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THE GREENBRIER CLASSIC


July 2, 2014


Tom Watson


WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WEST VIRGINIA

JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm the PGA of America's Julius Mason. I'd like to thank you for joining us for this Ryder Cup captain's update. Ryder Cup Captain, Tom Watson, is back at the Greenbrier, his home away from home, if you will, where he served as only the second golf professional emeritus. Tom, before we get deep into Ryder Cup activities, how about we hear what the golf course is looking like out there today and how did you play?
TOM WATSON: That's a generic question there, Julius. I played pretty well today. It's a long golf course for a 64‑year‑old compared to some of these kids that I played with yesterday. I played with Jimmy Walker yesterday who hits the ball a long way. I'm just having to yell to him to talk to him how far ahead of me he is with the driver. Actually, I played well today, and I'm looking forward to putting it to the test and hitting those longer clubs into the par‑4s. These kids are hitting 7‑ and 8‑irons into it where I'm back there with my hybrids.
But all joking aside, I'm playing pretty well and looking forward to the week here at the Greenbrier. It's a place I've grown to love over the years, and actually the first time I came here was during the Ryder Cup in 1979. I was here as a player on the team. I had to withdraw because of the birth of my first born, Meg, and I remember the three days we spent here left me a great impression. I've come back here every year since 1979. It's a special place to be.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you, Captain. So in 82 days, you along with Team USA will land in Edinburgh, Scotland for the 40th Ryder Cup. We've got the point standings in front of you for the American team and the European team. I believe our guests also have that at their disposal. Any thoughts on what the team is looking like and how it's shaping up for you?
TOM WATSON: There are a lot of usual suspects on the European team with the exception of Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson. All of their stars seem very close to making the team. Our team, the top nine, we've got three new bees in there. We've got three players that haven't played in the Ryder Cup in Jimmy Walker, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in the top nine there. But we've had some players who certainly had some great experience there, especially Jim Furyk. He's played in, I think 8 Ryder Cups.
Julius, you're the statistician here. I think it's eight he's played in. But he's a stalwart and is playing well this year, so it's always good when your team is playing well. That's all I ask, really is when September 26th starts that the players who are there are all playing at the top of their game or at least better than their average, and that makes it easy for me to make decisions of who plays with whom and it does. That wasn't the case in '93. There were some players that weren't playing particularly well, so I had to basically make the decision of not playing them all but just one of the foursome or four ball matches, and that's, as I told my players back in '93, and I tell the players now in 2014 the same thing is true. I'm going to try everything possible in the pairings out here for us to win these matches. It's been a pretty dire road for the American team for the last nine Ryder Cups. We've only won two, and it's time to turn that around.

Q. What have you found to be the greatest differences between captaining in 1993 and so far this year?
TOM WATSON: Hmm, the greatest differences? The greatest difference is really my responsibilities. That's the greatest difference this guy standing right to my left saying all right, Tom, we need to do this and do this for the Ryder Cup. Frankly, I didn't have a lot of what I'm doing today back in '93 prior to the Ryder Cup to do. But it's really even before last year where we had the year to go event at the site, at Gleneagles, we were there for a couple of days doing a really big PR push for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and every month after that we had Ryder Cup press conferences with people, keeping it on the front burner with people.
It's one of the great sporting events there is. It's an international scoring event, and it creates some of the best golf that you'll ever see.
It always amazes me to watch the Ryder Cup as I've been doing the last several years, every year, you see the types of shots that are made, the shots from off the green that these guys are holing, the chip shots, the holed shots, the holes in one. Just seems there is more of it. It's just that condensed series of matches called the Ryder Cup. I think a lot of it has to do with the intensity that the Ryder Cup brings to the players. It's the type of pressure they play under, and the cream usually rises to the top.
JULIUS MASON: Just an observation on top of that. As Tom was mentioning the activity that we had just last year in '93 leading up to the '93 event, there wasn't a one‑year to go event, so things changed a little bit.

Q. I want to ask you a little about Patrick Reed's chances of making the Ryder Cup team being ranked ninth and everything, and I have another question about him after that.
TOM WATSON: Well, Patrick is ninth right now, and, again, there are a lot of points left. Patrick plays well, he's on the team. If he doesn't play well, I'll have to make him a captain's pick if I deem that's the right way to go.

Q. How do you like his confidence? You know, the comment about the top 5 player thing.
TOM WATSON: I like that as long as he backs it up. I like that.

Q. Going through the World Cup soccer frenzy, I was wondering did you ever feel anything like that going through the Ryder Cup situation?
TOM WATSON: I have. That's the beautiful thing for us Ryder Cup players. In my particular instance, the most poignant memory I have is when I was sitting there and the opening ceremony in 1977 at Royal Liverpool at St. Annes, watching the American flag going up, The National Anthem being played, and I am playing for my country. I'm playing for the team, but I'm playing for my country. First time I've been involved in an international event like that. Not to be trite about it, that was really cool. That was the memory I remember most.
I remember some of the matches we won and lost, and that was part of it. But that was the memory that always sticks with me about the Ryder Cup. I've had lots of other memories, not the least of which was the memory of watching the team lose at Medinah, and watching that and suffering through that and the pit in my stomach I had for days afterwards of that. If you compare it to what I did in 2009 in the British Open, the pit in my stomach was gone after 24 hours. The pit in my stomach after watching the Ryder Cup loss two years ago stuck with me for a number of days.

Q. You touched on yesterday Tiger being healthy and wanting to see how he's playing if he's playing well. Specifically what signs are you monitoring with him coming back as soon as he has?
TOM WATSON: I'll be watching Tiger as he plays. He'll be playing at the Open Championship. Hope to get together with him there and tell him my feelings about him direct. As I've said in front of the press, if he's playing well and he's healthy, he's on the team. Right now he's way down the list as far as points, but who wouldn't pick Tiger Woods to be on your Ryder Cup team? That is the question to everybody. Who wouldn't pick him?

Q. Staying on that topic, there is a potential scenario in which Tiger doesn't qualify for the FedExCup playoffs and wouldn't be playing for a month and a half or two months before the Ryder Cup. You said if he's playing well. What if he's not playing at all, would he still be considered a possible pick?
TOM WATSON: He'll be considered less of a pick then if he didn't have a track record going into the Ryder Cup, Of course. He'd be the first to tell you, I haven't been playing. Like I said, how he's been playing and if he's healthy, those are the two factors that I'll weigh in choosing. That's just common sense in my opinion.

Q. If you had to pick your players today, who would your three captains choices be?
TOM WATSON: You, Julius, and Smiley. I don't know. It's way too early to tell. I can't make that decision until I know who the nine are on the team. Can't do it.

Q. Obviously, you're here to see some of these players at the Greenbrier. How many tournaments do you get to go to to see candidates face‑to‑face?
TOM WATSON: Five, five tournaments, but I've been watching on TV too. I've been in serious discussions with my vice captain Andy North and Ray Floyd, my other vice captain.

Q. Talking about the three new bees. Talk about the pressure of playing the Ryder Cup compared to maybe a major. Some of them have played well in the majors. Is it more intense this Ryder Cup that they'll face?
TOM WATSON: I think so. I'd have to say that I played under a little bit less pressure in my first Ryder Cup than I did in subsequent Ryder Cups. We were expected to win in '77, and it actually was pretty close after the first day. We had five matches the first day, and that was all we had.
As it progressed, I played in '89, was captain in '93. The pressure was more elevated then than it was when I first started. As a rookie, you go in and if you're young, your nerves can probably take it. On the other hand, that's part of the deal. Every Ryder Cup is going to have new players on the team, and you look at the European team, Sergio has been on the team for I don't know how many years but he was a rookie once. I'm sure he was tight. Rookies get tight. That's what they do. All it takes is one shot sometimes just to relieve that tension. One shot under pressure, and yeah, I got it. That's what it was with me.

Q. Of the three that you mentioned that are newbies, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker are a bit older. How do you weigh the risk versus reward of taking such a young guy who is also pretty talented?
TOM WATSON: We're all playing the same game. But the experience factor of being just on the team is the difference. When you're playing the Ryder Cup on a team playing matches, it's a different format and you're playing for yourself. But in reality, you're still playing the golf course the way you would play an individual match. You're playing the golf course. You have an opponent over here. As my granddad told me about Match Play when I was just a youngster. He said, in Match Play, son, grandson, you've got to play the golf course first and your opponent second. Don't ever lose track of playing the golf course.
In the Ryder Cup pressure, one of the things about pressure, it makes you go faster and makes your decisions go a little bit faster. That's really affected me, and to be able to slow down, have a breather and laugh a little bit more and you can eliminate some of the pressure. That's what I hope that I'll bring and I can identify a leader on the team to bring that, but let that play out. Europeans have a great camaraderie. Our teams have a great camaraderie. That's part of the great memories that you have playing in the Ryder Cup team, the camaraderie you have with the players. The way you get to know them a little bit differently because you're playing for a purpose, not against them, but with them, for them.
You've really got‑‑ it really to me the most enjoyable part of it and that element of it is that everybody is playing as one. Don't forget, when you tee up in the first tee, you're playing the golf course, and you put it to the test one more time.

Q. How often are you having contact with potential team members? Are you calling them? Are there text messages, email?
TOM WATSON: Uh‑huh.

