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October 17, 2000

Paul Azinger

Notah Begay III

Tom Lehman

Phil Mickelson

Loren Roberts

Kirk Triplett


LEE PATTERSON: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to our afternoon press conference. With us we have the United States Team of Mr. Paul Azinger, Notah Begay, Tom Lehman, Phil Mickelson, Loren Roberts and Kirk Triplett.

Q. Paul, could you talk a little bit about being back at this level of competition after all you've been through and do you think that you're all the way back, so that there will be more of this kind of thing and more victories in the future?

PAUL AZINGER: I don't know about that. I am playing a lot better, I played a lot better all year. 94 I got to co-captain a team, and got to play a pretty active role, because Hale Irwin was the captain and made the team. I didn't miss that I wasn't playing the event then. And a great honor. It was a great opportunity, too, to be in that role while I was here. I never imagined I would play as bad as I played for as long as I played that bad. Then it got to the point of I thought I'd never return to that level of competition. But thankfully Kenny picked me. A lot of people think it's only on experience. They asked me about that. You can have all the experience in the world, but if you're playing lousy it doesn't do any good. I have played a lot better this year, right from the beginning, made a bunch of cuts in a row. There was a time when I never thought I'd ever make it back to any kind of competition like this. I'm really excited about being here.

Q. Phil, could you talk about how important winning is to you this week, and in light of the fact of how badly you were beaten in Melbourne?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that when we played at last year's Ryder Cup and had such a positive experience, we -- myself, I felt like I was really looking forward to this event. I had such a positive experience with the last team event, I couldn't wait for another team opportunity. And although we lost two years ago, I think the circumstances this year are having us a little bit more prepared and ready, and wanting to play. I think that to hold the event halfway around the world at a time where nobody has touched a club for a month was very difficult for us to get focused up. And granted we took a pretty sound beating. We want to come back and play well. I think it's awfully nice to play during the season at a course in the United States.

Q. Will this mean as much beating the International Team as it does winning the Ryder Cup?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's hard to say, and I think it's an unfair question. Because the history of the Ryder Cup has been around 70 or 80 years. And the history of this tournament has been around for six. I think that's an unfair comparison right now.

Q. How about this comparison for Tom and for Phil, the most experienced in both, what's the difference when you're playing in a Ryder Cup and playing here in terms of intensity or desire or anything else on the course?

TOM LEHMAN: I remember the last time we played here at this course, there was an awful lot of intensity. It was very much a Ryder Cup-type feel, when Freddie made that long putt on 17 to beat Vijay. It clinched the match for us. I expect to have some great competition this week. Tradition is really what separates great golf courses a lot of times from golf courses that aren't so great. From great tournaments from other not so great tournaments. But you need to have the experience to build the tradition. I think this tournament, as it goes on, will build the tradition, and more great matches like we had in '96 will benefit it that way. I think everybody on this team is very jacked about playing, and there should be some great competition.

Q. Tom and Phil, for guys who have done both. There's been some talk in Australia there was some disinterest, that you guys were kind of list also for whatever reason and that some American players really do not like traveling these distances to play in this event because you guys do it every year, Europeans and the International Team only do it every two years. Is there anything to that and could you talk about those two issues?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's an interesting issue. Let me just say this, kind of side curve it. I think we're all looking forward to this week. I've been really excited about this event. I've been looking forward to playing in these team competitions in this different format, more so than in a long time. Given the fact that we had such a positive experience at the Ryder Cup it's made these events very enjoyable. And when we lose events like the Ryder Cup it's hard to -- it's a very emotional and difficult thing to deal with and it's hard to get excited about playing in them. And because we had such a positive experience, we're all really looking forward to playing this week.

Q. Just to follow up, though, do you also -- would you look forward to going to South Africa in 2002 and in Japan in 2006 for this kind of competition?

