May 19, 2021
Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
THE MODERATOR: Welcome back to the 2021 PGA Championship here at the Ocean Course and Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We're really happy to be joined by two-time PGA champion and also a winning Ryder Cup captain from 1991, Mr. Dave Stockton.
Welcome back to Kiawah Island. I don't know how often through the years you've been back here. I don't know if this is the first time in a long time, but what's it like for you to come here and walk these grounds and see the sights? Does it all come flooding back to you.
DAVE STOCKTON: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I've been back probably 10 times, so maybe even more. Done quite a few corporate stuff. My highlights obviously were being the captain here in '91, and also coaching Rory with his short game when he won in 2012. We won't talk about my playing about the PGA Championship in 2007. I don't remember much about that.
No, it brings back a lot of memories. I mean, I can remember -- obviously none of this was here when we played in '91. Kathy and I came out and rode around with dye in January prior to it, and there wasn't a blade of grass on the place, and I'm thinking -- I mean, the odds of us having a successful tournament, I mean, I don't see how they can do it.
I mean, we had our double-wide trailers down here somewhere near where these buildings are, but nothing else was here. Very different.
But the golf course itself was a masterpiece from the start. For him to design it the way he did where none of the water goes back into the marshes or nothing goes to the ocean, I can't conceive of it. The hard part for the players now is the golf course goes basically one direction, and the wind changed every single day during the Ryder Cup.
If it's going to help you one direction it'll kill you the other half. No matter which way the wind blows you're going to have to have nine holes of some kind of hardship one way or the other.
But it was a thrill -- the biggest thrill for Kathy and I to be able to represent the United States and to be a Ryder Cup captain. It was stressful times, obviously, for us because it had been six or eight years since the Cup had been back.
In fact, the one memory that really sticks in my mind was I enjoyed them flying over and circling the court with the Concorde, bringing the Cup back to where I thought it belonged. We got to keep it here, which made it memorable for us for sure.
Q. I've heard other people say it, but that Ryder Cup in 1991 really kind of launched what is maybe the modern Ryder Cup. Do you agree with that notion and that it has -- there's so many chapters, 40 plus chapters of this event, but that one had a little bit more meaning than some of the others?
DAVE STOCKTON: I think for quite a few reasons. Number one, when I was selected as the captain, I followed Raymond Floyd, obviously. I almost got it the year, and I would have had to be the captain overseas, which I'd much prefer to be here on home soil.
Theoretically it was easier until Nicklaus got beat in '87 four years ahead of us at his own golf course and I thought, my gosh, this is going to be harder than I thought.
But it just to me launched the thing, and that's instead of me being the captain at PGA West, they realized it was going to be televised and they had a three-hour time change, they had to go to somewhere on the East Coast. So they got about as far east as we could possibly go and said okay we'll put the golf course down here and dye was the man for the job.
For us it was a big challenge. I thought it favored the Europeans, but the Europeans never came in and played a practice round, which I couldn't understand, because I just think this is such a difficult golf course with the winds and the way the golf course is built because you can't hit all the greens. You're going to be running off all the time. I think we prepared better than they did.
Q. You were saying about the Europeans; do you think it was arrogance? Do you think they took it for granted that they couldn't beat the American team?
DAVE STOCKTON: Well, I don't blame them. They've done a pretty good job of it. But no, I don't think arrogance entered into it. I was disappointed that we actually had to invite them to play. I thought they would come, and literally here I am in January, no grass.
By the time we played the Masters, it was playable. But I thought some of them would come from Hilton Head or some of them would come from the Masters. Nobody came. It kind of reminds me of us flying over to France three years ago now, and I think five of our 12 players had played the golf course, and all I heard in France was that it was a tight golf course.
Well, I thought it would be tree-lined. Somebody tells me tight, little do I know you could put 5,000 sheep on there and they could have been there for years and not cut all that grass down and there weren't that many trees, and you just had to hit it dead straight and none of our guys had played the thing, and they had played the French Open there for 40 years.
Now we come up to Whistling Straits shortly and the European players have played it just as much as we have so we're going to have our hands full. I'm hoping in two years' time in Rome that a bunch of our guys play the Italian Open that's going to be played at that golf course so we don't walk in and get shellshocked.
