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June 3, 2000

Ken Venturi


JAMES CRAMER: Ken, welcome. And you went out and toured Robert Trent Jones on Wednesday. Maybe you could get us started by talking a little about your impressions of the facility.

KEN VENTURI: I went out and toured -- not the whole facility. I saw the hotel where we are staying. And RTJ is just immaculate the way it looks, and to see it, we did the -- CBS did the first two Presidents Cup in '94-'96, we did that, and I never got the impact of the whole facility with so many people around. But to go through it and look at it, it's just magnificent. And to me, I had thought that if -- I don't know how it would go over, but that would be a perfect place to hold it every time they have the Presidents Cup, because the facility just lends itself to it. And it's -- I couldn't be more pleased. And I will be getting in there Friday before the week of the tournament and be able to -- I'll spend two days out there, and I'll stay out there just to get a feel for it myself because they are closing the course to the week prior to the Presidents Cup. So it will have a good seven -, eight-day rest before the players -- and, of course, there's not going to be many players. And so you can imagine the conditions of the golf course. And it's immaculate. There will be narrow fairways and we will have some very good rough. And I think that's what we're looking for, the premium on accuracy and shot-making. And may the best team win. But I was very, very impressed, and I was very happy to get back there and I don't think I can pick a finer place to have the Presidents Cup played. And me being the captain, this would be my choice.

Q. How does 18 look?

KEN VENTURI: 18 is marvelous. 18 I think just lends itself -- and they had that done, and to be able to get that close to the water and put that in there, it really -- because when I saw, I really forgot -- I really forgot how far up from the water the old 18th green was. But this -- they have done a marvelous job. They really have.

Q. (Inaudible.)

KEN VENTURI: That's the one we went out to see, but I didn't tour it then because there were so many people -- when I tour when I go out Saturday morning, I'll probably spend a good four hours of just really getting it in-depth, taking somebody with me to tell me about the changes, point it out to me. So I will spend two full days alone out there just getting a handle on that golf course.

Q. How is the team shaping up?

KEN VENTURI: The team is moving around quickly because of the points and the amount of points because they have doubled. The first five or six are locked in, but 7, 8, 9 and 10 are shuffling around pretty bad. The thing about it is that I can't make -- I make my two choices at the PGA -- at the end of the PGA Championship. And I'm not -- I may, but I may not take 11 and 12, but I'm looking for certain players that are down to come back up, good leaders, good in competition, have had success in the competition and they know RTJ. There are a lot of things in there that I'm looking for. So I'm not etched in stone where I'm going to pick anybody.

Q. Would you like to see Fred Couples make the team?

KEN VENTURI: Very much. To me, Freddie to me is Mr. Presidents Cup of RTJ. The two years we were there, the two times we were there, I mean, he was spectacular. He's a good leader. He's well respected. My assistant is Freddie's teacher and he's very close to President Bush, who is going to be my guest. And there are so many things -- there's no conflicts of myself and Paul because we're not on the TOUR. We are not a playing captain, per se. And I think that has a plus, because I don't think I would ever -- maybe not be elected or would accept doing this Presidents Cup if I wasn't hands-on for two years prior to this, to know the players and go up and down the line. And I pretty much know everything they are doing, and it's nice to have -- to be with them and not be in competition with them. That's the thing about the points. Freddie would love to do it. We had a nice talk and he would love to get -- the thing is, is coming from now and going through the Open, and then you've got, you know the British, you've got a lot of moving up. And it's not necessarily 11 and 12, but if you see someone coming in from 24 or 25 and then going up to 19, 15, I mean, this guy has got momentum. You want someone that's on a roll, and that's what I'm looking for, too. And I check it every time I'm on the TOUR. I watch the potentials and I look at them. I go out and watch in practice. It's good to be hands-on like I do.

Q. (Inaudible.)

KEN VENTURI: I can't give you a number, but 36 is -- I don't think that's in there. I'd say with -- I'd have to say you have to be within -- under 20, depending on momentum.

Q. There's speculation about you and CBS, can you tell us what your plans are at this point?

KEN VENTURI: I'm leaning towards retirement. Very much so. I'm looking at it very close. My contract is up the end of this year, and I made a new contract. And when I made the new contract, as some of you know, after losing my wife, I needed something to do, and that's why I went. We were going to retire and spend some time travelling and spend it with the kids and grandkids, things like that. But when I lost her, I wanted something to do. But I'm taking a good hard look at when I'm going to do. It's not etched in stone, but I am taking a very good hard look at what I'm doing. 32 years is a long time. It will be probably -- I will announce it probably at the World Series in Akron, Ohio, what I plan to do. They have come to me. They have offered me a new contract, but I haven't even really discussed it with them yet.

