November 18, 2003
GEORGE, SOUTH AFRICA
JAMES CRAMER: I'd like to introduce the International Team members who are with us here this afternoon. First we have the Captain's Assistant, Ian Baker Finch, Tim Clark, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Nick Price, Vijay Singh and Mike Weir.
Why don't we go ahead and get proceedings underway. I'd like to begin just by asking Ernie to comment as a resident of the area of what it means to have the President's Cup here at Fancourt.
ERNIE ELS: It's a big occasion, obviously. We've been waiting for another big golf tournament to come here for a long time. I think we had the World Cup here in 1996. And, you know, ever since then, we've just had our normal tour events come through here. This is big, especially if you talk about the players that have come here, that have made the trip. We've got to thank them for coming, obviously, we know that. It's also important for golf in general in South Africa for the people to see the best players in the world perform here.
You know, I think we'll have a great week and I think they will see some great golf, hopefully. And obviously, this region is really starting to develop as a golfing destination. A lot of golf courses are being built in this area and I think everybody will enjoy that.
Q. Ernie, I think you're the only player in the field who has played the links before. How is it playing at the moment compared with when you came here to play in the past; I think it looks a bit quicker and drier?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's definitely drier. I don't know if they have had good weather here or if they have done it on purpose, (laughs), but it's quite fast. Your second shots into the greens are quite tricky. The greens are very undulating, as you know, and you can't really get the ball to stop on the first bounce. It's tough to control your shots into the greens.
It's a tough course. It's a very long golf course, but the ball is running. So it makes it quite tough. It's a tricky golf course.
Q. Some of the players that played it for the first time, if you could give your impressions of the course the first time out.
TIM CLARK: Yeah, like Ernie said, it's pretty long but it is playing fast for us. You know, like he said, it's going to be really tricky to keep it on the greens regardless if you're in the fairway or not. Obviously, with all of the bunkers out there in the fairways, you're going to have to certainly hit it straight anyway to give yourself some sort of a chance.
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, the golf course is playing tough today. There was a lot of crosswinds on some of the holes. Yeah, play is a bit of a mixture, I feel, between American and links because the fairways are running, greens are firm.
But as soon as you go off the fairways, it's five inches deep rough or two feet. Even around the greens, some of the bump-and-run shots is difficult because the grass is probably an inch longer, so the ball doesn't quite run up the banks. That's going to make it difficult to play bump-and-run shots.
NICK PRICE: As Ernie said, it is pretty long, but I still think it's a positional golf course very strategic off the tee. There's a lot of bunkers in the fairways, a lot of cross-bunkers. And controlling the distance you hit the ball off the tee is important here. The bunkers are about 250 off the tee and there's another one that's 300, so you have the opportunity to play in between them; and the longer hitters have the ability to go around some of the longer bunkers.
It's very much a positional golf course off the tee I felt, and I think what will be difficult is if the wind switched around here. We played it today out the southwest and Ernie said it normally blows out the southeast, which will make quite a difference to a lot of the holes. There's three or four really long par 4s which if the wind does switch makes them a little bit longer.
But all in all the greens are pretty severe. There's four greens that are really tough, but if you position the ball correctly you give yourself an opportunity to make par or birdie.
Q. Nick, as a veteran of this competition, is the President's Cup growing into the event that it was intended to be?
NICK PRICE: Well, I think so. I think when Commissioner Finchem spoke to me in the early 90s about starting the President's Cup off, he had the foresight to understand that I think in ten years' time that there would be a very strong International Team put together. And as we've seen this year, I think we went down to -- I'm not sure where Tim is on the World Ranking, but I think K.J. was 11th on our team and he was about 30th or 32nd, which lends itself to a really strong team. I think in the years gone by, we've always been a little weak from 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, but this year we have got a really strong team down there.
I think like the Ryder Cup, it's very important that this is closely contested. I think everybody wants to see it come down to one game, one shot on Sunday. If that happens, then there will be a lot of interest in this event. I think as the years have progressed, I think since Melbourne, Melbourne was probably the turning point for the President's Cup. The first two were a little slow and the media interest was a little -- not quite as much interest as we have now, so this is a good time.
Q. Is there a rivalry developing, Ernie?
ERNIE ELS: I think obviously the last time we played, they beat us pretty badly. But I think like Nick said, I think Melbourne was a turning point. The two times before that, they beat us pretty comfortably. Melbourne, I think that was a bit of a turning point. And it's good we're making a bit of travel, fliers for the international, to bring it to kind of a home nation, so to speak. I think it's important to bring it out of America in the second year.
I think this year, as Nick says, again I think we've got our strongest team, by far, in any of the other previous President's Cups. So hopefully, definitely after this year, there will be a good rivalry.
JAMES CRAMER: Vijay, along with Nick, you're the only player to play in all four President's Cup teams with the International Team. Perhaps you could also answer the question of how much it's grown over the four playings.
VIJAY SINGH: It's quite a bit different than Ryder Cup, I think. It's a little bit unfair for the Americans playing every year. I think that's why we don't have that much of an enthusiasm from the American side playing this.
But I think as the years go by, as we change venues, going abroad, I think it's going to bring them back to making it an important event for everybody.
I'm more excited playing this time around than I've ever been. I think we have a very good golf team; that I think we are capable of beating the Americans and we are excited about it. Just like Melbourne, first time we went overseas, we won, and I think we are looking forward to doing the same thing over here again.
Q. In the Ryder Cup, the names come out of the envelope on Sunday and whoever plays, plays, but here the captains get to arrange who they want to play. Do the players like that? We like the fact that you can set up a match, but do the players like that?
MIKE WEIR: I think so. I think you know what you're going to get and you don't have to guess who you're going to play. You know it straight out and I think it gives the captain maybe a little more input on maybe who you feel comfortable with.
It all comes down to , we were talking a little bit about this earlier who, is playing well. It's not necessarily who it looks like it's going to be made out to be who is going to play each other. I think the input from the players is probably helpful for Ian and Gary.
Q. Along those lines, have you people talked about who you want to play with in general terms, Nick maybe?
NICK PRICE: As team members.
NICK PRICE: Yeah, we have a pretty good idea I think who is going to play with who on Thursday.
You know, it's really up to the captains who they pair us against. That's basically what their biggest role is going to be this week is when Jack puts up a pair, how Gary matches it up. I think we have a pretty good idea of who is going to play with who.
Q. Ernie, a few years ago, I think you and Nick both expressed concern that the Americans might not all attend this event. I wondered if you wondered if the best players would all come. Do you have any reaction to what's actually happened and what their response has been?
ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, the questions were coming from you guys, so we were answering questions.
And yeah, there was a concern from everybody. South Africa is a very far place to travel to, especially at the end of the year. It's quite a sacrifice that you have to make, and it's at the end of the season. Our tour is done, so a lot of people want to go home and kind of relax.
But, you know, the President's Cup is there and it's an important event. As you said earlier, you know, we've got to try and promote golf around the world. I think everybody was a little concerned that not everybody would come down here, but again, you know, we've got to say thanks to everybody that has made the trip. It's a long trip.
But I think everybody knows that golf has got to be the winner here and I think that's what they are doing. I think everybody has definitely got the message that we've got to promote golf as good as we can. It's a great place to do it down here in South Africa.
Q. For Retief and Ernie and Tim, Mr. Mandela is going to be here, I believe, on Thursday. I was wondering if you could talk about what he means to you and to your country, and if you've ever met him before, your relationship with him?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I've met him three or four times now. He's always been very friendly. He probably knows more than I do, than what I know myself; he's really keen on following sport in general, especially our South African sportsmen. It's great to have him down here and still being around, it's great that he can make it on Thursday.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, similar. We probably speak once or twice in a year. He's a sports fanatic. You know, he loves to see South African sportsmen do well. Obviously, he's meant so much to our country and to the people of South Africa. It will be great to see him again. He's a great man. What else can you say? It's nice to have met him a couple of times.
TIM CLARK: I just met him again a couple of days ago at Gary Player'S Nelson Mandela Invitational. It was the second time I met him. Just to be around him is quite a feeling. You know he has such an aura about him and he is such a great man. Obviously he's done a lot for the country. And as Ernie says, he's pretty enthusiastic with what sport can do for the country. He realizes that we as sportsmen can sort of promote the country in a good way, and I think he sort of encourages that, which is great for sport.
Q. Perhaps a question for Nick Price, as one of the older hounds in the President's Cup.
NICK PRICE: Thank you. Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q. In the Ryder Cup, you appeared more as a team than the International, as a team what is your viewpoint, do you think you've gotten together more as a team?
NICK PRICE: Just looking at the history of the President's Cup, we got it right one year. In fact, the one year, I think the second one we played came down to Vijay's match against Freddie on Sunday, a couple of points. When we have played well, we've played well as team members in the foursomes and the four-balls. You know, that, especially in this format because you have six matches, five, five and then six; so you have a total of 22 points out of the 34, it's really important to play well as team members.
I think that's what we did so well in Melbourne. So choosing the right guys to play with each other -- we're a real hodgepodge. We come from all four corners of the world. It's important that you put guys who are compatible together, and I think that, again is Ian Baker-Finch and Gary's job. You know, he's asked for a lot of advice from all of us as to who we feel comfortable with playing. As you said, I think that's a really important part of it.
Q. You've kind of answered that already, Nick, but United States plays under one flag, Europe plays under one continent, how is it from a team spirit-wise, do you think, that the International Team is able to bond? What flag do you play under?
NICK PRICE: That's very true. You know, for us, we're trying to win as a team. We're all representing our individual countries which is important to all of us. But we're trying to win as a team. The last time we did win, we did win in Melbourne, it was an amazing feeling for all of us, very emotional; as when we lost last time at RTJ, it was very emotional for all of us.
But it is hard. We are playing for our countries, but as you said, I think it's five, six countries represented on our team. As you know, we have all played a lot of golf together. We've played a lot of practice rounds, all of us in the States. It's an emotional time for us.
There's a lot of humor on our team; that's great. We laugh a lot. We do have a team spirit, which is hard to think of when you look at where we all come from, but we do, we have a lot of team spirit.
Q. Do you find the bond, purpose, almost, if you will, trying to beat the Stars and Stripes, or the fact that you guys, or most of you have traveled so far throughout your careers, lived overseas, to get to where you are, does that bond you?
NICK PRICE: There's a big distinction. We want to win. We don't really want to beat America. We want to win the President's Cup, and I think there's a clear distinction in that.
You know, it's just like, I think when we all go and chase tournament titles around the world, it's not a question of beating 149 other guys or however many there are. As you know, all of us get on really well in the U.S. players. Most of us play over there. It's not a question of who we're going to beat. It's, we want to win.
Q. I think you guys are more used to traveling than the Americans are, you've traveled great distances and now the Americans have traveled so far to come here, is that an advantage to the International Team that the Americans might not be as on their game as they would be in the United States, for example?
NICK PRICE: You want me to answer? I've done all the talking.
MIKE WEIR: I don't think so. I don't think it makes a difference. I think as much as you do travel, it still takes time, a couple of days to get your legs under you and get -- as we say, most of us play in the U.S. so I think traveling down here is the same for everybody. Yeah, I don't think it makes a difference.
Q. What was the main message to come out of the meeting?
IAN BAKER-FINCH: Well, there was a lot of messages. To me, it's as Nick just said, we bond well, a lot of humor, a lot of fun, a lot of good times. When we talk rubgy, Mike and K.J. have to listen. (Laughter.) The other ten boys know what's going on.
An interesting thing, Mike brought along a jersey, we call them a jersey but I don't know what they call them in Canada.
MIKE WEIR: That's right, a jersey.
IAN BAKER-FINCH: He brought along a Canadian hockey team jersey, but there's 11 on the team that probably don't know a lot about ice hockey, but he brought it along with the player's name on the back. That was kind of a unique thing.
We don't have a flag, we don't have a Stars and Stripes to play under, but we're a great team, tough team. Going to be a tough team to beat.
I think that's the great thing about this match, for us, is that we do get a chance to get together one time every year to two this, every couple of years to go and travel. I would like to see, as Ernie said, get to travel and play internationally. Maybe it goes to Canada, Fiji, maybe Japan. Australia and South Africa have had the best representation because they have had the largest amount of players playing around the world. So it's a good chance to get out there and play in front of your home crowd and in a team atmosphere.
The one thing we don't have is that one flag, but we are all here as a bunch of blokes having a good time together and doing the best we can. Hopefully we'll win the trophy back that we had a look at in '98.
Q. That was a Detroit Red Wings jersey?
MIKE WEIR: No. It was a replica of Team Canada's jersey of Olympic gold.
Q. Everybody got one?
MIKE WEIR: Everybody got one, yeah.
Q. Vijay, do you see a scenario where you --
NICK PRICE: Some bright spot wanted to put him in charge of media relations. (Laughter.)
Q. Do you see a point where there could be a three-way tournament like where the Internationals would also get a crack at the European team or doesn't that matter?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't think it matters. We'd like to play the Europeans at some point, or the Americans would, but they do anyway. They play every other year.
We just have to get this tournament under the ground well. It's just beginning to grow and I think in the next few years, we'll see how strong this tournament can be. I think it's going to grow to be a big event, as big as Ryder Cup think one of these days. I think once that happens, we'll see, but at this point, I don't think there is really a necessity to look at other way.
Q. I don't want to beat this bonding question to death, but you're on a team where ten guys are from the Southern hemisphere, one from the Far East, and you were born outside Detroit as far as we're concerned. Is there different dynamics there for you, the fact that you're another American playing on an International Team, most of which come from this part of the world, going up against the U.S. team?
MIKE WEIR: Well, not really. You know, I felt really part of this team two years ago, three years ago when I played in the States .
I've played most of my junior golf, most of my amateur golf in Canada, played against the U.S. guys. So I've always felt like I was playing against them. So in that regard, no.
But playing on the U.S. tour, there is, as Nick said, we are just trying to win. So I don't feel -- some of the guys on the U.S. team said: "Well, you should be playing for us, you live so close." But I've never felt like that. I definitely feel part of the International Team.
End of FastScripts.