November 19, 2003
GEORGE, SOUTH AFRICA
JAMES CRAMER: I'd like to welcome from the International Team, Captain Gary Player and his Captain's Assistant, Ian Baker-Finch. And from the United States team Captain's Assistant Jeff Sluman, and Davis Love III.
There is a statement out that Captain Jack Nicklaus has flu-like symptoms is and back at the hotel resting and Captain's Assistant Sluman stood in his place and we will have that statement made available to everybody.
United States had the first pick and elected first. So why don't we begin with Jeff Sluman with some comments on the pairing and how they progressed.
JEFF SLUMAN: Well, I'm obviously a first-timer at this, but talking with Jack before the pairings, he told me to defer, and at least I got one thing right. So I did that. Before I went in there, had a pretty good idea of what Gary and Ian were going to do with their team and although there was no real surprises, we just kind of went with the flow here. I like the way the pairings shaked out, and I'm sure you'll hear the same from them. I think it's going to be some wonderful golf tomorrow. It should just be very, very exciting.
I'd also like to personally thank Davis. He volunteered to come in there and kind of help me out with this. He's been through it many, many times and his help was invaluable.
JAMES CRAMER: Captain Player, could we have your comments on the pairings?
GARY PLAYER: The pairings turned out -- well, they just look so equal to me. They are all good players, they are all good matches and it's worked out just as we would like, so that we can have the best possible matches available. It's a very difficult thing. There's no miracle tonic or trick to it.
But obviously Ian and I sat down at great length and said who we would like to see possibly play somebody else, but it doesn't work out like that, because when you're choosing and when we were deferred, I would like Jack to have picked, or Jeff, to have picked first, but we were prepared for that. We thought that we would be deferred, which we were.
So I must say it's worked out pretty even and now it's up to the guys to go out and I'm sure that all of the players will be, I assume, are happy with the draw. Now it's up to them to produce the shots.
Q. Could you just explain a little bit about the process on the American team, how much information were you given before you went into the room, were you given the pairings that Jack had made or were you responsible?
JEFF SLUMAN: No, Jack looked at me at 3:30 and said: "I trust your judgment, you know what you're doing, you know the players, you know the International Team players." That was really the only thing besides telling me to defer that he said.
We had our individual player groups set, of course. Actually, last month, I went down and spent the night at his house and we talked about the first day pairings. They were pretty much set for the last month. I think if you watched our team play the last two days, you probably could have figured out generally who was going to play with who. Right, Gary?
Q. How much did you guys play the match-up game, which teams are going to play which teams?
GARY PLAYER: Well, Ian and I sat down and we tried to work out what they would do. We were quite close. About the only way I can answer that. There's only, as you know, six teams. I think of the four, I think we guessed four of the six. That's about it.
But they are awfully evenly-matched. I think all of the guys are happy -- I know I spoke to our guys, and Ian would say it's very happy with the way it's turned out and that's what we want, good matches.
Q. S a follow-up to that, Gary, if I understand correctly, you guys slotted Price and Weir first, they countered with Mickelson and Toms. They do DiMarco/Kelly. Did you want Vijay and Retief against that twosome, or did you just want Retief and Vijay in the second slot?
GARY PLAYER: We wanted Nicky Price, because he likes to play fast. He's a fast player and he can set the pace. As we've had in Ryder Cup Matches, particularly and in World Match-Play events and other events of this nature, if you get somebody who is very, very slow, it really can have an effect, taking a long time and getting behind and then the officials have to go and say "will you please move up" and keep going on. We're given, as you can see, ten-minute intervals, which is a lot, but if you have a man who is very slow, he can really affect the whole field. So I think the players that we have will keep the field moving nicely.
As far as Vijay and Retief are concerned, we couldn't say -- that was one of the ones we didn't guess, one of the two that we didn't feel might happen, but it's turned out very nicely for both sides.
IAN BAKER-FINCH: Can I also add that Pricey is a great guy to get back early to help the team as the rest of the matches finish. So you want the guy out that's rooting the team on, as they say in the American media, national media, rooting them on. It's good to have Pricey and Weirsy back after their match, regardless of the outcome. Hopefully they will win a point, but they can get back out there and they are behind the rest of the team. I think you have to give that a bit of thought, as well, when you are putting your early teams out.
Q. As a future captain, was this process unexpected, but kind of enjoyable for you, and what was going through your mind as you were assisting Jeff?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's not enjoyable because we've seen Jack pop out of his room just a couple times . In fact, I missed him last night. I was sleeping through team meetings and dinners last night and now he's sleeping during the day. We saw him come out on the golf course for just a few minutes. I know he didn't come all the way down here to feel bad and not participate. So I feel bad for Jack.
But when Jeff said, "Hey, might have to go do this by myself," I said, "Well, you need somebody to go with you. Get Jay or myself or one of your friends that's done it before, has played some, to go sit with you." At least, just to, not really add anything to it, but just to have somebody to bounce an idea off of. I kind of knew from playing a bunch of these what Jeff would be going through and he needed somebody just to go with him, really. I don't think I added much, other than it was fun for me and an honor to sit with these three guys in something as important as this. It was a little bit selfish but also didn't want Jeff to go by himself.
Q. Kelly said he was a little sick earlier, is this a bug going through your team or is it just a couple isolated cases?
GARY PLAYER: I think when you travel vast distances like these guys have done, you know, you get on an airplane, somebody has got a bad cold or several people have, and you're likely to get a bit of a bug. It's not an uncommon thing. You don't know whether Jack got his by something that he ate last night or something he might have had yesterday at Pearl Valley. You can get it anywhere, you can get it on the plane, you can got it all different places. It's amazing, actually, with traveling, that more people don't get sick.
Q. Is this going through your team?
JEFF SLUMAN: No, not at all. Jerry was fine. He went in the clubhouse and came back the next hole and he's 100%. This guy's ready to go, I can tell you that.
DAVIS LOVE III: Me, my usual neck plan problem. Mine didn't have anything to do with food or stomachs.
GARY PLAYER: I tell you what, these guys, it's really different nowadays. In the old days, maybe you would have to withdraw. Today, these physios on the Tour are remarkable, both on this tour and particularly the Champions Tour, because as we are all over 50 and some, we're over 60, and you get guys come there in the morning, they are not going to play and they end up playing very well. These guys they do a great job.
Q. Did you beat Jack at Pearl Valley?
GARY PLAYER: No. We started giving each other ten-foot putts because Jack said we don't want this to be an international match. I'm opening my golf course and I wanted this to be good fun and I don't want it to be -- I'm explaining all of the holes to them, and going over the whole thing. It was funny, Jack played very well, he was telling me how badly he was playing and he played so well. Jack is very capable, if he did not have aches and pains and doesn't have his body hurting him, he can still play remarkably well. Obviously, you lose a lot of distance, you lose a lot of strength, but he's been exceptionally good with his diet and his exercises. He can still play very well.
Q. Jeff, was the goal all along to have Toms and Phil out first and Charlie and Tiger last, regardless of what they were sending your way?
JEFF SLUMAN: Actually, no, Doug. But we did want to start out the first match with a team with experience. David and Phil have teamed up wonderfully and so we wanted to get them out.
Then we went to -- it was my turn and I wanted to get Jerry, and Chris out early. Jerry said he was thinking that if this was the old format where you didn't play till Friday, he would go crazy. So this guy is so wired to go. It was very good to get him out early. And as Ian said, both guys are wonderful cheerleaders and they are going to get off that golf course because they all play fast and come back and support the rest of the team.
Q. There was obviously a lot of input from the players, Davis. Was Kenny on your radar screen and how did that come together, you two?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think Jack, when we played in Australia, he said, "All right, what do you guys want to do," kind of, when we arrived.
This time, I think he learned that we can be wishy-washy and everybody has their own opinions; and "I want to play with this guy." And "Well, maybe not, I want to play with that guy."
So he and Jeff I think very wisely, like Ken Venturi did, just said, all right guys, here's the teams for the first day. We knew them weeks ago. So when we got here, there was no real question that we would go play with those guys and have two practice rounds with our partner, which like Jeff said, you probably figured it out if you watched who was playing with who. So I think he did a real good job with organizing it.
You know, there's some different -- I played a bunch of these. There are some guys that it's hard to match up and there are some guys that are obvious. Like David and Phil or Jim and Justin playing together last week, things like that.
I'm thrilled. If I could pick anybody on this team to play with it would probably be Kenny Perry after the last two days and the last few months. He drives the ball great and he putts great and he's a great complement to how I play. He hits the ball in a lot of fairways and way down there.
I think whether it came from Jeff or Jack or other players, pretty much you look at all of them, if you know the guys, it's a very, very good match-up of players that they have put together. And I think on the other side of the table, they did really the same thing. They matched up guys that get along well and play well together and play similar games. I think the matchups are real good and the teams are real good.
Q. After the outcome of the World Cup last week, any thoughts of Justin and Jim, of splitting them after the outcome of the World Cup?
JEFF SLUMAN: Absolutely not.
Q. Have they played together in the past?
JEFF SLUMAN: Jim and Justin came up and said: We are very excited, we played together the whole last week, similar ball flight, we have the same distance, we really have become very, very comfortable with each other in alternate-shot, and they were very, very happy to play together.
Jack's theme for alternate-shot is he really likes guys with similar type of games. And going through this, I think that's about as solid as you're going to get for our team for the opening matches.
Q. For both captains, is it more important to match golf games or match personalities?
GARY PLAYER: Both. I think both. I think the big thing that I did, that I asked Ian to convey to my team, is that it is a team event. We wanted them to feel happy with who they were playing with. And so what we did, we selected our team, we said: This is what we're going to do. We're going to put you together with so and so, are you all happy? If you're not, please say you're not happy.
And then, you know, we've had other guys with the four-ball tomorrow come along and say: Would you mind if I played a little early; I don't want to be the last one coming in and on Sunday, I would rather be a little early than late, and so you accommodate. I think best thing is to get your guys feeling comfortable, and that's essential.
Q. Just curious why Stu and Rob are not playing together, is that by design?
IAN BAKER-FINCH: They have played together a lot, and I think it actually was maybe -- I mean, Jeff and Davis and all the team pretty much could tell what teams we had made as we could tell what teams they would make for obvious reason. The reasons they put Davis and Kenny together is the reasons we would put, say, Ernie and Adam together or maybe fast player, ball trajectories, things likes that. Robert and Stuart would probably be regarded as an automatic team, perhaps.
So it was throwing a spinner in the works, maybe just a bit of that, by not putting them together; that they may think, "Well, they will have Allenby and Appleby together." I don't know if they thought that but there's a chance. They play so much together; that they are such good friends, typically they don't actually perform as well together as they do with other partners. They just, they are great buddies and they have very similar games. As we all know, they hit it a long way and they are good strikers and both are in the Top 20 in the World. Rankings. But sometime they get a little bit too, "Sorry, Mate, I didn't mean that," or they get a bit too close, and they are both better being a little bit more divorced from that side of things.
Although they are great mates and a great team, they are probably not a good foursomes team for that reason, too.
GARY PLAYER: And the ball, playing with different balls in this event, the Presidents Cup, you know, to me, it doesn't make any difference if I'm playing in an event what ball I'm using. But some guys, they are really fussy about that. So this is another thing you have to take into consideration. They might feel that the one ball goes further than the other, but around the greens it's faster. The other one has a different spin and, you know, obviously the further you hit the ball today, the more clubhead speed you can generate, the greater effect it has between the spring of the club and the ball. It can have a great effect on a man who is getting only, say, 100 miles an hour, to put it into simple terms, clubhead speed, the man would get 130 when the spring effect is greater with the ball.
All of these things, the guys have different touches around the green, and you have to try and think of that, as well and say, you know, what we recommend was, who you're playing with today, if you are playing with another whose ball you are comfortable with, just try some different balls. Get used to the different feel if it's worrying you. Little things can make a difference.
Q. Can you alternate balls tomorrow?
GARY PLAYER: Any ball you like.
JEFF SLUMAN: Any ball. It means I can go out with three different types of Titleist, if I was playing with Davis, and he can hit three different types of other types of golf ball. Whatever you tee off with on that hole you play. It's not like if I play one ball and he play as another we can only play those two. You can play 18 different balls if you want to.
Q. At the Ryder Cup you, only play one; right, Davis?
DAVE SENKO: No. For a hole. I can drive Tiger's ball of the tee and I can hit it to the green; and then he can drive my ball off the tee and I can hit it to the green. It gets a little confusing.
GARY PLAYER: Obviously, not everybody is a golf writer. For those that are not, when you have say a Callaway Black, a Callaway Red and Callaway Blue. If you play in a golf tournament and you choose Callaway Blue, you cannot play Callaway Red or Callaway Black at any time during that round. You have to stick with the same ball the whole way around. It you may not change to another ball. You have to stick to the same ball.
IAN BAKER-FINCH: Whereas tomorrow, the guys that use a spinning ball and the others might use a hard ball, the guys can drive -- say Jeff might drive off with the hard ball because his partner likes the hard ball to hit into the greens with. And that's what we've got into couple of our groups, and I'm sure you guys, too. I haven't looked at that with your ball changes there with the partners.
But say Nick Price and Mike Weir use different balls, and Nick might drive off on a hole that Mike needs to hit a short iron and likes the spin quality of the ball he uses. Nick will drive off with that ball. Doesn't really make as much difference with a driver for him perhaps, and Mike gets a feel for his approach to the green.
Some of the others, I know one of the teams, I guess it doesn't matter if I say it, Robert and Stephen, Robert is going to use the ball that -- I should say Stephen is going to use the ball that Robert always uses tomorrow. He's just decided it doesn't make any difference to him. He's just going to stick with the one ball. You get two combinations.
Sorry to make it too difficult, but some guys will stick with one ball and others will do the bark and forth.
DAVIS LOVE III: And that's part of the answer for the Justin Leonard/Jim Furyk pairing is they, one, were very comfortable because they knew they were going to play together for a week in Kiawah and they are very comfortable. They have picked a golf ball that they are going to play and they don't have to switch back and forth. Charles Howell is very comfortable with Tiger's golf ball, and Kenny and I play the same ball. There's a lot of that that went into the pairings was golf balls, matching up guys that are comfortable playing golf balls. I think personality first, and golf ball second and matching up golf game is probably third in what I've seen the discussions on the teams that I've played.
GARY PLAYER: Again, if you've never covered a lot of golf event, it's very strange. Surely if all the balls you're able to use in the tournament are all legal, why are you not able to use them? And it's a question that I really can't answer.
Q. Jeff, you've spent a fair amount of time around Jack Nicklaus now, is there anything that has surprised you, anything you didn't expect him to tell you, advice?
JEFF SLUMAN: Surprised I'm not sick yet, I guess. (Laughter.)
You know, he's just been very kind to me throughout the years. Nothing really surprising. He's very straightforward. We've got a wonderful team meeting last night and talked to all of the players. He's still to everybody on the team, and maybe he doesn't even realize this, he's still Jack Nicklaus, the guy that we all grew up watching, winning major after major. You grow up as a young kid in Rochester, New York like me, and you wonder if you ever might meet him; and then you wonder if you ever might watch him play golf or play with them; and then compete against him; and then become a friend.
All of that's happened with everybody on the team. We hold him in such high regard because of that. I don't really think Jack ever thinks about it that way. Do you, Davis?
DAVIS LOVE III: I don't think he does. Much like Mr. Player here, it's an honor to get to go on a trip with Jack Nicklaus and play against Gary Player. I keep coming back to that when I'm asked, "are you excited about the Presidents Cup." And the first thing I think of is Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and plus all of the other friends.
But like Jeff said, Jack does it because he loves the game, because he respects the game and he feels a little bit of an obligation, but I don't think he thinks anything of it. He's just a golfer and a father and he owes a little bit to the game more than we need him to do it. He needs to do it; it's important for him to be a part of it.
I think for that reason, we see 12 guys down here working hard in the off-season playing for him.
Q. Do the captains have any preset team strategies, or do you leave it up to the players, like going for 14, do you make those decisions on the course with them?
JEFF SLUMAN: I think the biggest thing that I've seen so far is -- and nobody has really touched on this, who is going to be the odd and who is going to be the even guy teeing off. That's hugely important and you really have to kind of leave it up to the individual teams.
DAVIS LOVE III: Can I go for 6?
JEFF SLUMAN: You can go for anything you want, as straight as you drive it.
But I think that's, you know, you look at the golf course, five par 5s, how many are even holes, how many are odd and the par 3s, and that determines who is going to tee off even holes and odd holes.
That I believe you have to leave up to the players, because ultimately, they have to hit the shots.
Q. If a player was physically ill had a 24-hour bug and could not play in a match, but you knew he would be able to go later in the week, has it been discussed what would happen in a particular match if that scenario unfolded?
GARY PLAYER: We brought it up at the captain's meeting yesterday with all of the with all of the different rules that apply. And one of the things that I think it was, if I'm not mistaken, having been to eight countries in three weeks, I'm not too sharp at the moment, but I think it was agreed -- take, for example, the four-ball. As it was stated, if you had Davis and Jeff playing Ian and myself in a four-ball, tomorrow morning, and Ian got sick, we would have teed off those two against me. That was how it was arranged. We said, well that's ridiculous. What's the point of me even playing, when there's a case like that, I might just concede because it's not possible for one man to beat two and save my man for the afternoon.
So I think it was agreed upon that instead of having the two play the one, they would choose one of theirs to play against me, if Ian got sick.
JEFF SLUMAN: In the spirit of the game, we thought that that was the way to it.
Now, on the other hand, if somebody is out there after seven holes in a four-ball and they get sick or turn their ankle or something, unfortunately, then it is two-on-one and that's just the way it is.
JAMES CRAMER: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts.