August 20, 2003
JAMES CRAMER: Why don't we go ahead and get started. I'd like to thank everybody for coming out this morning this early. We have the United States President's Cup captain Jack Nicklaus joining us this morning. I'd like to turn it over to Jack to make a few comments and then make an announcement.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think the announcement I read in the paper this morning, but that's all right. Somebody scooped it somewhere. But anyway, we announced the two captain's picks on Monday, which -- George, are you awake enough to remember that? Which of course was Jay Haas and Fred Funk. We wanted today to announce that Jeff Sluman I've asked to be any assistant captain and he has accepted. We're delighted to have Jeff on board. I told him what we try to do is find guys that may someday be chosen as captains themselves.
Jeff, being a PGA champion, certainly falls in that category, and the experience of being there and doing it and being a part of it would be a great experience for him, and I do need some help, so that's where we are. And of course, Jeff is far more current with the players today than I am, and I'll get an awful lot of help and insight into what their games and so forth are going to be. Slew?
JEFF SLUMAN: Well, as Jack said, it came as a very nice surprise for me after a disappointing week in Rochester professionally for me. Jack was kind enough to call me and ask me to be assistant captain, and it took me about a nanosecond to say yes. I was very, very happy with that. I'm very anxious and excited to get down to South Africa and watch our team play and compete. We just got done with a meeting with them, and I know they're all ready to play, and they're looking forward to it and they're going to go down there and play some great golf and they're also going to have a trip of a lifetime. I haven't been down there but Jack has a home down there, and the description that you told the team, it sounds like it's going to be fantastic and we're going to have some unique experiences.
JAMES CRAMER: If we have any questions for Captain Nicklaus or Assistant Captain Sluman, please ask.
Q. How will you divide up the duties?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the way it usually works is the captain says, I think we'll do this, and then he goes and does all the work. No, I think that what happened, Jackie was my assistant captain in Australia, and there's really -- one guy can't cover everybody, and there's a lot of needs that the players have. I'll be out on the golf course all over the place and so will Slew. We'll probably be in different places most of the time taking care of players in different ways. The biggest job of the captain is to make sure that he has new golf spikes and fresh towels and sunscreen and things like that. That's our biggest job.
Obviously I'm being a little facetious about that, but still, it is part of the job. Little things that the guys want. A guy says, hey, can you grab me a sandwich or can you get me this at the turn. Yeah, obviously our duties are official. There's official functions we do, representing the team and this and that and I obviously will do most of that.
Jeff will assist me in other stuff that we do with the team. It will help me an awful lot in the selection of matches and the players and we'll talk about that and who do we think will play best together and so forth and so on. You need somebody with you that can do it and that understands what is going on, and that's why I asked Slew. I know he'll do that and he'll do a good job. How do we divide it up? I'm going to -- I'm going to keep myself free to do the things that I need to do and I think Slew will do most of the other stuff.
Q. Jack, you had mentioned on Monday during your call that you'd have your assistant captain bring his game with him. Is it different scenarios? Obviously if you have what happened in Melbourne with Hal Sutton's father-in-law dying, that's one case, but if someone gets sick or gets hurt --
JACK NICKLAUS: I'll answer the question, Doug, I think. What happens is that I'm going to need an assistant captain either way. I called Slew and told him if we are in South Africa and somebody goes down and we need a player, I want him to bring his game and be ready, but if it happens between the next month and somebody decides they can't go or can't play, then I'll select somebody else for the team. The reason being is that I still need an assistant captain and I selected Jeff based on wanting him to be assistant captain, doing the things that I need to have done there. That's the way I explained it to Jeff and that's the way he accepted it. Let's just say that Joe Jones can't go, then I'll go find who I think I want to have join that team, but if we're there and Wednesday if somebody can't go, Jeff has his game ready and we're ready to go.
Q. Once the matches start --
JACK NICKLAUS: Once the matches start it goes half point half point.
Q. Secondly, if whoever, for whatever reason, might not be able to go, 1 through 10, are you required to take next on the standings or is it anyone's pick whoever after that?
JACK NICKLAUS: No, it's my choice. Captain's selection, right? He's going to practice and be ready and I'm going to practice and be ready. I might select myself.
JEFF SLUMAN: It wouldn't be a bad pick, would it?
