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September 25, 2007
JAMES CRAMER: Glad to welcome everybody to the first conference of the 2007 Presidents Cup. I'm joined to my immediate left by three-time captain of the International Team, Gary Player, and four-time captain of the United States Team, Mr. Jack Nicklaus.
And Mr. Nicklaus, as the guest in Canada, if you can give us a comment about how the team is shaping up heading into the competition.
JACK NICKLAUS: I was heading up here, as was Gary, in the first couple of days of June, I think Gary has been here a couple more days than I have, isn't that right? I got to see the golf course then. We fiddled around over the last few days on pairings and how we might put our guys together.
Obviously players came in yesterday and they have all -- I think our team has been really playing well. I've been very kind of surprised. I thought if you go on paper, I think Gary's team, I think all of his players are in the Top-25 in the world, and I think we go down to 47 or something like that.
But I think our guys have really been playing well. So I think that they are well prepared. They are enthusiastic. The guys are all looking forward to being here and looking forward to playing, and I'm looking -- I know that I'm looking forward to captaining with Gary.
Gary and I, we have had some great matches the last two times. Only one stroke has really separated the two teams in the last two matches. I know that if we come that close again, I think it's going to be our goal to see that we have as good of a match here as we can.
I know that the people here in Montréal have prepared very well for this event, the golf course is in beautiful condition and I have nothing but compliments from the players last night who came out and played. I think things are set for another great Presidents Cup.
JAMES CRAMER: And Captain Player, opening comments from you before we take questions.
GARY PLAYER: Well, I've heard that this might be one of the largest attendances ever. They are predicting 35,000 a day everything included which is really a great compliment to Canada. I had the privilege of playing with Stan Leonard who is a wonderful golfer, Canadian, for those what didn't know him and did an extensive tour of Canada many, many years ago.
And I feel that Canada is really, just for this event, you have a lot of young people that are coming along. You've just had that fellow, Jon Mills, I see, qualified for the U.S. Tour. So you have a lot of guys on the brink of playing well and a lot of great programs for encouraging golfers in Canada. So I think this Presidents Cup can give the country a great boost in that regard.
My team are also very enthusiastic. Let me say about Jack's team. He said our team on paper; but he's got the best three players in the world rated 1, 2, 3, Tiger, Phil and Jim Furyk. So really, the stage is set for another great match. We did lose by one hole out of the last, plus or minus 1,022 holes, but Ernie never played the last time. So it could have very easily turned out to be a tie the last time had Ernie played.
But the matches have been really exciting and the galleries have enjoyed it and that's our objective to have great matches that promotes the game of golf which we love so much.
JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, Captain Player. We'll now take questions.
Q. For both gentlemen, have you decided on what your pairings are going to be and who is going to play with who?
JACK NICKLAUS: I can answer that question likely. No.
GARY PLAYER: Yes. (Laughter) We came on the bus, you see, so we had a long ride and had a lot of time to do it.
No, we basically have our teams for the first two days. After today's round we might tweak it a bit but I don't think so. I think it's going to remain as it is. If you want to know about it, I can't tell you.
JACK NICKLAUS: We know a rough idea, but we've matched up what we think the guys could play, and we will probably -- I don't think that we'll have the same pairings the second day that we would have the first day. We've changed that.
But you know, I think more today, the guys want to see the golf course, learn it. They are playing their own ball. They are playing some alternate-shot. They are doing a variety of things to understand the golf course.
The golf course, if you look at it, is a golf course that's got four par 3s on odd-numbered holes and you've got two par 5s on even-numbered holes. So you've got to figure out, who is your real good iron players, and also, who is your real good putters. Obviously they all would be -- wouldn't be on the team if they weren't good iron players and putters. But then your sixth hole, which is into the wind right now, whether that's reachable or not, I'm not sure, although I just watched Gary seeing two fellows hitting it out about 220 on to the green into the wind; I thought that was pretty strong tee shots, two side-by-side, Vijay and whoever he was playing with.
GARY PLAYER: Angel Cabrera.
JACK NICKLAUS: Probably Cabrera.
And I'm not sure what the numbers are on the back nine. What's the par 5, 14? 12? I haven't been on the back nine yet this trip. I just went around the front nine just now and going around the back nine after this.
