July 27, 2022
Bedminster, New Jersey, USA
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster, the 10:00 a.m. press conference. We have three new LIV Golf signees that are joining with us today for their first event. We have Charles Howell III who's joining us with Team Crushers captained by Bryson DeChambeau; we've got Jason Kokrak, who is joining Team Smash, captained by Brooks Koepka; and we have Paul Casey joining us on Team Crushers, as well, also captained by Bryson DeChambeau. Welcome, guys.
I'll start off with Charles and Paul since you guys are joining with Bryson. Can you guys tell us a little bit about how this happened and how you guys got on Bryson's team and just a little background there?
CHARLES HOWELL III: First off, Paul and I have known each other for many years, from back in the college golf days and before. Bryson and I have had a relationship for quite some time. I've always liked the mechanics and the technicality of golf and the game, and that's kind of built our friendship a bit.
I'm not quite as crazy as Bryson, but I'm getting there.
Bryson reached out to me a couple months back about the possibility of this, and yeah, listen, this is something I've followed and kept track of for some time and something I was excited about when he reached out to me that opened the door for me, and I couldn't be happier to have him and obviously Paul Casey as a teammate.
I'm really excited to get going.
PAUL CASEY: I never thought I'd have you as a teammate, Charles.
JASON KOKRAK: Do you guys want to sit next to each other?
PAUL CASEY: My first experience with playing with Bryson probably goes back to the Masters still in his amateur days. There's very few players as long as I've been on Tour that have kind of made me sit up and pay attention to a golf game such as Bryson's.
Unbelievable talent, hugely impressive. Charles and I, obviously we go back a long, long way, 20 plus years when he was at Okie State, I was at Arizona State. I'm looking forward to this.
This is going to be -- it's been talked about before, but I'll reiterate it. The team element is something that's got me very, very excited. To be included -- when Bryson called me, I was in Arizona just at home at the time chilling, working on trying to be healthy, got off the phone with a spring in the step and excitement for the next chapter of my life.
THE MODERATOR: Jason, what about you with Brooks? How did that come about?
JASON KOKRAK: Well, Brooks and I have been friends for quite a few years, play a lot of practice rounds together. Kind of similar games; we both hit it pretty far. He hits a little fade, I hit a little draw, and we have a good time on the golf course and off.
When he called me, I said, this seems like a fun atmosphere. He's along with his brother, and it's going to be a lot of fun hanging out with these guys, going through what seems to be going to be the time of my life, a new chapter, and really looking forward to getting after it this week in my first event and all the other events down the road.
Q. Just wanted to get a sense of what kind of feedback or chatter you guys got from either of the first two events, talking to other players or maybe some caddies, and how much that might have influenced you guys to join LIV?
PAUL CASEY: For me, I was a guy who -- these two guys were still playing. I'd been out injured. My return from injury was a couple of weeks ago at St Andrews.
Yeah, I was, I guess, sitting on the fence, for lack of a better term, and tuned in and watched the first event online at Centurion. There's something about it. I don't tend to watch a lot of golf on TV, but there was something about that which really kind of made up my mind, plain and simple.
The format, the compactness of the entertainment into a small window, I think you couple that with then I talked to a lot of guys. As you guys know, I'm close with Poulter and Westy and all these guys and I reached out and discussed it. Yeah, I mean, I think without the success of those first two events, I wouldn't be sitting here right now.
JASON KOKRAK: Kind of the same for me. I don't watch a lot of golf, like Paul said. But tuning in, talking to a couple of players that played the first couple events, and they said it was amazing, a great experience, watching and seeing guys on the 18th green which you never see -- very rarely on a PGA TOUR event, the camaraderie, cheering each other on from a team perspective was a lot of fun.
Being on the fence for a little while, seeing that kind of tipped the scales and made me a lot more interested, and then when Brooks called me, it was a no-brainer.
CHARLES HOWELL III: Well, I watch a lot of golf. Yeah, I couldn't wait to watch it. I watched obviously London, I watched Portland. I had memories of Pumpkin Ridge from when I lost to Tiger there in the U.S. Amateur. Yeah, it looked fantastic. It looked awesome.
