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September 29, 2007

Jack Nicklaus

Gary Player


LAURA NEAL: Captains and Ian, thank you for joining us. Why don't we open with just some general comments on today. It was a big day, a long day and some exciting stuff happened. Why don't we start with that before we go into pairings for tomorrow. Love to hear your general comments on today.
GARY PLAYER: Well, actually it was a very exciting day's golf. There was some fantastic golf. At one stage, I was hoping that we had four matches that were up. I was hoping that they would maintain that position and finish the day that way, which would have made a remarkable difference. But America, they really closed well again. Their putting was definitely superior to ours.
I thought a big turning point today was at No. 13, when Angel was 2-up and Jim Furyk hit his ball to the left of the slope. The flag was up on the top right, and Angel hit his ball right over the flag, the most magnificent shot about ten foot from the hole and Jim Furyk holed it over the hill. That was a big turning point.
And then the other turning point was at the end there, we were 2-up with two holes to go and we tie that, and so we don't win our four matches. And now we're in a very difficult position, having to win ten matches, as I see it, to win; or the U.S. having to win three matches to win.
So obviously we try to come out with the best possible players we can at the beginning, and I think it's also exciting that Tiger will be playing Mike Weir. I think this will cause a lot of excitement. Tiger is playing his very best at the moment and Mike Weir is playing extremely well this week. I think -- well, the odds are stacked up against us. But we saw some strange things happen at Brookline in the Ryder Cup the year Ben Crenshaw captained the Ryder Cup.
LAURA NEAL: Captain Nicklaus, some comments from you about today?
JACK NICKLAUS: This morning was amazing, for us to win all five matches, never dreamed that would happen. And to have us win ten and a half out of 11 points in foursomes, which we're not necessarily that good at, was pretty astounding for the two days.
This afternoon, Tiger's match was up, other matches we were down -- Gary's assessment was pretty good. If we had got four of those matches and they would have got one, it would have made a big, big difference. I said, if we could get out of this with 1 1/2 points, I'll be absolutely tickled pink. And all of a sudden we got out with 2 1/2 points, and those 2 1/2 points came right down at the end with Cink and Furyk. Stewart made a really nice birdie putt on 17, and then I think Angel had a putt at 18, I don't know how far it was --
IAN BAKER-FINCH: About 15 feet.
JACK NICKLAUS: 15 feet, and didn't make it. So we won that match.
Woody was really down on himself and he was really having a hard time. I win on the tee at 17 to him, and I said, "You know, Woody, the glass is half-full. It's not half-empty." I said, "I know you've got a little -- gas is running out of your tank a little bit."
He says, "No, I just let my partner down."
I said, "No, you haven't let your partner down. Just slow down your tempo a little bit and see what happens."
He knocked in a nice one for 2 on 17 and Phil walked up 18 and said, "I'm going to get you three here, Captain."
I started kidding him, I said, "It will be about time you held Woody in. "I think Phil actually probably held Woody in most of today, but I think that he looked at me, and he knew that I was kidding him, but he also knew that it was a gesture in saying how well Woody had played this week.
He got me the three. He holed about a 20-footer coming down the hill, just as pretty as you could be, and that was the turnaround, those two matches right there. We don't win those two matches, it's a different story going into tomorrow. You know, you've got the one with Vijay Singh and Stuart Appleby coming up the last hole, that was a match that Stricker hit a beautiful putt at 18 to have a chance to halve that match, didn't get it halved.
Of course, the other matches, when Ernie and Mike won fairly easily and Tiger and David won fairly easily. From our standpoint, it was a great day for us. I couldn't be more pleased.
Tomorrow, I don't want to take anything for granted. We have to win three points. We have to win three out of 12 matches. But they all start out the first hole even. So I want to make sure the guys tonight understand that we've got some work to do to get it done.

