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September 24, 2018
STEVE TODD: Delighted to be joined by the two captains, from Europe and the United States, for the first press conference of 2018. Jim, Thomas, a warm welcome to you both.
Jim, if we could start with you, you were here a year ago for the Eiffel Tower stint which we did to mark the year to go and now in The Ryder Cup week itself. Give us your thoughts now that your team has arrived in France.
JIM FURYK: I think it's exciting. It's been a long time coming. I think the year, probably, to feel like it was plodding along slowly and maybe got quicker here in the last four to six weeks, but it's exciting to get the team on the plane and there's a buzz in the air last night. Flight made it here just fine. I think the guys got some rest so it's nice to be here, and obviously a long time coming. Just looking forward to the week.
STEVE TODD: Thomas, same question to you, so much preparation into this week. Your thoughts now that the week is upon us.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: We're here. It's been 18, 20 months of hard work. As Jim says, the last month or so has just gone so quick mand now all of a sudden you sit in this situation on the Monday of the week and all your plans and preparations have to live its life this week.
But everybody's here. Everybody's happy and everybody's in a good place, and two great teams. So I'm sure it's going to be a fantastic week for everybody involved, and just looking forward to it, really. Very, very much anticipating what's ahead of us, but yeah, looking very much forward to this week.
Q. How much did Tiger's win contribute to the buzz on the plane last night?
JIM FURYK: We were waiting yesterday, we had a major victory for the team and we had a whole group of guys waiting in the team room, and then a giant roar when Steve Stricker walked in the room after his victory last night (laughter).
It was fun to see Strick play well on the Champions Tour in South Dakota and obviously Tiger played so well at THE TOUR Championship and to grab ahold of the golf tournament early and fend everyone off, I think was a good buzz in the team room. A lot of the guys stayed out there at the course to congratulate him.
Nice to have those two guys play so well, and you know, start us off pretty well this week.
Q. Could you just explain logistically, where was the team room, when did you take off, when did you land, how much sleep, that sort of stuff.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, so we had a team room at the Renaissance Hotel real close to the airport. I think we were supposed to take off somewhere around 10.00pm. We probably didn't get in the air until about 11.15 last night. We had dinner at the hotel, so everyone that kind of wanted to get a nice meal in could, and you know, had an opportunity to get some rest, especially early on the plane. I fell asleep quite early, actually.
But we made up a lot of time in the air. Getting off to about an hour and 15 late start, I think we were only in about 15 minutes late and we were on the ground about 12.45, something like that. Quick turnaround and nice police escort to the hotel. So guys are there, settled. Trying to get ready for the week.
Q. Mickelson, Watson, Reed and Koepka finished last at the TOUR Championship with, say, poor performances. Does it worry you in a way?
JIM FURYK: Well, just as we had, as you mentioned how they played last week, we also had a lot of players play very well last week. You know, the way I look at it is in my career, I've played very well in practise and had rough tournaments. I've had bad practise in some events and went on to win those same events.
So last week is kind of behind us. Of course, I think everyone would like to be in good form and feel good about their game, but it's a different golf course, different venue, totally different type of golf tournament coming into a match-play event, a team-oriented event and obviously with the big galleries. Just totally different atmosphere this week.
I think both Thomas and I will pretty much try to get a feel in practise for how our teams are playing, and early on in these matches, you'll get a really good idea of whose game looks like they are in top form, and, you know, try to work your pairings accordingly.
Q. To both captains, it's been a busy end to the season on both sides of the pond and still more to go in Europe, but you mentioned the good players at East Lake. Are either of you worried about fatigue from the likes of Tiger, Justin Rose, that putt a lot into the end of the season? What are your plans in terms of, I suppose, patience and pace through this long week here?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: No, I wouldn't. They are top athletes and they know this week has been coming around for a long time. They have had it in the back of their mind that this is coming, and you know, one thing I learned about The Ryder Cup is that no matter how tired you are, you are going to carry yourself and everything, all the last bit of adrenaline in your body, even if you have played a lot.
Achieving big things obviously takes a little bit out of you, but they will carry themselves through the week and this is what they have been looking forward to probably the most all season, so not worried.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, this event is a bit of a marathon in its own right, and the players you mentioned, Tiger and Justin Rose, they have played in so many of these that they understand the physical and mental demands of this event. They will pace themselves.