I'm a big Formula 1 fan, so I liked how the leaderboard on the left-hand side and how it was counting down. Also, too, Greg Norman was my hero as a kid growing up. I mean, every year at the Masters and Augusta, I couldn't wait to get out there and watch Greg Norman play. Man, he was an idol. I had a life-sized cardboard cutout of Greg in my room way back in his Spalding days. He was just "the man."
Yeah, just to be a part of something he's a part of and have him as the leader of this, it's awesome. For a kid like me growing up, I could have never imagined it.
Q. All three of you guys have been members of the PGA TOUR for quite a long time. What were some of the drawbacks that you considered about your decision and why did you guys decide to go through with it?
PAUL CASEY: There's a long answer to that, I think, which I'm probably not going to try to explain here. There's been a lot written. The focus always seems to be money; let's be honest. But for my decision, and I can't speak for the other guys, there's a lot more to this. As a guy who's played multiple tours through the years, the toll that's taken -- let me be clear, my desire for competition has not waned in any way. If anything it's probably higher than it's ever been, and my desire to play the best golf I possibly can in the latter half of my career is still there.
But yeah, there's a lot more to my decision of sitting here than just a financial opportunity and less golf. But I was very aware of the ramifications of making this choice. The PGA TOUR is something -- it was a goal of mine to play on the PGA TOUR, and it's been an incredible journey.
But I'm also a guy who's won on multiple tours, I think five: Australasian, Asian, Korean, European Tour and PGA TOUR. I'd love to add a LIV victory to that, as well. I've never pigeonholed myself. I think one day maybe sit down and talk to some guys about the complexities of the decision I had to make and why I did it, but I'm very, very excited to be sitting here right now trying to get another victory on another Tour.
JASON KOKRAK: Yeah, the PGA TOUR has given me everything I've ever wanted. It was always my dream as a little kid to play at the highest level, play against these guys sitting next to me, play against the best players in the world, and I wouldn't change any part of that. It's been a true blessing to do what I do for a living.
But as Paul said, there's many facets to making this decision, the time at home, financial, I mean, you name it. It's all the factors I weighed in for sure.
I think this gives me a new perspective, invigorates me. I'm more passionate; it kind of lit a fire under me to get a call from one of the best players in the world. To team up with him and go down this avenue with him, it's another blessing. Really looking forward to that opportunity.
CHARLES HOWELL III: Yeah, I've had 22 wonderful years on the PGA TOUR. I looked the other day, I've played 608 events on the PGA TOUR. I never was a global player per se. We did the Asia Swing in 2019, and I've played the odd event other than outside the U.S. and that.
For me, this is something new. It's exciting. 22 years with the PGA TOUR, I was ready for this, for a change.
I'm also ready to travel internationally, and to see other parts of the world. It's also been no secret that my family loves to travel when they can, and to show my kids other parts of the world, not just -- the United States of America isn't the world. There's a lot out there. That's something important to me, as well.
Listen, I think these things have a way of working themselves out. I think the goal should be that you should be able to play where you want to play. It's golf.
For the fans, for the betterment of everything, I hope it works out.
JASON KOKRAK: 608 events?
CHARLES HOWELL III: It's a lot.
Q. You guys have been given a big platform; you're important to MBS, you're important to the Saudis obviously with the role you play now, and over the last few weeks we've heard a lot of you guys, Phil and others, talk about growing the game, doing good things, right? So there are a lot of opportunities for that in every country and certainly for Saudi Arabia. As you know, gay people are subject to capital punishment, and women's rights obviously are way behind men's rights. Curious, Paul, we've talked before at Ryder Cups. I know you're smart people; I know you get it; I know you understand the platform you have. Would you speak out right now on those issues?
PAUL CASEY: I've been to the kingdom a couple of times, and I've seen change happening in the kingdom, so I can confidently say that change is happening and that what we do is having a positive effect.
Q. You personally?
PAUL CASEY: I've been there, and I've seen change, and I've talked to the people there.