TOM LEHMAN: I think the way from what I understand from the way that the Tour is setting up the schedule and some of the events around The Presidents Cup, for example the million dollar, the two million dollar and South Africa, it gives -- not just for one week, you go for two or three weeks and play, which I think is way more appealing. I think everything in this world of golf is in scheduling. How is it scheduled, when is it scheduled, what is scheduled around it, so that you're not just kind of just doing a one-shot deal and going home again. So I would think that most guys would be very much in favor of going wherever, especially if there were like a schedule of events you could play around The Presidents Cup.

Q. Forgive me, because I left my notes out there when I ran in when you guys came in, but Phil you were here in '96, were you not, and Tom, you were here in '96, and Paul, you were here in '94. I heard there were some really good changes made to the course as far as the greens and as far as making the course playable, but just as hard. And I wonder if we could start out with Tom ask Phil and your thoughts there.

TOM LEHMAN: The course is definitely significantly improved. The 18th hole has been redone again. That's even better now than it was before. The 15th hole was changed and I think it's a fantastic change. They rebuilt the 15th green three times, I think it's a better green. I think all in all the course has improved dramatically and is way more playable, more receptive to good shots, rewards good shots more fairly. And I think in the end is just a much better test.

PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly was pleased when I saw the changes today. There were a -- there were two things that really stood out. When we played in '94 and '96, you couldn't hit a driver. The fairways would bottleneck and tighten to such a small area that you had to hit only 280 off the tee, so a good number of holes we were restricted on what club we could use off the tee. But I've seen the change in the course now to where the fairways are the same width at 250 as they are at 350, so now you have an option to hit whatever club you choose off the tee without having a detrimental effect. And I also thought the greens were fabulous, because they soft end a lot of the contours that created a funnel effect. So balls would ultimately funnel right down to the pin like we saw a couple of shots do on 18. Now you've got to hit a much more precise and better shot to get the ball close to the hole. And they're also much more fair to putt on. They're very hard and fast right now. So we will be challenged on the greens, because they're so hard and fast, and so much slope to them. I thought all the subtleties done to the course made it a much improved track.

Q. To the guys that are rookies this year, Notah, I've got to know your feeling playing on the team and the way you earned your way on here. And Loren you're playing so well, and Kirk, you've got to be really, really excited about being on the team, I wonder if we could go in that order for answers.

NOTAH BEGAY III: Well, I'm just excited to be playing in my first International competition of this magnitude. I'm trying to take in as much as I can, learn as much from the more experienced players and just kind of keep my mouth shut and go along and play as well as I can and try and contribute.

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, being a captain's choice I'm really excited be being here. Anytime that someone or somebody thinks enough of you to put you on a team of this magnitude it's a great honor for me. And definitely -- I definitely feel like I'm ready to play. I've had some experience and just really looking forward to having a good week.

KIRK TRIPLETT: Well, as most of you know I've played for a long time and I've watched a lot of these guys play in these kind of events. And it's really, really exciting to me to be a part of it. And a big challenge for me is going to be -- this is a real great thing for my career, for me to look back on and say I was part of this team. But to take that attitude and kind of put it aside and now that I'm here it's time to get down to business and play some good golf and see if we can beat this International Team. I don't know if you know it, but that's a pretty good team that we're playing against. So we're going to have to play some good golf. The teams that go to the Super Bowl, they're pretty excited about getting to the Super Bowl, but one of those teams isn't too happy after the Super Bowl is over. So it's time for us to think about winning this cup.

Q. Kirk, this is for you. I don't think I've ever seen you in a baseball cap.

KIRK TRIPLETT: You'd know why if you saw the bucket hats that are sitting in my room.

Q. Well, that was one thing. Do they have a hat for you or are you going to wear a cap?

KIRK TRIPLETT: That's the least of my worries right now. I've got a few of them in the room; they're kind of a different style from what I normally wear and I put one on last night and my wife laughed so hard there's no way I could leave the hotel room wearing it. We're working on that. But it's just more people calling me Tom Lehman (laughter.) I take that as a compliment.

