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December 11, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be joined by our Presidents Cup assistant captains. From the International Team, K.J. Choi, Trevor Immelman, Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Wire, and from the U.S. Team, Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, who all bring a combined 27 Presidents Cup appearances to this year's event.
I'm going to start with Steve and Fred. Gentlemen, having both served as team captains, how would you characterize the role you've played in preparing Tiger for his first captaincy.
STEVE STRICKER: I think that's your question.
ZACH JOHNSON: No, that's definitely --
FRED COUPLES: Is there a question? Sorry.
Yeah, sorry. I was talking to Strick about --
THE MODERATOR: Just asking how would you characterize the role you and Steve have both played in preparing Tiger for this being his first captaincy.
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think there's any preparing -- you answer.
FRED COUPLES: Tiger's been incredible. The three of us have been on text threads anywhere from 6:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the morning, because he's a man who doesn't sleep much. But we try to, and going over just the team room, food, you know, who do you want to -- who are the guys you're thinking about picking.
So he is a heck of a captain, which you would think, and he's a great player to be on your team. So we have both. It's fun to see him in action, and he's obviously, as you ALL know, he's one of my favorite people in the world. So it's really an honor to be his assistant.
STEVE STRICKER: Me, too. I just echo Freddie's comments there. It's been a blast. He's so engaged with -- and I told you guys this, too. He's so engaged with all the players and all of us as captain. Guys look up to him.
You know, he's serving that mentorship role now it almost seems like, and he's really done a lot of homework and he knows everything about everybody and what's going on.
So it's been fun for all three of us to be a part of it.
THE MODERATOR: Just real quickly for Geoff, this obviously being a very special week, a true home game for you. How, if any, has your local knowledge prepared the team for the next four days?
GEOFF OGILVY: I guess we'll find out. I don't know, I mean, Ernie knows the golf course very well, and so does Adam. They have both played a lot of tournaments here, too. Tiger's been here, though, and Tiger's obviously one of the better golf course learners of our last 20 or 30 years, so I'm sure he's schooling the boys.
We have a few tricks -- not tricks; a philosophy around here about how you play the course sensibly, and the younger guys like to be quite a aggressive and the older boys are quite conservative, so if we can find that kind of balance for the match play and get them ready, I think that we'll be all right.
Q. I was just reading a story about how Ernie Els is using a lot of advance statistics to make his pairings and how that might actually keep people who might have really wanted to play together from doing so. I was curious how the team is responding to that, and then maybe for some general comments on how much a pairing should be chemistry versus looking at the statistics.
GEOFF OGILVY: I don't know, look, it's just the way the world is going these days, but as far as the team, everyone's bought in completely. This is the way it's happening, and that's more important than anything else I think; that everybody believes that they are with the right guy and everybody's out in the right groups and the captain's got a plan. So every 12 guys are bought in. Everyone's bought into the way we're doing it.
It's the way of the world now. I think with so much information we have, you'd be silly not to access that I think. There's been good results from other guys, other teams, and others doing it this way. So far, so good. I think everyone really is liking the process, if you like.
Q. Stricks, how is DJ's knee? How's his form? Is there any concern that he hasn't played in four months?
STEVE STRICKER: Not at all. He looks great out there. This is the first day I was with him. I think Zach was with him yesterday.
ZACH JOHNSON: (Nodding).
STEVE STRICKER: Hitting it a long way as he normally does. His knee is not an issue at all. He's feeling good and hitting it well.
ZACH JOHNSON: I mean, I think he said it perfect. Yeah, yesterday morning, I think Tuesday, first day out, that kind of thing, everybody kind of had a little bit of fog there early. But the last 12 holes, even the guys he was playing with are like, "Oh, someone's back."
Yeah, it looked good. Especially from a health standpoint. He looked good.
Q. First of all, Steve. Sorry about Wisconsin.
STEVE STRICKER: (Shaking head) a Buckeye guy taking a shot.
Q. In '98, it was a big -- you can't take it? Grow up, sissy.
STEVE STRICKER: (Shaking head.)
Q. Fred, you played here in '98. Captained 2011. What can you tell the guys about the golf course that maybe even Tiger can't tell them? You probably have as much experience as anybody, except Ernie and Geoff?
FRED COUPLES: It's one of my favorite courses in the world. I don't really know how -- not to say it's an easy course off the tee, but I don't think we're going to get a whole lot of wind, or maybe one day, it might blow, I've been told. But all our players love it.
