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October 7, 2009

Jay Haas

Frank Nobilo


LAURA HILL: I'd like to welcome Assistant Captain of the U.S. Team, Mr. Jay Haas, and Frank Nobilo, Captains' Assistant for the International Team. We have had both captains in already, half of the players, it would be great just to open with your perspective on how things are going this week with the preparations to start tomorrow, and then we'll do Q&A. Jay, would you like to go first?
JAY HAAS: I for one love the team concept. I've been fortunate enough to play on a couple of the teams in the past. To me, the off-the-course banter, things like that, is what makes these things so great. I think all of the guys, from top to bottom, have embraced each other. They know each other very well.
But it's what I was expecting, and more. It's been great. It's been great to have Michael in our team room and kind of trading barbs with the guys, too. There are guys that are starry-eyed, wide-eyed, and I'm not talking about young guys, either. It's been very cool for me just to be in the background a little bit watching everything. I'm pretty fortunate that Freddie asked me to be here and we are excited to get the week going.
FRANK NOBILO: It's fun, for a start. It's nice to be inside of the ropes again. I would like to congratulate Jay last week, for a start, another major championship. Jay, just like Freddie provides even more class to the American opposition.
As a youngster growing up in New Zealand, like a lot of our team members that come from all over the world, you dream to be a professional golfer and you dream to maybe one day play in America and you dream to maybe win a tournament and maybe win a major championship and the other dream is to play against the might of America.
I was lucky, I achieved all but one of those, and each one of our 12 members have that same dream and they get a chance to have a crack at it today. It's phenomenal to be part of just a great, great bunch of players. Adversity always brings people together, and in some respects, it's reminiscent of '98, not to bring that up, Jay, do you know what happened in '98?
JAY HAAS: Australian wipe out there?
FRANK NOBILO: We were written off then, and our guys are aware, some people have said the match is going to be over by Saturday. Not to be a grinch or anything, but I saw Peter Thomson last night and I had not seen him since 1998. I see the media guide here has me from Australia, so maybe a few people could be wrong. I'm from New Zealand. (Laughter).
We have a tremendous bunch of players. I think the fact that we have all four major championship winners, it was mentioned last night in the dinner, we have team captains on both sides that really respect the spirit of the game and I know Jay is going to do his best, as I am, and we are really, really looking forward to it.

Q. You just touched on this, but maybe you could expand on this, since the rest of the world guys have always been excluded from the Ryder Cup, this is kind of your event. How much more does this event mean to you guys, because of that?
FRANK NOBILO: Great question. It's so much -- I've said it already over the last few months. It's a privilege and an honor to play against America. All our players realize that. They realize this is an opportunity presented to very view.
We don't profess to be Europe. It used to be just Great Britain and Ireland. I still think today, if Samuel Ryder was alive, he would really like this event, and he would want to be part of the three best areas that represent the game of golf.
We are fortunate that golf has grown all the way around the world. It's spread to places like New Zealand and South Korea and Japan. I think especially when you look at our lineup this year, we really do represent where the growth of the game is coming from. But once again, every one of our players know it's a privilege and an honor to play America on its own soil.

Q. I have to put you on the spot; who has written you off and said it would be over by Saturday?
FRANK NOBILO: Just various things that the media guys -- well, actually I didn't see it, so I can't put my finger on exactly. I think it's a collection of thought that I was told this morning. I think it was TV. I'm not sure if it was the GOLF CHANNEL or not, who obviously is my employer. And I have no problem with that. I have my job as an analyst.
To me it's good. I realize that everybody has a job to do, as we do. I look at that American side, and hell, I'd love to be in Jay or Freddie's position. They have a tremendous team. But I think as Freddie and Jay well know, it's a team event and if you look at The Ryder Cup, the years gone by, the strength has not always won. We have had a strong team for the last five or six years, a very strong team and it has not always won; in fact, very rarely.
Some of our players have not been looked at well enough; when you win half of the major championships, we have players -- Vijay and Ernie have both won three major championships. Geoff Ogilvy, and we have probably the brightest star in golf, Ryo Ishikawa, just turned 18 years of age. When you look at that I think it's reckless to say, "Well, I think it will be over by Saturday." There's a lot of strength on that team.
I think we will be a very worthy opponent for America and I honestly think it's going to be a great match.