Q. I'm sure of the 35,000 here tomorrow, probably 34,000 will be following the Weir and Tiger match; what are your thoughts on that pairing and why you went ahead and did it.
GARY PLAYER: I think first of all, all of our players would like to see that. I think the public would like to see it. Certainly the media have indicated that they would like to see it. And Mike is playing so well, and what a feather in his cap, what a feather in his cap it would be for him if he could beat Tiger. I mean, Tiger is as phenomenal player as we know, Mike Weir has nothing to do lose. It would be just a phenomenal day in his career if he could beat Tiger.
JACK NICKLAUS: Let me say this. I went into the room, our players room, and I said, "Does anybody have any preference of who they would like to play?"
And everybody said, "We'll play whatever pairing you give us. We're happy with any pairing."
And I said to Tiger, I said, "Tiger, I don't want to put it on your back, but what do you want to do? Do you want to play Mike or not?"
He says, "Cap, I'll play whoever you want to give me."
I said, "You don't mind playing Mike"?
He said, "No, if this is what they want to do and you think it will be good for the matches, I'm all for it."
I give Tiger all credit, he had the choice to do it or duck it, and he did not duck it.
IAN BAKER-FINCH: He's a team guy.
JACK NICKLAUS: He's a team guy, and also he understands what the matches and the Canadian public and so forth and so on -- I said, "Tomorrow you probably will not be the darling of the gallery tomorrow." (Laughter).
He says, "I've had that before." He says, "In Ryder Cup Matches, over in Britain, it was pretty bad."
I says, "Well, I don't think it will be bad, but I think it will be a tougher match than you want."
He says, "Hey, whatever you want, I'm happy to do."
GARY PLAYER: I think that's a very significant thing when you can say he's a team guy.
I must say, I was very impressed with Rory Sabbatini this week as a team guy.
And Ian would like to say something that also is quite -- I think you're right.
IAN BAKER-FINCH: I just think, if I may add to Gary's comments there on Mike and Tiger, it would be a huge boost to our team if Mike could go out there and talk it to Tiger. The roars for Mike will be huge. That's what we need. That's what I've been trying to instigate all week. We need as loud of roars for our team as Mike and Tiger or receiving. And I really think this could be a wonderful thing, not only for the tournament and the event and the crowd and the TV, etc., etc., but for our team personally; I think it could be just what we need to spark something special. And as you all know, we need something really special tomorrow.
So if Mike could do something extraordinary against Tiger, that would be just the spark we need to get started.

Q. Was there any point where you spoke to Mike maybe earlier in the week and said you might have had this pairing in mind, and what was his reaction when he found it was going to happen for sure?
GARY PLAYER: Mike is such a great team guy. He said, "Anybody you want me to play, I'll play." And that makes it very easy and nice when somebody comes along and says that, because you know, over years invariably somebody will come and say, look, I really am not keen on feeling that fellow. And that's what we want our team to do quite honestly.
But it's not easy to arrange, because I put up a name, and then Jack puts up a name, and it's just very difficult to work out who you are going to play, very difficult.
But I think Mike, he's very confident with his game. He started to play so, so well. But not only that, he's swinging so much better. I mean, the theory of the game has a lot to do with how you're swinging, the knowledge. And he's changed his swing a little bit and improved it a great deal.

Q. On Wednesday when you said you had your man, was it Mike?
GARY PLAYER: Well, we've had quite a few different guys. It changes all the time. You ought to see us doing these -- Ian has kept pads of this and that. And this guy says no, I'd rather do this and that and out goes that and another one comes in. It's like a jigsaw puzzle.

Q. Do you feel based on the comments you just had, do you feel like the Canadian fans this week have been the 13th man for you? Other than Mike's match, there's not a lot of cheering going on. It seems to be pretty balanced cheering. Do you feel like you haven't had your 13th man?
IAN BAKER-FINCH: It's certainly more balanced here. We found the same thing in Australia. Certainly more balanced here than it was two years ago.
But then, how many Australians are in Washington, D.C.? There's probably quite a large number of Americans in Montréal. We understand. We're not bitter about it in any way. We understand there's a lot of Americans here. And there's a lot of stars from the United States Team, and everyone recognizes Phil, Woody now; Ernie obviously is a big star from some other country as is Vijay. So we understand the crowd knows a lot of those stars.
And Tiger, even a lot of people will be singing out Tiger because they love Tiger and he's a superstar. But it has been a little more balanced than we would have cared for. I've done my best, we've all done our best to try and get the internationals to be a little more vocal for us, and I think maybe tomorrow that might be a bit more of a possibility.
And I'm not complaining about the crowds at all. They have really been supportive, but it's just not normal for them -- it's not like we are the Canadian team versus the American Team. You know, I think the crowds may have been a little different if it were that scenario.
But I certainly don't put that in the paper as a complaint; it's certainly not. It has been a very, very fair crowd, and I'm sure Captain Jack and his team would say that the crowds have clapped fairly for their team, as well.
And really, that's golf, don't you think? But we want it to be just a little louder tomorrow. (Smiling).