We all like fast greens now. I think 20 years ago, if you come here, you'd go, oh my God -- friends that go to Augusta, they can't believe it. Now, most big tournaments have extremely fast greens. These greens are like concrete.
So if you think you're going to hit a little 3-iron on one of the holes to 160 and hit a 9-iron five feet, you're just not going to do it. So it's going to wear you out.
But I think our guys are figuring out that just like Ernie's team, it's just a brutal course to try and get the ball in certain areas. Par is a great score.
Q. Geoff, maximum points tomorrow would be ideal of course, but just wondering, what's a satisfactory start for the Internationals?
GEOFF OGILVY: Whatever start helps us win the tournament would be satisfactory.
Q. Can you put a point figure on it?
GEOFF OGILVY: It's nice to be in front. We have a track record of not being in front for this tournament. We would love to be in front after tomorrow, certainly.
Q. When you are part of Tiger's text threads and you can see how his mind works and how meticulous his preparation is, does it give you a better insight into how he's separated himself from others besides just what the rest of us see during a tournament round on the course?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's a really good question. You know, it's one of those things, I think as a competitor, if you can get time with him or at least ride the coattails a little bit and learn a little bit, it's worth it and it's worthwhile.
I mean, first of all, I would say that what I've seen with him is how well he is able to compartmentalize things. I'm not sure I can articulate exactly how good he is at that. He's very thorough, I think we'd all say. Takes in the data, but not -- not the fluff.
And then from there, it's concise and simple, and if something happens, you turn the page and you keep going. If something else happens, turn the page and you keep going.
I mean, that may be one small morsel or nugget as to why he's been very successful. Got to couple that with his freakish talent. I mean, I don't know. We all know that he has intangibles that most of us have never seen in any other athlete, so I'm very impressed. Kind of like what Fred said, very impressed.
The bottom line is, from what I was told, there was zero reluctance to take the captaincy, and he has welcomed it, ran with it and cares about it. I mean, the passion he has certainly for this game and the growth of it is very evident, but more, so he is passionate about American golf and his team.
Q. Fred, you're the one that indicated that you have a really good relationship with Tiger. If we could get past his game and talk about his personality for a minute, could you talk about how different his personality seems to be now than maybe it was before? He seems to be more affable, more friendly, and I understand like on the plane exactly, he was a lot of fun. Just could you talk about that a little?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, that's a great question. You know, I don't know the -- time flies pretty fast, but there was a year at Augusta where he barely sat down at the dinner, and I don't sit that far away from him, and he was telling a few people he may never play again, and he just can't move. And he's got a little bit of a new life.
So I think he's understanding that, whereas when he was 25, 30, 35, all he wanted to do was maybe be to himself and beat everybody up that he played against, and he did it. Did it very well.
I don't think he's become soft by any means, but he likes being around people, and I think as he gets older, he realizes people are -- he has a lot of people that want to be around him, but now there are other people that he's realizing, like the three of us have become very good friends and he trusts us.
It's very fun to be around him. I've got to tell you, he's a pretty funny, tough guy when he gets you in a corner, and he doesn't let up, which I like. Some people kind of get scared by that. I just like his attitude, and I don't pay that much -- I know he's a great golfer.
For me, it's everything else. With his kids, he's a great dad. I have a caddie for over 20 years that's now caddying for him, and Joe tells me all kinds of things, and normally it's about his son and daughter, not how good he hits a 3-iron, so I enjoy that, too.
Q. How many matches do you think are you planning for Tiger to play over the course of the tournament?
FRED COUPLES: I think he'll play three times. He wants to be a captain. I mean, it wasn't a month ago where, you know, we were all teasing him, telling him he wanted to be a playing captain -- correct, help me out here.
ZACH JOHNSON: Affirmative.
FRED COUPLES: We all wanted him and I think when he won at the ZoZo, I think that became -- but he still wants to captain this team. I know he'll play three days.
ZACH JOHNSON: I'll just interject to say this one thing. Before the ZoZo, we were all like, "You're playing." Especially him, and then when he won, this -- I think this guy was probably the most excited of any human being on the face of the earth.
FRED COUPLES: Yeah.
ZACH JOHNSON: Rightfully so, because he wanted -- we wanted the captain to pick Tiger Woods.