Q. You say 32 years is a long, long time, are you still enjoying it?

KEN VENTURI: I've said more times, I think my palms get more sweaty doing the telecast than when I played. I really put myself into a position where -- I mean, I get drawn in to the competition and the excitement of it, of the Ben Crenshaws at the Masters and Mark O'Mearas and certain things that happen, and seeing how things are changing and at Colonial with Stewart Cink and Mickelson and how it was revolving the other way and getting into it. And I've gotten great -- great acceptance from the players, especially on the Presidents Cup team. And what I think that it is is that I've been criticized by some of saying, well, you don't call it as it is. You don't call a bad shot a bad shot. Well, they don't know much about golf because I do. Because instead of staying it's a bad, terrible shot -- I know it, the player knows it. But I what I say is he didn't want to go there, now he's behind the bunker, no green to work with, looking bogey, maybe double-bogey in the face, he would love to have that shot over. My basic line is every player out there, I treat them as if I would like to be treated if they were doing a telecast, and I think it's come across to the players. And I think that I'm very pleased with my acceptance from the players and I respect them. I admire their talent. They are stronger, bigger, longer and the talent and phenomenal out here. When I played, I looked at them -- there were seven or eight I thought that I had to beat. What do you have now, 70 or 80? It's a a whole new ballgame. They aren't shooting that much lower, but they are more closer to it than when I won the World Series or I won the Open or I when I won in the World Series, I shot 275 and 280 was second. I think 282 or 283 was third. Now you've got 275 wins, you've got three 276s; they are just right in there. Big difference. But there's so much talent out here.

Q. The Ryder Cup obviously in September became very contentious, do you see any of that in this competition, and what do you do to try and avoid that?

KEN VENTURI: Peter and I have had some meetings and we have talked about this and they are in the same channel. We are traditionalists, where -- I was raised by traditionalists and taught by Nelson and Hogan and one of my dearest friends for years, Gene Sarazen. All of my decisions I made when I was a kid were decisions, would my mother and father be proud of. When I got to be a golfer, my decisions in golf were, would Byron and Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen be proud of me, and that's the way I made my decisions in the game. And it was a mistake, yes, but I thought, Jose Maria handled it quite well. They got thrown into this so much and everyone else followed in running out on the greens. We are going to prevent that. We are -- I will allow everybody to run out on the green at the 18th hole, if it's the last putt, the Americans win, no play behind, nowhere to go, be my guest. But that's the only time it's going to go. No running on the greens. If they play behind the teams, no one will go out on the greens, because there's players that have to play and we have to respect the competition, and that's the most important thing, and the players.

Q. You were there for Freddie's putt on 17, I think it was in '98 and a similar thing happened where he sort of ran around, celebrated, did you see that as a similar breach of ethics?

KEN VENTURI: It was moving in that direction, because they are limited in sales to what, 22,500? Limited sales. What they did at Brookline is the door is there, come right on in. There was beers, there was this, there was everything like this. We have to -- we want to show what tradition, dedication, everything the game is about, because that's the way I was raised, he was raised and I will bring that to -- we will both bring it to our teams. You know, there's -- they got caught up in it a little bit, but I think that with Mark James, the book, I will tell you this: I do believe that when the Ryder Cup goes back to Europe, it's going to be something -- I'm quite anxious to watch because they are not going to let that die. Trust me. And I just heard about the Mark James book, they are not letting it die over there, and they are inciting the people. So I don't know -- I don't know what's going to happen. It's going to be very interesting. And I hope it doesn't happen what they are predicting over there.

Q. The Ryder Cup has been very traditional. Do you think the Presidents Cup is ever going to be near that or what does it mean?

KEN VENTURI: Only time will tell with how important it will be. That has a lot to do with location, players, the enthusiasm. The things that -- what is the difference here is that the Ryder Cup -- the European players play every other year. The national team plays every other year. Our team has to play every year. That is something that has to be looked at. But right now, to me, it's the most important thing. I think that where we're playing has made it important. That's what is at hand. And what happens after that is up to the PGA TOUR. It's up to the players, the international team. But right now, it's, you know, I've got to get -- I've got to get past the 1st hole before I play the 2nd hole.