Q. So for the fact that you had a new course in 1991 and you were saying France was changed for the Ryder Cup, and the fact that you can build something new, and Rome is going to be that way, it makes you able to set the course for your team in a way?
DAVE STOCKTON: Sure, absolutely. You can set -- Pete Dye was very disappointed with me that I wouldn't let him use the back tee on 14 here, which I didn't see how you could play that hole from 200 yards. He was not happy. He would be very -- he's smiling if they play that -- they won't play with this with wind, I'll guarantee, either 14 or 17, but if it changes and comes out of the other side, they'll play it back, and heaven help them.
Even some of the guys that I know that are out there, they're not too enthusiastic about a couple of those holes out there.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the tension in '91 and kind of the feistiness, I know from both sides. Talking about people like Seve.
DAVE STOCKTON: No, I'm not into that. My fault was that I liked to hunt, so I was going to get some camouflage hats. In fact, I went down today and they did have a camouflage hat in the tent, so I got a camouflage hat from this year just for my son and for Ronny and I. I don't know what Junior is going to pick out.
The thing I did not like was the term "War By the Shore" because we're all friends. This is a world Tour now. When we got here, I called Gallagher, their captain. The only night that was free that we didn't have some obligation to our separate PGAs was on Tuesday night, and I called him and I said, "I'd like to have a Lowcountry cookout, and if you want to come, to have you invite your team and their immediate family, no PGA officials, no officials. I want to have just our two teams get together." And we did. That's how we started the week.
We ended the week, which they were much more gracious in defeat than I think we would have been. They were unbelievable. In those days we had a finishing dinner, which we don't have now, but two buses were there for us to get in. I guess one team and the other.
Well, by the time I come down the one bus is like eight seats shy of getting filled with only three seats are going to be left over, and Woosie turns to me and he says, "Stocky, not to worry, Pavin is so small I'll carry him on." He picked Pavin up and carried him right on the bus, and we rode in one bus.
Yeah, you can call it War By the Shore. I never went to the tent over there because I didn't have time. Oh, my God, I had two assistants, both my boys. I'm so proud -- we have six American assistants this year, and you need it, because you've got to be making pairings, you're only playing two thirds of your field, so four people you need to monitor how they're playing. All these different things going on.
It was a whirlwind for me, all the preparation and planning.
The long answer to your question, I can see why this was the start, because the PGA was smart enough to do the television on it, and it was much watched TV from the get-go. It was fun to be a part of it.
And I was assistant to Azinger in 2008, and in fact on my resume if I had one would be I'm one of the few Americans to have been to four Ryder Cups and never lost one. Unfortunately there's not many Americans that can say that now.
Q. You're obviously so influential in the world of putting, helping players improve. I'm curious what in sort of layman's terms would you say are the essential qualities that separate a good putter from a putter like me?
DAVE STOCKTON: Well, I'm going to tell you it's simple but a lot of people don't believe that. But generally the first lesson, I do a two-hour lesson and I generally could stop after about 20 minutes. The person will generally get it.
My sons and I have opened a PGA seminar down there in Orlando, and when you open it up for questions after talking for about a half an hour, and they're all PGA professionals, 90 percent of the questions you get are mechanical. I don't understand that. How many things can you think about if you're throwing a dart at a dart board? I don't think very many.
I mean, but you take a typical putter who plays putting with his left brain instead of his creative right side, and he's standing there -- of course they'll put the line on the ball because they see the pros do it. Then he has four or five practice strokes, all these things. I just get up and roll it. It's either going to go in or not go in.
For a first lesson, if you were going to have a lesson from me, the first thing I would have you do is sign your signature. It'll take you three or four seconds and you'll do it. Right below it I want you to take 20 seconds and I want you to duplicate your first signature exactly. You will not be able to do the first letter in your name.
And the reason why, if it's something that should be in your subconscious and you are trying really hard to get this, that's why you can't putt.
So the key is to have someone look out -- it's like throwing a dart. That hole is our bull's-eye, and the ball is here. All it's going to do is go in there. So your focus has to be, as you set your feet, I want it to come in at 5:00, 4:00, 8:00, whatever the break is, and then come back.