FRED COUPLES: Well, I picked him when he was like 400th in the world to come down here and play. I picked him three months early and took a bunch of grief for it. He should be on every team. That's how good he is.
Q. We know what Scotty, Leish and Hideki and Louis can bring to the rookies on the team, but what, if anything, have those new rookies and enthusiasm of youth given those guys?
GEOFF OGILVY: You'd have to ask those guys. It's nice to have that blend. I mean, Scotty, what's he playing, his ninth? This is his ninth, which is pretty outrageous considering he's still in his 30s.
It's just a good blend. The young guys are just bouncing out of their skin to come play, right, and the veteran guys, if you like are, too, but it's a different style. They get to the room and they see all their clothes and all the free stuff you get for this week, and just how well we get spoilt.
The young guys, just the excitement level is just contagious, and I think that's what's good about having a blend of veterans and young guys and experience and youth.
Everybody benefits from being around people who are good at something, and I think everybody here benefits from being around everyone else who is here. That's why these events are so loved by everyone.
I think the Scottys and the Leishmans get just as much out of the CTs and the Haotongs than the other way around. That's why it's such a great format and every player who plays loves it so much.
Q. For the U.S. guys, curious how the process works when Tiger is playing and he's not able to focus 100 percent on being captain. How will the dynamic work then whether he's on the course?
ZACH JOHNSON: Steve?
STEVE STRICKER: I thought it was for Fred, sorry. It's hard to hear up here.
FRED COUPLES: Basically when Tiger is playing, you'll probably start out as the captain, and then it might move to me or it might move to Zach. It's pretty easy. Ernie play flip it to Geoff for a minute, to K.J. Just to get the radio, you have to dial in it and say, "Steve Stricker is the captain."
ZACH JOHNSON: Code red.
FRED COUPLES: I don't know if that answers anything, but when he's playing, you know, there's not like Zach is the captain. We're all captain, and it depends on where we are on the course.
Q. Will you guys communicate with him at all in terms of --
FRED COUPLES: No. He's got to play golf.
Q. Trevor, following on Karen's question to Zach about what he's learnt by being in Tiger's inner circle, have you got any inside knowledge about what Ernie's dealt with through his career to beat Tiger that you didn't have previously? And if so, has it been an eye-opener?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Who is that for? For me? Well, you know, for me growing up as somebody trying to follow in Ernie's footsteps and being able to spend a lot of time with him, I was obviously very well aware of the rivalry that he had with Tiger and was fortunate to have, you know, a real close look at how that whole thing unfolded and how many times it was hard for Ernie to come up just short.
It's been interesting in the last few years to see Ernie's perspective as he started to play a little bit less; the appreciation that he's had for what Tiger has achieved and what he's still achieving against the best players in the world today.
I think from Ernie's standpoint, his respect and admiration for the longevity that Tiger's had and the way he's been able to bounce back from this, from all the adversity, is pretty cool to see.
But in saying that, you know, for me, it's been fantastic to see the commitment with which Ernie has come in preparation for this event. In the last couple of years, he's really put a lot of time and effort into it, leaving no stone unturned, so to speak, and you know, I just really hope -- Ernie's been one of my sporting idols my whole life. So for me, I just really hope that our players are able to respond appropriately and make him proud.
Q. Can you see the fire that he's had throughout his career? Is it still there?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Absolutely.
Q. If you go by the World Rankings, the Internationals are a big under Doug. How much can Royal Melbourne Golf Club be an equalizer?
GEOFF OGILVY: I think in the old days it would have been because PGA TOUR players were less likely to travel in the old days. The younger generation seems to travel a bit more, the younger U.S. guys. It's 24 PGA TOUR players here, really, right, so most guys play the same course every week. Like Freddie says, we play fast greens everywhere now.
But I don't know, this is quite a unique golf course, but they have got quite a lot of Royal Melbourne knowledge. I saw Freddie nearly win a tournament here in 1998 against Rodger Davis who is here today, actually. Freddie finished second in the Bicentennial Classic in 1998, and that was one of the first tournaments here, so he knows this course well, too.
It's a philosophy, Royal Melbourne, and if you can capture that, a bit like the Masters, if you go there with an idea of the best way to approach it, and can we teach our guys better than them, I don't know, maybe.
But the crowd I think is going to help if they get on our side a little bit. I think it was quite lonely for us at Liberty sometimes in those mega-roars for them and crickets for us sometimes. It's difficult to play in that environment.
