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October 8, 2009

Fred Couples

Greg Norman


LAURA HILL: Captain Couples and Captain Norman, thanks for coming in, first day under our belts, 3 1/2-2 1/2 and the pairings are out. Maybe just give a reaction to how things stand at this point and the pairings going into tomorrow.
GREG NORMAN: From our perspective, we really were hoping to get some closeness to a push today, which was the case. When the pairings came out last night, I thought it would be a very, very close day, indeed. I think every one of the players from my side have held their head extremely high. I know with Ryo and Geoff to get up against Tiger and Steve, it was a bit of a buzzsaw for them. But that's part of the stepping stones that we have to go through.
I thought Ryo did a great job in holding his poise and his calmness during the whole thing. So at the end of the day, as we look back on it, I think we can all be very comfortable with it. Would we like to be in the lead? Yes, we would be. But at the end of the day, I think the performance of my team was exceptional and we are happy. We are not ecstatic about it, but we are happy.
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I think our team is happy, too. From the start, when Greg and I were getting all the groups off the first tee, and by the time we got out there, we had a couple groups 2-down, 3-down, and obviously Tiger was ahead early, which we were hoping for and to be our leader of the day and turn things around.
As Greg said, it was an up-and-down battle. I physically got tired of looking at the scoreboard because every time I thought the day could finish this way, a putt would be made and I thought we would have 2 1/2 points.
For our guys, they are very excited and they had great matches. Some play was tremendous, and some was a little sloppy. Alternate-shot is not a whole lot of fun, and I thought both teams performed very well.

Q. 3 1/2-2 1/2, could have been 4-2, obviously the big turnaround on that last green. You seemed to look like -- or Justin seemed to look like you seemed to think that that putt was conceded; was it just a miscommunication do you think?
FRED COUPLES: No. Actually we finished -- here is how the story goes. We finished. They did some talking after the round. Justin talked to, I think one of the NBC guys. We went into the room and Jim Furyk told us what happened. And there weren't really many people asking, because no one really caught it. We didn't know if maybe Retief stepped in his line or said something. There was not a problem.
And then 15 minutes later, Retief came in and talked with Greg, talked to Justin and I, and told us you know, his mind kind of went blank, that he didn't mean anything by it, and Justin didn't have a problem. No one has a problem with it.
Did we think we were going to be up 4-2? Yes, we really did. But will it won't be the last putt ever missed at the Presidents Cup and it won't be the last time a little bit of a reversal was done. So we'll just come out tomorrow and try to get 3 1/2 more points against this team.

Q. Will you talk about Adam Scott's play today, especially the last couple of holes, and how important that was for him and for the team.
GREG NORMAN: Well, he knew coming off the driving range this morning going to the first tee, he knew he was going to have a good day. He felt very confident, very relaxed; like most great players, when you get a little bit out of sync, it doesn't take much to put yourself back into place.
Like Freddie said, we were on the first tee for all of the groups teeing off. When I saw him walking up to the tee, I could see the confidence in his stride. You could see the guy holding his shoulders back a little bit more and he was ready to go. Very proud of him, because he wasn't hitting the ball that great on Tuesday; he's figured it out, like we all do, somehow. And when the gun goes off, we love that pressure. We make sure something happens for our own game, for our own credibility and for the team, and that's what happened today. I was very proud of him.

Q. Can you both address briefly how the course sort of influenced play today, and particularly 17 and 18 seemed kind of interesting to have a drivable par 4 and then a reachable par 5 to finish. It could provide for a lot of swings like you were talking about.
FRED COUPLES: Well, actually I stood behind the 16th green for probably the last hour and a half, and even that hole, there were some key birdies, some great shots. Tim Clark, even though he was behind, hit an unbelievable shot from the left trees. We birdied right on -- or actually birdied and they did not birdie and closed that match out.
Speaking of the 17th, there was some beautiful drives there. Retief pounded it possibly when we thought we were going to get at least half a point; Lucas drove it on the green after winning two holes in a row and Robert drove it to the right and they made an up-and-down and that was incredible and we 3-putted.
18, I think that was a great finish. There was a lot of excitement. If you look at it, there was some beautiful shots hit in there. And I think the guys the whole week were looking forward to those holes.
GREG NORMAN: And I agree with Freddie. In this format, you need to have that little bit of a relief valve. The intensity of the day, when you look at it, you've got my guys, Mike Weir and Tim Clark 2-up with five to go and they end up missing a 10-footer to stay at 1-up and then they make four birdies in a row.
This format, I can tell you, it's tough on you, and it's probably even tougher on Freddie and I as players; we still play, we still compete. I know from my perspective, it was draining to be out there, because you still have a good eye to how to read a putt and you still have a good eye to see things how you would like to see it be played. And to sit back there and actually watch it take place was a bit of an interesting day and a tough day in a lot of ways for me.
But if I was playing, if Freddie and I were playing, we would love to have 17 and 18 the way they were. Even 16, the boys were pounding it down to the front edge, 40, 50 yards from the green, so it gives them that ability to play really aggressive golf. And I thought the TOUR staff did a great job with their pin positions. Didn't make the guys have to work extremely hard, and they wanted to see birdies; I think they got a lot of birdies. I think Stricker and Woods, what did they shoot 7-under today maybe, 6- or 7-under? That's very impressive golf to say the least. I don't think anybody out there would have been over par. So they did a great job setting up the golf course.

Q. Obviously Geoff and Ryo were always going to have their work cut out against such a strong team; were they disappointed in the way they played today or did they feel they just ran into a buzzsaw?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think they know they ran into a buzzsaw. I think the boys, Steve and Tiger, birdied three of the first five holes maybe, if my memory is right. And there's not much you can do about it. When you get behind the 8-ball and you have two great putters like they are, 1 and 2 in the world, it's going to be hard to come back from that.
When I saw Ryo a couple of times, once on the 6th hole, and then the 8th hole and 9th hole, I just told him, this is a part of golf. This is a learning curve. Understand that this is a learning curve and it's going to be good for you in the long run. You might feel pretty bad right now -- because he felt bad. He felt uncomfortable being in that position, no question. And alternate-shot is probably a format he hasn't played that often.
And I thought his pairing with Geoff was the right pairing for him to have a calming influence and a statesman, an elder statesman like Geoff is.
But at the end of the day, we just had a conversation with him there. He feels good. He does feel good about himself right now, and the other 11 guys rallied around him and patted him on the back and said, some stepping stones are smooth and some are a little rough, and this one was a little rough for him.
Geoff's Geoff. He's as calm as they come. He doesn't like getting beaten. Nobody likes getting their rear end handed to them, but at the end of the day when you know that you step up there and guys are making a lot of putts on you during the day, it's going to be a long, hard day for yourself. It's over and done with. They got beaten and they are looking forward to tomorrow.

Q. What sort of things did Michael Jordan do for the team today, and what players in particular did he do it for?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I never really saw him. I was on my own. But up until today, he's been having fun with the guys and trying to get them relaxed. And in the team room, we watched baseball and all that.
But on the golf course, he's allowed to do a little bit, and not trying to do a lot. So he's just telling them to relax and have fun and this is what it's all about. Just like what Greg and I do. And I don't want Greg to think I've got two assistants out there. He is out there dressed like that because I thought it would be best to keep it from being this show. But everyone knows Michael Jordan, and he's having a great time.
So he's in the team room, and he's having fun and it's just like he's a player on the team.

Q. How much more comfortable do you think your rookies will be tomorrow, and also, just mentally, the difference between being down only one point, as opposed to two going into tomorrow?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think all of us are going to be a lot more comfortable. We got the first rounds under our belt. There's been a big lead-up to this tournament. I know I feel that way and I'm sure Freddie does. It's great when the first tee ball gets hit, because it kind of like takes a lot of the pressure off of everybody. It's down to just playing golf now.
And these guys have worked their way into it. It's a format -- like I said, when you don't play a lot of the true foursomes, it's hard for you to really step onto that tee and say, okay, I'm good. Because outside of the first hole, you take short cuts, because this golf course is basically parallel back and forth, back and forth. So you don't really see your playing partner that often and the rhythm of the game is totally different.
I think the boys are just happy to get this one over and done with. Rookies or no rookies you can be the most experienced player out there, you just want to get to the second day where you're playing your own ball and playing your own format and playing your own game.

Q. We have obviously the pairings in front of us for tomorrow. Fred, you kept two pairings together and Greg, you mixed yours up entirely for tomorrow. A general comment for each of you, just an outlook for what you've got tomorrow.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I felt like, with the fourball, it's like I just mentioned, it's the guys down to playing their game. I think we have a balance there where, if you look at my team, you've got Mike Weir and you've got a Tim Clark who are steady Eddie's, put it on the fairway. The golf course lends itself for this. And then you have the other guys who can get out there and just pound it down there and take advantage of it.
I don't know how the PGA TOUR staff is going to set up the golf course. I hope it's similar to what it is today. So we balanced it out there way. At the end of the day, I talked to all my guys, we brought them into a room privately and we talked to them and there wasn't one bit of a push back on any of the pairings.
So for us, it just played out pretty good, as well, with the way my boys wanted to play. And as it turned out, who we go up against, that's because it's a lot easier when you go second, I must say that, than when you put it down first.
FRED COUPLES: Well, I touched on it yesterday. All my guys but -- well, Anthony Kim has played in The Ryder Cup and now this, Sean O'Hair, it's his first time. Yesterday when we made the pairings and today we put Hunter and O'Hair together because they are friends.
Again, I'm not ever going to say it's easier pairing styles, but Greg has a bunch of new guys and he's got bombers and straight ball hitters. I have the same thing, but these guys are coming up to me and saying, hey at The Presidents Cup in Canada, which was two years ago, I played with Kenny Perry and we played really, really well. That's really all I need to hear and that's basically what I went by.
So Steve Stricker and Tiger want to play together. I really did not want to move Zach Johnson and Kenny Perry, because you've got a long hitter and another one, a straight and consistent player. But they wanted to change. So this is a fun event, I don't want six guys to play together every round -- and they all look great. Greg could make my pairings and think he's doing a horrible job and I can take his and think I'm doing a horrible job; they are still six great teams. It's not that difficult.
You could look at this and say, well, why did you put these guys. I mean, we got very lucky because we wanted Tiger to go at the end of the day, and I think it's going to be a made for heaven match with Ogilvy and Cabrera against Stricker and Tiger. It's just the way it works.

Q. I know you touched on this a little bit, Greg, but can you two describe the difference in the feeling in your gut before the matches kicked off, right before, during them, and when they were on the line; as the team captain, how you felt about it, the feeling you had inside.
GREG NORMAN: Well, as a player, when you walk to the first tee off the first hole of the first day of The Presidents Cup, there's a lot of stuff happening. It's a very small area and there's a lot of people there and they do a lot of things. You've got to have photographs and people shaking your hands and you've got two captains there and you've got assistant captains and everybody saying, you know, and you've got the caddies and you've got the players. So when you walk on the tees, it's a lot to really clear your mind, here we are.
Now if you're a veteran player and you've been in that heat of the battle and teed off in the last group of golf tournaments and gone on and done well with them, it's different. But when you're like an Ishikawa and he walks on the tee or a rookie walking on the first tee of a Presidents Cup, it's like, wow, okay, here we go.
And I watched my guys, because I know what that feeling is like when you get out of that golf cart and walk 40 yards to that tee. I don't care whether you're an American or an International player, it's a but of an awe-inspiring feeling in a lot of ways, and I was enjoying watching how each one of my players was approaching it.
And then once play started, I got into it right off the bat. I knew exactly where I was going to go. I was going to work between two holes back and forth so I could talk to the guys, especially on alternate-shot, that walk forward, so I could talk to them and see how they were feeling and what was going on. And the sixth hole I would be out in the middle of the fairway talking to the guys getting ready to hit their second shot. So it was a really good balance for me.
But it was tough. I'll be honest with you. Like I said before, it was very difficult, because we are competitors. We love to play golf still, and be able to be there on the sideline, totally powerless about doing things except giving a little bit of advice maybe, you know, about things, it's -- I haven't been there before.
So I'm glad the first day is over and done with, too. (Laughing).
FRED COUPLES: I'm the same way. And the advice thing, I don't know if I said this earlier. I gave Jay the advice, and I think Greg did, too, maybe not, but for the first hour or hour and a half, and then I took over and the matches started going the other way. So I flipped it right back, called the official, give it back to Jay.
I honestly -- and I was afraid to be up on the 17th tee, because it wasn't my advice. So basically I was hitting guys in the butt, telling them "great putt" or whatever and leaving them alone.
The first tee was nerve wracking, because President Bush was there, Barry Bonds was there, Jerry West was there. So I'm like, okay, they hit, I'm going to go take another picture with Greg. He's correct, it's a nail biting thing because we have 12 favorites, you know, and I have guys on their team; I really like Adam Scott. I was very happy with the way he played today. I certainly wish my guys would have beaten Adam.
But he's one of the few guys that I pay a lot of attention to throughout the year. Obviously Ernie Els; a lot of them. But the main thing about this is, like Greg said, the first day is over. I think it's going to be cake until Sunday, really. I know that's going to be the worst day ever for us is watching 12 matches go and we're trying to get to that magic number of points.
GREG NORMAN: And I didn't even assume control today. I gave it all to Frank, because I wanted to be into the players. I walked down the fairway with the players. I didn't ride the golf cart, very, very seldom, to get maybe to the 15th green when I needed to get there. But I walked everywhere. And I didn't want to have control. I was like Freddie, go pat them on the butt, great guys. I would like to see my captain there and know that he's really supporting me. And Frank Nobilo, they can go out there and get all the messages and stuff.
So whether I do the same thing tomorrow, I don't know. But that worked very well for me today.
LAURA HILL: Captains, have a good night. Thank you.

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