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September 26, 2007
DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the other half the 2007 Presidents Cup American Team joining us today, Woody Austin, Lucas Glover, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and Scott Verplank. Thank you very much and we'll open it up to questions.
Q. First question for Phil, hi.
PHIL MICKELSON: Hi.
Q. Normally when you play in a golf tournament the crowd enjoys you very much. Tomorrow you're facing Mike Weir. Do you think the reaction will be the same? (Laughter)
PHIL MICKELSON: I think the Canadians love left-handed golfers, and I think we're going to have a fun match. We all are looking -- we all want the chance to play against everybody on the International Team because they are so strong, and the fact that Mike Weir and Vijay Singh form such a great team and are going to have the home crowd, it's going to be a big challenge for Woody and I.
But it's something that we're excited for and looking forward to because we know what a challenge it is, and if we're able to be fortunate enough to come out on top tomorrow, it will mean something.
Q. You've played on all these teams. Can you talk about the difference from the first Presidents Cup team up to now, the event itself, and also, do you have one thing, one match, one moment that sticks out in your mind, personal moment in these matches?
PHIL MICKELSON: Since '94 when this event has started, there was a lot of skepticism and now it's turned into I think an incredible worldwide event to where it's helped increase awareness of the game of golf. It's brought exposure from some of the top players in the game to other parts of the world. I think it's been a big plus for the game of golf to help promote it on a worldwide scale.
It's awkward for me 13 years later where I started out as the young guy, the rookie and to be out here now and now I'm the old guy, and I see how time has gone. I've got kids; I've got an eight-year-old, and two others; my wife and I now have been together 14 years, 11 of them married. And I look back and a lot of things have occurred and a lot of time has passed.
And so it reminds me of how I'm first of all, getting old, and second of how many great things have been given to me because of this game of golf.
Q. Any one moment?
PHIL MICKELSON: The most memorable didn't involve me, it involved either Chris DiMarco's winning putt last year, which I was on another part of the course. Or '96 I believe when Fred Couples made the putt on 17 to win the matches for us, I thought that was a big moment because it gave a lot of excitement to the event and it was my first, it wasn't my first winning team but it was a winning team. As far as this particular event, though, 2003, South Africa, in my opinion was the most incredible. That's what really gave this event a lot of credibility.
Q. Woody and Phil, Jack told us you really wanted to play with each other. Can you tell us why you think you would be such a good pairing?
WOODY AUSTIN: You asking me or him?
PHIL MICKELSON: Go ahead, Woody.
WOODY AUSTIN: Well, I'm just like anybody else, especially being a rookie in this event. I'm going to want to play with one of the best players in the world, and he's the second best player in the world if you go by rankings and everything else. So if I get my opportunity, I'm going to want to play with the guy that's played the most and he's obviously -- I found out he's played in them all. He has all of the experience and he knows exactly what to do, and we get along great. So I think our personalities, we're going to have a lot of fun. And then I'm just going to jump on his back and he's going to carry me.
PHIL MICKELSON: I know rookie said he's a rookie, but he is older than me.
WOODY AUSTIN: Much older that's true.
Q. Question for Hunter and Lucas both. If you could just talk about the first time, being as young as you are and new to this team format, first time -- your first experience with Nicklaus, where it was, and what you have learned about him being around him this week that you wouldn't have guessed.
HUNTER MAHAN: You know, after the PGA, I think he was going to call some guys and let us know who the picks were going to be so I was expecting the call. So when he called me, it's a pretty neat moment for Jack Nicklaus to call you and tell you you're going to be part of the Presidents Cup team, that's pretty neat for sure.
Just to spend a little bit of time with him and just see how -- just what a great person he is. He's such a nice guy and he's been so easy on us. He's such a player's captain, he's made it easy on us?
Q. First time you met him?
HUNTER MAHAN: '03 Masters, I played with him. Pretty special to play at the Masters with Jack Nicklaus. It's great. You just talk to him a little bit, and you forget that he's just the greatest golfer ever. He.
LUCAS GLOVER: Kind of the same thing, I was expecting it and did say yes and that was obviously an honor, I didn't take much time to think about the request. And then got here this week and we met in Boston and he went over everything, all of the stuff he had to do. Didn't give us any rah-rah, just making sure we know he wants us to have fun but at the same time wants us to be ready to play and try to win the thing.
It was pretty neat yesterday. He was kind of messing around with Stricker and Sluman in the bunker there and it was neat to crowd around him and get some tips from him and see how he plays certain shots. That was cool standing on the outside looking in and getting his thoughts on different shots and stuff like that. But all in all two, days into it, it's been pretty unbelievable and just being around him and seeing how he interacts with anybody.
Q. What's the worst he needled you?
LUCAS GLOVER: I don't know. Maybe he hasn't watched me hit enough balls yet. I don't know. I've been staying away. I hear he's pretty brutal. (Laughter).
Q. Talk about what the experience has been like for you --
HUNTER MAHAN it's great that Jack puts me in that class and it's great to be around the guys in this kind of format. You know, it seems like we are all kind of pretty relaxed here and just having a good time with one another, and it's been just neat, it's been like a college atmosphere and trying to help each other, and play some good golf. It's been pretty relaxing, surprisingly.
Q. Can you talk about the camaraderie here and can you explain the difference why the United States has so much success in this event but not in the Ryder Cup?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, and I forgot the first part of your question.
Q. The feel of this event, is it different, the camaraderie, that kind of stuff.
PHIL MICKELSON: We've had a lot of fun these first couple of days, but we have a lot of fun on every team, and there has not been one team where we haven't had the greatest time. Even last year when we got smoked in Ireland, the winning side came into our team room and par tied with us because we were the most fun team. (Laughter).
I'm just kidding. My point is we always have a lot of fun in these events, and I think that's why starting out the year, the goal for so many players is to be on the team, not just to represent your country, but because this is where a lot of the relationships are formed and it seems to last life times, and these weeks are the most fun. We've had so much fun on these teams and this week is no different. We are all having a great time and I love -- one of the most fun things is riding on the team bus and just interacting with each other and roughing each other up or hearing how the families are going and things are going on in each other's lives, because on TOUR, we don't have a chance for that interaction. Everyone has got their family out and they are busy doing this, that and the other and there's no time for this type of interaction and this event provides it, and that's why we have so much fun.
Q. From where you were 18 months ago, to be seated up here with these guys today playing this week, can you just talk about your feelings about that and how you've come full circle?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's been an unbelievable stretch really. I sit back and think about, you know, three years ago where I was, and hoping just to get into TOUR events and then today sitting up here with the likes of these guys and the other team members, it's been a great ride and it's been so surreal at times.
You know, I sit back and sometimes I believe it hasn't really happened. But at the other end of it, this is what I've been working for and what I've been wanting to do for a long time again, and finally it's starting to come true and happen and it's just a great privilege to be on this team.
You know, I played in '96, 11 years ago, and I had a great time back then and played on the Dunhill Cup team in '96. It's just something special for players to be a part of a team. We don't get that opportunity very often.
Q. Have you ever been more proud of yourself than you are right now?
STEVE STRICKER: Obviously I'm very happy with myself and the way I'm playing, but I just want to keep moving forward. I don't want to keep thinking where I was two years ago or three years ago.
I want to just keep looking forward and trying to improve and tell myself that this is where I belong and this is where I need to be and keep trying to look forward and not think so much about what I've been doing the last month or two years.
Q. You obviously have some special memories of this case, even the course itself has changed since you were last here. Can you talk about that and how comfortable you feel being here?
SCOTT VERPLANK: Obviously I'm very happy to be back here. Last time we played here, it was a great experience for me.
The golf course, you know, they have changed the greens, so there's some different subtleties about the greens, some of them have little bit bigger slopes and some different areas around them.
But the golf course, other than 12 and 13, which they flip-flopped, basically all they have done is just add some length. But the holes play very similar to what I remember.
I think the golf course is a pretty neat golf course for this format and for this event. I think it will produce some pretty exciting golf and hopefully from both teams.
Q. Can I ask for the three rookies, what does it mean for you guys to play for your country and I want to ask Phil what he thinks this rookie class brings to this team. Let me start with you, Lucas, because the Ryder Cup, you so desperately wanted to make that. What does it mean to be playing here for the red, white and blue?
LUCAS GLOVER: I've said it a lot over the last couple of weeks, I think it's the highest honor we can have to wear our flag on our shirt or on our hat or on our bag or whatever. To be able to make it this year was first of all, a dream come true and second of all, one of the goals I set out for this year. Obviously it's an honor and very happy to be here. I have tomorrow to prove I belong, and there's the issue at hand now.
WOODY AUSTIN: Obviously like Lucas said, it's definitely a goal every year and it's a goal of mine. I obviously wanted to do it before I was laid out to pasture since I'm the oldest guy here.
But finally made it, so I guess from that standpoint, you know, better late than never. I just want to enjoy it since it's taken so long.
I'm certainly not going to be one that it came so fast it's going to breeze on by. I'm going to make sure I savor every minute because it's taken so long and there's been a lot of bumps in the road. I just can't wait until it starts. HUNTER MAHAN yeah, amazing, it's been a lot of fun to represent your country. We don't get the opportunity very often, so I think we're all trying to enjoy it and make the U.S. proud of us, and just have fun with every match and enjoy each other's company and hopefully play good golf.
Q. Scott, you were Steve Stricker before Steve Stricker winning matches 20 years ago, but then falling into or going away for a little bit. During the 90s, did you ever think you'd get back to this top level, and what did it take to come all the way back?
SCOTT VERPLANK: You know, to be honest with you, you don't really think about it like that. At that time, I can tell you looking back on that time, I didn't know any different. All I knew is I had some physical problems that were holding me back, getting in the way of what I would like to accomplish as a professional.
So that was -- I think it's probably similar to Steve, if you have some down times, you kind of reach down deep inside and you figure out what you want to do, decide if you really want to do it or not. And obviously Steve had enough will power and intestinal fortitude to suck it up and get himself back up on top and riding the wave instead of getting buried by it.
You know, I would say that's kind of how I look at it. I've overcome quite a few things in my career, and the positive of that is the next thing that comes along, it's not that big of a deal. I'll get over it, I'll get to it; I still have a few more -- I feel like I have a few more productive years left in me at this level before they send me off to the Super Seniors or whatever. (Laughter).
You know what, when you're down, it makes you appreciate being here today, I can tell that you right now. It really makes you appreciate playing good. Maybe appreciate winning here more than ever when I won back here six years ago. It means a lot more to me.
I'd like to get more than Tiger, but I don't see that happening now.
Q. Ian Baker-Finch as he left said that the reason they threw Weir out is they think he has Phil's number. Do those kind of remarks help you?
WOODY AUSTIN: I didn't see that on the paper.
Q. It was after.
PHIL MICKELSON: He's a very good player. He won the Masters in '03 and he's had a very good record. I think that -- I'm trying to look back on our -- if we've played each other in singles, and I think we may have. I think he beat me in singles. Did he beat me?
Q. 4-1 I think is his record.
PHIL MICKELSON: Against me? Well, there you go. They have to keep riding that out until me or we are able to change that. We'll see if we can do that.
Q. Steve, do you look at since coming back, is this like a homecoming for you? Have you seen anyone from the Canadian Tour from when you were playing here? Just wondering if you can reflect on your days.
STEVE STRICKER: Those were some of the best times in my professional careers, when Nicki was caddying for me on a regular basis for four summer, '90 - '93. We traveled across the country of Canada. We started off doing it by car and then we started doing it by airplane because some of the stretches were long.
But I hear a lot of people out in the crowd talk about a couple of the places where I've won at up here, and so it brings back a lot of good memories.
And the people are much the same, you know, than where I grew up in Wisconsin, good values, good Midwest values and a lot of nice people and we enjoyed our team very much here in Canada.
Q. Question for Woody. Just wondered if you were happy with the U.S. Team shirt selection. Would you prefer to have had a stronger role in choosing the pattern?
WOODY AUSTIN: Well they are a little bland but they do have stripes and color patterns which is good. I just don't like plain, plain white, plain blue, so at least they have some stripes so they are all right.
Q. Can you talk about what it's like to be a member of the team after working so hard to get there?
WOODY AUSTIN: I found out what it's like to be a rookie. You've got to have some pretty thick skin at times.
Like we all say, it's such a goal. It may get monotonous to hear it, but it's really an honor and a privilege. We play in a game that's such an individual game, we're trying to beat each other's brains in week-to-week but it is an absolute honor and privilege to play with these guys and I'm so proud that I can actually call teammates this week as opposed to opponents. I can't be any happier than I am right now as I am finally being able to say I'm part of a team.
Q. Maybe for Phil or Scott, what particular feature of the golf course --
SCOTT VERPLANK: You're doing a nice job. (Looking at Phil) I didn't hear the question.
Q. What aspect of the golf course might influence the matches more than any other?
PHIL MICKELSON: Most every green complex has the middle of the green as a high point and then little roll-offs to the corners. The reason that's interesting is that all of the pin placements you can get to from the center of the green -- and if you do short-side yourself, you're chipping back into the slope, as opposed to a green that's high around the edges and low in the middle. If you short-side yourself, the ball is going to run to the middle of the green. What makes that interesting is that there's going to be a lot of up and down pars and there won't be many bogeys. You'll have to win with birdies and so you'll see a lot more aggressive play and you'll see some pretty easy recovery shots on short-sided pin placements that normally pose a problem. We'll see a lot of those get up-and-down.
Q. Obviously Phil and Chris DiMarco are the heroes of the last U.S. Presidents Cup team. Do you think because of your personality, you can give Phil the same sort of complementary intensity?
WOODY AUSTIN: Yesterday he was telling me how great Chris played at the last time. I told him that it's his turn to play great because I'm just going to jump on his back.
Like I said, I think we get along really well. We have a lot of good, I guess you would say, needling and bashing going on to keep each other loose. I can't say I'm not going to be nervous or whatever because that's just a natural occurrence. But like I said, I really can't wait to get out there and play with him because he is -- he is my peer; even though I'm older than him, he is my peer in this game and I can't say enough how much of an honor it is for him to be my partner. And I hope to play at his level and help us win.
Q. I wonder if any of you had gone to downtown Montréal with your families and if there's any general impressions of the city itself.
WOODY AUSTIN: We have no free time.
Q. How about your families?
WOODY AUSTIN: (Shaking head).
Q. You're known as a player that wears his heart on his sleeve and is emotional. Do you have to contain that a little bit here because obviously tomorrow you're going to be playing against the Canadian on the team and the galleries obviously are going to be fully behind; do you feel like you have to be a little bit in your shell or does that go against who you are as a player?
WOODY AUSTIN: I've always said, like I said everybody gives me grief, but you are who you are. You can't change your stripes, you really can't. You can try and calm things down, but you are who you are. Your makeup -- there's no way in the world I can ever be Jim Furyk. I can never be that quiet. I can never be that somber so there's no reason for me to even try.
Now could I possibly not get as angry at myself? Well that's possible to a point to not be as angry but you can't change who you are. I think that's counterproductive.
Let's face it, I guess I could look at it from the standpoint of a John McEnroe. Do you think he would have been any good if he had changed? There are a few of us that are just a little bit out there. (Laughter).
Q. Curious what changes you've noticed this week compared to 11 years ago, whether it's the setup of the event, team room or anything else.
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's become a much bigger deal than back in '96. I think that was the second event, I think in '96, and it was a great honor and a privilege to be a part of that team and we built a lot of great relationships back then, too.
But I think as it started off, as players, we want to be a part of it but you don't realize how the public or how other people are going to perceive the event. But I think over the years with the great things that have happened, starting off with Freddie Couples making a couple of shots early in the event, and then the tie in South Africa, and then DiMarco's winning putt last year, I think it's really built in to a great event.
Like I can't say it enough, but it is, it's an honor and a privilege to be a part of this team, and especially from where I came from to be a part of it again.
But it does seem like it's a much bigger deal. But, you know, we're all looking forward to it.
Q. Scott, you've been on the Ryder Cup Team, as well, do you have any theories as to why Americans have had success here but struggled at the other one?
SCOTT VERPLANK: I think you can just try to grab anything out of the air. I can't tell you exactly why. That's happened. We've talked about it to be honest with you. Last year I think about 3 o'clock in the morning, Jim Furyk and I were sitting in the hall of the hotel trying to figure it out and of course neither one of us knew what we were talking about. (Laughter).
I can't put a finger on it and I don't know if Phil can or not. But I guess things go in cycles and maybe it's been a balanced cycle on that deal and it will more than likely turn around.
Q. For Phil and Scott who have been on the most teams here, Nicklaus surprised a couple of us today and said if they asked him to be a Ryder Cup Captain, he would actually do it, even though he thought his time had passed. Do you think that would make a difference? You guys all seem to enjoy rallying around the old man, in as everybody said as much, or does the captain not really impact the play that much?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought Tom Lehman last year was one of the best captains we ever had. We didn't play very well. So I don't know what impact that would have, because I thought he was terrific. I thought he was one of the best we've had. And yet we didn't play well.
I think what's going to actually positively affect performance in the Ryder Cup will be the FedExCup. And the reason I think that is it will keep everybody playing competitively and keep their game sharp up to the week before. And I think because of that, guys will be coming in with their games sharp as can be and hopefully that will be enough to improve our performance in next year's cup. But as far as this one, Captain Nicklaus has been a tremendous captain and that's why we keep asking for him to come back and hoping that he accepts because we love him.
Q. Can you talk about the challenges of the foursomes format?
SCOTT VERPLANK: The challenges, well, obviously the challenge is, you know, sometimes you your partner put you in a place that you were not imagining being sometimes.
Hopefully I'm going to play with Lucas and we know each other pretty well and we've played a lot of golf together and we've talked about playing together in this deal. We're very comfortable. I think that's a big part of it is getting comfortable with your partner and having fun.
You know, the satisfaction obviously is if you team up together well, and perform good -- you know, I'll tell you, coming back to your question a little bit, I think the thing that I've noticed between Ryder Cup and here is Jack is very much, "Guys, do what you want to do, have a great time. Tell me what you want to play with," all all. Ryder Cup has been captains a little bit more, coming up and saying, "You're playing with him and he's playing with him." I don't know if that makes any difference.
I think most guys -- Phil, you could probably answer, but I think most guys are comfortable with picking who they want to play with. Wouldn't you agree with that? I think that's helped in this event. Last time I played Presidents Cup, Justin Leonard and I knew we wanted to play together. We had been talking about it for ten years and played pretty good. Jack says, hey, if that's what you want to do, let's do it.
I had not particularly noticed that being that simple in the Ryder Cup. Does that sound right, Phil?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. (Laughter).
SCOTT VERPLANK: Thanks, Phil. I appreciate that.
Q. They announced a drug policy for 2008 and testing and were in talking about it this morning; your thoughts, your reaction to it, whether you think golf needed it?
SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, this will probably be my last event I guess. (Laughter) If they start next week, I guess I'm going to have to find something else to do.
WOODY AUSTIN: Your body is going to really break down after this.
SCOTT VERPLANK: I think it's fine. The only reason I think -- a couple years ago, I had talked about it with the Commissioner and he didn't agree. But I said, well, the way we're letting equipment go and people coming in and spending money putting tees back, you are almost encouraging performance-enhancing drugs because you're making it -- you're basically making it where another ten or 15 years from now, you're not going to be able to play on this TOUR if you can't fly it 300 and something yards in the air.
So to discourage youngsters, teenagers, kids in high school, college, whatever; to not even think about it, I think it's probably a pretty good -- it's probably a step in the right direction.
But I don't really -- to be quite honest with you, I may be very naive but I don't see a whole lot of abuse or any problems with the deal. Unless Advil or Tylenol or whatever is on the list, I can't interpret a lot of the drugs that they are talking about. I need a scientist to tell me what they are.
Phil, could you probably tell me what they are. (Laughter).
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I actually don't believe there's a single person in the game of golf that uses anything like that. I believe that because golf has always been a self-monitoring game. I believe that having a policy is a good thing in that it will only enhance the game of golf, the PGA TOUR's image and our reputation as such. I don't think there will be a single person that tests positive.
DOUG MILNE: Thank you.
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