger Woods was our main guy, and got injured and didn't play and didn't get any points -- at the end of the year, if he's the No. 1 quarterback for your team, and some other quarterback comes in there and leads you in the Playoffs and you're healthy, Tom Brady is the guy that is going to then take over after he's been out six weeks with an injury. That's the way I looked at it with Tiger.
Tiger was in the heat of the battle at Augusta. He almost won there. He's been injured. We have talked at times about this. He's done everything I've asked him to do and I told him the reason I was picking him early was I needed him to do a few things, and that's basically why. I'm picking him September 27th, for sure, so I just decided to let everyone know that they were really playing for one spot. I felt it was justified to my team, also, that anyone outside of the Top-10, they were fighting for one spot.
Q. But has any of the reaction surprised you?
FRED COUPLES: No, nothing -- I mean nothing surprises me. But no, I don't -- I don't think -- I think Tiger is, first of all, been the best player in the world for a dozen years. I think he's been a little injured.
Is he playing great golf as of a month ago? Of course not. We are all pretty attuned people. We all realize that. But he had 2 1/2, three months to work on his game. I talked to him a lot. And I know he's working hard. And I'm relying on him to have a good time and play well in Australia, and I think he's a guy that does not like to not play well. I think he'll be ready.
But as far as the reactions, you know, I think it's a pretty simple pick for me, and so if there are bad reactions, you know, it goes in one ear and out the other. Once we get to Australia, I promise you that one guy is not going to lose or win The Presidents Cup, unless it's on Sunday and it's the last group and he's got a 5-footer and he makes it we win and if he misses we lose, and then we either win or we lose.
It will not be David Toms or Matt Kuchar or Phil Mickelson that we win -- I'm not going to say we win as a team. We win by several guys playing really, really well and we don't need everyone playing incredible golf, we really don't, and it's very hard to get 12 guys together almost two full months from now and say, hey, I want you all playing your absolute best. It's impossible.
Q. I won't ask you to name any names but do you have one or two frontrunners that you're looking at right now?
FRED COUPLES: Actually, I will spit this out once, and I won't go too much into it but it's pretty obvious. I think Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas and probably Keegan Bradley are the three leaders in this three-ring circus right now to be the 12th guy. Brandt Snedeker has playing incredible golf and Bill Haas has, too. And of course, Keegan Bradley has won twice this year, including a major. He fought hard playing Saturday and Sunday here, and his name is right there.
As far as anyone else, I think it would be even a surprise if a Zach Johnson won next week, we still have another week, but that could easily change anyone's mind. I mean, I want these guys to know that THE TOUR Championship is still deciding my second pick but 12th spot on the team.
LAURA HILL: David before you jumped on, Fred was talking about the fact that there's five guys on the team and you may not have had a chance to look at the standings, but five guys on the team who have never played a Presidents Cup before, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Nick Watney and Bubba Watson. Can you talk about the team as a whole shaping up and what it means to have five brand new guys having that experience for the first time and what you think they will bring to the team?
DAVID TOMS: I don't have it right in front of me to know -- how many of those guys played on The Ryder Cup last year? Two or three of them?
LAURA HILL: Three.
DAVID TOMS: So you have a couple of them that have that experience, which will be great for them.
The other guys, you know, they have played so well, this year, the last couple of years, every time you play great, it just adds to your confidence and they certainly I'm sure are very confident right now.
I think what they are going to do is they are going to go and they are going to enjoy the event that they have not been a part of before and see how special it is and how much fun it is, and I think how much they are going to enjoy being around the other players and their wives.
Like Fred said to me, you have fun and when you get to the golf course, you tee off, everything is serious and everybody wants to win. But those guys have held up under pressure when they have performed just to be able to get to a position where they are on the team. Played great golf and have been world-class players along the way to even be part of it.
I think they will do fine. I'm certainly glad they are on there and you have some guys that can absolutely just drive the ball forever, hit the ball long, putt well. I'm just impressed with how golf players they are.
In the end, it's still golf. I know there's extra pressure there, you're playing for your country and other teammates and your captain, but in the end, if you go out there and you play great golf, which they are capable of doing, they are going to do fine, and I think they are really going to enjoy it. I know I have and I know when I'm not a part of team competition, what I'm missing, because I've been part of those before. It's just a great week, win or lose. I've been on winners and I've been on loser, but it's still a great experience and I look forward to being their teammate and going there and having fun with them.
LAURA HILL: David, how important could your great putting be on Royal Melbourne greens which are considered super slick, not sure if you have experience on that course, but how much will Captain Couples be relying on your putting?
DAVID TOMS: I hope I bring more to the team than just putting.
FRED COUPLES: (Laughing).
DAVID TOMS: Obviously when I'm putting well, it's a strength of my game. I've made some clutch putts over the years and just seemed to be able to relax when I need it.
So I look forward to going there and if it comes down to my putt on the last hole and being able to make that one for the team that would be great but I certainly -- I'm just going to enjoy myself.
At this stage of my career, to still be able to make one of these teams, to play well enough, be a part of it, it's a pretty special thing for me really. I'm going there with a mind-set that we are going there to win and play great and have a good time.
I know my wife is looking forward to it, and I am, also.
LAURA HILL: Fred, obviously you were focused on your team but from the international side, can we just get a comment on you about how that team has shaped up, including Geoff Ogilvy with his third-place finish this week.
FRED COUPLES: No, they have a great team. Geoff Ogilvy has made a late one. I know Camilo Villegas in the Playoffs has played very well, and obviously Jason Day is an incredible player. I don't know Jason at all except the few times I've said hello to him and nice playing, but I love the way he plays. He's a great kid. Reminds me a lot of some of our younger players and he works hard.
As you go down the list, you have Adam Scott who has been on a lot of teams and Charles Schwartzel who is a great player and K.J. is someone I respect and enjoy being around, Kyung-tae Kim, I don't know at all; I know he's had some unbelievable finishes. And Retief Goosen is a favorite, obviously, Ernie Els is playing well again and the list goes on and on with Ryo and Y.E. Yang.
I pay attention to all that but once my team is out there, I have my guys and as David said, we will have a great time. Australia is a beautiful place; that's obvious. We've been there before and we lost quite a few years ago. We will be ready. But they have a power-packed team, and they have got the young guys with the old guys, too. It's a lot like our team. They may be a little younger, just because of some of their top players are not very old. But I like his team, too. I like all of his players.
LAURA HILL: Really like to thank David for making the rush from the airport to join us and of course Captain Couples for spending some time with us and I know we'll be chatting with you in a little over a week when you give us your last captain's picks on September 27th in a 5:00 teleconference.
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