They will prepare accordingly, and you know, the trick for us, not knowing the golf course quite as well, is getting that preparation in and learning the golf course; yet also trying to conserve some energy and get ready for some possible 36 holes on Friday and Saturday.
Q. Can you talk about what kind of effect Tiger's win could have? I know it's a completely different animal, what took place this past week and what will take place this week but just maybe energizing-wise for your side, Jim, and what do you expect, Thomas, out of that, just any kind of potential factor this week?
JIM FURYK: He's played really well all year. I think been knocking on the door at two majors and had a number of opportunities to win this year. It's obviously a nice buzz for our team.
Just I guess the amount of attention and the buzz around the PGA Championship, around The TOUR Championship, the crowd, I still think of it as the 9th hole; on the 18th fairway yesterday was amazing.
It obviously brings -- not that this event needs much more energy or that brought to it; it's probably the biggest, the grandest event in all of golf but it will add that much more excitement, I believe, and you know, it's exciting either way, but it adds to it.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: I spent 25 years playing professional golf with Tiger Woods on the scene, and any time he does anything great, that's a story and that's where we want to see him. We want to see him at the top of the game. He does so much for the game of golf.
Watching that last night, I thought it was brilliant to watch. It was great for the greater aspect of the game.
Coming into this week, these are 24 of the best players in the world and this tournament is what it is, and you know, as always, it has its history and it's a great battle and it is 12 against 12; and that's what we're looking forward to. Tiger Woods for the game of golf and him winning golf tournaments is something that's brilliant and I think we all benefit from it. Because in the end, whatever it is these 24 guys are going to do this week, the game of golf needs that boost of somebody like him that transcends the game to the masses, needs him at the top of the game. So for everyone in golf, it's brilliant.
Q. I was just wondering if you could try and sum the scale of what Tiger Woods has achieved, bearing in mind where he was a year ago, and do you think that bearing in mind what he's been through over recent years that we'll see a slightly different Tiger Woods at this Ryder Cup than perhaps the one we've seen at previous Ryder Cups?
JIM FURYK: Let's attack that. That's like two or three questions at once. Let's attack that in parts. What was the first part again?
Q. Sorry. Just try and sum up the scale of his achievement, and bearing in mind where he was a year ago.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think you could see it on his -- I think you could see the emotion in talking about fighting back tears. I think the arms in the air and the fist in the air, it was important for him to win.
When you look at now, maybe comparing past Ryder Cups to this one, I think what's so special is Tiger has engrained himself in our team atmosphere and became such a big part of the team in 2016 as a vice captain, and then again in 2017 as an assistant captain at the Presidents Cup, I think it's special for him now to kind of join these younger players as a teammate.
But you know, what's important to him right now, what's special for him is to be a part of that team, to be a part of that group, and as Thomas talked about, it's a 12-on-12 type of atmosphere, and I think he really enjoys that right now. You know, he won yesterday as an individual and I know how much that means to him and how important it was, but he's flipped that page pretty quickly and is really excited to join his teammates and move forward in that process.
Q. On Tiger, his current form he is bringing in, is he a player to be feared this week, and will winning against him feel like an extra point for the Europeans?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: These are 24 of the best players in the world, and you know, when they go up against each other, they are all capable of amazing things on both sides. We don't fear anyone because we've played against them so many times before individually but we respect our opponents and know what we are up against.
That I think is the key to all this. We'll go out and do what we can and play our game. What stands on the other side we know is one of the strongest American teams of all time, and we know we've got to play our best to come up against this team, and that's what's in front of us. We have no -- we don't hide behind what we are and who we are and what we do together, and that's what it's all about this week.
We do what we do as a European Team, and then we go out and take that on on the golf course, and that's all 12 Americans. It's not one individual. It's the whole team that we are up against.
Q. Understandably it went under the radar with what happened yesterday but how pleased were you with Sergio's performance in Portugal?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Yeah, pleased. I was pleased for Sergio. I think he felt like more than I felt like he wanted to get out there and shoot some good numbers and feel good about himself on the golf course. I know what Sergio stands for and I know what he brings to this team, and I've said it all along: He's an integral part of what we are and who we are.
That's what is, but he'll be happy with what he's done this week. He came in here in good spirits and with a big smile on his face and that's what he will send on to his teammates.