JACK NICKLAUS: I made my first birdie in August yesterday, though. Actually, I made two of them in an hour.
JACK NICKLAUS: Indianapolis.
Q. Talk about having a record in the President's Cup or Ryder Cup. Can you talk about that?
JACK NICKLAUS: There won't be anybody who is more aware of that than Tiger, and certainly by the time he gets there, if you don't mention it to him, there will be enough people that will, and I think Tiger is a good enough player with enough pride in what he does that that is not going to last very long.
Q. Hal Sutton spoke last week about his reservations about Tiger and maybe not playing into the team, not being vocal enough in the team room, not contributing to the team, maybe being too self-absorbed. Do you have any reservations on that front?
JACK NICKLAUS: No. What do you want him to do, lead cheers? I mean, I think everybody wants him to be who they are. I think Tiger handles himself very well. When Tiger was on the team in Australia he rode on the bus with everybody else, he was at every meeting, he had dinner with everybody every night. Nobody had to ask him to do that, he was there. He was a perfect team member. You know, I've got great respect for Tiger and I see nothing else coming from him other than what I saw in Australia.
Q. In your previous roles as captain, Ryder Cup or President's Cup, how much do you allow the players if there's someone that they want to play with or enjoy playing with, listen to them?
JACK NICKLAUS: I told the fellows this morning that I want to know what they want to do and how they want their practice schedule. I'd like everybody to play a little bit with everybody if they can, but if they have a specific way they want to play or let Slu know and Slu and I will talk about how we think guys match up. We'll figure that out. Sometimes we're right, sometimes we're wrong, but we'll do the best we can.
I always get back and take the example that I had in St. Louis, Dave Stockton and I got paired together in alternate shot, and we got drummed I think like 7 and 6 or something like that, or 6 and 5, whatever it was. I couldn't hit from the distance Stockton drove it and he couldn't play out of the rough. It was not a very good team. It was a team that didn't work. I want to know what the guys feel and how they feel about each other as it relates to that. I think two likes are better together than two opposites, in my opinion.
Q. Do you have an opinion, Jeff?
JEFF SLUMAN: Well, I think the guys will certainly tell Jack or myself who they want to play with and who they maybe not want to play with, and that's not a friendship deal, it's a feeling of comfort in each other's game, so I think once you know that, it will help in the pairing selection, but ultimately it comes down to Jack making the decision, hopefully with some thoughts by me. You can't give them everything that they want. It's just not going to happen. But certainly I think they're going to be really ready to play. And as Jack mentioned in the meeting, last time they were on foreign soil they kind of got drummed and he doesn't want to go out 0 and 2, so I think they're really going to be ready to play.
Q. Jack, you said at the Memorial that everybody was pretty fired up about going. Were there any reservations about it this morning?
JACK NICKLAUS: Every single member of the team was there this morning and everybody seemed enthusiastic about wanting to go and go play. They're all asking about where can we go fishing, where can we go game viewing and what can we do and what can the wives do? They're all looking forward to a great trip. I said it's going to be a great trip, you're going to have a blast. All I'm asking from you is four days of golf.
Obviously you've got to practice a little bit but be ready to play four days of golf. The rest of the time have the best time you can have. They're going to a place probably half the guys will never go to again. Some of them have played there before. We want them to have fun, but when it comes time to play golf, play golf, and remember that you're representing the United States and you're part of a team and I want you to act as though you're representing your country in a proper way. That's basically all I really want from the guys.
Q. Are your feelings different about this President's Cup than they were in '98?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think that in '98 -- I did my selections a little differently. I was 11, 12 then, and I really didn't get into what I thought would be the right fit basically for that team. I just thought at that time I was going to take 11, 12. We got drummed doing it that way and making sure everybody plays exactly the same number of rounds.
Of course the President's Cup has changed since then; everybody plays every day now. One day we play 36 holes and there will be five matches played in the morning, five in the afternoon, and two guys will sit down in the morning and in the afternoon, but they all play all day.
When I went to select the team this year, I didn't make a selection on that team until after the PGA finished and I saw who really finished and who made the team officially, and when Jerry Kelly and Charles Howell both made the team, which were 9 and 10, they both could have missed -- some guys would have wanted to do something else. I noticed that from an experience level that I wanted to have two guys that would stabilize the bottom side of that ledger. We have the pretty experienced players to start with, moderately experienced in the middle, and no experience at the bottom, and so I thought that I needed to bring the experience level, and that's why I chose who I chose.