Q. What kind of response did you get in the team room after winning a major, some of the comments, and both funny, reflective?
JAY HAAS: Just congratulations. I had not seen some of these guys in a long time, talked to a few of them, things like that. But just to see them and, "Way to go Assistant." It's been a ton of fun for me.
Any time you win a tournament, there's nothing like the next few day, floating on air. To come here with that in my back pocket means a lot to me; not that they are listening any more to me or I have anything greater to say or anything like that. But it has been special.
I mean no funny comments, nothing like that; "We'll put Jay in the envelope if somebody gets hurt"; nothing like that. These guys here are world-class players obviously.
Personally it's been fun to know I did that last week.

Q. What did Tiger say?
JAY HAAS: He just gave me a big hug and he said, "It's about GD time this year. About time you won something," he said.

Q. Looking at this as an analyst, how important is tomorrow for your team's chances?
FRANK NOBILO: I would not say it's the be-all-and-end-all, but historically we know America has been dominant in the alternate-shot or foursomes. That's an area that we looked at going back to Greg's selection of Adam Scott.
If you look deeply, he has a winning record in that format. In some respects, stats say something, but they don't say what's going to happen this week. That was an area that we knew as far back in January that we would have to attend to.
I was talking to Andrew Both yesterday, and it's hard to put your finger on why. Maybe one disadvantage we have as human beings, when you get people from all over the world, and you see it in politics, religion; it takes a little while to get to know who really we are playing with.
We have had our finger on that for a long period of time, because I really do think that if we get off to a good start, this will be a hell of a match. We are vulnerable there and we try to take every step we can to at least hang or maybe get a lead, because when we have competed on day one, this thing has gone down to the wire.

Q. What do you see in Adam Scott, and what was your whole timeline of when he was picked, everybody surprised to where he is now?
FRANK NOBILO: To be honest, a lot of people were shocked at first. But I think Adam is a little bit like Tiger Woods. He's held to a different standard. Great-looking guy, phenomenal, beautiful golf swing. Ever since he won THE PLAYERS Championship, he was the guy that looked like Tiger Woods. He was the guy that was going to do X, Y and Z. So he was been critiqued fairly or unfairly, whichever way you want to look at it. I remember Adam when I first saw him, I was telling him last night, the British Open in 2000 at St. Andrews, and I was heard about the guy who was born in Adelaide, and could have been a tennis pro because he was also talented in other sports. I watched him for about ten or 15 minutes as I was going down the range to warm up myself and he was better than anything I ever heard, and I've watched him develop. Yeah, this has not been his best year but I think Greg still sees that in him and Adam appreciates that. Adam would play with any one of those 11 guys. I'm not saying that other people that were picked wouldn't, but he comes in with a winning record and he comes in with experience, and he comes in with something to prove. And sometimes you have to fight with your back against the wall. So I'm looking forward to seeing Adam in that situation.

Q. Freddie said yesterday that if he gets three questions, he answers one and hands the other two off to you. What's he been handing off to you?
JAY HAAS: Just generic things: Who is playing with who tomorrow in the practice rounds, what time the bus is leaving --
FRANK NOBILO: Who is playing together?
JAY HAAS: You go out there and check who is playing with who today (smiling).
We talk about pairings, obviously, and who matches up. I think like Frank says, his team, you know, there's guys on the team that will play with anybody. I don't think anybody comes in and says these three or four guys are out, don't even think about putting me with these guys. There's none of that. And for either team to say that we don't have camaraderie, that it's 12 cabs or whatever to the course, things like that, for either team, I think that's farther from the truth.
For me it's been little detail stuff. Nothing major.

Q. You were talking about having pinpointed some time ago, obviously, the foursomes as being a problem, and trying to address that. How do you address it? What do you do and have you taken any steps to try to get these guys on proper footing for it?
FRANK NOBILO: There's no magic bullet. I think one could argue that America plays a team event each and every year, that that helps. There was a period of time in The Ryder Cup, obviously, where America was for some reason didn't gel in that format. It's the hardest format. There's a type-of-game issue. Some players, short hitters like to play with short hitters and some short hitters like to play with long hitters. Then you throw a golf ball issue in.
The one thing I looked at is sometimes I think you get too introspective and you think you're the only team with that problem. I think the better solution is to tell the guys, in that format, it's impossible, in my opinion, to get six perfect pairings, so you can't do it. So the thing is to make people aware of that and aware that the other team is more than likely to have the same problem, but maybe they just accept it first, and whether it is because we come from all different corners of the world on that first day, as maybe in the past, we would struggle a little bit and maybe it's a little bit of that. In golf it only takes a little bit.
The golf ball issue for one player, or a length issue, or whatever, if it's one little thing and you feel like you're one hole down, these matches will come down to one hole, and just like you don't want to lose the first. There's a couple of things that maybe we will reveal at the end of the week if we are successful that we tried to do. It's attention to detail more than anything. And I don't think you can just do the antidote to the previous year. Sometimes there's a sense of revving it up, but think you have to applaud the way America has done the last few times, they have come out and come out very motivated from day one, and I think our team is prepared for that again tomorrow. Hopefully, hopefully, better prepared than in the past.

Q. For both of you, when you are putting pairings together, what do you think is more important, the games of the players, or the personalities of the players?
JAY HAAS: Before the match or after the match? (Laughter).
I think for me, or for us, it's both. You talk about personalities, and Frank brought up a good point about golf balls, there's so many different golf balls now. I think 30 years ago, there was two or three. If you look at the Money List, and you defer to the guy higher on the Money List, that's the ball we are playing, and things like that.
Personalities, I think is very important, too. You look at a guy like oh, I don't know, you can just go up-and-down the list, you can kind of see our team, the age group, guys with similar careers. But then you look at guys with similar games from tee-to-green, length-wise, and like Frank said, some guys like to play with -- obviously I'm a shorter hitter, I wouldn't mind playing with a longer hitter but the longer hitter probably wouldn't want to play with me in different spots on the course. But then the longer hitter likes playing out of the fairway. You can just beat it back and forth.
FRANK NOBILO: Yeah, I think that's -- it explains the same predicament that we have. I think each year, with the event itself, there's 12 different guys.
So if all of a sudden one pairing is a personality clash that all of a sudden has to be split up in the past, then that affects every other pairing. So then it does become maybe a golf ball issue with one or a long and short issue or two short guys, whatever. I think that's where the problem starts to magnify.
But I think that every time you look at those 12 players, once they have all been selected, then you start from scratch. But each and every time, whether it's a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup, that situation changes, and I think if you look at what Azinger did last year in The Ryder Cup, without a Tiger Woods, some could argue it was a little easier to set the team up. Some could argue, how can you be stronger without the best player in the world. And it just goes to show you how fickle it is to get that right, and that's why I think how enticing the next few days will be.
I don't think there's a secret answer, I really don't. It's like life. We are never going to get it perfect, but we just try to get as close to it as we can on both sides.
JAY HAAS: Shows you how close they are from top to bottom, you eliminate the best player in the world and it's not that big of a drop off. It's a short series, too. 18-hole match is such a short time. If you give these guys 72 holes, if you give Tiger 72 holes, he's probably going to want to play anybody and everybody and he does and he comes out on top a lot of times. But in an 18-hole match, it's a coin flip a lot of times.

Q. You mentioned earlier about the camaraderie, the TOUR was a little chummier in the 80s than it was in the later 90s and now. Are there a couple of relationships that you have with players, guys you got to know only because of either playing in The Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup, guys that you are close with now that you would not have been otherwise and how did that come about?
JAY HAAS: Probably in '03 I guess when I was at Fancourt, '03, Jim Furyk and I played. And I didn't really know Jim that well. I mean I know him, I've been around him for years and years but I wouldn't say we -- not dinner companions, things like that, but I would consider Jim a friend.
I got to know him quite a bit better there. And he's one of my best friends. So, yes, I think that happens in situations like this. You kind of go, hey, I didn't know you looked cars, or I didn't know you looked, whatever it might be. And the same interests that for one reason or another, you didn't find out about.
You can go three or four months on TOUR and not see a guy: You don't play the same tournaments, you play morning, afternoon, you play different tee times, you're not paired with him and your scores are different, and it's the nature of the beast. And then you can go a month and play six rounds together. You look at Steve and Tiger; they have played how many rounds together in the last three weeks with this FedExCup format.
Do Steve and Tiger have a lot in common other than being wonderful players? You know, maybe not, but how do you not like Steve Stricker? Are they running in the same circles; everybody runs in their own circles, but here, yes, I think you find friendships that will last forever.
LAURA HILL: Thank you, have a great week.

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