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March 4, 2015
LAURA NEAL:¬† We are joined by our captains for the 2016 Presidents Cup.¬† We have two‑time Captain Nick Price joining us for the International Team, and newly‑named since the summer, U.S. Team Captain Jay Haas.
I believe this is the first time we've had you both in front of the media together since we made that announcement last summer.¬† We brought you in today to announce the remainder of those and then we'll open it up to questions for media here in the room.¬† So honors, Jay, as the newest captain?
JAY HAAS:¬† As you know, Fred couples is my first‑named assistant and Davis Love is my other assistant right now.¬† I can put one more on, but as of this time, I don't see that happening. ¬†We had the three of us at Muirfield Village and seemed to work well.
So Davis is excited about it.¬† He's going to play pretty much most of his golf on the PGA TOUR this year and be kind of my eyes and areas out in this tour and can give me some advice on some of the younger guys that I don't know as well.
We are excited to have Davis in the fold.¬† He and Robin are just terrific people, and he'll be quite an asset I think to the team.
NICK PRICE:¬† I'm going with my two countrymen again, Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone who were such great support last year, or two years ago, at Muirfield.¬† Two guys I grew up with, played a lot of golf with, respected match players.¬† Their insight at Muirfield was incredible.
Tony is a wonderful human being who has the ability to make everyone in the room laugh, and he has not only a great sense of humor but he's also a morale booster.¬† Sort of got in with the players, spoke with them in depth about who they wanted to play with.¬† This is a tall order for one captain, as Jay, I'm sure will tell you; anyone who has been involved in heading up a team.¬† So having all the help around you is very important.
Mark McNulty, who, again, is I think one of the best match players I ever played against, brought a lot of wisdom and insight to the team, and particularly in the selection of who played with who in the partners there in the early games.¬† It's our second go‑around.
K.J. Choi, as you know, is my vice captain.¬† I think any of you who know K.J. know he is also a fierce competitor.¬† We have a pretty strong corner there.¬† Just looking forward to getting to Korea and putting the foot down.
Q.¬† Your second go around, back‑to‑back, Davis missed one, but what did you learn that you can put into play this time?
NICK PRICE:¬† Last time, nothing is ever as it seems.¬† Sometimes, obviously the weather threw us a curveball there because we had to make our decisions and our picks while the guys were still out on the golf course, which was difficult.¬† It just seemed like the whole week was a bit of a blur, particularly Friday, Saturday, and Sunday because we had two four o'clock wake‑up calls, Friday morning ‑‑ Saturday morning and Sunday morning, to finish off the previous round, so that was difficult.
I think compatibility between the two players in the team matches is so key.¬† I think finding, not necessarily the way they play, because you can put a longer hitter with a shorter hitter; I don't think it really matters.¬† It's how well they combine as a team.
You know, we saw Brendon de Jonge, put Brendon with Ernie and Ernie felt‑‑ I think Brendon felt that there was a lot of confidence in Ernie's ability and also in being sort of like the experienced guy.¬† That was good.¬† Putting Hideki with Adam, that was a good choice I felt.
But all in all, I think the whole thing is, when it comes down the wire, you've got to make putts and that's the bottom line.¬† The U.S., they putted beautifully that week.¬† Made more birdies than we did, and that's why the outcome, why they ended up winning.¬† I think tee‑to‑green, both teams played remarkably well.
So I'm going to be encouraging my players to practice their short games a little more going into it.
Q.¬† Is selecting Davis to be an assistant part of sort of a longer‑term plan, for him, as well, to keep him vested in the players being the next Ryder Cup Captain?
JAY HAAS:¬† Well, actually, Davis, we've talked about it for quite a while before he was on the task force or named The Ryder Cup captain for 2016.
I asked him, does he still want to do it even; there's a lot on his plate.¬† We just heard that he's been elected to be on the policy board for the PGA TOUR for the next three years.¬† You know, he's a busy man; so I could understand it if he didn't want to do it.
But no, he loves the team concept I think.¬† He was excited about it when I asked him to do it, if he didn't play, if he didn't qualify.¬† But last year, when I did ask him, he says, "I'm going to South Korea one way or the other," is what his comment was.
You know, I've known that‑‑ this is not something that I sprung on him or anything like that in the last few weeks.¬† Again, I gave him an opportunity to say, enough is enough, I need to step aside for a while.¬† But I think this can only help him going forward.¬† I feel more comfortable being involved with the last three teams as an assistant, kind of know the drill a little bit.¬† Until you do it, though, or until it comes time, you can't duplicate that.
