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September 25, 2014

Tom Watson


GORDON SIMPSON: Tom, nice to see you here in a chap suit for a change instead of the usual golf gear. It's been a long journey from The Belfry 1993 to here at Gleneagles, and here we are on the eve of The Ryder Cup. What are your thoughts at the moment going into the match.

TOM WATSON: Obviously looking at the pairings, looking at some similarities that Paul and I did, we put some strong teams together, some teams that you are obviously familiar with Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson and Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson together. And it just turns out that it looks like they are playing a very strong team, both of them, and Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, and Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy. As well as putting out Stephen Gallacher. We put out some rookies early, too. I'm sure Paul has the same idea as I do as far as playing somebody that has not played in The Ryder Cup before, you would like to get them to play all 18 holes, play their own ball and get them out that way. That's the reason I put the two rookies out together, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. They have been playing some practise rounds together and doing very well. I told them today, I said, I'm going to throw you in the ocean without a life preserver. You're on your own. You get out there and you get it done. They are all in, and that's -- there was a great story told to me by Byron Nelson in his first Ryder Cup. He was paired up with somebody and they were playing -- I wish I could remember the team he was playing against, but it was the top team. The day of the match, when it was announced, the first round of the matches were announced like they are today, the morning papers said, "The Lambs Are Thrown to the wolves." And of course Byron beat the stars, and the headline the next day was "The Lambs Eat the Wolves." I remember that story very succinctly. The fortunes that go with The Ryder Cup, you look at these matches right here, and you can see some scenarios that would really be something very special for just the opening matches. Right now, I'm looking at it, and I'm just glad the process for this part of the process is finished, and we're going to be getting on with it tomorrow morning at 7.35. It's been a pleasure. It's been a pleasure for two years doing this, and it's culminated in getting to this point. Now see what happens in the next 72 hours.

Q. Are you happy with Phil and Keegan going up against basically the strongest European Team?
TOM WATSON: Of course I am, sure.

Q. Did you wish to be given the lead-in with Phil, taking a little dig at Rory?
TOM WATSON: We looked at the lineup, and you know, it's hard to line them up. We looked at -- you always kind of look and guess what Paul might do, but honestly, it was really where the players wanted to play rather than where we thought Paul was going to put his teams, honestly. It just felt like this. So we got a match.

Q. And how important is that to you, just in terms of momentum for the --
TOM WATSON: Every match is important. Every match is important. You can start asking me that about momentum as the match progresses. Right now, the momentum is not there. Everybody's looking at these matches and nobody has hit a ball yet. Momentum has not started. Once the matches get started, then we'll see the ebbs and flows of the matches and how the momentum goes. Then ask me the question.

Q. Your pairings looked fairly obvious from the way you've had your teams out in practise all week, but are you surprised at all with any of the European pairings?
TOM WATSON: Not at all, no. Frankly, we knew that there was going to be -- Paul has the same issues that I do. We have to sit four players. And you want to play some strong players, maybe your strongest players together and get them an early lead. But I really don't want to disparage any of my players. They are all strong. Where they fall and how the envelope is opened like this is really anybody's guess. I'm not surprised. This is really kind of -- the beauty of The Ryder Cup selection process is the unknowing part of it, the surprise part of it. Today, that's why they have the opening ceremonies, to announce these teams to play each other. For everyone's a surprise. In Presidents Cup, everybody knows who is playing each other; they pick, pick, pick. Here, it's a surprise.

Q. Jordan Spieth is the youngest player that's going to be out there this week. Only one or two seasons ago, he was playing on The Challenge Tour over here and it's been a remarkable rise. From what you've seen, does he have the mettle for this?
TOM WATSON: Actually he's on the fast track because he played the junior Ryder Cup here at Gleneagles. He's a very strong-willed young man and I'm very impressed by his attitude. You look at Patrick Reed, when he gets it going, he thinks he can beat the world, and I like that attitude in a player. I mean, that's a good attitude to have. I like that.

Q. Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar have been left out of the fourballs, and Jim is the highest American in the World Rankings, and that's two of your three highest-ranked Americans on the World Rankings. What was your thinking behind leaving two players of that stature?
TOM WATSON: Well, it just fit the formula, and the formula, it's my own personal formula, the way we took all the parameters, put them together. I can bet -- you can bet that Kuchar and Furyk, and Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan will be playing tomorrow afternoon, you can bet on it.