Q. Phil, you talked earlier about the positive experience you take from the last team cup. Are you at all looking forward to the fact there might not be as much acrimony as this week, and why hasn't The Presidents Cup been as bitter as the Ryder Cup? I don't know if history has as much to do with it -- the history for that probably goes back only to '87.

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. I don't know why there has been more attention, I would say, in the Ryder Cup. A lot of it might be that we don't see a lot of the guys on the Ryder Cup. But we certainly do play with a number of them day in and day out on the U.S. tour. But the International Team it seems like every single one lives in Orlando and plays the U.S. tour. So we were good friends with just about everyone on the team. And it's hard to have much animosity towards your friends, just because you're playing against them in an international competition one week out of the year.

Q. Do you look forward to part of that aspect this week, that there hasn't been any bitterness, and we would expect might not be this week. Can you do without it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. I think the purpose of the events were to promote goodwill between continents, primarily in the Ryder Cup 7 years ago, but certainly between the United States and the rest of the world and to promote awareness for the game. That needs to be a positive awareness, not create animosity and tension, if you will, but I thought that this tournament has been very well run and well received the first three years, especially since it's only been in existence for such a short period of time. And I think the players from the International side are very professional, as are the players from Europe. But we know them much better, we feel comfortable around them, and they know that when we say or do something it's in -- it's not meant to be disruptive and I think that sometimes in Ryder Cups we don't know each other that well, and sometimes things get misinterpreted. And I know in the past Seve has been misinterpreted. And things have been -- and honestly I read a really good article in Golf Digest and he had a chance to explain his side of some of the Ryder Cup incidents, and it made a lot of sense. And maybe not.

PAUL AZINGER: Can you believe that? Were you buying that? (Laughter.)

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your role maybe as a leader on this team, and particularly in the light of Hal and Tom Paine were leaders in Boston. And now that Paine is no longer with us, you're taking over.

PAUL AZINGER: I don't feel like I need to be a strong voice, Ken Venturi is the leader of this team, and I think we all look to Kenny for wisdom. I want to lead by example with my clubs, really. I want to play well, that's all I want to do. If somebody needs some encouragement, Stewart Cink or Notah, or insight, I can volunteer that, I guess. But I want to just lead with my clubs, I really do. I just want to play good.

Q. Phil, could you extrapolate a little bit on Melbourne when you said that scheduling was an issue, and Tom, I guess, also, if the scheduling was an issue, what were the other issues, what were the other problems that occurred and Melbourne to sort of make you guys kind of flat? And also just as a part B, have you decided what you're going to do about the match play in Melbourne next year?

PHIL MICKELSON: The match play I'm not sure yet. But back to The Presidents Cup in Australia, we just got pounded. They just flat out beat us. They played great golf. And we really didn't arrive ready for that type of play. They just out played us from start to finish, and we got so far behind, and we were not playing well. It was difficult because we had won the first two, and I think we all expected that we were going to win, and they just gave us such a licking like no other, I think it's probably the largest defeat in any International competition. We certainly feel the necessity or the need to come out and play strong this year, because they do have such a strong team. Their players are so well recognized internationally, and received as top players in the world that we have to really play well to beat them. And I think that we can. I think that we want to. I think that we're ready to. And I think that we welcome the challenge. And two years ago I don't think we were as ready for the competition as we needed to be. Maybe mentally and physically, a lot of our games weren't quite ready. We weren't in the mental frame of mind to win that week. They just played so well and we weren't ready to play that level of golf.

Q. Would you say that your heart wasn't in as much as theirs was in it?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, that's you saying that. I wouldn't say that. We wanted to win, but we weren't ready to win. We hadn't prepared ourselves properly. I feel like a lot of guys have prepared themselves for this week. I came out and played last week, trying to get in the competitive frame of mind. And a couple of weeks ago David won at Southern Open and so he's out ready to play. And just -- and Tom went over for International competition at Scotland. So we're getting ready the best way we can. We didn't have that opportunity to play competitively the week before or two weeks before when was tournament was staged in December. It needed to be in December because that's their best weather time in Australia, we couldn't play during the year, because the weather wasn't accepting to that. But we weren't as prepared as we needed to be.

Q. Tom, do you have anything to add?

TOM LEHMAN: I want to say that I know there was a lot of grinding to get onto this team. You can look right down the list to all of these guys sitting here and the guys coming in tomorrow, there was a lot of players who were trying really hard to be on this team, and a lot of guys were disappointed that they're not here. And I think that says a lot about everyone's desire to be at this tournament this week. And I think it's really kind of doing the tournament a disservice to focus or try to focus on negative things, like where was your heart, where was your mind. We're here, we're ready to play. It would be great to have The Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup trophies on American soil; I think that's what we're here to do.

Q. Paul, it's so natural just to follow up your little joke about Seve, but do you find in team competition people look at things differently, and incidents get blown out of proportion, there's a lot more, if not tension, I don't know what the word is, but you go after guys a little differently?

PAUL AZINGER: Well, what people? Like the public, the individual players?

Q. The individual on the other team.

PAUL AZINGER: You know, with what happened between Seve and I should be water under the bridge. I don't know why you brought some of that back up. We got past that I thought. But he wanted to win, I wanted to win. He didn't like some of the things that was happening. I didn't like some of the things that was happening. And you've got to protect what you think is right. There's a referee there that monitors and doesn't let anybody get away with anything. So integrity was never a question. There might have been some mistakes made. But it's under the microscope. And it's in the highest, purest form of competition. It's mano e mano. We're head on head. I don't want to celebrate at his expense and he doesn't want to celebrate at my expense. We defended our turf, so to speak. Unfortunately everybody saw it. But it's what helped to make the Ryder Cup great, what happened in '99 and a little bit in '91. It's probably gotten out of hand now. There's some animosity between the European team and the American team. And it's just part of it. I don't know whether it's good or bad or not, but we're all -- we're not trying to pull anything on anybody, we're just grinding it out at best we can, and we both -- both sides want to win. All three sides want to win. We're talking about three different teams now. I felt like the International Team had a lot to prove the last go around down there on their turf and they were ready to go. I think the American team had a lot to prove last year at Brookline and they came out with both guns blazing on Sunday, and over came an insurmountable lead and hopefully the guns will still be blazing.

Q. Paul or anybody else who might want to take a crack at this. Speaking of things getting blown out of proportion. Match play, team match play is something that you guys rarely do, and there was an incident a couple of weeks ago in the Solheim Cup a week ago with the women where somebody went when they weren't away, and it led to a whole series of things that turned out to be very controversial. Start with you, Paul, do you have a take on how that whole thing went down?

PAUL AZINGER: I didn't see any of it. Tom Lehman and I talked about it last night and we both were in agreement that bad sportsmanship I guess was the issue there. And if it's within the rules that you're not supposed to play out of turn, and she played out of turn, knowingly or unknowingly, then it's within the rules, it's not bad sportsmanship to say you need to play that again, I'm sorry. If they knew she was playing out of turn and let her do it, well, that's another issue, but you'll never know that. I don't think there was any intent there for bad sportsmanship. I think when the shot went in, they recognized that she wasn't even out. And I'm sure Payne Stewart would like to call Lee Janzen to rehit his chip shot when Paine was out and he let him go at the U.S. Open. Payne talked about that quite a bit.

TOM LEHMAN: I think if that is poor sportsmanship, they ought to take the rule out of the book. How can playing within the rules be construed as poor sportsmanship? Poor sportsmanship has been bending the rules, going outside the rules, pushing the envelope. If you're playing within the rules and you're criticized for it now, they ought to get rid of the rule.

Q. Tom, even though there are two separate events, you feel there might be less pressure on you guys coming into this event having won the Ryder Cup last year than supposedly if you had not and maybe that might allow you guys to play freer from the beginning?

TOM LEHMAN: I think there's a great deal of confidence created by the Ryder Cup. I sense a real sense of unit, kind of has carried over from that team to this one. And I think we proved a lot to ourselves in Brookline, and I think more than anything I think that's motivated a lot of the guys who were there, and probably the guys who weren't there to come out here and do it again this week. We don't want to get so far behind, but we definitely want to win. I think we're not here just to put on a show and have entertainment and spend a week in Washington, D.C. we're here to win.

Q. Phil, a question for you and Tom. As far as Brookline went and the galleries, how aware were you of what was going on?

PHIL MICKELSON: As far as what? As far as the rowdiness? I certainly knew they were excited that we were winning, that was pretty evident. I did not know or had not become aware of any problems that the gallery was creating for the other side mainly because Saturday night I was listening to Mark James' interview and he was telling everybody how great everybody was. So I thought everything was fine. I didn't realize that they were having problems. And I guess that it must have all just happened on Sunday, because Saturday night listening to his interview he had nothing but wonderful things to say about the U.S. side and the gallery there.

Q. Notah, I wondered as a rookie if you and Kirk had talked about being rookies or if you were maybe brought together because of your rookie status, anything of that nature?

NOTAH BEGAY III: No, we haven't gotten in any real in depth conversations about that. I think Kirk and I are just trying to pick up as many little words of advice, encouragement from the more experienced players and just trying to contribute in whatever way we can. It's real simple. We're just trying to keep it simple, here.

Q. Some of the Internationals this morning talked about the great chemistry they had. Chemistry seems to be sort of a elusive concept. How do you best go about getting chemistry or is that overrated, team chemistry?

TOM LEHMAN: No, team chemistry is everything, almost. You're looking for a situation where two plus two equals five. That's what good teams have done. They've kind of become better than they really are, because of the way they pull together. I think for whatever reason or what causes chemistry, that's kind of elusive. And sometimes it takes some disappointment, sometimes it takes whatever it might be, and you kind of pull together. Everybody is looking for that way to pull together and form a team. And that's when you're tough to beat.

Q. Just a follow-up to Phil. There are a lot of things floating around already, and I hate to jump ahead, but to 2002, so maybe we could set the record straight. Where do you stand on going to South Africa or have you not made a decision if, in fact, you are eligible by points?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's really an interesting question, and I haven't had time to really think about it as much as I would like. I think that I've been putting that decision off until this week. I want to win this event very badly. And I think that since I've been out on Tour and have played in the past six or seven International Team competitions we have not held the same cup or the two different cups at the same time. And so that's very important to me because there's a lot of pride on the line and there's a lot of emotion and I guess, well, pride would probably be the biggest word. We have high expectations put on ourselves through us, by the public, and by other people. And we want and expect to be able to win, and we haven't been able to do it two years in a row. And because of that this event was very important. As far as two years from now we'll think about that probably not for another year or so, because we've got the Ryder Cup at the Belfry next year, and that would probably be an issue, too.

Q. Would you be in favor of a Round Robin, where the winner of the Presidents Cup play the winner of the Ryder Cup?

PHIL MICKELSON: You're messing with history if you do that. To alter a 70- or 80-year event such as the Ryder Cup is really not, in my opinion, going to be best for the game. Now certainly there are some advantages to it, maybe, but I think that in the long run we would only be hurting ourselves. And I think it's also important not to try to compare the two as of yet. Because The Presidents Cup needs time to evolve and become the event that it's capable of, because it hasn't reached its full potential yet. And I think in maybe 20, 30, 40 years time when it's started to evolve and being something very special and unique, we may be able to implement it, but at that time it would seem more logical not to, also.

LEE PATTERSON: Thank you, gentlemen, we appreciate it.

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