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An Interview with David Toms

September 16, 2004

JULIUS MASON: David Toms, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 35th Ryder Cup Matches. Good morning, David. How about some opening comments about what the week's been like so far for and you we'll go to Q&A.

DAVID TOMS: First of all, the week's, you know, been pretty exciting. Get to do a lot of fun stuff. Probably the first time, well, since the last Ryder Cup, that I got to dress up three days in a row, it's like going to church for three straight days, but it's fun. The wives have a good time putting on their gowns and their dresses and they look good, so it's fun for the guys to check them all out. It's been a fun week so far, but I think it's one of those deals where everybody is ready to go and ready for the competition to start.

Q. Is this an experience that you're getting used to? Could you find yourself getting accustomed to being in this kind of situation every couple of years?

DAVID TOMS: I've love to be a part of it every couple years. To me, I've said before, it's the ultimate golf competition, not only does it show that you've had successful couple of years to make the team, but to be able to represent your country to play on a team is something we just don't get to do.

I think it's pretty special and so do the other guys on the team. In fact, last night on the bus ride on the way home, I guess it was Davis and Phil and their wives were all talking about, you know, either a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup that happened eight to ten years ago and these guys have played on the same team every year. I think that's pretty neat to be able to get on a run like that, play for a decade, play on a team every other year and to be able to experience a week like this that many times I think is pretty special.

Q. Fred was just talking about the home-field advantage and the importance of the crowd. In fact, he described them as the 13th man out there maybe being the difference in a close match. Your thoughts on playing and home-field advantage and the effects of playing in front of a hometown crowd?

DAVID TOMS: Well, to me, I think it could be the difference. These matches are always so close no matter where you're playing and for us if we could play well early and get the crowd behind us could very well be the difference in the end.

For me, I'm looking forward to it. In international competition, I've never played on home soil, so to me, I'm anxious to see what that's going to be like and hopefully hear that distinct roar on our side this time.

Q. Just two things real quick, you played sort of in front of your hometown crowd in Louisiana and wondering what kind of lift you got from there, and the surgery and all that, would you play five matches over three days if you had to?

DAVID TOMS: To your first question, I think the feeling you have when you play in front of a home crowd, you can't wait to get on the greens, you can't wait to make the putt. It's almost like you hear the cheers before you even hit the putt. To me, that's a great feeling. Instead of hearing the oohs and awes when you miss it or the cheers when you miss a putt.

To me, like I said, we need to play well early and get those guys behind us.

As far as my injury, I'm 100%. If I were asked to play, if the captain asked me to play five matches, you know, I'm up for the challenge. I'm not sure right now how that's all going to go down, but I'm healthy. My golf game, I'm in good shape right now. Like I said, just ready to get going.

Q. I just wondered if you have any tried and true methods of just decompressing before an event like this so you're ready mentally and physically tomorrow and is there anybody else on the team that maybe needs that advice from you and what do you suggest?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I think that that's what all of the other stuff that goes on during the week, whether it's our team meetings, whether it's playing ping pong in the team room, whether it's listening to the jukebox, whether it's listening to our captain. I think all of those things are about trying to take away from all of the hype and the importance of this event and just try to let guys relax, have a good time together at night, get a good night's sleep, and be ready to go the next day.

You know, it's hard because you're excited to be here, to be playing and the new guys, they couldn't be more excited. They are like kids in a candy store. I was the same way, I'm the same way now. I am ready to go. It is important to come down and put it all in perspective and just go out and do your job. I think that, you know, the PGA of America and what they do and all of the festivities that we have and everything, it just takes your mind away from the tournament a little bit and from the matches and I think all of that helps.

Q. How important is it for you guys to get off to a good start and can you guys afford to get behind early?

DAVID TOMS: You know, it always seems like the last few years we have been behind early. There's too much -- maybe too much pressure on Sunday to have to come from behind. I think it's very important we get off to a good start. I think we have a great team top to bottom. You know, I think that if we play our best, we will get off to a good start. I look forward to being a part of that.

Q. Two separate questions. Wanted to see if you can elaborate on New Orleans a little bit and the lift you got, as a clearly hometown guy. In Canada last week, Weirsy goes through an incredible burden of 40,000 fans riding on his every shot which really is no different than what you guys are going to have this week. I wonder if there's a point where getting a lift becomes excruciating pressure or becomes a burden?

DAVID TOMS: I think first of all, it goes to not getting ahead of yourself. If he was thinking about making -- winning the tournament and their reaction before you actually hit the putts to have a chance to win because he had, what, four or five putts there to win. I think that's important for us to not get ahead of ourselves and still execute. And stay in the present and worry about the crowd reaction afterwards. So, I think that -- I guess it could work both ways where you feel that extra pressure, but to me, I would always want to play in front of the home crowd rather than being on foreign soil. I think you can only use that to your advantage.

Q. And secondly and thirdly, maybe fourthly, were you playing the Texas Open in '99?

DAVID TOMS: Yes, in fact, I said something to Davis about it last night. I remember when Justin made his putt, there was a big tent there in the parking lot that they set up for hospitality and I think I was on the 10th tee box that day playing golf. I remember it sounded like a bomb went off inside this tent. It was this huge roar and something I'll remember forever. And then after I got finished, I got to see the highlights and what took place and everything. So I was there in Texas.