I think we'll let them figure it out. I did what I said I was going to do last night. I had the fellows come in and write down who they would like to play with or who they would not like to play with. And as I've had the informant, nobody ever wrote down who they didn't want to play with, so that's good.
So I tried to match up the best I could with guys that wanted to play, because this is supposed to be a fun event. You're supposed to have a good time. It's a different kind of event for them to play in. I want them to enjoy playing with guys they have not played with before, guys they want to have fun with, guys that they felt like, gee, I never played with that fella as a partner, I'd like to do that. So I try to give them that opportunity, and I'm sure Gary does much the game.
GARY PLAYER: The course is in magnificent condition. Bunker sand is very similar all the way around which is nice. Fairways are great, not much rough, so there will be a lot of birdies this week, a lot of birdies, which is great for the gallery.
So depending on the weather, of course, that's a big factor, but I believe it's going to be a little rainy tomorrow and Thursday, and fine with temperatures dropping, but there should be a lot of birdies this week.
Q. Any changes to the captains' agreement since last time that you're aware of?
GARY PLAYER: I'm trying to think --
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't think there's any. Pretty much the same, isn't it?
JAMES CRAMER: (Nodding).
Q. Was there any concern getting here given the way that the PGA TOUR season ended with so many big tournaments stacked together that there would be any kind of mental fatigue, what-have-you, and have you found anything to the contrary upon meeting with your boys last night?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think Gary and I, we got some of our players to skip some of those tournaments so they would be ready. (Laughter).
GARY PLAYER: I think having a week off --
JACK NICKLAUS: Couldn't resist that, I'm sorry. (Laughing).
GARY PLAYER: I think having a week off for some of them -- I know a couple of our guys did play last week but the majority did have a break; that they feel rested. A couple of our guys, Vijay came from China; Ernie and Retief came from London. But coming this way from London is a lot easier, and arriving last night, that's fine.
JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know if that gave you the answer to your question or not, didn't it.
Q. I'm going with what you said.
JACK NICKLAUS: (Chuckling).
Q. Further to the pairings issue, why has it been so hard for captains to find successful fits for Tiger in Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup; and Furyk is one guy who has a good team record with him, what makes him successful as a partner for Tiger?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know. I think Tiger is an intimidating player. I'm not sure that -- the intimidation doesn't even go to his partners. I think that most of them feel far more comfortable -- last night, 11 players or 12 players -- 11 players other than the Tiger all probably put Tiger down as one they would like to play with. I said, "Duh," I would think I would want to play with him, too.
So I think the intimidation factor is probably lessened on that. Tiger's record in four-ball play has not been particularly good, and I think we all gave him a pretty hard time last time. I think he won a match at Washington and we all almost gave him a party. (Laughter).
Alternate-shot he's done very well. So, I don't know. And I think that a lot of it has to do with, here is a guy that's No. 1 player in the world, and he's just come off of a tournament series that he's just won; he's won the previous major; it's a natural letdown for a fella to have that. And I think that it's up to him to pump himself backup. He said to me when I saw him yesterday, he says, "Captain, don't worry about it, I'm ready."
He said he's ready to play and he wants to play so, that's part is good. Jim Furyk -- was that the second part of your question?
Q. Yes, sir.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think Jim Furyk is just such a steady player, and I think he's like nobody -- none of the players are intimidated to play with him. They all enjoy playing with him because they know they can always count on him. He's always right there, and that's a comforting feeling for his partner because his record has been pretty good probably because of that.
Q. Question for both team captains. You both have been around the world countless times now, and I guess you've seen everything there is to see and done everything there is to do in golf. Having that perspective, how do you feel, what, is Montréal for both of you? What do you feel about the people of Montréal, about the atmosphere here, about the organization of this event; what does it mean to you? What do you feel like telling us about Montréal?
GARY PLAYER: Well, first of all, you know, an event like this, I think the average person to comes here -- not you people because you are aware of it -- the average person who comes to an event like this is really unaware of the amount of work that's put in. It's two years of work. It's an awful amount, and that's something that we as captains and as players appreciate it very much indeed.
And as I say, to come to Montréal is a thrill; to have your Prime Minister and Premiere have us as our guest tonight is appreciated, which has taken place in all respective countries, but it's very nice that they are aware of the fact.
I think it's very exciting, this great city of Montréal, the languages and the people, I think it's appropriate that they chose Montréal, and also being a golf course that is very, very old. I mean, it's just a terrific place to play the event. I don't think they could have chosen a better place in Canada to have it.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, Montréal has always been a place that's supported the game of golf very well. I don't know how many Canadian Opens we've played here. I think the one I remember the most was obviously hitting my 3-wood in the water here on that hole and going into a playoff and losing on this golf course. The golf course was entirely different than it is now.
But the support of the tournament has always been fantastic, and golf has always been -- we've been very well received every time we've come to Montréal.
I think Gary is absolutely right that the amount of work that goes into an event, the people who come here, I think Montréal wants to show off their city and Canadian hospitality as much as they possibly can, and I think that part will happen very well. And I think that people that come here from around the world will enjoy it very much.
The golf course, as Gary has said, there will be a lot of birdies. There's an awful lot of rough and that's true, the golf course is in excellent condition. So it will show the golf course off well; it is an old club as Gary said, and a fitting place.
I think everybody -- the only thing that we worried about, Montréal, is if we were going to get snowed on in late September. There has always been that possibility. But fortunately the forecast says no, so that's great.
GARY PLAYER: The charities, for the people in the street that are not aware of the charities that are a great benefactor of this tournament; many, many charities and that's also something that's encouraging.
Q. Gary first, when you were in your prime, did you think an event like this would have a place in golf with you and players like Peter Thomson, Bob Charles; in the 60s and 70s where would this have fit in the game of golf? And your view, as well, Jack.
GARY PLAYER: We would have loved it. Because obviously we were not excluded, but we were not able to participate in the Ryder Cup, because it was in those days Britain and America, and then obviously later it went to Europe. So we didn't have a an event we could participate.
It would have been a thrill for us, and players like Roberto De Vicenzo, one of best players I ever saw; Bobby Locke; so many guys who have loved the opportunity to play in something like this. This is a very special event. I think the camaraderie that exists in this event is remarkable, on both teams. And to be played -- the nearest to this for us was in the old days the Canada Cup, and we went to different countries all the time.
We got an honorarium of $500 to travel around the world, you saw me getting $500 American Express checks to play around the world, and there weren't even jets in those times. Yes, to have something like today would have been a dream.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think it would have been fun. We did play -- it was the Canada Cup and became the World Cup. But I think if we look at the players that would have played on International Team at that time, you go right down the list, you've got maybe not as many players as you have today, but the quality of players were quite good. So it would have been a good match and been a fun thing to have.
As it relates to American players, American players those days were pretty strong. American side would have been strong.
What was the other part of your question?
Q. That's okay. Just you thought if it had a place in the game. There's a feeling that people felt this event came along because the international players were strong, but even back then the international players were strong as Gary just said?
JACK NICKLAUS: You had Player, Thompson, tying he will.
GARY PLAYER: Bobby Locke, De Vicenzo.
JACK NICKLAUS: De Vicenzo, Charles, Aoki.
GARY PLAYER: You must understand, also, that equipment, equipment being what it is now, allows a lot of players -- how do I put this -- that were ordinary players, to play better. If you took wooden clubs and the inferior golf ball and the spike marks on the greens and grooves on the clubs and sand traps being raked by your feet instead of everything being done in uniform; no jest, it's such a different world.
It allows more players with this equipment and circumstances to have people play well. There's no question it's a lot. If you took clubs and you put guys with wooden clubs in their hand and the guys that had more talent definitely stood out; whereas bringing the equipment in now has brought a lot more players together.
Would you agree on that? A lot more players --
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm going to touch it, but I agree. (Laughter).
GARY PLAYER: So those are things that one must take into consideration.
Q. Question for each captain. Jack, just a follow-up on a possible pairing with Furyk and Woods, given their history two years ago, and then they have had some success at the Ryder Cup, is it a better than good chance that we might see them together?
JACK NICKLAUS: I say there's a good chance. I don't know when.
I really can't answer that question at this point because we haven't figured that out. But I think that Tiger has asked to play with three different players. I'm going to try to honor that wish if I can, three different ways, if that makes sense. But if I find he really plays well with one of them, I'm probably going to stick with that for the second time around, too. I just have to wait and see.
Q. And for Gary, Rory made a visit to Montréal a few weeks back and he said at that time that he was already told that he will be with Immelman; is that correct?
GARY PLAYER: That's correct, yes. And they are also playing in this year's World Cup together and did previously in the World Cup and did very well. So that was a natural.
Q. And have you given any thought to who you might match up with Tiger on Sunday?
GARY PLAYER: I have. But that doesn't mean to say they want to. I must say, if I was a young guy, I'd be volunteering to play him, because it's something I love to do and I enjoyed.
JACK NICKLAUS: You and I need to talk about that.
GARY PLAYER: We might arrange something. (Laughing).
If I said to the guys, would you like to play Tiger, I'm sure a lot of guys will stand up and I'm quite confident of that. We realize Tiger is an incredible golfer and we have a monumental task. And I think this is a golf course that will really suit Tiger, extremely so. So they have got a big task on their hands so I'm sure they are going to enjoy the hands.
JACK NICKLAUS: Let me say something here. In the past, I was captain in Australia, Tiger asked, he says, "Can you get me Greg Norman?"
I said, "I'll try." And I got him Greg Norman. I thought that was the right match for being in Australia, to put Tiger and Norman together.
We went to South Africa. Both Ernie and Tiger wanted to play each other, so Gary and I, we didn't really play around with it, but we just both got to the point where sooner or later, one of us was going to put one up, and I don't even remember which way we did it.
Last time, frankly, Tiger said, "I don't have anybody" -- it doesn't make any difference." He ended up playing Retief, wish he had played somebody else because Retief beat him pretty good.
You know, I think Gary and I will have to talk about it. I think it will be great if Mike Weir played Tiger this time. I think that would be a great match. I think it's the logical thing to try to do.
But Mike might not want to play him. I have no idea if Gary wants to do that or not and I have no idea if Tiger wants to do that. But that's my thought to say to you today.
What's your thinking on the matches?
GARY PLAYER: I think as far as the media are concerned, which we realize the value of the media throughout the years of golf tournament, we wouldn't have golf as it is today without the media. The draw to me is more exciting than the Ryder Cup than to just take two names and put them in a hat; and Tiger might play a guy that you know is a foregone conclusion, where it's really nice if you guys can watch and see who is playing who and it makes it exciting to you.
Why are you laughing?
Q. Why was I laughing?
GARY PLAYER: Yeah.
Q. The thought of foregone conclusion, I don't think Rocca thought it was a foregone conclusion in '97. But you're right, a lot of times, it is a foregone conclusion.
GARY PLAYER: Not always, but most times.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that that's one of the neat things about 18 holes of match play. You take the best player in the world and he can get drummed.
I remember playing the Ryder Cup at Laurel Valley, I got paired with Brian Barnes. Brian wanted to play me, so they figured out -- anyway. He was drawn with me because I was put into a hat. He drummed me. And that afternoon, Arnold sort of worked it out. He said, "Jack, wants another chance at Brian, can we work that out? What number are you putting him in?" And he drummed me again.
GARY PLAYER: From a public point of view, it's nice if you guys can see that it's exciting, and for the public to see the guys who they would like to see play, which is important.
JACK NICKLAUS: It's important.
Q. Can you talk about what it means to your team to have Ernie back?
GARY PLAYER: Well Ernie is our No. 1 player according to the points earned and I think he has been for two years. It was a big disappointment for me last time not to have Ernie. It was a very, very important thing to have Ernie and we lost by one hole, and that's when you really realized how important it would have been to have Ernie.
So we are pleased to have him back this year, and let's hope he plays well.
JACK NICKLAUS: I'm taking Ernie tubing tomorrow afternoon. (Laughter).
GARY PLAYER: Tiger's joining him.
Q. When you talk about the special pressures Mike Weir is going to be facing this week, how is he preparing for it?
GARY PLAYER: Mike has got progressively better towards the end of the year. If you look how well he played in the Open and the other tournaments; and I think once I picked him, it was also -- he really wanted to play very badly, understandably so.
I think a lot of pressure -- he's been relieved of a lot of pressure. The pressure is self-bearing, and I watched him swinging this morning and we had some discussions. I've been in touch with him a lot lately. And he's looking very good. I must say, he's looking very good. I'll have to talk to him. I have to talk to the guys -- we haven't got as far as the singles yet because that's a long way away.
JAMES CRAMER: Captain Player and Captain Nicklaus, thank you very much.
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