Q. Part of my question, when you picked Sergio, part of the calculation was he will have a month to rest and he will get back on his game, and do you think he has delivered; and can you comment on your conversations with him in the last couple of weeks in preparation?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Yeah, I think with Sergio, Sergio is the type of guy that he sometimes needs that little boost of things going -- he feels like things is going his way.
I think the conversations I had with him leading into picking him and I've had after, makes him feel like he's in a good place and his golf is moving in the right direction. I know the values of him as a person, and you know, now he wants to get out on the golf course and show what he's capable of.
We all know that Sergio at his best, he's one of the best golfers in the world. He's in a good place. He's got a big smile on his face, happy and he just can't wait to get out there, and like all of them on this team, they are really buzzing about this Ryder Cup coming up and they want to get out and play golf.
He's no more than any of the other 11, but he's also very much a big part of what we do, like they are all are. I'm delighted with the conversations I've had with him. They have been positive and they have been great, and he knows what he's doing and he's in a good place.
Q. I know you guys have put in a bunch of work on partnering guys up and talking about how you're going to do that. How much will the preparation of the next three days factor into those partnerships?
JIM FURYK: I think it will have a little effect. I think we have a pretty good plan of how we'll partner our players up. I think we have options in some of our pairings and some of that will play out in the next few days, but I think we are very comfortable with kind of the game plan and who will play together and what formats.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: I'm a little bit with gym on that. I think you prepare yourself 80, 90 per cent, and then you know there's a few little bits that can move as the week progresses. There's a lot of things that can happen with the players and to the players in a week like this.
In your mind, you're very set on where you want to go with it, and something uncharacteristic has to happen if you're going to change it, but you're pretty much set in your mind where it's all going to go.
Q. A couple years ago, Rory got a fair bit of abuse at Hazeltine. Ian Poulter says he gets abused every hole at the U.S. Open. Do you think you're in for a hostile reception here and have you talked to your team about that?
JIM FURYK: I mean, do I think we're in for a hostile? I don't think -- no, I don't. I think that, you know, there were some fans that were unruly at Hazeltine. We did the best we could to remove some of those fans.
I think the majority of the fans were there cheering for their side, and that's what I would expect to see. I've always admired the European crowd, the fans here, the support of their team. I admire the way that they band together and can be louder as one with the songs, with the chants. They seem very unified and together.
I've also felt like when I tipped my cap to the European crowd, acknowledged they gave us a wave on the first tee and I feel like when you tip your cap and give them a smile and acknowledge that you understand what type of fan they are, I've always felt kind of a mutual respect.
I know they will be loud. I know they will be boisterous. Obviously they will be cheering for the European side, as we would expect. That's definitely an obstacle. It's part of that home turf advantage that Europe will have this week and that's something my players have to respect but hopefully they enjoy. Hopefully they thrive on that.
You know, there's a time when you can be on the road and feel like it's a small group of us versus a large group of Europe and sometimes that can bind you closer and sometimes you can kind of rally behind that. So I'm hoping that these players have that in them, and I do really admire the European crowd and I know they will be loud and I'm anxious to see it.
Q. I just wondered how you would sum up your roles this week and what character traits you have and what things you'll take from your playing career that will fortify you for this role and what's ahead this week.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: I think it's for others to probably answer what they see us taking into the week.
I feel like in my role with these players, it's all about them. You know, I've always taken a position in where I've been on Tour and in The Ryder Cup teams, it's always been about the 12 players. It's about what they do, and I will stand behind them and I will support them and be that person that is with them all the way.
But it's about them and at times, you know, you've got to lead and at times you've got to say, well, this is the direction that we are going to go. But we do this as a group. We are one team. We are one group of people that has one goal.
So for us, or for me, it's a situation of just getting in that team room and getting them out on the golf course and do what they do best. My role is to be the support and a leader and lead them in the right direction where I think they should go.
JIM FURYK: I thought it was a wonderful answer. I guess I would add to that by saying we've had a number of experiences both as players and vice captains in this role and I think you take bits and pieces from the captains I've admired before me, and obviously we've learned along the way. We'll both lead in our own character in our own way and draw from those past experiences.