I played with a young girl in the pro-am at the Saudi Invitational earlier this year, 17 years old. I played with her father. I played with another lady who's a human rights lawyer. They were brilliant company, entertaining, and that young girl spoke of how things have changed and that just in the last couple of years since she took up the game of golf, how things have radically changed for her and her family and that that opportunity wouldn't have been there more than a couple of years ago.
That was such a positive experience for me. That was one of the reasons why I love being a golfer and traveling the world and meeting people.
She was excited because she was going to be a scrutineer at the Formula 1 race later that year, and she just said, yeah, stuff is changing. She's looking forward to driving.
These are all things which just like -- change is happening. Look, it's a case of -- it's not where you're at, it's where you're going. There's many places on the planet that I've been to, that I've been paid to go to, which I'm not sure I can say the same thing in terms of their trajectory. But I can honestly look you in the eye and say that I see a trajectory, a positive trajectory in the kingdom, and it was a really good experience that I've had when I've been there, and I hope it continues.
Q. Gay rights, as well; do you want to talk about that?
PAUL CASEY: It's not a subject I know enough about to speak about.
JASON KOKRAK: Yeah, I agree with Paul. I don't know enough about the subject to speak on it, but I also got to play with that young girl -- was she 15 or 17?
PAUL CASEY: Hitham was her father.
JASON KOKRAK: I played with another young girl. She was 15, brilliant little girl, very eloquent and a pleasure to play with. I really enjoyed it.
As Paul said, change is happening. I've been there a couple of different times, and there's nothing else I can say. The change is happening. It's a new direction, and as he said, it's where you're going, not where you've been.
CHARLES HOWELL III: So I've never been to Saudi Arabia. I'm excited to go.
Being a sports fan, I believe sports can be a force for good and change. Example in Saudi Arabia, Lewis Hamilton Formula 1 driver, speaks out on these issues. We're speaking out on these issues right now and today. That's the first step of change.
I believe golf can, will be and is a force for change and good, and that's why I'm sitting here.
Q. Paul, I just wondered if you've got any concerns about the Ryder Cup. We obviously saw Henrik stand down as captain or being stripped of captaincy, whichever way you want to refer to it. It's obviously a match that's dear to your heart. Do you have concerns for it in the future?
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, I do. As I said before, I was aware of the ramifications of my decision. You know, and I guess it's not -- the rules and decisions that are going to be put in place are out of my hands. I would still love to be a part of that, but if I'm not, then I guess there's nothing I can do. I'm not going to -- yeah, I'd love to be a part of it.
I'm actually not sure what to tell you because it's such an amazing thing. Some of the moments I've had, some of the teams I've been a part of, even the bad moments, they're just amazing.
To know that there's a possibility that a lot of us are going to miss out on that, I'm not sure what to tell you yet because I guess we don't know. Right now we're all in limbo, which is a bit frustrating. Yeah, I don't know.
Q. It would be a shame if it was a major casualty in all of this?
PAUL CASEY: It would have a massive shame. Look, the players are not -- the players are making their decisions, obviously. But the players are not trying to damage the game. We leave this to those in charge of the Tour. In this case, this is left with Mr. Pelley, Mr. Kinnings. I could actually ask them some questions. We could ask Mr. Kinnings why the relationship deteriorated between the European Tour and Saudi Golf. We've got a lot of questions, but right now they all seem to be coming our way, not his way.
Q. Just for the group, a couple of different questions. One, the details of relegation have come out and so forth for future plans for LIV. What do you ultimately hope that this endeavor leads to from a playing perspective?
CHARLES HOWELL III: Well, I mean, I think we all -- I think we're all extremely excited about the team format of it, so I think you've got a very structured product going forward. You have the players that you know are going to play and where they're going to play. I think relegation is also a big part of it, exchanging guys in and out, keeping fresh blood.
It's also more incentive, right, to keep playing well and keep playing good, but also for other players to play their way on.
And this relegation, by the way, it's real. With the PGA TOUR at times you can still fall to 126 to 150, you can fall to past champion and play X amount of times. This goes to zero.