In my case I was taught by my dad to putt an inch ahead of the ball, pick a spot, and the back of my left hand which I'm not going to break down, it's going to go right through. All it has to do is go an inch. He wanted me to give him one inch with no recoil and no coming up, and you're going to see a lot of that this week, especially with so much wind.
Putting is feel. Have you ever shot pool?
Q. Just a bit, yeah.
DAVE STOCKTON: Do you take practice strokes when you putt?
Q. When I putt I do, yeah.
DAVE STOCKTON: Obviously you do that to get feel, right? So when you're shooting billiards, do you step up beside the cue ball a foot and practice to get your feel? Uh-huh. You don't. Now, you put the cue stick behind it, correct?
DAVE STOCKTON: : Now, do you just hold it there, not move it? No. You move it back and forth. So I've been taught to never let the putter basically sit still. I put it in front of the ball, bring it over the ball, one last look at the hole and I let it go. It's amazing, it goes in all the time.
It doesn't help you to try. The first word I'd tell you if you're putting, don't try. You want to putt with feel.
The guys have to this week with this much wind. They're going to have to play more break than they're comfortable playing because they can't ram it because if they ram it, it's not going to be a good result. Okay?
Q. Along those lines, when you look at great putters through the years, what part of it is work and what part of it is innate?
DAVE STOCKTON: The really good ones it's just something they're born with. You can learn it. There are certain people that are very, very mechanical. But those are the ones I try to just everything I can, I'll tell them, okay, I want you to putt it before I count to four, if they're taking 12 seconds to putt.
The second major, second PGA I won at Congressional, I had a 15-footer, and if I miss it I'm going to be in a playoff with January and Floyd.
The total time from when my coin hit the ground behind the ball, the ball was gone in 14 seconds. At that time, it was the longest putt to win the PGA, and it went dead center. I mean, you just -- it's really not as hard as people think and make it.
To me, I believe personally that I putt with my left hand, like Tiger and I would have fights because he likes to putt with his right. Although his right goes through and he's got a wonderful putting stroke. Most people take a right-handed putting stroke and they're closing it. They're not doing what Tiger does.
I've been taught that my -- I don't do anything with my left hand, but the back of my left hand gives me that inch to go through, goes right over my imaginary spot. The ball is gone, and I'm really good from an inch. I don't miss much from an inch.
Q. I was going to ask you, you had great insight into the building of this course. As you look at it, what do you see as the biggest challenge?
DAVE STOCKTON: The easiest part is the driving, and past that, good luck. I think the par-3s are extremely difficult. This wind you can't get to 14 and 17 hardly, okay, but with the same wind you didn't stop it on No. 8, and the other end out there, you get the sideways wind from this wind, you're not comfortable on any of it.
Then you finally get a short hole if you start on 2, if you're lucky enough to start par-par or whatever you've got, you've got a hole you can drive it right underneath the green, but good luck hitting the green.
The toughest thing and the best thing that's going to win this tournament, and Rory did it in 2012, is you have to be brilliant around the greens. Not necessarily the putting, but you have to be really good with the chip shots and stuff because there's a lot of waste areas you roll into.
Q. I'm curious, what do you think about green books then?
DAVE STOCKTON: The books are fine. I mean, I think that basically AimPoint -- anything that helps some of them, anything that'll speed them up. It drives me nuts to see them take a book out, and they're studying this green and of course they've got the lines and everything on it. I never had to use that.
The ball is very small and the hole is quite large. I never had to -- it's not about perfect. Obviously that's the whole game entirely. That's why a lot of guys don't play good anymore and become announcers because they sit up in the booth and they realize, hey, these guys don't hit it perfect. We chase our foul balls. We've got to. To me, I think -- I'm more hands on. I'm more visual. Like anything else. I'm playing darts out there.
To me a golf course is like a chess match. I don't play chess, but I know how to plod my way around things because I've always been an extremely short hitter but yet I won on some really long golf courses. You just have to fit to whatever you've got, and they will have their hands full this week. Oh, my God, there will be some tired puppies by the time they get out of here.