I really felt like I was taking notes along the way as a young player, hoping one day for the opportunity, and I'll try to draw from all those experiences and add bits and pieces to this year and this team, and you know, as Thomas said, it's never going to be about the two of us up here with the way we look at this golf event.
There are 24 of the best players in the world here. It's about them and this golf tournament, and our role is a support role to help lead and maybe point them in the right direction.
Q. Do you intend to play all 12 on the first day if you can?
JIM FURYK: What's your strategy on that, Thomas? (Laughter).
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: You know, that's -- you'll have to wait and see, won't you (chuckling).
JIM FURYK: I think you'll have to wait and see. I thought Thomas was very clear.
Q. I don't think it follows on from that, but a question for both captains. How important are the practise rounds in terms of determining your pairings, which obviously you've got an idea of already, but judging the compatibility of players with the course and that kind of thing, how important are the practise rounds over the next couple of days?
JIM FURYK: I think from our perspective, and I'm sure the same with Thomas, we have a pretty good idea of who we believe is compatible and who can play together. There's some options.
For us, these practise rounds, right now -- and Thomas has a few guys running on a bit of jet-lag. These next three days are very key for us and very important in practise to get to know this golf course, to understand as best we can the ins and outs. I think six of my players have played the golf course before and six haven't. Maybe pairing some of those guys up that have and have not to help them around the golf course the first day.
Our preparation over the next three days for me is key and I was always a guy I felt broke down golf courses in a major trying to learn, like at a major championship, trying to learn a golf course in 36 holes and be very prepared for that round on Thursday. That's what we're going to have to do, and the European side is going to know the golf course a lot better.
They have played The French Open here. They have had a lot of success here with the past two champions and a number of Top 10s. That's one of the things we have to overcome in that preparation, and learning this golf course first is most important; and the compatibility and how that will work and foursomes and fourballs will also help, as well.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Yeah, we are here to -- we want to get out on the golf course and as much as we've played this golf course before, it's a golf course that's there this week, and things change and the conditions are a little bit different than they are in June and July when we play French Opens here. They want to get out there and get to know the golf course.
I'm with Jim. I think we both have a good idea in our minds where these teams and pairings are going, and as I said before, it doesn't mean that they can't change over the next three days. But I think I'm pretty clear where I want to go and where we start, and then we go from there. And I think as a captain, that's where you want to be. You want to be in a situation where this is my plan and then you have all sorts of different plans coming after that.
So I'm in a good place with my pairings, but as I said before, you're prepared, 80, 85 per cent of what you want to do, and yeah, a few things happens over the next few days.
Q. Bubba didn't have the best experience last time he was here. Have you done anything ahead of time to kind of prepare him for any reminders --
JIM FURYK: Last time he was here, he had a great experience because he was playing a practise round with us. But the last tournament he played here at the French Open; I had a discussion with Bubba. He really enjoyed Paris the last time. He enjoyed being in France.
I think he has nothing but good things to say, and revisit, it was a long time ago and a much younger Bubba Watson. I think he's really going to enjoy this trip and enjoy The Ryder Cup and enjoy his teammates.
Q. Do either of you have a policy on social media that you've set forward for your teams?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: (Laughs).
JIM FURYK: I don't have anything like hard written or hard stance of what we can and can't do. I kind of find that during these events, I don't see a lot of our players on their phones and on social media and on -- they are such busy weeks. I think at a regular Tour stop, I see guys in the family room and dining area and they are flipping through Twitter or social media, and I guess now it's probably Snapchat or Instagram for a lot of the younger players. They are looking for news and ideas and fun stuff.
At this event, I see the guys together more and I really don't see them on their phones that often and I don't see a lot of phones in the team room.
I don't really have any policies, per se, other than you obviously want to keep everything straight and narrow, and I think social media is great when it's fun. But past that, you know, I don't really see any issues or concerns.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: I think a young player today, it's such a big part of their lives. I think if you put restrictions on what they can do and how they live their lives, it changes them a bit.
I have no problems with social media. But as Jim says, it's so busy; a high-pressure week and a sensitive week, and I'm sure they on both sides will respect that.
But social media is part of a sportsman's life today and you can't take them out of that. You wouldn't have anything to write about, so it would be a bit of a problem. I think that needs to be part of it.