To me, I think -- right? I think it's more of a relegation in golf than we've seen before, but really there's a way to play yourself back on or new blood and younger blood to come on.
JASON KOKRAK: Yeah, I mean, the team aspect is amazing. The format, as Charles said, is real. The relegation, if you don't play well, then you're gone. You don't play a different Tour. You don't fall into a different category. You have to keep your game sharp and play the best you can. It's a game. It's supposed to be fun. We're up here to have fun and enjoy each other's company.
PAUL CASEY: I'm trying to beat you.
JASON KOKRAK: You said you've won on five tours, right? I'm going to try to keep that from being six.
Q. Charles, why did you join? Is it as simple as guaranteed money?
CHARLES HOWELL III: No, no. Money didn't play a role --
PAUL CASEY: He's played 600 plus events. Charles made an awful lot of money.
JASON KOKRAK: 22 years on the PGA TOUR.
CHARLES HOWELL III: No, money was not a factor.
For me, I've been there for 22 years, and it's been awesome. I've got nothing but great things to say about the PGA TOUR, what they've given me, the opportunities, et cetera. But when this came along, I'm 43 years old, I've done a lot of that. I still love the game. I love the game more today than I did five years ago.
Now that my son is playing competitive golf, I'm even more incentivized in the game.
This is something really new and exciting.
As these guys have alluded to, I even got a bit more excited when someone, let's say Bryson reaches out and says, I'd love for you to be a part of my team. That's a compliment, but it's also a responsibility. Okay, I've got to play well; I'm responsible not only for myself but for Paul, for Bryson, for others.
It's new and exciting.
Not that the PGA TOUR got boring, but I'm extremely excited to be here for the next few years, and yeah, it's a new venture, and at this age and this part of my life, it's perfect.
Q. For Paul, you were once a UNICEF ambassador and you'd spoken publicly obviously about not going to Saudi because of that relationship. What changed for you?
PAUL CASEY: I then went to Saudi while I still had that relationship. As they reminded me, it's about inclusion, and by not engaging and not participating and not traveling to countries, you harden positions if you do that. You have to be inclusive.
They actually encouraged me to go. They operate there. This choice I've made, there are multiple factors of why I've made this decision to join LIV. The biggest one, as Charles said, is family. There's a lot of other factors, but the main one is family.
You know, I have to take care of my family first, and that's not a financial thing, that's because I want to spend more time playing two tours, playing 28, 30 weeks a year, traveling around the planet. It's led to injuries, it's led to time off, it's led to a lot of stuff that people have no idea what I deal with.
Trying to simplify my life, play a little less golf at hopefully a much higher level, take care of my family first, that's a decision I've made.
Q. Paul, I was following on about the European Tour, which is a lot more murky at the moment than the PGA TOUR situation, which is indefinite suspensions. They haven't done that on the European Tour. Would it be your desire to keep playing European Tour events, to keep your membership there, and obviously that leads to the Ryder Cup --
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, I think that was something when I looked at the first couple events, I saw a lot of the pressers and I saw guys being critiqued for wanting to play European Tour events still, and they were critiqued, like hang on -- taken to task because guys saying, well, you want to play less golf but now you want to play more golf.
Guys never said they did not want to play European Tour. As you know, I mean, I've always made a choice. There's been a time where I've actually given up my European Tour membership because playing two tours was too difficult.
In this scenario, yeah, I think a lot of guys would love to play LIV and also retain their European Tour membership and then be part of the Ryder Cup if they can.
That's a question that you've got to pose to Keith and his team.
What happened earlier this year, I wasn't a part of it, but fines being handed out for playing without a release, I've played many a tournament without a release and was never fined, and suddenly the goal posts are changing.
It seems as if the CEO kind of has discretion, and so I think it's a very fluid situation, very murky as you've just said. I would love to still be part of the Ryder Cup, but if that is not an option then that's not an option.
Q. Greg went to the Ryder Cup, the last Ryder Cup. I think he said it was the first one he'd gone to, and it opened his eyes to the team thing. I'm just curious as to where you see this team thing going, because golf fans are not used to that, and why you think it'll work and how long you think it'll take to stick.
JASON KOKRAK: Well, I think golf has been a similar game for all eternity. Charles has been a member for a long time.
This is a new and exciting way to invigorate the sport. I think it's going to bring new audiences and a different type of draw to the team aspect. You see how big the Ryder Cup and team events are, and I think a lot of players are going to enjoy the team camaraderie as well as the fans and everybody else watching.
CHARLES HOWELL III: Yeah, if you look at the NCAA golf, Mike Holder, who I played for at Oklahoma State and who's still a super close friend today, when they got the NCAA golf on television, a big deal was to highlight the teams, and how can we do this. Hence they cut the stroke play down, and then the team format, match play, becomes a big focal point, and it's taken off.
I've already had people ask me, I'm sure as they have, they want gear. They want hats. They want tee shirts. They want this. I think it's something new. It's a new way to follow golf. It's a new way to cheer for a certain amount of guys.
But also we know who's going to play every single week, so then there's a bit of continuity on that.
Yeah, I know -- listen, we're still learning, too. We're still learning how it's all going to work out. I'm sure Bryson and some of those guys could speak better to it than I could.
PAUL CASEY: Look, I guess we'll find out, won't we. This exists. I'm not saying it's going to be created; it exists. The full league has been announced, 14 events next year, the teams are going to be set.
I think sports fans understand teams, so this just adds another layer. What I hope is that this will -- these teams will then transcend once I've moved on and Charles and eventually you, we've all moved on, that it would be very, very cool if the teams transcend players and it becomes an element.
It does in the Ryder Cup. You know, it's Team USA/Team Europe. Players come and go.
The truth is I don't know. We're going to find out, and I want to be a part of it and put my energy into it. We'll see.
Q. If this fragmentation of players going to LIV starts to severely damage or even end the PGA TOUR and/or the DP Tour, would you guys feel responsible, and would you feel regret at your decision?
PAUL CASEY: Thank you for the question, but there's a lot to this and to our decisions, why we've made the decision to be sitting here right now. None of us, I think speaking for the three of us sitting up here, none of us are intending to damage golf or damage the Tour.
I'm a guy who's sat on the European Player Committee for many years, I've sat on the Player Advisory Council for many years. In fact, I retired and then they asked me to come back because of my input.
I know the fabric of this game pretty well on the inside, on the Tour level. At no time have I ever tried to damage the Tour in the decision that I've made.
If it's damaged, I think the questions have to be asked somewhere else.
JASON KOKRAK: This decision with all the facets for each one of us, we did it for our own reasons. We're not wishing any ill will at all towards the PGA TOUR. There's new upcoming players left and right trying to take our jobs all the time.
I don't think the PGA TOUR or any Tour for that matter is going to go anywhere. I think golf is gaining ground across the globe, and I think it's growing at an exponential rate.
I think you're going to see more and more golf, more players coming up, and I think all these tours can play alongside each other without any hesitation or anything else going on.
I think we all can play nicely and have a good time. Like it's a game; it's supposed to be fun. I bring it up to my buddies at home, and they're hanging their heads, not hitting a shot well. I'm like, guys, we're supposed to have fun out here. This is a game; it's entertainment; have a good time. I want people on the PGA TOUR to have a good time. I want these guys to have a good time on their respective teams across the globe no matter what tour. I don't think anybody is going to have -- I don't think you're going to see any other tours die off or anything like that because there's more and more golf, more and more players.
CHARLES HOWELL III: The only thing I'd add to that, golf's popularity is booming. Obviously through so many more channels covering it, from Golf Channel and all the social media aspects, et cetera, and there's a lot of smart people in golf, and there's a lot of smart people that sort of control the strings of golf, if you will.
Hopefully sooner than later those smart people will get in a room and get together and figure this out.
As I said earlier, these things have a way of working themselves out. I truly believe that that's where this will end. No one up here or is going to tee it up to week to damage the game of golf. My goodness, I'm a self-admitted golf nerd for my whole life. That's the last thing I'd want to do. There's a lot of smart people, a lot of smart people with LIV league, and these things have a way of working themselves out.
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