Q. Ryder Cup, 30 years later, would you compare 1991 to 2021 now, what would be the main difference from the players' point of view?
DAVE STOCKTON: I think the difference is one team didn't know Kiawah very well, and I think everybody knows Whistling Straits. So from that point of view, we're pretty on even-keel this year. It's interesting, and I'm going to be interested to see how they do.
I was talking to Padraig yesterday, he only is still using three captains' picks, which confuses me a bit because since Azinger in 2008 -- I had two picks here, I would have to have loved like Azinger in 2008 to have had four picks, but Stricker has got six. I haven't even got into with COVID. I have no idea. I've been away from everything.
But I don't understand that -- I guess Padraig could have had anything he wanted all he wanted was three. I'm like, well, that's fine. You could still take the next three, or Stricker could. But to have the luxury in a year that not everybody has played the full schedule, I think that favors the United States to a certain extent.
Q. I think you visited the site before it was built back in --
DAVE STOCKTON: Yes.
Q. Can you talk about your impressions then, and then when you came back and saw the finished product?
DAVE STOCKTON: Well, I was just literally amazed. Kathy and I drove around with Pete in January, and it was being worked on. That's all I can tell you.
I mean, they were constructing as best they could, creating the mounds and putting sea oats on it and stuff, very uniquely, but I won't get into that. Sea oats are coming from somewhere, and sea oats ended up out here on the golf course. And Dye, just you cannot hand it to the man. I mean, I'm glad nobody else was given this job. It was a fair golf course to be share, but extremely difficult.
I mentioned before I was never so happy to stand behind the first tee, and "you go get 'em, guys," and I didn't have to hit a single shot. I had no desire to go out there and get killed.
Q. I was going to ask about your two PGA Championship victories. In 1987 you beat Arnold Palmer by a couple shots. That must have changed your life to become a major championship. What was that moment like for you?
DAVE STOCKTON: Well, it was, obviously. I thought I had a pretty good career. It took me three years, but I won Colonial and then I won the Hagen Haig with Laurie Hammer at La Costa.
And then while Kathy was pregnant I won Cleveland, flew back home to see what we were going to have, we didn't know boy or girl. The doctor said it wasn't coming, so I flew out to Milwaukee and won Milwaukee by four, beating Sam Snead, which times change. It was a $200,000 tournament, first ever on the PGA TOUR, and I got $40,000 and he got $24,000, which was his biggest check ever on the TOUR, for finishing second.
And so when I came the following year to Southern Hills, I had finished reading the book Psycho-Cybernetics that my dad had my read, which I hated. It was like reading sand. But I finally underlined it and realized I took two things out of the book.
One is that you have to be aggressive when you play, which as short as I hit it, is kind of ridiculous. But the other side of the coin was you had to picture what you want to accomplish before I even accomplished it.
I played my practice round at Southern Hills on Monday picturing that I'm the winner, I've won this tournament, and I came up to 18 and there wasn't anybody up there. But I visualized on Sunday there's going to be 20,000 people. Little did I know, my wife who was stuck in the clubhouse because she was going to be Ronny 30 days later -- I'm playing with Arnold, if Arnold wins he wins the Grand Slam. If I win, I win a major.
So I started out with a three-shot lead, my best supporter stuck in the clubhouse, and it was -- I mean, I played phenomenally. I three-putted 5 and, a guy in the gallery typically yelled, "You got him now, Arnold."
And I went birdie 2 on the par-3, eagle 2 on par-4 double bogey 5 on this par-3 which as long as they make them it played like 230 in those days I don't know what it'll play this time. I hit it in the fairway bunker on 9 and put it right through an oak tree a foot from the hole for a birdie.
So I go two birdies on eagle and a double, and I've got a seven-shot lead. And I played safe on 18 to make 5, win by two. If I needed to, I could have gone for the green but it as Hubert Green found out in the Open in '77 that doesn't really pay off too well. And so to me, I won it.
The second one in '76 was totally different. I had basically once I won the PGA it changed my life because now I have a 10-year -- that's another story, but 10-year exemption. A month prior to the PGA, I led the revolt that it was stupid these guys got a lifetime exemption for winning the PGA. So certain guys Jerry Barber and others wouldn't quit playing never broke 80, but they had this exemption.