In the bigger scheme of things, it's great for the game of golf. So you know, there's a lot of things that plays into it, and obviously as captain of The European Team you try to protect your 12 players and what they do, but I think I will do them this favour; that they can't use social media. I'm sure you'll see a couple of posts here and there, but as long as they stay in the right place.
Q. Have you looked out to coaches in other sports to get perspective on how you do your job?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Maybe.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: If you are looking for an Alex Ferguson story, no, not in that sense. I have people that I know that work in sports and work with young people and do it from different angles that I spend a lot of time talking about how to do that.
As a player and living an individual career, it's easy to think that you know everything about this role and as you get into the role, you obviously realise that this is not the life that you lead normally.
So you might ask a couple of people what they think about different things, but if you are looking for somebody that's famous and has done it at the highest level, no. But I've looked to people that I trust and that knows me, and taken a lot of help from there. I feel that's put me in a really good position.
I'm happy with where I am as a captain and how I can lead these 12 players.
Q. When you make your picks and your pairings, do you do it through analytics, or based on how guys get on with each other?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: There's a lot of factors that plays into that question. You know, there's so many different things that you take into account. You try and make the best from that and as soon as you move one player to somewhere, you know, then everything moves.
So you've got to look at so many different things when you put your pairings together, and it's not one specific thing. But it's a bit of a puzzle when you sit down and do it, but in the end, that big picture that you have of things starts coming through and you have a lot of time to think about it.
Both Jim and I have been in this for a long time, and I'm sure Jim has spent as much time as I have waking up in the middle of the night thinking, well, this works and maybe this works.
But that big picture comes through that time, and I'm glad I've been in the role for this long because it's given me a chance to think about it and rethink all those things I wanted to do. That puts you in a very confident place that you've gotten to the right decisions now, and now it's just go.
Q. You guys from the U.S. haven't won on the European soil for quite a few years now. Is it an extra motivation for your players, or is it some kind of a burden?
JIM FURYK: Not sure I quite got that. Well, we're reminded of it quite often. I started to be reminded about the moment I took this opportunity as captain.
So is it extra motivation? I'm not sure you really need extra motivation in a Ryder Cup. I think the idea that you grab the 12 best players from the U.S. and you're going to play against the best 12 players from Europe, guys are excited and anxious.
And obviously I think there's a thorn in their side that that's been the case, and it's been since 1993 and there's some veteran players that have played on a number of these teams that have never won on foreign soil, and that's a part that's missing in their careers. They are anxious to get started.
It's not anything I need to mention in the team room. There's not like a big "25" sitting in there anywhere. They are well aware of it, and they are well aware of how difficult it is to win in Europe, and you know, that's the battle we fight this week.
It's a strong team. Thomas mentioned it; this is probably the strongest American Team we've ever had and I would venture to guess it's maybe the strongest Team Europe has ever fielded, as well, from top to bottom. It's a very deep team and they play well together. Be a tough week for us but we're looking forward to that challenge.
Q. Poults I think was the first guy out there on the range today, just wonder if that was a bit fitting, and how much he's chomping at the bit to get after this.
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: Yeah, I think he wanted to go mid week last week if he could.
He looks forward to this. We all know Ian's history and feelings about The Ryder Cup. He wanted to get out there. He came in yesterday and he was ready to go and he just felt like he wanted to get out.
Those guys that come in early, they just want to familiarise themselves with everything and once they are here, they can't wait to get on the turf on the driving range and hit a few balls. He felt like he wanted to get up and just hit a few. Yeah, he's that type of guy. He's certainly ready to go. It was nice to see him taking it on and feeling like that was something he wanted to do, but he's excited like they all are when they get in and you have a little bit more time than everybody else, so he got in a bit early. That's natural.
Those guys that came in from America today, they are a bit tired and they just want to get this day over with, and then they are ready to go tomorrow.
Q. Have any of your 12 players never played this golf course before?
THOMAS BJÃ–RN: No, I think they all have now. Sergio had not played until he played in the summer here in The French Open. I think they all have played The French Open here.
We've had some good runs on this golf course, but this is a new week and this is about something completely different than when you play a French Open. This is about what you do as a team, and it's about trying to win this trophy back to Europe, and that's what they set out to do.
It's a completely different beast, The Ryder Cup, than playing in a regular Tour event. So they are pretty excited about it.
STEVE TODD: Gentlemen, thanks for your time. We wish you both things well this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports