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August 20, 2001

Paul Azinger

Jack Connelly

Curtis Strange

Scott Verplank


JULIUS MASON: Good Monday morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Monday morning after the PGA Championship Captain's Pick News Conference. At the head table this morning is the President of the PGA of America, Mr. Jack Connelly, and the 2001 United States Ryder Cup Captain, Curtis Strange. At this time would I like to turn it over to Jack for some introductions.

JACK CONNELLY: Thanks, Julius. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The 34th Ryder Cup is only five weeks away and in a few moments we'll find out who will be the two members to be the 12-man team who will represent the United States in one of the most compelling events in sports. Leading the American team in this mission is one of the most competitive players in professional golf, Captain Curtis Strange. Being named Ryder Cup captain is an honor that is bestowed on only a handful of men over the past 74 years. Curtis marks the 23rd individual to lead the U.S. Team since the Matches began in 1927. Being a captain can be a most thankless job, because while you are a spotlight with the players on the Tour for a couple of years, you are expected to win and if you don't, I guess you are second-guessed for years thereafter. Now comes time to make one of the most toughest positions in the captain's position, determining who will compete with the team. Curtis, I can tell you that the PGA is very proud of you as our captain and we know that you will do everything in your power to keep the Ryder Cup here in America. We wish you luck as you go forward and, ladies and gentlemen, Captain Curtis Strange.

CURTIS STRANGE: Thank you. I think the first thing I want to say is congratulations to David and Sonya Toms. What a tournament. Fantastic. I think we saw some wonderful golf, especially on the last four or five holes last two days. Some gutsy golf, the decision to lay up on the last hole and he really played well. I'm tickled to death and very, very happy that he is on the team. This has obviously been a tough decision. I've been in a very enviable position, because a couple reasons. One is that I have everybody playing well. That makes it tough. It's tough to leave some people off the team that you'd like to have on the team. It's tough to leave them off when you feel like they could help the team, but that's at my discretion and that's my choice. I've said all along, just to define what I've been looking for is the two best players that I can possibly find and how I define that is two best players means who has the biggest heart, who has the most game obviously, and who has some length in their game to be able to possibly dominate a course or player in match play. Brains, experience has something to do with it in some cases. And just the makeup, who can handle the atmosphere over there, which will be different than anything they have ever seen before. So all of those things combined, all of those characteristics combined is what I look for. And my first pick, Scott Verplank. I picked Scott for a lot of reasons. One is his game, obviously. He is a very, very, very good ball striker. He is a very straight hitter off the tee. He has no shortcomings at all in his entire game. When you look at the way Scott's record has been in the last two years, he never seems to have a bad tournament. Played great this week when the heat was on him. You know, you see in the faces of these six or seven or eight guys all week long the pressure that was on them and I've felt that. I know what they were going through, and Scott came through. He played well. I've said all along that this past week did not mean a great deal to me but when somebody comes through when they are under the gun like that, you have to really sit up and take notice. I think Scott has a huge heart, when you look at where he's come from; injuries, fighting diabetes every day, which doesn't -- you know, only he knows where that's taken him from. But every day, he has to wake up being a fighter, and you want that. He's just got a tremendous heart, and it's fun to be able to pick a so-called rookie. I think that is the first one ever in a Captain's pick, which means very, very little to me because I think sometimes experience is overblown a little bit, but it's fun to do something a little different, too. So, Julius: Scott.

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, let's see if Scott would like to say good morning to the 2001 United States Captain. Scott, can you hear us?

SCOTT VERPLANK: (By telephone). Good morning, Curtis.

CURTIS STRANGE: Did you sleep at all last night?

SCOTT VERPLANK: No, I did. I slept for about three or four hours, and then I was up for about the past three hours.

JULIUS MASON: Scott, I understand that we need to take the kids to school this morning, so if you could share a couple of minutes with us before you take off, I believe there might be one or two people that have a question for you.

SCOTT VERPLANK: That would be great.

JULIUS MASON: Fantastic. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question for Scott Verplank.

Q. Hey, Scott. Just wondering if you could replay the emotion of taking the phone call from Curtis and how the conversation went.

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen before I left Atlanta last night and I was on my way home, and when I landed, there was a message on my phone, which I was hoping was going to be there, and it was. So I was just sitting on the airplane and I just took it real quietly and then I went inside into the little bathroom and was pretty excited. Kind of gave it a "Yes" in front of the mirror. (Laughter.) It's pretty neat. I actually had my -- I was flying home with Bob Tway and his wife. Bob and I are very close friends. Then I came out, back to get my luggage, and told him, so it was pretty cool to have one of my best friends there in a pretty neat moment.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks, Scott. Questions, folks. Scott, we are joined by about 150 members of the media right now and we are in the media center of the Atlanta Athletic Club.

Q. Curtis mentioned your diabetic condition, and I wonder if that condition might be over or understated and how that might affect you as you see it?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, I don't know that you could ever overstate it in the whole scheme of things. But, I have done a pretty good job, particularly the last couple years of taking my care of myself, and I don't know anything different. I've had it since I was nine years old, so I don't know any different. It's just part of my routine and I have never used it as an excuse, and I won't, and it's not an excuse. I've gotten this insulin pump in the last couple years, and it's made all the difference in my golf game, because I wake up in the mornings feeling normal, and I can do go out and play. I don't have to fight it.

CURTIS STRANGE: If I could just make a statement there. Scott wakes up every morning fighting that and he says he has done that since he was nine years old. But, you know, as a captain trying to pick, what I look at is where he's come from when it wasn't but a couple years ago, being injured and missing, I think, every cut in the year but one, or whatever it was. To come back mentally from something like that, and his good buddy, Bob Tway, has done the same thing. To come back mentally from that, those of us who have never gone through that will never know how tough that is. That's the toughest thing. Physically, you can overcome hurdles, but mentally to overcome something like that, to be so down on yourself and your golf game shows a lot of intestinal fortitude. It's very, very difficult to do.

Q. Scott, you said when you left Atlanta, you had a pretty good idea of what was going on. Was that a tip you had, a little bird who told you, or was it just that confidence in how you played or the look in Curtis's eye?

CURTIS STRANGE: I had an idea from a little bird, as you put it. Like I said, I kind of knew when was going on. I had not talked to Curtis a whole lot, particularly in specifics. But I knew he was interested in how I played and I felt like yesterday -- I didn't know that yesterday meant -- I thought it meant more than it did. Maybe he mentioned that it didn't mean as much what happened in the PGA yesterday and last week, but I woke up yesterday morning actually nervous, which I had not been nervous for a round of golf in a long time, and I just felt like it was kind of a double-qualifying round or something. When I got to the golf course, I was at peace, so that was a good thing. I got there and just realized that all I can do is go out and play the best I can and I can't worry about anybody else. Fortunately, I played well yesterday and actually made a few more Ryder Cup points. Not enough to get in the Top-10, but I definitely didn't hurt myself with that. So I was happy about that and I was proud that I played that well under what I thought was the biggest round of the year, for me.

Q. Just following up on the voicemail, did you save that, and have you listened to it over and over in the last 12 hours?

SCOTT VERPLANK: I have saved it. I listened to it a couple times. Yeah, I saved it. I may save it. Curtis, you may be in my voicemail bank forever.

CURTIS STRANGE: Please. Please. (Laughs).

Q. Curtis talked about some of your attributes. Strictly in terms of how you are playing right now, what do you think you are going to bring to the team and how do you think you are best going to be able to help them in September?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, I would -- you know, I've been pretty consistent with how I've hit the ball and played most of the last year, couple years. I didn't feel I like I played just great last week. I'm kind of working on trying to hit the ball a little more solid. I think I'd obviously be pretty good alternate-shot pick. But I'm going to do whatever Curtis wants me to do. If he wants me to cheerlead, I'll cheerlead. If he wants me to play five matches, I'll be ready to go. I'll be ready to play, and I will -- like I said, I'll be good in whatever situation he wants me to be.

Q. Scott, they talk about how far you have come back. What was the absolute bottom for you, and how close did you come to walking away from tournament golf?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, I don't really -- to be real honest with you, I don't know if I ever really came that close, because I've never quit at anything, so I didn't know how to quit. That was my problem ten years ago when I made one cut in a year, is I was not smart enough to back off and say, "Hey, my arm is really bothering me." I just said, "Oh, I can overcome it. I've overcome diabetes, I've been through other things, no problem, I'll overcome it." Well, it took me a whole year. Maybe I'm not as smart as I think I am sometimes. (Laughs). It took me a year to realize, hey, I am not going to overcome this, and I guess it is time to back off and get something done. That was just a major -- to a degree, what Curtis said. Physically, I've been able to come back, but mentally has been by far the toughest part. Listen, all that stuff I've been through has just made me a better player and toughened me up a little bit. That's one reason, like I said, I haven't been nervous for a round of golf in a long time it's changed my perspective. I appreciate getting to play every day now and I'm not sure everybody does.

Q. Could you elaborate a little bit, please, on the injury, how it happened and developed, and what the rehab consisted of, and surgery?

SCOTT VERPLANK: Well, in 1991, late in the year, I had arthroscopic surgery to take off a couple spurs on my right elbow, and that was under the hope from the two doctors I had that that would alleviate my problem. That didn't work. It lasted about three months. So then 1992, I had kind of major surgery with Dr. Jobe out in Los Angeles, and that was -- basically drilled some holes through the joint in my right elbow. I have an area that was getting cut off from blood circulation, and I would end up losing about 60 to 70 percent of the strength in my right arm. He did that and that took a year and a half, basically, to heal. That was a long rehab.

JULIUS MASON: Scott, think we are going to get the kids to school on time. Any thoughts on No. 1?

CURTIS STRANGE: Scott, we are glad to have you. You are picked for your game. You are picked for some alternate-shot play, but you and Tway better practice back at home a little bit. I'll see you in a couple weeks, and once again, congratulations.

JULIUS MASON: Curtis, back to you.

CURTIS STRANGE: Oh, we've got to do another one; is that right? The next guy has comeback from a lot, too. Still a heck of a player. '93 PGA champion. Picked for his game. Picked for a lot of reasons, but picked for his golf game. Still, I believe the 11th ranked American player in the world. Has not played a lot this year, but when he has played, he's played well. Can go both ways, and what I mean by that, can play in alternate-shot, can play best ball, can play with anybody with his personality: Paul Azinger.

JULIUS MASON: Paul, could you please join us?

CURTIS STRANGE: What else do I have here to say about you? Good leader. We've seen that in the past. Motivator. Going to be good in the locker room. Like I said, still can play, can play with some of these guys. My job now is to think about pairings. Once now I have the team together, and he fits with about everybody on this team. So, you know I'm glad to have you.

PAUL AZINGER: Well, I appreciate you picking me, Curtis. All week, I've been asked about where I stood and Curtis, quite honestly, he never showed his hand. I purposely did not make an effort to lobby for the team. I think you all knew that, you know, because of the questions that were asked of me. There's a lot of good players that I'm being picked ahead of that finished ahead of me in the Ryder Cup points list, and I understand that. So I didn't want to lobby. I wanted to just let my clubs do the talking. I probably didn't play enough tournaments maybe to make the outright, unless I had won a tournament. But in the end, I have played a lot better. I think, you know, most of you know that. I have played a lot better in the last two years, and I completely rededicated my commitment. My desire was always strong even when I was playing poorly, but I don't know that I was as committed a player as I needed to be. The last two years, even though I have played a little bit less golf, I have showed up at every tournament totally prepared and totally committed, and my scores have gotten better as a result of that. I'm really proud to be on the team and to represent the United States.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks very much, Paul.

CURTIS STRANGE: Let me say one other thing, Julius. I asked three or four of the guys, obviously, as my best resource who are already on the team about who they thought -- you know, the last two or three weeks, who they would like to see on the team, and this guy's name was the one that came up every single time, I will say that.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you.

Q. Could you talk a little about how this makes up for '93, not being able to play because of the health problems?

PAUL AZINGER: Well, I played in '93. But '95, I didn't get to play. You know, I'm not thinking of it that way. I was very satisfied with my role in 1995 as an announcer. I was not ready to be on the team. I will say this; that in 1999, I just didn't really see an end to the struggles as far as my golf game was concerned. I never saw myself playing on a Ryder Cup team any time soon. And I missed it. You know, I think that being on the Presidents Cup team last year was a reminder of how great that type of competition is. If you've never been on that team, then you don't know what you're missing. But I have been on those teams before and I knew what I was missing, and it was bothering me. And I'm really thankful to be on this team, because I know what goes on behind closed doors and the bond that is developed between the players. It is the purest form of competition. No money at stake. We are out there strictly for pride. It's fantastic. I knew what I was missing all these years, and I'm glad to be back.

Q. As I recall, you helped in an administrative capacity in the Presidents Cup once. I wonder if there's anything that you learned there that might be helpful now as a player?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know, I'm not going to try to tell Curtis what to do or anything. I think that in the end, Curtis will seek the advice of some or all of the players, with respect to who wants to play with who and that sort of thing. He's pretty organized, I feel, already. Mike Hulbert is the Assistant Captain, so he has Mike to lean on a little bit. I think what is expected out of me and the reason I was picked is good play, and I'm going to do the best I can to be totally prepared when I get there and play the best that I can.

Q. Zinger, you downplayed it all week. Tell us how you found out. Did Curtis call you? Did he walk up to you? And did you, too, look in a mirror and say "Yes"?

PAUL AZINGER: Wow, should I really tell her? He just walked in the room --

CURTIS STRANGE: A couple of you saw me in the locker room, in and out all day yesterday. When the tournament was over I knew exactly what I was going to do because the scenario worked out that I wanted to work out. And I'm watching the tournament with Paul and I knew what I'm going to play wit him a little bit, Paul being Paul. I let him suffer a little bit, let him leave. We were both staying in the same hotel; let him walk through the lobby. And I actually told Tony before I saw him, and I beat on his door, so it was fun. It was great. The other phone calls are tough to make, but what makes up for those are the two phone calls or the conversations you do have with the two players that you pick. It's a lot of fun. Anyway, I beat on his door and told him.

PAUL AZINGER: He just stuck his hand out and said, "You're it."

Q. When you were fighting your illness, was playing in another Ryder Cup one of the things that motivated you?

PAUL AZINGER: Actually, the Ryder Cup is a bonus. What was really motivating me each week was the individual event. I never tried to get outside or look beyond the actual event that I was playing in. I felt like if I played well enough in the event that I was participating in, that in the end, the Ryder Cup could be the end result. As it turned out, I didn't actually make the team on points, but I never tried to use the Ryder Cup as a motivator. I just tried to make sure that every tournament I went to, I was completely -- I was totally prepared.

Q. Curtis said that in talking to other teammates for input your name was mentioned by every one. What is your reaction to hearing that? And with that, what obligations do you feel to bring to the team, other than your golf game?

PAUL AZINGER: Well, I actually asked Curtis if he had discussed it with the other players and brought my name up, and he said no, he didn't. But he did ask the other players and they brought my name up and that made me feel good. We all have these insecurities about our personalities and golf game to some degree, and it just made me feel really good when he said that the players all did mention my name. You never know for sure, some guys don't want you on the team. But thankfully, that's not the case. The behind-closed-doors-motivation type stuff, you know, I can maybe throw in a little reminder here and there of past Ryder Cups. You know, this particular competition is going to be intense. But we have a very experienced team. Everyone has been on a Ryder Cup team, except for Stewart Cink, and I guess Scott, but Stewart Cink has been on a Presidents Cup team and he has a lot of experience. There's not a lot that I am going to be able to contribute to these guys who already know what it is all about. I think other than the fact that I have not been there and never really knew what I was missing, I think beyond that, you know, the situation as it comes about, whether we are ahead or behind, I think determines how you react.

CURTIS STRANGE: Once again, I just want to stress that he was picked for his game, obviously, but Paul has the entire package. Like I said, he can play both -- all formats. Good behind closed doors. And if I ask Paul to sit out, he'll be happy to do that, and that's important.

Q. You said that this week did not necessarily play that important a factor, but did Paul and Scott's performance yesterday really make your decision, or did it reinforce it? And then of the guys who did not make it, was there was anybody who it was particularly agonizing for you to have to tell, "I'm sorry, you're not on the team"?

CURTIS STRANGE: When I was out there I thought I could play and do this job this week, and I was wrong. Trying to play and look at the scoreboard and see Azinger's name come up there, boom, Thursday; David Toms, Thursday; Faxon, Thursday. All the guys that were all trying to make the team, they all seemed to play well earlier this week and just about throughout the entire week, so it was tough to do. But, when Paul jumped up on the leaderboard -- were you there Thursday or Friday? Friday afternoon you got up there.

PAUL AZINGER: Most of Saturday.

CURTIS STRANGE: That's when I started to really think seriously. I had not made up my mind at that point. I couldn't. Even though I said this week was not going to be the sole, you know, reason I pick a player -- but when he started playing well, when David started playing well, now he gets really into the picture, David Toms, and he goes onto win. Fax was on there a long time. DiMarco played wonderful this week. So it was a tough decision in the end. The second question was all the phone calls were agonizing. All the phone calls were very, very tough to make because everybody I had to call could help the team.

Q. Curtis, I wonder if you could speak to the issue of Tom Lehman and his omission and how difficult that was, and the factors that eventually led you to have to tell him he was going to be staying home?

CURTIS STRANGE: That was the toughest phone call I had to make. Tom has wonderful past experience that is -- just on Presidents Cup teams, Ryder Cup teams, a good person, solid. Bottom line, he just hasn't played very well. And I have to do -- you know, when I look at this, and I said it to Paul last night, and Scott, I'm not doing what I want to do. I'm doing what's best for the other 10 guys. I have to do what's best for the team. This is not about me. This is not about any individual. It's what's best for the other ten guys and the two best players I think that can go in that locker room as two additions and help the team. So, getting back to Tom, Sarah and I have talked to Melissa and Tom over the last couple weeks. They are going through a tough time. It was a tough phone call to make. But, just bottom line, I just hasn't played as well as we know Tom Lehman can play.

Q. Can I just ask you, what do you think of the event at Brookline and what do you expect this time?

PAUL AZINGER: I knew that was coming eventually. There was a lot made of that incident on 17. I think that everybody on both sides of the ocean are going to try to put that behind us and put our best foot forward for this 2001 Ryder Cup.

Q. Just as a follow-up to that, you were on of the most fiery individuals at Kiawah. Are you going to have to fight against your personality or are we going to see Kiawah Paul at The Belfry?

PAUL AZINGER: I didn't do that much at Kiawah. There was just the one incident. And I'm older now. Maybe more mature, maybe wiser. I'm just going to be my 70. I'm not going to be fist-pumping in anybody's face or anything like that. Even the previous Ryder Cups where I played reasonably well, I was not a fist-pumping, in-your-face kind of guy, but I try to stand my ground in a situation here or there. I'm reasonably patriotic. I think I'm just going to try to play my best and be myself.

Q. When your game was not at the level you were happy with, I think did you admit a couple times, you wondered if you would ever win again. I came beyond that. Short of winning a major championship, is this the ultimate comeback of a return?

PAUL AZINGER: It's a big deal. I mean, it's an incredible honor to be considered worthy enough to play on this team, having not actually made it on points. It is a perception, sometimes, that fills your ego, sort of, and your pride. My desire was at the start of the year to play well enough to break back into the Top-10 in the world rankings. I'm not there yet, but the year is not over, either. I have set some goals and, you know, I just knew -- did I not think about the Ryder Cup. I just wanted to play well enough and I knew that the Ryder Cup would take care of itself. It's like a culmination of an incredible effort on my part to make that commitment. You know, my desire was always there. I just couldn't do it. You know there was something wrong with my game. I actually hooked up with Bob Rotella who actually got me committed and thinking differently, falling back in love with any knock-down shot when it looked like it was a high-ball hitters game. I ended up changing my whole attitude. My whole state of mind changed. My desire, still being strong, coupled with commitment, with all started coming together. It is not a major championship, but it is pretty nice.

Q. Paul, you were mentioning the other day when you won the PGA that you were in so much pain you could barely lift your arm. So, obviously the Ryder Cup came after that. At what stage were you in the last time you played the Ryder Cup? How bad was it and how did you overcome it, because you did pretty well?

PAUL AZINGER: You know, I was -- my shoulder was inconsistent. Sometimes it really, really hurt and there was times I was okay. All the reason for me to be able to justify in my own mind that there was nothing seriously wrong, when Frank Jobe was suspicious all along that I had a serious problem. My shoulder responded to anti-inflammatory medicine pretty well. I remember that in July, I won the Bank of Boston Classic or the New England Classic at the time. My shoulder hurt so bad I could not put my scoreboard in my bad pocket. I won the tournament. The PGA was not nearly as bad, but when I grabbed the trophy it hurt my arm. The Ryder Cup was similar to the PGA. Then my back went out and I went to see Dr. Jobe again while I was out in Los Angeles. I was already there so I thought, "Well, I'll just shoot down and see them. They did another bone scan and he said, "Look, this is really bad. We've got to do another biopsy." So I agreed to do it, and thankfully I did. It's weird that it -- that the actual cancer responded to anti-inflammatory medicine, but it did.

Q. I have a question for Curtis. Really, I have two questions. I hope to tie them together sensibly. The two men you have selected have overcome physical challenges to succeed. I wonder if that was a factor in any way in the selection process; and, also, now that you've been through this process, if you think it is good to have choices like this, and if so, what this allows you to do with your team?

CURTIS STRANGE: Had no bearing at all on being selected, the challenges and obstacles these two guys have overcome. It just so happens that they have. But it's not bad to have two guys like that in the locker room, either, Jerry. Scott is more of a quiet individual than Paul. Did I say that properly?

PAUL AZINGER: Is that a compliment? (Laughs).

CURTIS STRANGE: But it's not bad to have, if that answers your question. You know, I remember -- my story that I tell Paul -- in small company sometimes, when they talk about Ryder Cup is in '95 when we lost, and Lanny did a wonderful job and we played very poorly on Sunday and we all were down. Immediately, we went from the 18th green to our little team room and Paul was doing the TV and he came in there and he said, "Guys, this isn't so bad. The sun is going to come up tomorrow." And spoke from where he just come, fighting from beating cancer. You know, put it in perspective in a hurry.

Q. Could both you and Paul talk about the team, it's strengths? I know Europe has not finished it's selections, but how you match up?

CURTIS STRANGE: Well, we look very good. We have a lot of experience, as you just heard Paul a say moment ago. And I even say Stewart Cink has experience because he did play on the Presidents Cup team, which is a different apple, but still, the same format. I am very, very happy. With David Toms, too. David Toms is a first-timer. You know, when you have the three best players in the world on your team, you can't be anything but pleased. Then you have the rest of the team; they are all very solid, with experience. I have guys -- I have bombers for best ball. I have players now for alternate-shot. I look at other things; the mix is very good, too, of personalities. I'm really pleased.

PAUL AZINGER: Well, I'm just looking at their team and the one thing about the Ryder Cup, the format will always keep you close, even if on paper it looks like it might be one way or another. I know when I was playing in '89, '91, and '93, they were clearly a lot better than us on paper, but in those three years they didn't beat us. We tied and beat them two times and they were obviously a better team. And to me we looked better in '97 and '99, and without a miracle comeback in '99 we would have lost or been beaten in 1997. Right now, I look at their team and it looks fairly even to me. Even though we have a very hot team and I think a bunch of guys that are reasonably confident. They have a bunch of veterans on their team and newcomers, but they look very, very good. I think the format is such that if you have guys that are not playing particularly well, you can hide them. And I just think the fact that we look better on paper is going to motivate them and I think it's going to be a close competition again.

Q. You said this was a big deal and an incredible honor. Will you feel extra pressure to validate Curtis's selection of you?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know. We'll just cross that bridge when we get to it. A lot of times, the more pressure you feel, the better you perform. The time to worry is when you don't feel any pressure. Scott Verplank made the comment yesterday he was really nervous, the first time in a while and went out and played a really good round because of it. I know if I'm a little more on edge or have some butterflies going, I usually play a little better. Hopefully I don't put any extra pressure on myself to do anything special. You know, in the past, I've played all five matches in Ryder Cups, and I don't know that I'm going to be asked to do that this go-around, so it is not all going to fall on me anyway. There are other guys that will be asked to play all five matches and I'm just going to do the best that I can.

Q. On the subject of a near miss, address DiMarco. And if I'm doing my math right, I think if you throw out the two doubles he had yesterday, he makes the Top-10. Part two, how closely do you follow Tiger's play over the next four weeks, and could you conceivably set him under certain circumstances?

CURTIS STRANGE: Your first question, Chris DiMarco. That was also a difficult phone call from the standpoint that he's played so well lately. I guess when I look at it, experience has something to do with it, when I chose not to have Chris on the team. He played well this past week, which meant a lot. It was just tough. Once again, I have a number of guys who I could have gone to any one of them. I mean, Joe Durant looks like he's better now. Rocco is always a good guy to have because he is a steady player. Just Fax is Fax, with experience. Best putter in the world, I think. Steve Lowery, look what he did. It was tough. You can't have all seven of your boys start on the basketball team. Somebody has got to sit on the bench. Unfortunately, there's some players that have to sit the bench this time. In Tiger's case, I don't watch him much. I don't know how much he's going to play. I guess he's going to play this week and the American Express. I think he'll be fine. I think he'll be fine. Will I sit him? You never know what's going to happen in the Matches. I can't answer that now, because as the matches get closer and they progress during the week you'll do what you think is right, so there's a chance that anybody might sit, not because they are not playing well, but for rest, just take a break. There's a lot of different reasons why somebody might not play.

Q. How come you've played so few tournaments this year? Have you had any physical maladies or just scheduling?

PAUL AZINGER: Mainly just scheduling. The only tournament I missed that I wanted to play was the British Open. I got some kind of virus that knocked me out for about two weeks. I was really disappointed because I only got to play in 75% of the major championships in said of 100%. But for the most part, I just always take the same amount of time off in May, and in the end, I'll end up playing probably 20 events, 22 events. Last year, I had a kidney stone or something that cost me two or three events. There were some things that happened last year, I missed a few tournaments. But in the end, I'm going to play somewhere between 20 and 22 every year from now on.

Q. Any thoughts on any in a sense carrying the Ryder Cup torch for Payne Stewart?

PAUL AZINGER: Not really. I think Payne, his Ryder Cup record, his experience, his love for the Ryder Cup, his patriotism, his love of just the game itself just stands on its own. I can't carry his torch for him. Payne Stewart left a legacy that is undeniable, and untouchable, really. It's amazing, because here is a guy that never had the greatest record, but in his death, it became obvious, that's one of the most recognize, I believe, figures that's ever played the game. The passion that he showed in his desire to make the team and while he was on the team is pretty undeniable. The weight of that torch is too heavy for me.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what you think Toms will bring to your team?

CURTIS STRANGE: Well, I think we saw it yesterday. I don't know exactly the stats, but I know David Toms has won six times now and I think he's had a chance to win seven tournaments, if that's right. I don't know, you'd have to look that up. When he gets in the heat, he wins. When you hit shots and come from -- missing the short putts yesterday on the start of the back side, as a player when you look at that, you say, "uh-oh," and he comes back and birdies the next two holes, 13 and 14, I believe. We did the television from New Orleans, when he looked Phil right in the eye and shot 64 on him, snuffed him on the last hole from 30 feet. What I see is that he does great things on Sunday; and every Ryder Cup match on Sunday afternoon is pressure-filled. I think he is going to thrive on this atmosphere. He looks a lot nicer than he is, I think, on the last nine holes of a tournament sometimes. He still looks like he's 19 years old. He's got a huge heart and a lot of intestinal fortitude. He shows that every time he goes to the golf course.

PAUL AZINGER: He's also an incredible ball striker, I think. Somebody asked me about him after Saturday's rounds and I think he's one of the best ball strikers on the planet.

CURTIS STRANGE: But that won't carry but so far. You're in the going to make an 8-footer on last hole because you can hit the golf ball.

PAUL AZINGER: That's right.

Q. You've been through this experience before of being a Captain's pick, and I'm wondering how much more difficult it was for you to do this, this weekend, and how going through the other experience helped you go through what you had to do?

CURTIS STRANGE: I've been on both sides of being a Captain's pick, being a pick and not being a pick. Knowing how disappointed the players will feel when you make the phone call. But it really didn't help. It's something that I knew -- it's the dark side of being a captain, is what it is. You know, everything has been rosey and great and Sarah and I have had a lot of fun doing this. It's been a lot of work and we continue to have fun and will continue to have fun through the end of September, but the tough time is what I had to do yesterday. I don't think anything prepares you for that. There's not a whole lot to be said on the phone or in person, whatever you do. It's tough, but you have to -- everybody can't be on the team.

Q. This question is for Curtis; and Paul, with his playing and experience, might like to make a comment at the end. Where did the idea originate from for not practice putting, and as a follow-up to that, do you think it perhaps should be added into the Rules of Golf?

CURTIS STRANGE: I brought it up with Sam Torrance some months ago, three or four months ago, and just wanted to speed up play, for the players themselves, for the spectators, for TV. You know, we always, after every Ryder Cup, the PGAs get together and try to figure out how we can make the Matches better, and as a captain I think you want to try to figure out how you can make the Matches better. Sam and I totally agreed on this. It was a matter of getting it done and can it work. We finally decided; yes, it can work, just to keep things moving long. As far as the good of the game and the game itself, the rules state you can practice would you tell you can practice putt with undue delay, and at times I think we were having delay and I think it's going to keep things moving. I think it's going to be great. Did you know that?

PAUL AZINGER: I didn't even know it.

Q. When did you call Tom Lehman and how long did you talk and how did he take it?

CURTIS STRANGE: I talked to Tom probably an hour after the show yesterday. We didn't talk long. He was obviously disappointed, but very professional. And that's it.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, questions twice. Thank you very much for joining us, ladies and gentlemen.

End of FastScriptsÂ….

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