So my brilliant strategy, I now have a 10-year exemption, go to '76 and I end up winning again, and I'm at the PGA, I said, "Well, can I add 10 onto 10 so I get 20?"
And they said, "No, you get six."
So I won two PGAs and got 16 years. But it sets you up. When you're just going town to town on everything like that, I was very fortunate, but at Congressional the second one was totally, totally different picture. We spent all day Monday at the White House and I had no clue that I was going to win this, and I shouldn't have. But we spent -- with President Ford at the White House all day that Monday, and it was the Bicentennial. So we were -- it was fantastic.
I show up on Sunday, I'm in the top 12 or so, and I play the first three holes, and -- the first five holes and I'm 3-over and they rained the entire round out. It wasn't like you're going to have to come back to where you finish, you've got to start over. I'm 2-under the same five on Monday. Five-shot swing. Then I win by one.
My thought was a lot of things. One, I the first PGA wasn't a fluke, so I've got the second. The other one is I bet they'll make me a Ryder Cup captain or I've got a hell of a shot at it because my good friends Bobby Nichols and Geiberger didn't get picked and they were PGA Champions.
There had only been two guys until '91 that had ever not won the PGA and been a Ryder Cup captain, and that's Casper and Palmer. So I knew I had a chance to go into quite a deal.
My last thought was there have got to be 20 guys shooting themselves tonight because they should have won it. There's no way in heck I should have won it. But it goes that way sometimes.
Q. If we asked you for your single most vivid snapshot from 1991 here, what would it be?
DAVE STOCKTON: Probably Langer missing the putt, obviously. I had my head down the whole time. I knew he was going to make it, and I felt bad because we hadn't lost, but unfortunately we hadn't won. There's no way I was going to root against him not to make. I was basically mad at Gallagher to put somebody whose stress is their putting to put him in the last spot-check check. I had Wadkins and Irwin. I can't conceive of somebody winning three U.S. Opens. So I figured I'll put Irwin there. He can't choke under pressure, and if he does, it will be less than somebody else.
But to put that pressure on Langer and to have him miss it, I mean, it made for a thrilling finish, but I was really disappointed. I was happy as anybody when he went over and won the German BMW the following week. It was bad timing.
If he had been next to last or something -- we all know now on the Champions Tour how great a player he was and is as an individual. That was the one thing I remembered. The other thing was the Concord bringing the trophy back for us to play for. I thought that was really cool.
I mean, the place has really changed, but it's good school. It's circled twice.
Q. Is there a special kinship amongst that group on the American side, the '91 team, that when you see each other, is there a special feeling of belonging amongst the 13 of you and any vice captains?
DAVE STOCKTON: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. I had a really strong group. Between Payne Stewart and Lanny Wadkins, I was talking to Julius there after lunch that there were four of us -- whenever we met, all we did was talk about the Ryder Cup and how -- what we would do as captains. It was Azinger and myself and Payne Stewart and Lanny Wadkins, and Wadkins if you remember got beat because he picked Curtis Strange, which I felt bad for him because I passed on Curtis, and I told Curtis he had a spot on my team, but he was playing so badly that we just talked, and I said, "I told you I will pick you."
He said, "No, Captain, I'm not playing good enough." So he got passed and Lanny took him and he ended up losing all his points.
But small things are going to win out. Of course Payne gets killed and he would have had the Ryder Cup overseas when layman took his place. But Azinger and I are good friends. Azinger when he went through cancer stayed at our house. Since we're on Tour, it's easy to leave your house. So he moved into our house for six months when he went into treatment for cancer out in California.
So he and I have a bond, and it was fun to be an assistant on his, which I think in my mind the 2008 team is the best team, best prepared team ever in Ryder Cup.
What I take away from my team, and we are close, is that nobody could tell us which one of our players carried us because nobody carried us. It was a team effort.
THE MODERATOR: Dave Stockton, thanks for coming by and reminiscing about two things that are near and dear to the PGA of America, the Ryder Cup and your PGA Championship wins.
DAVE STOCKTON: Look forward to seeing you guys at my first win next year at Southern Hills.
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