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An Interview with Fred Funk

September 16, 2004

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, Fred Funk, Ryder Cup rookie on a beautiful Thursday morning.

Fred, what's going on in your life today, yesterday and we'll go to Q&A.

FRED FUNK: It's just been a great week. The camaraderie with the team, the atmosphere of the event, it's beyond even the expectations -- I had high expectations and they have exceeded that. Very special. The gala last night, the opening, the introduction of the players was goosebumpy. It was really an awesome night. I heard today's opening ceremonies are going to be even better. Everything is just wonderful. Great golf course, great venue, we're having good weather. Hopefully today we'll get out of the rain but it's been awesome.

Q. Fred, you've already been a coach in your life and now you're getting introduced as a rookie, is that a weird experience? They haven't made you stand up and sing the Maryland fight song in the locker room, have they?

FRED FUNK: No, they haven't taped me in a bunch of sheets or anything. Fortunately there's other rookies out here, too. Really at this stage of my career, it's really special to be a member of the Ryder Cup Team representing our country. It was a huge goal of mine, and last year after experiencing it at the Presidents Cup, it made it even more. I just didn't understand how big a deal it is to represent your team, well represent not only your team but your country and your captain, what really went on when you're at those events. After getting a taste of it at the Presidents Cup, I wanted to experience the Ryder Cup. I feel this is probably my last chance and I did make the team. That was my entire goal. It was something I really wanted. So to be a rookie, it's great.

Q. Would you talk about the condition of the greens, and do a couple of them stand out to you that could be tougher than the others?

FRED FUNK: Well, there's a lot of severity on a lot of the greens. If you're on the wrong level, the wrong plateau, or wrong I guess quadrant of the greens because they are not really plateaued. Like No. 5 there's humps and bumps everywhere on that hole. The key is to be in the right areas. It's a lot like Augusta, they are not quite the speed of Augusta but they are very, very severe and it's very important. If you're going to have an aggressive putt at anything, you're going to have to be in the right area of the hole. So there's a lot of strategy. I think the defense of the golf course are the greens and I think there's a lot of strategy on where you want to put the ball on the greens so that you can have a good putt at it. Right now the speed of the greens I thought yesterday were a little faster than they had been all week, but they are really good. If they got a little bit faster it would be fine, but if they got a lot faster I think they would be too severe because you would lose a lot of pin placements that are out there. It would just be too severe to put them on some of the subtle slopes or not so subtle slopes. It's going to really put a premium on ball-striking.

Q. How does the preparation for this, having the extra day and all this, how does the sheer preparation compare to the preparation for a major championship? How did it differ specifically?

FRED FUNK: I think the intensity level, it wears you out a little bit. Jim Furyk, saw him the first day I got here, well I saw him Monday. He just said, "Pace yourself, pace yourself." That's a tendency, you do the same thing in a major, you over prepare and you get really tired. So you just need to slow yourself down a little bit and realize that it is a long week and that you have been preparing your whole life for this and you don't need to do a crash course. I think everybody was really tired last night. We haven't had that much sleep either, we've had things going on at night and getting here probably an hour or two earlier than we would like to in the morning where we could catch up with our sleep a little bit. I think tonight guys will be trying to catch up, if you can sleep; that's the other issue.

Q. Wondering, like in a good college football rivalry no matter what the two teams have done, records are out the window when they play that day. Is the fact that maybe none of the Europeans have won a major or that x number of Americans haven't won a tournament in x number of years, is that overrated and will stuff like that be out the window once the matches start?

FRED FUNK: I think it is out the window. I also think the nature of the matches makes -- because of the alternate-shot and best ball, it makes the matches close anyway normally. I think if you had probably the American team playing singles all week against the Europeans, normally the stronger team top to bottom would win every time. I'd a say a lot of times top to bottom, if you look at the talent, probably the Americans have been the stronger team in the history of the Ryder Cup. But because really the dilution of talent when you put two guys together, you put Tiger, say he's playing the best he can possibly play, who it's not as good as Tiger by himself you put him in alternate-shot you're taking away the talent of a Tiger Woods. That's what happens in these matches I think a lot. It's not so much that one team is better than the other because it doesn't really matter in the match-play format, or the format of this event with best ball and definitely alternate-shot. It's a very awkward match to play. I experienced it the first time last year in Presidents Cup and it's hard. There's a lot of strategy to it. You've got to figure out what's best, what hole to go off of and things like that. It's something we're not normally used to doing.