But as Nick said, the pressure times for a captain and his assistants are when your players are still out there, as the format has been with the 36 holes on Saturday, and matches aren't finished yet.¬† You hear stories down the line from past years where guys are on the 15th hole and, you know:¬† "Do you want to play this afternoon, we really need you."¬† Well, you don't know the outcome of that match right then; is it going to 18, is it going to be over at 15, things like that.¬† That can be very nerve‑wracking for the captains I think.
But Davis has got a tremendous amount of experience, and like I said, the fact that he's out there, he'll play most of his golf I think on the PGA TOUR this year and that gives me some security that he knows what's going on a little bit.¬† I can ask, hey, play a practice round with so‑and‑so that looks like he's playing good.
Kind of a long‑winded answer, but I gave him an opportunity to say, I need a break, but he's ready.
Q.¬† When did Lahiri enter your radar?
NICK PRICE:¬† Last year I went and played an event in Fiji, and I had been keeping an eye on the World Ranking.¬† Every Monday I sort of pop it up and see who is moving.¬† I spoke to him in Fiji last year because he had moved up to about I think 15th or 16th on the international points list, so I knew he was playing well and I had seen his form.
So I chatted to him a little bit and then I just sent him an e‑mail after he won in Malaysia, which was a pretty strong win, the way he played at the end.¬† And then winning in Delhi the next week, I also watched that.
I spoke to him yesterday; but back last year, he appeared on my radar, and I think he's a very competent player, and I think he's going to bring‑‑ he almost; he just needs to play decently the next two or three months and I think he's going to be a lock on the team which is going to be great for us and for India.¬† I mean, it's a huge market and I think it's going to be a certain ground breaking for him to be on the team.¬† So he's very excited about it.
Q.¬† What do you like best about his game?
NICK PRICE:¬† I think he's a great putter.¬† I think he hits the ball‑‑ all these guys out here hit the ball really well.¬† But looks like he can make a big putt on a big occasion.¬† Certainly that's what he's shown us on TV or what I've seen on TV over the last couple of months.¬† But very calm, collected, and I think he's going to be an asset to our team.
Q.¬† Considering you're playing in Korea, the best Korean player has an issue and may not be able to play in The Presidents Cup.¬† What's your general thoughts on that situation?
NICK PRICE:¬† I don't really know much about it other than what I've read.¬† My old caddie is now caddying for Moon.¬† So it's going to be a tragedy if we can't get him on the team, for whatever rhyme or reason.¬† I just hope they sort it out to be honest.
I don't want to get into the sort of like the political ramifications of what may be going on.¬† But I did service, and I think he wants to do his service.¬† But I don't know what the whole issue is right now, and it's very difficult to understand.
But we need him on our team.¬† He's won the last two tournaments on that golf course the last two years, so he knows the golf course very well.¬† You know, K.J., unfortunately, after showing some form at the end of last year, middle of last year, he has not played very well and is sliding down on the rankings.¬† It would be sad for us to go to Korea and not have a Korean player on our team.¬† But like I say, I'm not going to get into the political side of that.
Q.¬† When the Americans were losing by slivers of points, they decided to have a task force.¬† You have a much longer losing streak.¬† Have you thought of anything like that to try to turn things around?
NICK PRICE:¬† We put a proposal to the Commissioner with the players before Muirfield, and to Freddie Couples, about a points change for The Presidents Cup.¬† The Commissioner was very apprehensive to do it.¬† Last year we had the same points structure.¬† We had a conference call, Jay and the Commissioner and I, about, what was it, a month ago, discussing, and it's in the Commissioner's hands.
I'm the only task force on our team (laughter).¬† The dynamics of our team and sort of where everyone is from makes things a little difficult.¬† The guys were great last year.¬† At Muirfield I had probably the most motivated team that I've ever been fortunate to be part of.¬† I thought the team we had in Melbourne was something special, but the guys in Muirfield were just so excited about playing.¬† It was great to see.
You know, I think it's interesting, when you look at The Ryder Cup and what's all this, what's been going on with the task force and all that.¬† But they haven't mentioned changing the points structure, which to me obviously means that's a wonderful recipe they have there, which that's debatable, but I think it will be nice if we could get similar to that.
Q.¬† Have you studied the successful European Ryder Cup model and given that the European Team is a team of internationals?