Q. In what is a real heavyweight contest, all the interviews you've been doing, there's almost an air of unreality about it because it's like sparring before the fight begins. Now with the names actually on the team sheet, do you feel different inside, now that, if you like, all the boxing is finished and the fight can begin?
TOM WATSON: Well, you have to like all the contests, but the last contest, that's the striking contest. That's the one that it's kind of the main event in the first round, you'd have to say. You all know that. I mean, it's not rocket science here. You all know that. That's what we're going to be looking at tomorrow. We're going to be looking at the first three matches; oh, yeah, there's Sergio and Rory playing Phil and Keegan. Be looking forward to that. I know that and you know that. But again, every match is really important. Every point is important. You look at The Ryder Cups, they have been separated by one point three times -- what is it, Ted, four Ryder Cups? One point in the last three out of four. That's close. So every point is so important in The Ryder Cup, and that's how we look at every match.

Q. You said in your speech over there that you had envisaged that moment where you were standing and about to introduce your team. In the setting with all the buildup finish, was it everything you expected? What was the feeling among you and your team as you walked into that arena there?
TOM WATSON: It was one of joy, one of, I'm finally here. But I always wanted to be there again. As I said from the beginning of The Ryder Cup process, I was waiting for Ted's call here for almost 20 years, to be asked to be Ryder Cup Captain again. This has been a great ride. It's been a joy to be able to be the captain of the team. It's been a great ride to be able to meet the players, meet and get to know these players on my team and be a part of the process of trying to win The Ryder Cup. I've been there before and I enjoyed that process before, and I hope I enjoy it just as much this time. I'm 65 years old; I don't have a lot of years left. This is a very special moment in my life to be able to be a Ryder Cup Captain. I hope it comes out the right way. But if it doesn't, it's been one hell of a ride.

Q. We all know what Bubba did on the first tee in Medinah, will you be discouraging him from doing anything similar?

Q. You wouldn't discourage --
TOM WATSON: If he wants to do that tomorrow, that's fine with me.

Q. What sort of captain will you be on the course? Will you be rushing around from match to match in a buggy like Seve used to do or be more relaxed?
TOM WATSON: I don't know. I'm not sure exactly how it's going to work out. I'll probably start with the last match. I want to see every match off the first tee every 15 minutes. I'll probably go with the last match for the first hole. And then the process begins as far as, okay, how is everybody playing. You listen to your vice captains who are following the first three matches. You listen to them how they are doing, and I have to make some pairings for the afternoon. So I have to be registering this information that the vice captains have been giving me about the players. That's how you do it. I have to get them in by 12.30. I have to get my pairings in by 12.30. So there's the time frame I'm up against.

Q. With your four team pairings, were these pairings that you had envisioned coming into the week or did something happen during the week that maybe had you juggle --
TOM WATSON: They weren't exactly the way I thought about it. But I wasn't really too concerned about the pairings when I first came in. It was too early. Why go through all that exercise when you didn't have enough information to make the pairings. Obviously you look at Phil and Keegan, and Webb and Bubba, and it turns out, yeah, they are going to make good pairings together. I believe that. The other pairings, I really didn't know. I wanted to get a feel for the players and how they kind of -- how they wanted to play with each other, and who I thought would be best to be out there playing with each other. It became a lot more concrete once we got here.

Q. A few of your players weren't even born during your heyday --
TOM WATSON: Oh, thanks for remembering that. (Laughter).

Q. One of them, Patrick Reed, said today that his earlier memory of you is your 2009 British Open battle with Stewart Cink?
TOM WATSON: That makes me feel -- geez. (Laughing).

Q. What's your reaction?
TOM WATSON: That's okay. I'm a grandfather now. I have three grandchildren now, and there will be a time when they say, grand dad, what did you do back then? What did you really do? I'll be able to tell them some stories, that type of thing. It's like that with Patrick; really? And Jordan, too. They are both youngsters. Jordan is younger than Patrick. This is what's great about the process, though. You get new people coming on the team to get their feet wet, and then you get people who evolve off the team and in between you get a few mix-and-match, a few people who get on the team a lot, a few hit or miss. But the team, it changes every year. Every two years, it changes. You don't have the same makeup. And to give the rookies a chance to play and to see what they have got, that's what I did. I really wanted to see what they have got. And for the oldsters, I didn't play Jim first. And Jim's been on it ten times. So he pretty much has an understanding of what he needs to do. So we'll see what happens in the afternoon tomorrow. But in the morning, it's all set, and I'm ready to watch and I hope that we -- again, I hope that we do very, very well.

Q. I noticed on TV you said something about making amends for Medinah. For most of the players, that theme has been off the agenda but Webb brought it up today. Are you happy to crank that up?
TOM WATSON: You bet. It affected me. I told them it affected me. That was a hard, hard loss. You know, throughout my career as an individual, I've had one or two pretty hard losses. Not going to say what they are, but boy, they stayed with me longer than normal, longer than normal. Even in 2009, that loss did not stay with me as long as a couple other losses did. But you learn quickly, when you have a defeat like that, you have to carry on, you have to take what experiences you had in that, and make them right for the next time you go out and you play. It's not a perfect game, so it's going to change. But that loss in 2012, that was -- for three or four days, I was in a grand funk, I really was. People say, have I gone to a Ryder Cup? No, I haven't physically gone to a Ryder Cup, but I have watched The Ryder Cup, almost every shot, ever since I was captain in 1993, and before that when I wasn't on the team in the 80s. Maybe it's the greatest event we have in golf, honestly, it really truly is. It brings out -- as I said earlier in the week, it brings out the best in the competitors. You see greater shots in The Ryder Cup than you do in individual Open Championships, major championships. You simply do. The reason is, you're playing match play, and you also have that adrenaline that you're playing in The Ryder Cup. I remember as a player, I get that same adrenaline when I'm watching it on TV and that's why I took it so hard in 2012. I don't take anything away from the Europeans. They played just magnificent golf. They ran the tables, and there's one or two putts, just if they had gone the other way, we would have won. But it was a great recovery for the Europeans, and I have to give them credit from that standpoint. But I'm somewhat of a partisan guy. I was watching that, and I took it hard. I told the players that.

Q. You've always been so popular here in Scotland. Have you given any advice to your players about how they might get the crowd on their side and build momentum that way?
TOM WATSON: Well, I don't -- I have talked to them about the crowds. I said: Don't expect the cheers to be as loud for you when you make a winning hole, when you have a winning hole versus the Europeans. I told them a couple things that I told the last Ryder Cup Team. If you can make the crowd go silent, and at the end of the matches on Sunday, if you can watch those stands empty, you've done your job.

Q. Looking at the third game, the local hero, Gallacher, and Poulter against your two kids. Any chance they will be intimidated by what they will face out there?
TOM WATSON: No, I don't think so. They have a job to do, and I tell you, these kids are tough kids, both of them. Both of them, Patrick and Jordan, they are tough.

Q. Can you tell us what kind of shot in the arm it will give the team then if they can take down Poulter in the first game?
TOM WATSON: I didn't understand you, I'm sorry. I should understand the accent. I apologise (smiling).

Q. What kind of confidence boost would it give these two kids if they can take out Poulter in the first game?
TOM WATSON: Well, I think, again, Ian's had just -- he's had a wonderful Ryder Cup career, and they give you a boost. But these players are not dumb, they know Ian has that reputation of being a great Ryder Cup player. If they beat him, it's more power to them. Same thing about the last group there. If Phil and Keegan win that match right there, just think of the boost it will give our team. That's good. But conversely, I think if Sergio and Rory beat Phil and Keegan, what a boost it will give their team. That's what happens. There's an ebb and flow to this thing. Right now, nothing's started yet. We are just speculating what's going to happen. Once it starts, then the real -- the real Ryder Cup starts.

Q. I wonder in so much as you can, might you take us through the routine tomorrow morning, what time you might get up at, will you leave guys in bed who are not playing first thing, will you have a meeting with anybody? Do you have a plan yet?
TOM WATSON: I really don't have a plan. It's really up to the players what they would like to do, the players that I've sat. It's up to them. You know, it's not their first time here. They know what to do and they know what to expect and how to prepare. I'm not baby sitting them by any means. Again, I really can't wait for this thing to get started, I really can't. This is what golf is all about, right here, match play, us against them. This is what it's all about.

GORDON SIMPSON: I think all the public feel the same way. Good luck tomorrow, and thank you very much.
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