Hopefully that environment shows up a little bit here for that side. And that's clearly an advantage, when you feel like you have got 20,000 members of your team, as opposed to 12, I think that really, really helps. I think that's more powerful.
And our guys have been here longer. Like our guys have been in Australia in the time zone for a few more days than the U.S. guys and that might help, too.
As far as the golf course, professional golfers are professional golf course learners. This is what we do every week. I'm pretty sure the U.S. Team is going to have it, how to play Royal Melbourne, mostly squared away by tomorrow morning, I would think.
Q. For all of you, what has Ernie done to try to change the culture and more of a team unity leading up to the event?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: I think it starts with the logo. You know, one of the tricky parts for our team is we have so many different countries and cultures trying to come together in a short period of time, and many times, at least in the couple that I was involved with, it's at the end of the week when we really start to gel and by that point it's too late.
I think for him trying to create a logo and make us understand with all of our input exactly what it stands for, and have something that we can play for, is one thing.
And also, you know, just getting us together over the last year or so; players and assistants just getting together for dinner, practice rounds, just stuff like that, to enable us to try and bridge that gap just a little bit sooner and see that manifest its way in some extra points come the end of the week.
Q. Mike, the team chemistry, you've been around a lot of teams. Does it feel a little different this week on the Internationals side, and do you have that a big part of your role?
MIKE WEIR: Yeah, I think to what Geoff and Trevor said, there's always been great team camaraderie amongst the Internationals.
Getting us together and playing a little bit more and having the guys play throughout the last -- the course of the last year as the team started to round into form and round into shape and who we knew were probably going to make the team, the guys got together a little bit more to play some rounds or to have dinner and just get together a little bit more to create that chemistry a little bit more.
The Internationals room has all been strong. We all get along great. Even though we're all from different parts of the world, it's a special thing to be part of because you form friendships and bonds with families, and the International Team has always done a great job with that, and Ernie has continued to do that.
Q. Fred, you have a reputation, whether it's deserved or not, as just playing pretty freely, not keeping it simple, and so I'm wondering when you look at some of these Tiger text threads, are you just thinking, like how is he even thinking about this? How many occasions have you thought, that is just something I never would have considered or thought of?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, a lot of days. (Laughter) A lot of days.
STEVE STRICKER: You just started to learn to next last year, didn't you?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I did. You know, once again, we all do very well. He's the captain. I mean, basically he had pairings, and when Brooks got hurt, you know, there were things he needed to get done to get another guy.
But yeah, whether it's deserved or not, I'm very laid back. I'm pretty flippy when I was captain. You know, when people asked me when the bus is going in the morning, I used to say, it's not my job. My job is to help you guys get points, not to tell you when the bus leaves in the morning.
So I'm a lot different than a lot of people, and I think when you were talking about the International Team, you know, and their four captains, or assistants and Ernie, we're a lot alike. We all know each other. We all love this event. We've won it most times.
But part of the thing is they all play the golf. We've seen miraculous golf and this golf course is going to lend to really, really incredible golf and a lot of putts made, it's that simple. The greens are perfect. They are faster than any greens that we probably putted on in the last few months, and they are -- it's great. It really is great.
Q. This is for Trevor. Despite the one-point loss two Cups ago, Louis was saying yesterday that he feels like this International Team is going to give him the best chance of actually winning the tournament. I mean, can you see why he says that? Do you see the talent there or the way that the team has bonded over the last few days or the last few months?
TREVOR IMMELMAN: Well, I'm glad that he has that opinion. I think it's fantastic that these guys believe in themselves. They should. They have done what they needed to do to get on this team and to be here at this event, and you know, like the guys touch on earlier, it's a lovely blend. I think Geoff touched on it earlier, to have some young guys that are just making their way in. We're the youngest collective Presidents Cup team in history and it's pretty incredible, really.
I think when you look at some of the guys like Scotty and Hideki and Louis that have been around for a while, in a certain way it's given them a little bit of life, too, to find some guys that they really can mentor and show them around, particularly on a golf course like this.
You know, maybe just a fresh perspective and maybe a little bit of a new energy and we'll see what happens. Look, at the end of the day, the talk is cheap. We're going to have to get out there and play some of the best golf of their lives if they want to have a shot at beating an amazing American Team. It's going to be a lot of fun for us to watch over the next few days.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports