November 3, 2004
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Good morning. I'd like to thank you for joining us this morning for the announcement with the ABC Golf Team lineup. I'd like to introduce at this time Mark Mandel, the vice president of media relations for ABC Sports.
MARK MANDEL: Good morning and thank you for joining us. We think we really have something pretty special here, and we're very proud to be here today to kick it off. There are two gentlemen before we hand it off to Mike Tirico. On the far end to the right is executive producer Mike Pearl and closest to me is our golf producer Mark Loomis. At this time I'm going to turn the program over to Mike Tirico.
MIKE TIRICO: Hi, everybody. We're amongst a room of friends. I know that there's another press conference being held regarding golf later this afternoon. I was trying to trump that. I thought we were going to have the announcement of the Ryder Cup captains for '06 right here since both of these guys were in the mix. In all candor, we are really excited about the start here this week of the next phase of our golf coverage as we've been a part of this sport for over four decades at ABC, and it's been my privilege for the last eight years to be a part of it. I can't think of anything more exciting than to get two people who are so respected for their accomplishments on the course, admired for what they've done and also have tremendous personalities, as well, and who are going to add to what we all do. We can talk about what television is and what writers think of television and critics.
Television is all about the person at home sitting there and enjoying what they're seeing on TV a little bit more than the guys who are talking about it. I can't think of anything better than a guy who's won six majors and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Nick Faldo, and Paul Azinger, who has won a major, won many times on Tour and most importantly has the reputation for having some of the best guts and determination of any player who's been around here in the last quarter century, much like Nick, and also who has the most apt nickname in golf. There's no better name than "Zinger" because one, you know it, and two, you're going to get some zingers from this guy. We hope to start a long relationship.
Without further ado, since these guys haven't talked much since they met in the Ryder Cup about ten years ago, so they're going have some chances to talk. Do you want to go first?
PAUL AZINGER: Sure. Well, I'm just going to be myself, and there won't be any political zingers from me because obviously Bruce Springstein and Michael Moore and Bon Jovi fell flat on their face, so I don't see why it's going to do me any good to be political, so I'll try to avoid that arena as best I can. I'll just try to be myself. I think that I'm not going to feel a burden to talk all the time. I think the action oftentimes speaks louder than words in golf, and I think if you just pay attention to what's going on and understand the situation, stuff will come naturally to me.
I'd like to contribute, I'm looking forward to having a conversation with Nick Faldo. I haven't really -- we haven't had a whole lot to say to each other in the last 20 years, so it's going to be kind of fun getting to know Nick a little bit. We've got some things in common, don't we? We like to fly fish and play golf.
NICK FALDO: That's a good start.
PAUL AZINGER: I know Nick does two things a little slower than I do. One is probably hit a golf ball and the other is probably fix his hair. It doesn't take me long to fix my hair. I'm looking forward to hanging with Nick. Those are the only zingers I'm throwing out. I'm excited about it. It's kind of a fork in the road for me a little bit. I still think I can play and I still want to play a full schedule on Tour, but I want to take this as an opportunity to do something different at age 45 that's exciting to me, and hopefully I can contribute, and I am excited about it. Working with Mike is not that bad, either.
MIKE TIRICO: Thanks for mentioning me. Nick?
NICK FALDO: Zinger, it's eight seconds you have to fill there, okay (laughter)? With as few words as possible.
Firstly, I'm honored that ABC have hunted me down and given me this opportunity to bring an English-speaking voice to the team, better King's English, or Queen's -- no, we don't have any Queen's English, thank you (laughter).
On the political side, I have a opportunity to speak to this great nation and it won't cost you half a billion dollars to do that, so that's great.
As Paul was saying, this adds another string to my bow. I'm still going to play. I'm going to try and play about 15 events. I'm cutting back on that side. Obviously I'm developing the business side of golf. I was in Hutchinson, Kansas, on a pro jet freezing my butt off with the guys, and I whizzed in this morning. There's a lot going on. Number one is to enjoy it for me, and hopefully I can move just a little closer to the screen and go, "What the hell is he talking about?" So that will be perfect.
MIKE TIRICO: We are lucky enough to be the front guys for a great team, although this is the most individual of sports, I think even more individual than tennis. This is truly a team aspect of golf, as many of you know who know the people who do this on a regular basis. It's been our pleasure this year to start a relationship, continue one, really, with our producer Mark Loomis. Mark was a big part of the golf team for a number of years, gone away for a couple years to be a part of some of the other big ABC events like the College Football National Championship Game. Mark came to take on golf this year. He's the best golfer without question of the non-announcers --
PAUL AZINGER: I would agree with that.
MIKE TIRICO: Mark has really headed us in a great direction, and he leads not just the three of us but the rest of our team that will be out here from tomorrow and beyond, and Mark can talk a little bit about that.
MARK LOOMIS: I think when you're putting a team together, you start with who you have already. I was very fortunate to walk into a situation with some really terrific people. A lot of those people are continuing forward with Mike, who is probably one of the only couple of people who might be able to handle these two together. I'm fortunate to have him up there. Ian Baker-Finch, Judy Rankin, Peter Allis, it's already a terrific group. To be able to add these two to it just tops it off. I think having those people around allows us to bring in Nick and Paul and to really try something new and different and I think something that's really going to be entertaining and fun, so from all the production people, I know we're very excited. We've had a great year, I've felt good about what we're doing, and I think where we're going is even better.
MIKE TIRICO: Mark came here with John DelVecchio, our new golf director this year. It's been a long time.
As I said to my wife the other day, if you want to talk in the parlance of what's gone on in golf, it's been a fun year of swing changes for us in many ways, but the good news is we certainly know we are in a great position for the end of this year to go off into 2005, so we are really excited. Any questions for the guys?
Q. What makes you think two guys in the booth will work, and what makes you think these two guys in the booth will work?
MARK LOOMIS: I think the easy answer is we don't have any more people. For most of our tournaments we're going to have six, a couple tournaments we're going to have seven, so it's not like we have more voices; it's just different voices and they have different jobs.
Like I said, I think Mike is going to be a terrific help, Ian Baker-Finch will be a terrific help. It can fill so many different holes as a hole announcer, as an analyst, he'll be able to gauge as well as Mike. All those factors together I think will make this work. I think just as importantly, when we started out to replace Curtis after he left, it wasn't like, hey, I've got to go get two guys. I met with Paul, I met with Nick trying to make a decision on which way we're going to do. They're personalities were so divergent, but they believed in what they said and they also listened to others, which I think is important in this process. I thought the two of them together will be terrific, and I think Mike Pearl would speak to that, as well. He and I had a lot of talks about that.
MIKE PEARL: I don't think it's that much in terms of numbers, whether it's the booth, the studio or on the course; it's really the chemistry. You can have two men in a booth and that doesn't work. I don't see it as being numbers. I think it's the mix of the people and the chemistry and how it's all steered by the anchor in terms of Mike.
We look for three things in covering an event, to document, to inform, and in golf, and probably in golf television, I look at it as teaching. It's probably more informing -- the informing part in golf coverage is probably more important than any other sporting event on television because people who watch want to learn. There are guys watching a basketball gym or a football game who don't want to learn as much as the viewers watching golf to fix their game, and the last element is to entertain. Document, inform, entertain, and I think that mix and the chemistry that is put together with these guys is not, again, a matter of numbers, but who they are, how they react with each other and how they relate to the audience.
Q. For both Paul and Nick, this probably isn't the first time you were approached about coming to a network to do television. What was the reason for you deciding to do it this time?
NICK FALDO: Well, for me, I only did a couple. I was at another station for the Ryder Cup. You know, I'm 47 now, and I wanted to -- as I said, I'm quite happy to tie another string to the bow and see what we enjoy doing. I think the timing of that was good. I was frustrated with my golf the last couple of years, I got mentally tired, and so I thought if I'm mentally screwed up, maybe I'll make a great announcer (laughter), or a great analyst anyway. Analyze a mentally-screwed-up person.
PAUL AZINGER: See who your role model was in the past --
NICK FALDO: Pete Dye has got a great start. If I'm mentally screwed up after 35 years on Tour, I thought, "boy, I'm going to make a great architect." We love you, Pete.
PAUL AZINGER: You know, if I was playing great golf I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now, and I haven't been playing great golf. I've made some changes, and I think I have the potential to play really, really well still, but the 18th tower just doesn't come available very often, and there's only three of them on the major networks. I really was flattered when Mark approached me. I like Mark Loomis a lot, and the idea of -- the thought of having the opportunity to work with this guy here I think was big for me. It was considered last year, and I considered it last year and decided it was just a little too early and I wasn't quite ready, but I didn't do what I wanted to do this year as a player, and I thought, this may be the last opportunity I have, I'm going to look a little harder at it. Mike Pearl, the opportunity to work with Tirico is great, and Andy North and Judy Rankin -- I've been a Judy Rankin fan since I saw her grip back in the late '70s. I think it's just a point in my life, just like Nick. If I'd have won six majors I probably would have been a broadcaster when I was 35 or 40, but I only won one.
I'm just looking forward to it. Then when they threw Nick in the mix, initially I wasn't real sure about that, and then I thought after a while it would be a good thing.
MIKE TIRICO: Notice he's already sucking up to the producer.
PAUL AZINGER: If I didn't like Loomis, I wouldn't be here, I promise you that.
Q. Nick and Paul, both of you say you want to keep playing. Traditionally a lot of guys have gone into the booth who still felt like there was an invisible code that you couldn't betray with the other players. First of all, do you agree that that exists, that it's hard to be as candid about other players as you can when you're not playing, and if it does or doesn't, how do you think you'll handle that dynamic?
PAUL AZINGER: I've already gotten a taste when I was at the Western, and I felt the possibility of them not being as candid with me was there, but my not being candid with them is not going to be a problem. I don't think I have that mentality that's going to be that critical kind of a second-guessing kind of a guy all the time. I don't think you always have to have something to say before a shot is played, I don't think you always have to have something to say after a shot is played, and I don't think -- in the end, I don't think you have to predict what someone is going to do and then why they didn't pull it off after the fact, and I think that's where the criticism comes.
I mean, it's a game of mistakes, and I just don't see where criticism is really an effective means as a successful broadcaster. I can be exceptionally candid I feel without being critical, and occasionally maybe if criticism is required or whatever, I'll feel free to say what is in my mind, but I'm not going to have that cynical, critical attitude as a broadcaster.
NICK FALDO: I feel that we've been there and we're still out there. I feel that's important. We know what we can do, we know what we can't do, we know how we screw up and everything. I certainly wouldn't want to jump down any of the guys' throats or anything. I'm just going to try and -- I'm just going to let it go, let it happen, just free-wheel it, see what it creates really.
I think it's the viewer, trying to get inside the guy's mind, if a guy hit a bad shot, why. We can be constructive about it without having to be critical, or something might happen when they want us to -- you will get critical, who knows. If you generally believe that something has happened and you're 100 percent happy with saying I disagree with that, blah, blah, blah, whatever it might be --
Q. It's not relevant whether you're a player or not a player at that point?
NICK FALDO: I don't think so. Yes, to be honest probably a little bit because you're closer to the guys. I think that probably gives everybody more respect, both sides. "He's up in the tower and he's been there for 30 years, what the hell does he know about hitting a wedge over water with a one-shot lead?"
MIKE TIRICO: I will remind you guys because we're all on this Tour on a regular basis, it is the only sport where it happens that a lead analyst at a network is still competitive within that sport. I know for the seven and a half years that I was with Curtis that got lost, and over time the guys focus on TV, focus on golf and go back and forth. It's a pretty neat dynamic and it gives our viewers the best opportunity to understand what's going on because we have guys who are still in the mix on a regular basis.
Q. Contractually what are you guys being required to do next year as opposed to how much free time you have to actually go out and continue playing your careers?
PAUL AZINGER: I negotiated pretty much with Mark, my new agent (laughter).
MIKE TIRICO: Again, sucking up to the producer.
PAUL AZINGER: What I tried to do was ideally not broadcast events that I love to play, and there was only a few of those that conflicted with ABC's schedule, and ideally just do the number of events I was comfortable with, and it was real easy for me.
Q. What's that number?
PAUL AZINGER: I think it's 14 but a couple silly events or whatever late in the year, whatever you call them, single-day events.
MARK LOOMIS: That's correct.
PAUL AZINGER: The only tournament that I would normally play that I will broadcast is Riviera, but everything else is pretty much the normal schedule for me. I finished one shot out of exempt status for next year, but it's not going to affect my schedule in any way at all, so I'm good to go.
Q. Will you use your one-time --
PAUL AZINGER: No, I don't need to use it. I mean, how many exemptions am I going to need?
Q. How many tournaments are you going to play?
PAUL AZINGER: I'm going to play 18 to 22. I might need four exemptions, maybe not even that.
MIKE TIRICO: By the way, those silly events are known as the Challenge Tour.
Q. Nick, same question?
NICK FALDO: Well, I'm playing less, so I would say I picked the events that suit me that I feel I can bring a lot more to, obviously Riviera, I've won there, and I thought then obviously -- it seems having a lot at the end of the season is quite nice. I feel it helped me, as well. I also wanted to bring my family back into my life. That was important. I've been on the road for 30 years nearly, and I thought it was kind of nice to suddenly see a slowing so I could see my kids on a summer holiday.
As I said, I've got four things going; TV, golf, kids, and --
PAUL AZINGER: Golf course architecture, hobbies. You've got more than four things going on.
Q. What's your best memory from the '93 Belfry?
PAUL AZINGER: My '93 Belfry best memory. Can you believe he asked me that?
NICK FALDO: I know what mine is. He had just won for the last time if you can remember back that far (laughter). Cast your minds back.
PAUL AZINGER: I know exactly what he's going to say here, the 16th hole.
NICK FALDO: A four-foot putt, and I said, "You've just won the bloody thing, give us that," and he did.
PAUL AZINGER: But he lied because we had only assured the tie was retaining the cup. My biggest regret was on 18 I didn't ask him for the same thing because my putt looked no longer and he made me putt it.
NICK FALDO: I can't believe I did that (laughter).
PAUL AZINGER: You know, the '93 Ryder Cup was great. Was it the last time -- no, '99 we won, I guess.
NICK FALDO: It slips my mind.
PAUL AZINGER: All Ryder Cups have been great as far as I'm concerned, winning and losing.
Q. Kind of along those lines, you mentioned you took your name out of the hat a couple weeks ago. What did you think about Lehman's selection this afternoon?
PAUL AZINGER: I only just found out about it. I'm really, really surprised that Larry Nelson didn't get it, I really am. I'm a little surprised. Tom Lehman will do a terrific job. In the end what America needs to do is not get the right captain but get the right point system to get the hottest players -- not the best, because they're all great, but the hottest players.
NICK FALDO: You had your B team, did you?
PAUL AZINGER: We had a great team but we didn't have our hottest team.
NICK FALDO: You're going to need it to get close this time.
MIKE TIRICO: It's a good thing that there's a couple of months after this tournament because we're going to need a little psychological coaching for a while.
I just wanted to interject one thing. I've worked in three-man booths for college football and ESPN and ABC and the NBA last year. I'm starting to get a complex that I need to work in a three-man booth on a regular basis, but I've probably done 120 or 130, but I think Dick Enberg worked with Paul McGuire for a number of years, and I'm probably getting close to the most number of three-man booths than anybody. People always think it means more talking. There's the same amount of time in the show.
Anybody who's been on live TV will tell you, the beauty of it is getting a chance to stop and think before stopping to say before you say less and more significant things. I think it'll be a lot more fun for these guys if they come through television. I've noticed over time that one of the best parts -- Thursday nights there are plays that go back that we don't talk. We'll just let the play go back. All three of us are keenly aware -- these guys are, having worked with them twice and once, that sometimes the best thing in golf is to say nothing, and I think we all come from that school, so it won't be as difficult a listen as some people might think when they say, "Well, it's going to be a three-man booth." The best thing for a non-player is to sit and listen to two players talk. It's great to listen to it because they've lived it and we haven't. It's great to get some of that on the air.
NICK FALDO: The trick is to not talk for three hours a day and you get a paycheck at the end. Isn't that great?
PAUL AZINGER: I think the ultimate challenge will be for us not to step on each other once in a while. Quite frankly, I think one of the problems that ABC deals with is guys will step on each other. Even though you're dedicated to a hole, you know where your hole is supposed to be, there's the freedom to interject. I think if that's the biggest challenge then we've got it going on.
MIKE TIRICO: And it will help because in day-to-day conversation people step on each other, but in time the right people say the right things at the right time.
Q. Obviously this impacts somehow on ESPN coverage because two people mentioned here are obviously Sutton and Melnick. Obviously these guys are doing the same jobs on air at ESPN as Melnick did, so how does this impact all of that?
MARK LOOMIS: I can't tell you how it impacts Hal and Steve so much in the future. What we will say is that adding Nick and Paul, you know, you have to make some choices, and we were very excited about the ability to get Nick and Paul for next year and the year after.
We figured the best way to do that, we'd have to move on past that, and so what happens with -- I know Hal is still playing. Hal is still doing golf course architecture. I'm not sure what he wants to do with TV in the future. I haven't talked to Steve about what he wants to do in the future, but that's a good question for Steve to answer?
MIKE TIRICO: And there are a lot fewer tournaments we do on ESPN. I know personally because it affects me working in both places on a regular basis, it's a lot less than it was a couple years ago where every one of our tournaments had ESPN Thursday and Friday.
MARK LOOMIS: And this week Thursday and Friday Nick and Paul will be on air with us, starting on Thursday.
MARK MANDEL: Thanks, everyone.
MIKE TIRICO: We look forward to seeing you on Tour.
End of FastScripts.