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An Interview with Hal Sutton

September 16, 2004

JULIUS MASON: Hal Sutton, ladies and gentlemen, joining us. Hal, I think you may get some questions about what you're looking at in front of you here but maybe some opening thoughts is we'll go to Q&A.

HAL SUTTON: We're ready. Are y'all ready? I'm excited. The team is ready. The team is excited. It's been calculated what we've done. There's been a plan to it, I know maybe y'all haven't seen the plan but we've seen the plan. Everybody's excited about tomorrow.

Q. Just talk about that first group off tomorrow morning, it's got some pretty serious star power, you ought to be able to squeeze a few birdies out of your two, I would think?

HAL SUTTON: I think so. That was the plan. I told these two guys that I felt like the perception of the world was that the U.S. Team didn't bond and we didn't come together as a team. I said, "I can't think of any other message that we could send any louder than to put the two of you guys out first." Both were committed to it and, you know, I know a few of you guys have been worried about Phil Mickelson, where he's been, what he's been doing, all that sort of stuff. I didn't want to tip any of y'all off. He had some different balls over on the North Course doing some things. Y'all didn't know what we were doing. It's a damn shame we worked that out, isn't it? Confused everybody.

Q. A lot of people would look right at a Tiger/Phil pairing and say that's a lot of eggs in one basket, what would you say to that?

HAL SUTTON: We came here to win. I don't know that we could pair two guys together that were more matched for one another than those two guys.

You know, I realized a year and a half ago whenever the bags came into my office there was four bags sitting there. I said if I pick that bag, 25 percent of the team is going to dislike it and if I pick that one, 25 percent of the team is going to dislike it, all the way down the line. So I said, "I like that bag right there, end of discussion." And that's exactly the way I put these teams together.

So, you know what, I'm either going to get criticized or praised over this. But my pairing is down. I'm proud of it.

Q. Can you talk about who those guys are going to be playing? I mean, that's probably the stiffest European Team they could have been matched up against, as well.

HAL SUTTON: Well, I don't know if it's the stiffest. When I got back here, I went home to change and go over my speech a little bit out there. I got back and I didn't know the pairing and Julius showed me this. I said, "If he would have given me his four pairings, I'd have set them down in that exact order just like he did it."

So, I'm pretty happy about this.

Q. I guess it worked both ways, Phil and Tiger, your best two players going out and going strong as you would hope, if things don't happen to go so well tomorrow and Europe wins that match could it give more of an emotional lift to the Europeans having knocked off No.'s 1, 2?

HAL SUTTON: There's always a chance of that. I think there's another side of that. It's that hour glass turns both ways. The way I look at that is, I can't imagine anything that would aggravate those two guys more than to get beat. So, man, there would be some hell to pay if that happens.

Q. Can you talk about the last two pairings, you have the two rookies and then the final pairing with the two guys who obviously went through wrist surgery earlier this year.

HAL SUTTON: Well, you know, Davis Love and Chad Campbell, man, they may be overshadowed because of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, but that's as strong at new rope right there. Both of them are playing tremendous. I'd be worried if I was playing against them.

And Chris Riley and Stewart Cink, Stewart Cink is playing as good as anybody on our team, and Chris Riley would -- hyperventilate if I made him wait any longer than that. (Laughter.)

I told him last night, I said, "Man, you're my star running back and I'm going to be the best pulling guard you've ever seen, I'm going to run interference for you as far as I can." I'm proud to have Chris Riley right there in that row.

Of course David Toms and Jim Furyk, they are kingpins. They know when they are doing. They yearn to be in this position. I told them, I couldn't think of two better guys being our anchormen coming in.

Q. When you said that if he, meaning Bernhard, would have given you his four pairings, you would have set it down just like he did. Are you referring to his talent being predictable in that manner or were you making reference to it somehow playing into your hand?

HAL SUTTON: What I was saying was, is I thought those matches were the ones I would have wanted. I mean, if he would have given me the option to do that, that's where I would have placed it, just for the drama and everything that goes along with it. I mean, I don't know how many people that first hole can hold, but we will find it out tomorrow, won't we? I've got a special place on the first tee, (Laughter.)

Q. I'm wondering if you would have put Tiger and Phil out in alternate-shot or if there's a whole bunch of different dynamics there that you might not have wanted?

HAL SUTTON: We will see that tomorrow afternoon. I don't know. I don't know.

Q. One real quick question, obviously you said why you put Phil and Tiger together. Did it cross your mind at all to keep Phil with David Toms after their record at The Belfry?

HAL SUTTON: Never did cross my mind. I wanted to send a different message here. David can play with anybody. So can Phil. I felt like, you know, they won a lot of matches because that's just how good they are. They are equally in sound roles here.

Q. Are you hoping that Davis Love kind of pulls Chad Campbell, puts him in the same mode that maybe Phil put David Toms in two years ago?

HAL SUTTON: Well, I felt like Davis -- you know, I have to compliment Davis. He's got as much experience as anybody on our team. He's mature beyond his years. He's willing. He's cooperative. He's every captain's dream. And I can only say that Chad Campbell is a future star. We all know he is. He's already done incredible stuff. I think the leadership that Davis lends to that team, like I said, that's as strong as new rope.