I didn't do that before. I also chose a little bit by the golf course. I've played the golf course. The golf course is very tight. You've got to drive the ball straight. It's a fairly difficult golf course and I wanted guys who play difficult golf courses well. Both Fred and Jay play difficult golf courses well and they're both very straight. That was my decision why I chose how I chose.
So it's definitely a ball-striker's golf course, and I was a little bit more into -- by the time I got to having Scott work up all the bios and so forth, I had a file this thick. Last year or two years ago I had a file that thick. I didn't have a file or look at it or pay much attention. I've been Ryder Cup captain a couple times and it was sort of laid down in front of you what happened. This wasn't.
So I spent more time doing that and thinking about it. Obviously I'd love to see Slu make the team. Slu didn't make the team. He knows he didn't have a particularly good last half of the summer. He knew the fellows, he had the maturity, the respect of the guys, the guys like him, and I was pretty meticulous about my selection for assistant captain for the same reason. I'm trying to build a team that we can go down there and be successful, represent your country, do it in the right vein, the right sportsmanship and give ourselves the best chance to win. I frankly think the foreign team, the international team, is a very, very strong team, maybe a stronger team than we are, but I think my selections help strengthen our team into a better team.
Q. Do you recall at all being shocked when they were drumming you so bad halfway through?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the guys didn't seem like they played poorly, they just kept getting beat. I really didn't sense anything, frankly, until afterwards. The guys came to me and said they really weren't ready, weren't really prepared to be there, and I'm sure -- fall is the time of year when most of the guys take their time off.
Justin just came to me a minute ago and he just said, "Jack, I'm only going to play one tournament, the Tour Championship, before I go down there, but I'll be ready." He said we weren't ready when we went down there four years ago. He said Amanda is having a baby and so forth and so on, but he said I'm going to be ready. So guys are thinking differently than guys would have thought before.
I don't think the guys enjoyed being beat down there, and a lot of the same guys are on the team.
Q. How about Mickelson? He doesn't play hardly at all after September probably?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know. Phil was there this morning, very enthusiastic about wanting to go and looking to play. I didn't talk to Phil afterwards, but he was -- he walked in and said, "Hey, Captain, how you doing? I'm really looking forward to this." So that was -- I never played, either. I mean, I put away my golf clubs the first part of September and I never saw the golf clubs again until January. A lot of guys do the same thing. Frankly they don't have to prepare themselves for playing the U.S. Open; they're going to be playing a team match, one individual, and that's match play. If they play a bad hole, it's okay. As long as they're enthusiastic and want to play, that's all you can ask. If they lose, they lose, just give me a good effort.
Q. You didn't get it last time?
JACK NICKLAUS: I did not sense that I didn't. A lot of guys told me they didn't give me a good effort. Davis, I saw in the paper, said, "we owe Jack one," so please.
Q. In light of what you're saying, are you surprised that they're asking about fishing and game hunting?
JACK NICKLAUS: They didn't bring it up, I did. I mean, I know they're going to go down there and they should know about it. Those who haven't been down there to do the game viewing and all that business, if they want to do game hunting and they want to do what they've got to do. Tiger wants to get a tiger fish. That's one thing he wants to do. There's a little fun in that, but he wants to do that.
JEFF SLUMAN: And he's going down well ahead of time to get ready, too.
JACK NICKLAUS: You know, I said I want you to have as good a time as you can have, just give me four days of golf.
Q. Are you reflecting a little bit on your playing days down in South Africa, some experiences, the killer bee incident in the '60s? And also, when you were playing in these matches did you want to be left alone in competition? Were you curious as to what was going on with your teammates and you were in your own world and at the end of the day you would sit down and reflect on how the matches had gone?
JACK NICKLAUS: First of all, we were talking about the bee incident last night in the car. The 8th hole at Schwartzkopf. Gary and I went out and played a practice round. I played a six-match exhibition series with Gary in 1966. We went out, and on the 6th hole of the practice round I broke my driver that I had used my whole pro career up until that time. I came back the next day with a new driver, and the next day the bees got us on the same exact tee. I said that was not a good place for me to be. There was a message there somewhere.