Q. How often?
TOM WATSON: More and more. I can't really say how often. One of the things I am going to do and have done over the last several weeks is to invite the players here ‑‑ a good group of players pretty far down the list to come to prior to the British Open to play the practice round at the Centenary Course at Gleneagles. Right now there are four or five players that will be over there to play. They'll be there Saturday and Sunday and a few will show up to play a practice round there, and then we head down to Hoylake for the Open Championship.
I thought that was a good thing to do, and it gives them a chance to get used to the time change going over to the Open Championship. But also, it used to‑‑ you get to see the course at least once before they get there or potentially get there. Not all of these players are in the top six or top 5 right now. The players right now that are probably going to make it, if you look at the list right here, you can probably go down to Jim Furyk, the top 6. Those six will probably make the team.
Things could happen that could change, but you look at that. Then you've got 500 points difference between Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler, and that's where it gets a little tight. But I've asked all these players to come. Most of them can't make it because they're playing either the Scottish Open or the John Deere Classic.

Q. How many players have you invited or about how many players and who are the players that have accepted?
TOM WATSON: Four or five players have accepted and we don't need to go over that. But I've gone down to about the top 20, somewhere in that neighborhood.

Q. Do you think the course being a Nicklaus design will play an advantage for Americans?
TOM WATSON: Well, no. Actually, I think the Europeans have an advantage on this golf course. It's hosted the Johnny Walker Championship and other championships before. Some of these players, the European players have played that golf course in competition, played it four, five six times, maybe 12 times. I don't think anybody on our team right here has played that course once. That is an advantage.
That's just the way the Europeans pick their Ryder Cup sites. It's usually a site where they've held the European Tour tournament, so their players are more familiar with the golf course for the Ryder Cup.

Q. Speaking of advantage captain, European Captain, Paul McGinley, announced the order of play not too long ago with four‑ball in the morning, foursomes in the afternoon. That is the exact opposite of what it was when you were captain in '93. Is there an advantage or something you prefer going into the matches?
TOM WATSON: I think it's better to go four‑ball first than alternate shot. Personally, that is the way I like it.
JULIUS MASON: Ironically you've never had that choice where it seems like you've been captain overseas where the European captains pick to play that format.
Ladies and gentlemen, on the calendar on Monday after the PGA Championship, Captain Watson will be in the interview room at 9:00 o'clock after the PGA Championship to talk about the nine players that have made the team after the PGA Championship, and on Tuesday, September 2 in New York City, Captain Watson will announce the three captain picks he has to round out the Ryder Cup team. That's September 26 to 28.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JULIUS MASON: September 2.

Q. This is a non‑Ryder Cup question. Have you shot your age in competition yet?
TOM WATSON: Yes.

Q. Where did you do that?
TOM WATSON: 63 at Newport Beach Country Club in the Toshiba Classic in the second round, the Saturday round this year. I broke my age, I shot 62, I'm 64 years old. Not bad for an old guy.
I thought that was really cool too. It's funny, because just to tell you a little story. My caddie, Neil Oxman, is a great baseball fan, and I am too. I love baseball. He's a Phillies fan. I'm a Royals fan. I started off the day, and I'm haggling around and I make a birdie. I make a 25‑footer for par, number 6. Now I'm 5‑under par. It's par 71. Don't remember exactly what it was. But I remember coming off the 7th green, and I made a 12‑footer that broke about this much, downhill, left‑to‑right putt, center cut. And if I parred the last two holes then I knew I'd shoot my age. I was walking off the green and looked at Neil, and he said, Don't say anything. It's just like a pitcher with a no‑no going. You go to the end of the bench and you don't say anything.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
TOM WATSON: I don't know. I parred the 8th hole of the par‑3 and a long two‑putt up there close. Then on number 9, I had to make par at number 9, and I knocked it into the left of the rough a little bit, had a flier. I didn't know what was going to happen with the ball. I hit what turned out to be a good shot. It came about 20 feet short, and I drained that putt to shoot 63.
JULIUS MASON: If it wasn't for the no applause policy in the media center interview, I'm quite sure there would be a standing ovation right now for that particular feat, Mr.Watson?
TOM WATSON: Bob Gilbert shot a 63 last week, he shot his age at Fox Chapel. We old guys can play. You know that saying that these guys can play, these guys are good? Yeah, us old guys are good too at times. We're like old broken‑down race horses though. We can't compete with the thoroughbreds.

Q. I apologize for going back to the Ryder Cup, but Phil Mickelson fell out of the top nine a few weeks ago. Have you spoken to Phil, and are you concerned about his game going into the stretch run here?
TOM WATSON: Well, Phil has had some struggles with his putting, I know that, as I watched. In the game, there are ebbs and flows in the game. Knowing Phil, he'll probably have some way to have it fixed and make enough points to be on the team. If not, certainly he'll be a serious consideration, obviously. He's played on Ryder Cup teams, and last time he played well at Medinah.
JULIUS MASON: Captain Watson, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for joining us today.
TOM WATSON: Thank you all.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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