Q. Did you tell Tiger and Phil together or separately and what was their reaction?

HAL SUTTON: I told them separately and both of them thanked me.

Q. You've made sort of a trademark of being very honest with us all week, so honestly now, how long have you had Tiger and Phil together? Is it months has it been in your head? Years? How long have you planned this?

HAL SUTTON: They asked me in October of 2002.

Q. They both did?

HAL SUTTON: No. The PGA of America asked me in October of 2002. (Laughter.)

Phil and Tiger didn't ask me to do anything.

Q. Did Phil and Tiger say anything else besides, "Thank you"? Had they talked to you during the week about this possibility? And also, why do you think in all of the Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups that they played together, no captain has paired them together before?

HAL SUTTON: I can't answer that. You know, you've got to look a guy like that in the eye when he says thank you and you can tell if it's sincere. They boiled with the sincerity in their eyes. It was boiling. (Laughter.) It wasn't lukewarm. Over the edges. (Laughter.)

Q. Looking at these pairings, are you at all concerned about pace of play?

HAL SUTTON: (Laughing) I've said, let's get over the pace of play. Let's don't worry about it. Let's get past it. So, no, I'm not.

Q. Could you clarify a little bit more what you meant by the PGA of America asked you in October of 2002? What was that conversation?

HAL SUTTON: When they asked me to be the captain of the Ryder Cup Team and when I responded yes, I walked out the door and I said, "Well, this will be the first time that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson ever played together." That's what I was referring to.

Q. I'm trying to remember what you said, so refresh me. Do you anticipate playing everybody tomorrow at some point, is that the plan?

HAL SUTTON: Yes, everybody will play tomorrow.

Q. You said previously that you were thinking about pairing people together who aren't necessarily the closest of friends, so that they don't have that baggage of leaning on each other. Do Tiger and Phil fall in that category?

HAL SUTTON: Well, Tiger and Phil are friends. They are competitors and they are friends. You know, I wasn't really concerned with just if they were bosom buddies or anything. They know what the job is and they are going to go out there and they are going to get it done.

Everybody has independently prepared themselves this week. I have taken special care in not letting any of the other guys know, and neither one of them had talked about it. They didn't know. I mean, I gave Phil two sleeves of Tiger's balls and I said, "You might ought to go out there and get ready to use this ball."

He said, "Maybe on the North Course".

I said, "On the North Course. So don't let's talk about this."

There's been a strategy behind what we've done. Everybody gets along on here. I don't want anybody to think that nobody gets along on here. Everybody gets along. We've been friends for a long time. But my point is, and I'm going to use myself on this. In 2002, I was playing poorly. If you would have told somebody at the beginning of the week that they were playing with Hal Sutton, there would have been two things on their minds, not only them being prepared to play, but, "Man, I want to win a point and I'm not sure Hal can help me." So there's two things on their mind. I eliminated one of those things. I said, "You guys don't worry about who you play with. You worry about your own game. And if you worry about that and you get prepared and then everybody else does that, you're going to have a good teammate."

They did that. They did that. They are ready to play.

Q. Could you elaborate some more on what Phil was doing on the North Course, was it just working with Tiger's sleeves, a couple of sleeves of balls that you had mentioned? Did he work on the range? Did he play some holes? What exactly did he accomplish?

HAL SUTTON: I don't know about that. He went out there and did whatever he does best. He does things a little differently than some of the rest of us do. He spends a lot of time around greens and all that sort of stuff. I don't think he probably did it that way because those greens might not be exactly like these. I think he was probably trying to dial in distances.

And the reason why I did that was I don't know if I'm going to play him in foursomes or not, but in case I did, I wanted him to be prepared to do that.

Q. If you could, please, first of all, was it your decision to have Phil on the North Course today and secondly, there was this buzz going on around the course that Phil had been inflicted with some sort of food poisoning and wasn't feeling well. Is there any truth to that?

HAL SUTTON: No truth to that at all. Actually, I laid it out just exactly like I did and he said, "Maybe the North Course so I can go dial in the yardages."

And I said that would be a good idea because I don't want anybody to know what we're doing. He offered it up and I said, "That's a good idea." So that's where two good plans came together, I think.

Q. Seeing the way Bernhard has laid his team out just like you'd expect, are you expecting a 4-0 result? And secondly, are you going to pair Tiger with Phil in the afternoon if Phil is playing Tiger's ball?

HAL SUTTON: I don't know if I'm going to do that. I mean, how could anybody ever expect a 4-0 result. I think either side would be surprised by that. So, you know, no, I'm not expecting a 4-0 result.

Q. Without assuming the afternoon matches, when you weighed Chris Riley and where you would use him, how do you weigh foursomes and four-balls with him, and also, why Stewart Cink with him?

HAL SUTTON: Well, reason for four-ball is it's a tough competition, foursomes. You're hung out there to dry with a shot a lot of times.

In four-ball like this, he always will have the sensation that he's got backup help. Why Stewart Cink? Why not Stewart Cink. He's playing as good as anybody on the team. They both know one another. They are both kind of chatty. So I'd say Chris is more than chatty and Stewart is willing to chat with him. I think they are going to make a great team.