Q. For a guy who is statistically the most accurate driver in the fairways, talk about the premium on this course to be accurate and be in the fairways, and who might be your ideal partner for foursomes?

FRED FUNK: You know, I still haven't figured out who or what kind of match-up makes a good match-up for foursomes. It's such an awkward deal, I don't know whether you put an accurate player like me with a power player or do you put a like game with me, I really don't know. I have no idea.

I couldn't really tell with what happened at Presidents Cup. I played two alternate-shot matches obviously and still came away confused trying to figure out which is the better strategy of putting a power player with a guy like me or a like game.

This golf course is very important to keep it in the fairway, though. I would think if I got paired with -- I think our power players are obviously Tiger, Davis and Stewart and Kenny Perry, they would like me to be in the fairway for them, they just wouldn't be used to being so far back and hitting it in. For me it would be nice because I would be using a shorter club going to the green. Hopefully it would be a win/win situation if it was a power player with me.

Q. How is the dynamic with Hal and you and Jay, being contemporaries playing all of these years but he's the captain guiding you guys.

FRED FUNK: Hal is awesome. He is really intent on winning this Cup back and doing everything possible to get back and give us the best opportunity to win this week. He's great. He brought in Jackie Burke who is an in-your-face type guy and has a lot of anecdotes. He really needs one of those guys, he needs like a stenographer like you to walk around him and get all of his quotes because every sentence that's out of his mouth is something that's quotable. It's not always printable, but it's quotable.

He's a character and Hal's an in-your-face guy, too. He's really -- he's been awesome. I've really seen a side of Hal that I knew was there because of his personality, but in a different way, the way he is guiding his troops, I guess. He's really doing a great job. We want to play really good for him and for the country. There's a huge amount of pride here. You can't get more patriotic than Hal and Jackie. And then they brought Steve Jones in, I thought that was a great pick here, past winner here, the last winner here and phenomenal. He brings a lot of karma, I guess, to us because he's played this course so well and great memories.

Q. Everyone talks about how important it is to stay loose and kind of build your mental game up towards Friday morning or whenever your first match; but just wondering for a golfer, when does it emotionally hit you full force that this is really the Ryder Cup? Is it when you're on the first tee or is it when your opponent hits the first shot and you realize the match has taken off? Can you describe what that's like?

FRED FUNK: Really I think last night was the first dent or first big impression on us was the introduction last night, it was very special. I think again, the opening ceremonies from what I hear are going to be unbelievably special and that's going to get a big impression on you when you realize, yeah, we're here for the Ryder Cup, we're here as a team. It's going to be a real big deal. But I'm sure all that being said, the introduction on the first tee and the nerves and the butterflies and everything else that is going to go along with hitting that first tee shot is going to hit you right in the head full bore. It will be a big moment. From what I hear, it's hard to hit that first shot and keep everything calm. You can feel your heart through your shirt and hands are sweating, there's a lot of anxiety, a lot of anticipation, but something we all want to be here for and experience.

Q. This event can be almost enormous and take on a greater picture than just a normal, obviously, golf tournament. How do you stay loose and just have fun and how do you keep your teammates loose, as well?

FRED FUNK: Well, I think we are all doing a good job of keeping everybody loose in the practice rounds has been easy. Again I think that's easy till that gun sounds tomorrow when it's time to go. Everybody's got to deal with that situation themselves.

Jim Furyk told me earlier in the week that the tendency is everybody gets really, really tight as you get closer and closer to Thursday. Everybody has to deal with it their own way, but the biggest thing to try to do is handle it just like you handle any other pressure when you're in contention going into Sunday in a major or any tournament, but especially a major.

There's a lot of anticipation, a lot of anxiety that's built up with that and everybody handles it different ways and you've just got to do whatever is best for you and I guess dig down and try to think of what's worked in the past and let that come out.

Q. Talk about home-field advantage, some of the European rookies have said that they almost are relieved their first Ryder Cup is being played away from their main shores because of the amount of pressure they would feel if they were playing at home. Just talk about your thoughts on how you'll deal with the environment out there and what you think you can draw from the hometown crowd?

FRED FUNK: Oh, I think we got our 13th man I think with the home field. They are all here, they have been fired up for this thing for a long time. I've been telling them when we get to the holes where there's bleachers, when they are cheering for us, make sure you keep cheering all week and telling them we're really going to need you. They seem to appreciate that. I just want to remind them that we're going to need them out there and whether we are up in the match or down in the match, we need their support, too. And they are a 13th man. We need the fans as much as they need us and want to us play well.

JULIUS MASON: Fred Funk, folks. Thank you very much.

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