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Interview No. 4: U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton

The Shell Houston Open
Redstone Golf Club
Humble, Texas
April 21, 2004

August 21, 2004

Moderator: Some opening comments on the Shell Houston Open

Hal Sutton: This week's event - I just played and the golf course is in great shape. Spectacular as a matter of fact. It got a little windy there at the end. The rough is up, I would expect everyone would want to hit it in the fairway this week.

Moderator: Some opening comments on the Ryder Cup

Hal Sutton: There are new guys making rumblings on the golf course. I thought it was great that Phil (Mickelson) won the Masters a couple of weeks ago. I think that will take Phil's confidence to an all-time high. It certainly will be very beneficial to the American team. I think the team is shaping up tremendous. I think we have a nice mix of experience and youth. There are several very good players looming right behind that 10th spot, looking to creep into the top 10. I'm excited. I don't know if anyone else is excited what is taking place. I saw Chris Riley (today) as I walked through the locker room today and I said, "Hi Chris." He said, "Man, I'm working, I'm trying hard." I said, "You're in ninth place." He said, "No, I think I dropped some last week." I said, "No, you didn't, you're ninth. I want you to know I am looking at those standings."

Q: Any conversations in the locker room that don't involved the Ryder Cup?

We have some conversations that don't involve the Ryder Cup, but the majority do. We had an outing on Monday and someone asked me how my game was. I said, "Does it matter?"

Q: Has there been a conscious effort with the war to tone down the Ryder Cup?

Hal Sutton: I don't think it's a conscious effort on my part or the PGA of America. I don't see it being different than it has in the past. The guys, they are taking care of their job. As times goes on, they realize the time is drawing near. They need to start thinking about that. I think the same is true in the media world. You realize it is what, five months out? Each month goes by, it gets closer, and (you think), "Hey, by the way, the Ryder Cup is fixing to be here. I tell you what, I do a lot of corporate outings and the world is aware the Ryder Cup is around the corner. All of these guys are talking to me about what's going on and they are curious. And anxious. Curious and anxious.

Q: What is your philosophy regarding experienced players and the like?

Hal Sutton: I don't have a philosophy. I don't have a plan. The top 10 are going to dictate who the next two guys are basically. What we need to have there, what we don't have there. And obviously, I'm going to be looking to see who is playing the best at that time. We make the announcement the Monday morning after the PGA (Championship). That's five or six weeks away from the Ryder Cup, a month. I'm going to be looking for guys who are playing good at that time who can carry it over for 30 days. That's my philosophy on it.

Q: Wind on the course today during Pro-Am

Hal Sutton: I think it was a factor. None of us have played a lot of rounds of golf here, we've had only one tournament. The beauty of playing on the (PGA) TOUR, if you go to the same tournament site each year, you get used to the golf course. It becomes more of a home course. We still haven't hit enough shots off these tees to be totally familiar with it. The more times you see it, the more times in this circumstance, it is another way of looking at it.

Q: The set-up compared to 2003

Hal Sutton: The scores were pretty low here last year, if I remember right. The rough wasn't as thick, as I remember. There are going to be some shots out there when you hit it in the rough you have to lay up. Especially if you do it on the wrong hole. Nos. 16 and 17, you might have to lay up if you put it in the rough. I didn't play a practice round, I just played today. But from the rough I did see, it looked very difficult. That's what I'm trying to say.

Q: Is Jay Haas in a good position to make the Ryder Cup team?

Hal Sutton: He's performing like he is.

Q: Jim Furyk. Have you spoken with him about the Ryder Cup?

Hal Sutton: No, but I had a 10-minute conversation with him at THE PLAYERS Championship. He's gearing his recovery around the Ryder Cup to be part of it. I have a lot of confidence in Jim. If he wasn't ready he would tell me. I told him, "I'm going to lean heavily on you to tell me what you feel like." If he says he's ready, he's ready.