Q. Can I ask you whether you can put your finger on why you're so far behind, or is it just a simple fact that half of the team was out of form coming into and have not been able to find it?
IAN BAKER-FINCH: It really is shocking that we won half a point out of 11 in out of foursomes. And we put a lot of time in trying to select what we thought were really strong teams, good mates, good friends, like games, all of the things that you try and put together. And it's just shocking. That's the way it goes. Momentum is a huge thing in team sport, as these two gentlemen know far better than me; that the momentum swing really went against us in those two things.
And we can't really put our finger on any one thing, except a few guys that we had in place that are good putters didn't putt well this week, and really, if you're not -- if two of you are not putting well on a team, it's so hard to win. It's almost like dragging a dead weight behind you.
GARY PLAYER: It's very interesting, this morning, one of our leading players said, "Well, America are far more used to playing foursomes than we are." And, you know, at the time, I thought, well maybe that's correct, but it's not correct. Because in the Ryder Cup, I think the Americans have not been very good at foursomes. Does anybody have those stats? I think I'm correct in saying that.
Look, you can come up with all kind of theories, this match against that match, but the Americans have just played better, amen. Let the clubs do the talking. All of these matches are go good; you try to make out who should play who, but every single match on this page is one heck of a match. They have just played better.
What they have really noticeably done, very clear to me that they have done; they have finished, and there it is. You can see it every day, they have finished better than we did.

Q. Outcome aside, win, lose, whatever, this week, could you maybe share just a thought about how enjoyable it's been to be back here again and doing this it again, especially given two years ago, you were kind of sure you wanted to let somebody else maybe take the baton?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I felt like being captain; I didn't want to be piggish in any way. I'm sure Gary feels the same way. I think that -- I told Tim, and the same goes for next time, or any other time, I told him, I said, "If you want me and you need me and you'd like for me to do it, I'm happy to do it."
Barbara said to me after the last one, "How can it be any better? Why do you want to do it again"?
I said, "Barbara, because I like the game of golf. If it helps the game and it promotes the game, I would put that ahead of my own selfishness of winning the last time."
And so, when Tim called and said, "Jack, we'd like to have you and Gary do it one more time," I don't know whether he'll call again and ask us to do it one more time.
GARY PLAYER: He won't.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think we're probably done.
GARY PLAYER: It's time for somebody else.
JACK NICKLAUS: It was time for somebody else last time, also. But I've enjoyed it, and I absolutely love being part of the game. I love being a part of these kids. I enjoy having Gary and Ian -- the only place that we do anything is basically in putting the pairings together. We've had a blast doing that and sort of trying to jockey for position. It's been -- you know, we've been very fortunate. Our guys have really played well. I'm very proud of them.
Go over and look in that room right now; I have a bunch of happy guys for today, because after this morning, they start seeing this afternoon, and they start saying, we're not too sure about this afternoon. But they gutted it out to where it gives Gary a lot tougher road to go than it could have had than if it had finished a little differently.
I've had a blast.

Q. Other than the fact in that alternate-shot lopsided thing, 10 1/2 to 1 1/2 other than the fact that they have played better, is there one theory that may be you can make rhyme or reason out of that?
GARY PLAYER: No, I don't think so. You know, I think that sportsmen generally -- life in general, people are always looking for excuses. You know, there are no excuses. You've just got to play well. There are no ifs and ands. Here, we had 4-up, so you're saying if Jim Furyk never holed that 30-footer; he's a hell of a competitor. You know, that's not the first time he's done it, and he'll do it some more.
And the putt that Phil Mickelson holes at 18; it's talent. All of the theories in the world, it's still the guy that plays the best. You know, you see remarkable things. To me, here, Europe are beating America in the Ryder Cup like a drum. I mean, I just look at it and then I look at our team and I say, well, you know, we've got a much better team than Europe on paper, but that little ball doesn't know a damn thing about paper.
So here I look at our team and yet America are beating us, on the overall series, they are beating us. Golf is a game of contradictions. It's a puzzle without an answer. And that's what makes it so great.

Q. Is there a story behind the Singh/Mickelson pairing?
JACK NICKLAUS: No. It was Gary's pairing, he put Vijay out and I thought it would be a good match. So I just put Phil with him.

Q. Obviously you're in a unique position of how far back you are, and you've got all of this experience; can you relate to anything you've done in your career that leads you to talk to your players tomorrow or tonight and explain to them, I've had a situation similar, or something that can give them something to hang their hat on for tomorrow?
GARY PLAYER: I was seven behind in the Masters going into the last round, and I felt quite confident of winning. I was always an eternal optimist. I was down to Lima with 18 holes to go in the World Match Play Championship, which I won that.
But I'm certainly not going in as an old poop and telling young guys, I did that, I did this, I did that. If they don't know that -- they know these stories, so I'm certainly not going to blow my trump and tell them the time I came back. They know what they have to do.
And I've always said it this to my team: Play well. It doesn't matter who you play. There's no such thing as well I hope I can play against this guy tomorrow, because they are all good. I've always said to them, you expect every match to be tough. There ain't no such thing as an easy match. Go out there, if you play well, you win.
LAURA NEAL: Captains, thank you very much.

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