Q. A couple of days ago you said that the players would decide amongst themselves which ball to use, except in this case you seem to have taken the decision that Phil has to learn how to play with Tiger's ball.

HAL SUTTON: You know, I personally felt that it would be very difficult to tell a guy that was at 257 times or whatever he was, leading player in the world, and Phil switches in one week and you're going to ask him to switch balls? I didn't think that was quite fair.

So I didn't want to put Tiger in that position, so I just said, "You need to learn how to hit this ball right here."

Q. How about the home turf or the home soil factor, if you will, as these matches get set tomorrow and what that might mean for your side.

HAL SUTTON: You know, same thing it means in every other sport. You know, you've got your hometown crowd pulling for you, familiar circumstances, familiar food. It's just, you know, obviously it's a home-field advantage. I don't know how to put it any differently, you know. Our guys will get up and feel more comfortable. When you go eight hours on an airplane, which is what they had to do to get here, it's different. It's different for every one of us, whichever way we're going.

Q. With you having the option of leading off these matches with whichever format you chose, did you choose to go with four-balls so you could get Tiger and Phil in the lead off spot?

HAL SUTTON: Well, it was my option -- I was going to be able to get them in the lead off either way. Four-ball was -- I knew I wanted to do it that way so, that was a good way to do it.

It handcuffed me a little bit, I might have had a little bit of friction if I went foursomes. The main reason why I went four-ball to begin with was I knew it was going to be rookies on both sides. It's a little easier to do that, and the last reason why I went four-ball first was the U.S. has done a little bit better in alternate-shot. I wanted to finish the day out that way.

Q. You said that the four players sitting out in the morning were going to play in the afternoon. How set are your teams for the afternoon and how much will the play in the morning dictate how you match things up?

HAL SUTTON: Things are fairly set for the afternoon, but I'm not going to divulge anything that I'm doing, obviously, because they might change. I'm going to get the other four guys out there, though. They will be out there in the afternoon.

Q. To follow-up on that, the players that are not playing tomorrow morning, have you told them who they will be playing with in the afternoon?


Wait a minute, I need to say one more thing. I've told them who I think they are going to play with. So, if I told you that other way, that would have meant I had it set, right? I told them who I thought they were going to play with.

Q. You mentioned you told Phil and Tiger separately, but now they know, will you have them sit down together and go over a strategy and will you do that with them?

HAL SUTTON: I told them separately prior to announcing it as a group last night. I announced it as a group last night. After the gala dinner.

So they sat down a little bit and I think and talked, chitchatted about it last night. I think they did. I didn't pay a lot of attention, to be honest with you. They both came to me individually.

Q. We asked David Toms the most significant thing you've said so far this week and he pretty much said, which cuff links to wear to dinner; it's been pretty loose. What's the final message you leave with them tonight before we kickoff so to speak tomorrow?

HAL SUTTON: Well, I've talked to each and every one of them individually. One of the things I intend to tell them is throw all of your hearts out there on the ground and play for them. There's nothing more important than your heart and your pride. Jackie Burke and Steve Jones and I will gather all of the hearts that are worth playing for out there, we'll gather them up, put them back in and go out there and do it again tomorrow afternoon. I intend to tell them that tonight. And I may have blew it a little bit by letting y'all in on that. But I have been honest about what we're doing. To me you can gather you up all the money in the world but it doesn't really matter. Pride and what your heart's all about is what we're really playing for. I think that's what the Ryder Cup Matches represent. Playing for your country, that's as good as it gets. So we'll just, I mean I think Patino said it best, "Let's throw awful the hearts out there on the center of the floor and let's just play for them."

Q. Any special guests tonight?

HAL SUTTON: No. You want to come? You'd be special. (Laughter.)

Q. You said you have not committed yet to putting Tiger and Phil together again in the foursomes matches but would it not have been a lot of energy for Phil to expend preparing with Tiger's ball if you decided not to use him in that type of situation?

HAL SUTTON: You know, Phil worked for seven hours Monday doing a lot of different things. Nobody else worked for seven hours. Phil prepared for this tournament. He is ready, you know. I wanted us to be completely ready in case I decided to go that way. That's the way I felt like we had to do it. I mean, if we expended a little extra energy, there's not a corporation in the world that doesn't do something that they are not prepared for it. I was just trying to make sure that this corporation was prepared to do what we needed to do out there.

And he was a team player. He did it.

Q. Bernhard told us how he was so impressed by Paul McGinley's playing the two practice days that he forced his way into the team. Has there been any of your players that has so impressed you during practice that they have forced their way on to the team?

HAL SUTTON: Chad Campbell's played great. Davis has played great. But Davis was probably a given in most people's mind. Chad Campbell's played great.

Stewart Cink's been playing great for a long time.

JULIUS MASON: Folks, I think you remember the note on top of the pairing which talks about the embargo until the announcement at opening ceremonies. Thank you very much for recognizing that fact. Thank you for being a part of the Hal Sutton Show. See you in a bit.

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