Q: Jackie Burke's influence on Ryder Cup team

Hal Sutton: I haven't talked to him about this. I'm going to call Jackie this afternoon and see if I can't go over there and spend a couple of hours with him tomorrow. I see Jackie's role - he's very multipurpose. He's a teacher, he's a psychologist, and he's a historian. He's funny. In the team room, anything you can do to create humor, not talk about how difficult things are going to be, not get caught up in the fact that things didn't go well that day is good, and I think Jackie can create that sort of atmosphere. The other thing he can do, he captained two Ryder Cup teams and played on several Ryder Cup teams, it was with Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, some really big names we have all read a lot about. I happened to be old enough to know some of those guys myself. Some of these guys in the top 10 don't know any of them. Some of them don't know Jackie Burke. If nothing else happens, the fact that they get to spend the week with Jackie Burke is a good thing. They are all going to tell Jackie Burke, "Thank you again for the week."

Q: Do you think about the Ryder Cup every day?

Hal Sutton: I think every day I get reminded that I am the Ryder Cup captain. I don't know what importance it has. I know it is growing on me every day. There is some sort of little decision to be made all the time. I have made the decision to take this on myself, more than perhaps it has been done in the past. I want to make the awareness among the guys that the Ryder Cup is important. I know it's five months out, six months out. I want them to think about it. I want them to think about how important it should be in their lives. I think that will make a difference in the long run. Not to get caught up when we get to Oakland Hills and say, "What are we doing this week." We're not going to get caught like that.

Q: How about you personally?

Hal Sutton: I was honored when they asked me. I'm excited about the challenge in it. The guys that are going to make this team have made me feel really good about being the captain. I'm excited about being able to work with Jackie Burke and Steve Jones. Steve has a tremendous asset to the team. He won the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. Everybody likes Steve. He's a happy-go-lucky guy. Steve is excited. He is so humble. He said, "If you want to change and ask somebody else after the fact, you can." That's just Steve, you know. To have a guy like that to be part of it is good. I'm excited about what is going to happen over the next few months.

Q: The golf course set-up at Oakland Hills

Hal Sutton: The only input I'm going to have is what I told the PGA of America, "Y'all do a good job setting up the golf course at the PGA, so set it up like a major championship. Oakland Hills has stood the test of time. It's a great golf course. It's going to be a great venue for the Ryder Cup matches. They are going to set up the golf course, not me. I'm not going to have anything to do with it.

Q: At the end of the day, how do you want to be judged?

Hal Sutton: We're barely past noon, in terms of when the Ryder Cup takes place. We've been working on a lot of things right now. I think we're going to be the best-dressed team, I'll tell you that right now. At the end of the day, what really matters is the U.S. team needs to be respectful, play like champions that they are. That's what is most important. I think we're going to have one of the best teams we've ever had looking at this list. It's going to be a great group of players, a great test of golf. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate. It's going to be an exciting week, and I'm looking forward to it.

Q: Jay Haas playing Champions Tour events - any bearing on decision?

Hal Sutton: Jay is playing great. I don't think it will matter where he will be playing because he'll be playing great. The way he's swinging and the way he's putting. I don't think he's going to worry about being picked the way he's playing. It doesn't matter where he is playing, I think it would be great for golf if Jay Haas made the team. I could have made the case in 1999 for picking Hale Irwin. It might have been really good for golf. Not that Ben didn't make great picks.

Q: The closeness of the matches in recent years

Hal Sutton: I'll take any sort of victory I can get. The key is we want to win. We're going up there to try and win the Cup. I'm not going to play a defensive role. I want a respectful team, full of friendship and camaraderie. But at the end of the week, we want to be holding the cup. If we win by one-half point, that's good for me.

Q: About the European team

Hal Sutton: When the Ryder Cup, however many years ago, began including all of Europe, and golf exploded in Europe. It made it very competitive. They have some extremely good players that are well-traveled and have played in all sorts of conditions. They play a lot more around the world than we do. We play in the United States. I could make the case that they know how to play a few more shots than we do over here, because they have played in all sorts of different places around the world. We're going to go there to win, I don't care if it is one-half point.

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