NICK PRICE:¬† I think the European, just from the outside looking in, the Europeans, they have more continuity with their team players, you know what I'm saying.¬† Like you had Seve and Olaz√°bal for the longest time.¬† So you had more ‑‑ I think the American Team turns over; they have more rookies, or not necessarily rookies, but they don't have the same continuity as The European Team.¬† Now that's changing I think.
For the longest time, you had six, seven, eight players on The European Team who had played for the last four or five Ryder Cups.¬† So it was a lot easier for the captains to pick who they were going to play with.¬† That was probably I think the big difference.
I think, also, it's really hard for the U.S.¬† They are playing for their country.¬† The Europeans are playing for their tour; they are playing for their countries indirectly but they are playing for their tour.¬† I think that puts a lot of pressure on the American Team.
And if I was the captain, I would say, sure, you're playing for your country, but go out there and play for your team and yourselves a little more and that might take a little of the pressure off them.
The worst thing is once you get behind the 8‑ball and start losing, it's hard to change that.¬† I can speak from experience, because not only having played in The Presidents Cup, but now being on the losing end as a captain, it's difficult.
What am I going to change this year?¬† Well, I'm pretty much going to do much the same as I did the last one with maybe a few minor changes, but I thought what I did was the right thing.
Q.¬† Right now as things look, Tiger Woods being on your team would be unlikely unless you picked him.¬† And then Phil Mickelson has been struggling somewhat, as well, even though he played better last week.¬† There's a good possibility that the two guys that everyone has built the American Team around would not be on a Cup team.¬† What are your thoughts on that, and how would you look at your team without those two guys on it?
JAY HAAS:¬† I don't know, what do you think?¬† (Laughing).¬† I'll take any and all suggestions in that area.¬† Yeah, who would have thought that a few years ago; that players like that, seem like they are going to go on forever.
I just had a great talk with Phil at breakfast this morning, and he had us all laughing and everything, and it's just hard to imagine him not in that team room. ¬†He said this is a big week for him.¬† So much can change, though, between now and, say, after the U.S. Open, with two majors and quadruple points and all that stuff.¬† I'm not too concerned right now that both of them are not right at the forefront of the team.
You know, who knows how Tiger is doing physically.¬† He says his back's okay.¬† He just needs to work on his game, things like that.¬† So I guess I'm kind of taking a wait‑and‑see attitude, cross that bridge when I get to it, just because, again, I think so much can change, the team can‑‑ there's maybe three or four guys right now that are pretty much a lock, but it's a pretty volatile points system I think.¬† Guys in the 20s maybe win a tournament, they jump into the Top‑10 right now.
But their playing the majors is going to be I think pretty vital for them making the team.¬† I think Phil will be honest with me and just say, I'm playing great, I really want to be on the team, whatever‑‑ I know everybody wants to be on the team.¬† But that would be a tough part of my job I think is not having them already qualified.
Q.¬† Paul McGinley last year at some point earlier in the year, June or July, went to Graeme McDowell and said:¬† Don't worry about it, you're going to be on this team no matter what, I have you slotted in, who you are going to play with and everything else.¬† Could you foresee saying something like that to Phil who brings so much to the team, even outside of his play and leadership?
JAY HAAS:¬† I wouldn't say I wouldn't do that.¬† But I think he knows how I feel and what I think of his contributions to the team outside of just the play.¬† I think he's an unbelievable leader in the locker room.¬† The teams that I've been around, he's amazing.
I was on the team at Fancourt in South Africa and he went 0‑5, and he never blinked, he never change, he never moped.¬† He was as funny as he was if he was 5‑0, and that really has stuck with me over the years.¬† Just to know that it wasn't just all about him; he's really into the team and he loves the team atmosphere.
I'm sad that he's down the list right now but I fully expect somebody like Phil to be right there.
Q.¬† They keep score obviously for a reason but Jack last Sunday was talking about, these competitions really aren't about winning.¬† They are about sportsmanship, showcasing the game, all these other things.¬† Curious what your guys thoughts were on that.
NICK PRICE:¬† Competition.¬† That's what we all play golf and the game for as far as I'm concerned.
Sportsmanship is a byproduct of competition.¬† When you see guys with great sportsmanship, it's normally done under duress of extreme competition.¬† That's what we all I think admire.¬† That's where your heros always distinguish themselves in times of great stress, and I think that's why The Ryder Cup has been so phenomenal over the years, because we've seen shots played under pressure that we don't normally see; not for money, not for players' self‑pride but for a team.