Q. Would you like to see a merger of maybe all three teams play at the same time?

KEN VENTURI: Not what I would like to see. What I think is best for the game -- it has a possibility, yes. I think there's potential there to it, but it depends on the U.S. -- it depends on the PGA, whether -- and the European, whether they want to do it. I don't know. But that's -- I think they have got to take a good, hard look at it. But there is potential there, yes, there is.

Q. Getting back to the changing of players and momentum, does that make it difficult --

KEN VENTURI: There's almost too much -- my two picks will get into the NEC Invitational, won't they? If they are not invited, they are not invited. But the NEC Invitational, that's a big one to lose out on on points, you know, because after that it kind of slopes away. But I would like to see it go past the NEC Invitational because that's another big time.

Q. (Inaudible.)

KEN VENTURI: Well, you can't because you are not getting all the same players playing in the tournaments then. Mainly you're getting the heavyweights at the PGA, and the World Series is World Ranking.

JAMES CRAMER: The eligibility, it's the last United States and international Presidents Cup team, last named United States Ryder Cup team, and the Top-12 in the European Ryder Cup standings through the PGA.

KEN VENTURI: But getting into the NEC Invitational, that's what it is -- well, then that doesn't qualify. I didn't realize that because I was thinking of something else. It doesn't bother me then because my guys down -- coming up haven't got a chance to come up. So I think the PGA is the wise place to do it, yes.

Q. If you get somebody really hot, winning three or four straight --

KEN VENTURI: But as long as they stay consistent, it doesn't bother me. As long as you play by the rules, I don't care whether you're a friend or an enemy, as long as the rules don't change, you can't say anything about that.

Q. What are some of the difference between the European team and the international team?

KEN VENTURI: What really differentiates the Ryder Cup from the international team, the European team, I've got as many friends on the international team as I have on the American team. These guys came who came to my aid when I threw a tournament a year ago for my wife for abused women and children, the first three guys that say "I'll be there" was Norman, Price and O'Meara. I had 24 pros there. I mean, I had a who's who event. And over the year, for them being there and what I charge and for grants and for people from around the world as of last month, there's going to be a home built in my wife's name, and we now have $4 million in the bank from that one day of those guys showing up. So, I mean, like when I went down to Melbourne, I was on the tower, the other announcers were on the ground. I was -- people thought I was an absolute genius, because I walked 36 holes in practice rounds with Norman, Els and Elkington. And Norman said, "You don't want to go here, there's what you need on this hole here." He gave me a tour for two days, and it was -- I couldn't have done it without him. And that's the kind of friend Greg Norman is to me. And Els and -- I mean, I've got so many good -- David Frost, I can go on down, Stuart Appleby, I think the world of him. You know, it's going to be competition. And may the best team win. Because as I said, all the guys on -- that I see up there are really a credit to the game of golf, which I really admire and that's what I like to see, and I don't think we're going to have any problem at all.

Q. (Inaudible.)

KEN VENTURI: The European team, we are separated from them. They have their tour and we have -- they come over for majors, but I don't -- I really don't have anybody that I can say that the European is -- that I've had dinner with. And I can name half the team on the International Team that I dine with all during the year. The European team is more divorced. They come to get -- they come not as friends, but as a team championship, where all these guys are such good friends.

Q. Do you think that's the reason there's more of the animosity in the Ryder Cup than the Presidents Cup?

KEN VENTURI: I can believe that, sure. I can see it. But, you know, the one thing I like about the Presidents Cup is that we have 12 players; Ryder Cup has 12. We play 10; they play 8. It's a lot easier to leave two around than it is four. Four is too many. Plus, no one will go without -- no one will go into singles without playing. I mean, everybody will play. There's no doubt. And that's a good rule. I like that. That's the way it ought to be. I didn't like the way it was handled at the Ryder Cup. You don't do that to those guys.

Q. (Inaudible)?

KEN VENTURI: Because you're a team and you've got to act like a team that. Didn't act like a team. You've got to respect -- I respect each player that I'll have, they will know that I've got my respect and I'm not in competition with them. That's the best part. Hopefully we'll have a press conference after the Presidents Cup, and I will be able to tell you how it feels to be a winner.

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