We didn't go down -- Gary beat me badly down there. I don't know how many matches he won and I won, but he won more than I did by a good margin. We had a good time. We took my parents, my wife's parents, and we had a blast. We flew a small airplane all over South Africa and went to all the game reserves. We did all kinds of things. I think the guys should experience that because it's a heck of a lot of fun.
Tournament-wise, I think I played at Sun City maybe twice or once. My right-hand man would know that. I don't know where I finished on that. I obviously didn't win, but I didn't go to South Africa to play golf. I still don't go there to play golf.
When Apartheid ended and Mandela came in, I said to our guys, South Africa is going to have a new look, I'd like to be part of what's going on down there and I'd like to do some golf courses, so I started going back to South Africa. Actually I stopped going to the Sun City tournament largely because of Arthur Ashe asking me not to go. I went through that whole issue and once that changed I said I want to be part of it. If you're restructuring I want to be part of the country changing. So I finished up a couple of golf courses in South Africa, have a couple more in the works going on down there. And actually, I have a house down there with Gary over at Leopard Creek, which is a golf course that Gary did.
There hasn't been much golf down there for me. It's been recreation and fun and a little bit of golf on the side, and I think that's what these guys are going to be. I hope they're a little more golf minded than I was.
Q. When you were playing, how much more focused were you on your own game versus what your teammates were doing?
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm always interested in what my teammates are doing, but when you're playing golf there's only one person you can control or do anything about and that's yourself, and the more you worry about somebody else the less energy you have to focus on yourself, and so in any event that I'm playing in or any team event that I'm playing in, nobody is going to hit my golf ball for me and I certainly am not going to hit one for somebody else. You've got to play golf as you play golf, and whatever happens, happens.
Q. I wanted to ask Jeff, besides picking out the team wine, what are the other things that you bring to the assistant captaincy? You're a wine guy.
JACK NICKLAUS: I've never really had any South African wine.
JACK NICKLAUS: You ought to bring some back. It's very good.
JEFF SLUMAN: As we discussed before, it's a little bit of a work in progress with me. I'm kind of low on that learning curve right now, but I think as we get into the actual event and get down there, probably mostly we'll figure out who I'm going to be taking care of as the players and see what they need and what they want, who they want to play with, stuff like that, Jack and I will talk about that. And in between now and then certainly my presence out here on Tour with the guys that are playing, you know, they'll come up on the range and I'm sure they'll mention a few things here and there and I'll call Jack and we'll just try and get everything as ready as possible for them to go out and play great golf, and they'll have no worries, and I think that's the best way to handle it, just try and take care of any and every request possible.
We got a request today that there was two important football games on and do we have a satellite dish, so we'll get that done.
Q. In the back of your mind will you also be preparing your golf game just in case, like Jack said?
JEFF SLUMAN: It would be highly unlikely in my opinion should I play. It has to happen on a four- or five-day time frame after what I was told, 12:00 on Wednesday, that's it. Then if somebody goes it's a half a point. Before that, Jack would pick somebody who's currently out here on Tour and bring them over with us and I would still be assistant captain. But I'll be ready and I'll be prepared, but certainly I think it would be highly unlikely for me to play. I understand that, but I'm very excited about this honor and I want to see what it's all about.
Q. Jeff, Ohio State-Michigan is the only game that day. What's the other one?
JEFF SLUMAN: You must not be a football fan. How about Florida-Florida State?
JACK NICKLAUS: I was thinking Oklahoma-Nebraska.
Q. Jack, you would think that you could put Sluman's Bill Murray with Tiger Woods in best ball and they would be okay, but there's a curious stat in the best ball and the President's Cup and the Ryder Cup I think Tiger went eight straight matches without winning?
JACK NICKLAUS: We'll just have to sit him out.
Q. Why can't America find Tiger Woods a partner, and what ideas do you have?
JACK NICKLAUS: I did not know that statistic and I hate to hear it. I frankly don't know anything about it. Maybe Tiger intimidates his own partner. I don't know.
JEFF SLUMAN: I'd use one word, aberration, and I think he's going to break out of it this year.
JACK NICKLAUS: He'll win one this year, how about that.
JAMES CRAMER: Captain Nicklaus, Jeff, thanks for taking time out of your schedules.
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