And that's the ultimate I think, whether it's football or whether it's cricket or rugby or whether it's golf.¬† It's the competition we play for.¬† And I think that's the greatest thing about the Presidents Cup and The Ryder Cup, there's no money.¬† It's about pure competition.¬† I just feel all the other things are byproducts of the competition.¬†
JAY HAAS:¬† I couldn't agree more.¬† I think all the guys that are on the teams, they didn't get to that point by just saying, ah, this doesn't matter.
I want to beat you at pitching pennies, shooting free throws, whatever it might be; you can't teach that.¬† And that's something that all these players have or else they would not be, say, in this event, here.¬† These guys just didn't show up and casually go through their routines and become great players.¬† I mean, they had that drive and that want to, that want to succeed, and the competition part of it is huge.
Q.¬† In a worst‑case scenario, would you consider Phil or Tiger as that last assistant spot you have open?
JAY HAAS:¬† Next question (laughter).
NICK PRICE:¬† Pressure (laughing).
JAY HAAS:¬† I don't know, maybe if they were closer to being of age to, say, be a captain or something like that.¬† I know they still have many years to go in competition.
You know, I don't know.¬† I haven't thought about that, no.
Q.¬† Slightly different subject.¬† You're one of the very few people in the world who has experience with winning the previous two majors, being ranked No. 1 in the world and coming into all the hype that goes into the Masters.¬† Can you talk about your experience at that time in '94 and '95, and how Rory is handling his place at the top right now.
NICK PRICE:¬† Well, for me personally, of all the major championships we played, Augusta was probably the hardest course for me to win on because I hit the ball a little lower and I wasn't really a great fast greens putter.
So going in there, I always felt like double the pressure.¬† And a lot of times, I missed the cut.¬† I think in '95 going in there, I missed the cut.¬† I went in a few times playing really well but got so frustrated with the golf course.
Rory is a totally different kettle of fish.¬† He hits the ball perfectly for Augusta.¬† I think he's on a mission to be honest.¬† I watched‑‑ I love watching him play because he's got that bounce in his stride and he always looks upbeat.¬† Even when he's not playing well, he seems to have a wonderful attitude out there, which I think the kids who watch the game will learn a lot from.
But I think he's going to be a huge factor at Augusta this year.¬† I think he can handle the pressure.¬† He's won three majors already.¬† So you know, that golf courseis right up his alley.¬† In fact, I haven't seen a golf that's built that isn't up his alley.¬† Kind of like looking at Tiger in 2000.¬† He drives the ball as far and as straight as anyone I've seen.¬† I think he's a wonderful player.
Q.¬† What's it like for you, being that target on tour, you won five or six times I think in '94, as well as the two majors and world No. 1 and sort of a dominant guy at the moment.¬† Did you like being‑‑
NICK PRICE:¬† Yeah, there's a lot of difficulty that goes with that.¬† A, there's more requests for your time when he gets up there, so he has got to be disciplined in that.
For me, I did enjoy a lot of it, but the difficult thing was your time is not your own.¬† You seem like you're rushing around doing things all the time and maybe at times you lose a little bit of focus on your golf.
But I was playing so well, it really didn't matter which event I was going into, whether it was a major‑‑ obviously you got a little more hyped up for the major, but you still had the same attention on you, which you learn to live with that, and I'm sure Rory is accustomed to that now.
If he just keeps his focus on playing golf that week, which is‑‑ I'm sure he will.
Q.¬† Switching back to The Presidents Cup, this one's for you, Jay.¬† With all The Ryder Cup talk that we've had in the last couple of weeks, I'm wondering if you are buying in at all to the concept that increasingly, it's becoming more and more of a burden on the American players to have to play an International Team competition every year, as opposed to every other year.
JAY HAAS:¬† I don't personally, and the players that I've talked to, they are very, very excited about The Presidents Cup.¬† Year‑in and year‑out, I think the guys, Phil, for example, had a conversation with him last fall, and he just said, "I love this.¬† I love these team events."¬†¬†
So now you've got one of your best players of all time saying that.¬† You know, a couple of the young guys have come in to get measured this week for uniforms and they say, I don't care what we wear, I'll wear‑‑ one of the comments was, "I'll wear a garbage bag.¬† Just get me on the team."¬† I think once a player gets on a team, and I can only speak from my own experience, they can't wait to get on another team.
Year‑in, year‑out, you're talking, what, Phil has played for 20 straight years now maybe or something on a team.¬† If he doesn't get tired of it, then there's really no excuse for anyone else, I don't think.
LAURA NEAL:¬† Captains, thanks so much for your time.¬† Good luck.
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