Q. What did you think of the highlights in terms of the reaction on the 17th green, and what has Hal said to you guys this week about your emotions? Because what we're hearing from him is that A, we're done apologizing and B, let's not be restrained.

DAVID TOMS: Well, I think first of all, he's stressing to us to be respectful of the other side win or lose and to act like gentlemen like we always do. A lot of times, as far as commenting on what took place there, I wasn't there. Obviously I didn't -- I know it was a huge thing, but I wasn't there and whether it was right or wrong, I think it was the heat of the moment. It was a gut reaction from everybody and you're talking about the greatest comeback in -- one of the greatest comebacks ever in sports history. To be a part of that, I think your emotions just overwhelm you. Like I said, they are tired of apologizing for it. It wasn't even in this century. (Laughter.) It's time to move on.

Q. Did you feel any restraint at the Belfry?

DAVID TOMS: Did I feel any restraint?

Q. In terms of emotion.

DAVID TOMS: No. I mean, I don't wear my emotions on my sleeve anyway. For me, I just remember that sinking feeling inside. It was like we were still in it until McGinley holed his putt and everything just went out of my body. I remember walking off and saying to Scotty that we are going to get back, we are going to be on the next team and give myself a chance to be on the winning side.

Q. Louisiana doesn't get the storms, the hurricanes, can you talk about Hurricane Ivan, maybe the concerns you have and how close are you keeping in contact with people there?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I have some family in south Louisiana that, you know, they were bracing themselves for a lot worse than probably what they got. This morning I commented to my wife about it. We went to vacation this summer in Gulf Shores, Alabama, so it will be interesting. My first thought was, what happened to that condo that we stayed in in the summer, what's it going to look like the next time we go. All of the guys from Florida and the Gulf Coast area down there I feel for them because it's been a tough road the last month or so. They have a lot more on their mind than just playing golf. Hopefully this competition can give those people down there something positive to see on television rather than all of the bad news and destruction and hopefully rally behind the United States Team and we'll give them something good.

Q. You and Phil Mickelson had a great battle at the 2001 PGA and you had a lot of success two years ago in the Cup, can you talk about the chemistry with you and Phil?

DAVID TOMS: You know, I think it's great. Our wives are good friends. He and I have gotten to know each other very well over the last five or six years. Played a lot together.

You know, I think we have a great group, our whole team this year, it seems like we have a pretty good chemistry on and off the golf course. I think that could be the difference, I really do, because you can just feel it, everybody is gelling, we're gelling like a felon, and everything seems to be going very well.

Q. I was going to ask you a little bit about you and Phil, but also, have you lobbied at all, Hal is a very decisive captain and he's going to do what he wants to do, but y'all did have good success and you've got good chemistry, have you talked to Hal or have you and Phil talked about it a little bit?

DAVID TOMS: I'm not sure that captain Sutton needs a lobbyist. I think he's got a plan. I think he's put a lot of time into it. You know, over the last year or so I think he's probably put a bug in guys' ears to see what their reaction is to certain things.

I think we'll follow his lead very well no matter what he comes up with. I'm sure he has a method of what he's trying to do and I think he's all about getting off to a good start. I'm not sure how it's going to -- as far as the pairings and everything. Not sure how it's going to go. But I'll be very comfortable with whoever he puts me with. I've told him that. I think that's what most people are saying, most of the guys are saying, just because this is very important to us, we're going to do what's best for the team. You know, we'll see whether there will be some surprises or not. I think we'll do just fine.

Q. Are there spots on the course where you can be aggressive and be creative with your shots or is it just better to be safe and play it straight on?

DAVID TOMS: Well, Hal made the comment the other night to us in the team room that you don't see many holes won with par in the Ryder Cup, especially in best ball competition. So I think it's -- I think we are going to have to be aggressive out there. I think there will be a lot of birdies made this week. You know, I think that the greens are pretty tricky but I think they are sloped in a way where you can get the ball close. So if you get on the wrong side, you're going to have a tough time 2-putting. But I think that we're going to have to put the hammer down and just be ready from the get-go, be ready to make birdies to win holes out there and then we're going to approach it that way.

Q. A lot of the guys have been talking this week about Jackie Burke and what he's brought to the team and want to get your thoughts on that and what it's like being around him.

DAVID TOMS: Oh, it's been very special for all of us. A guy like that has meant so much to the game of golf for so long, he's fun just to talk to. He'll get you fired up. He's always got something to make you laugh or to make you think. He's going to be great for our team. When guys might get a little tight. The other day, I was out there playing and I hit a couple of wayward shots off the tee and he's like, "Man", he goes, "you have to be out of control to be in control." What he was saying was, "Let it go, don't be tight out there. I know you're nervous or anxious to get started. This is a big deal but at the same time, let your arms hang and be loose and go ahead and don't worry about the outcome, just hit the shot." That's going to happen all week, little things like that, he'll pull a guy to the side, that's why he's here. I think he'll serve us well.

Q. It's still being said that Tiger Woods remains less committed to team competitions like this than individual events. How do you see him in this?

DAVID TOMS: First of all, I'm glad he's on my side. To me he's fantastic in the team room. He's just another guy. He's not one of those unapproachable guys that maybe you have a first time player that's like, you know, what's Tiger going to be like to be on the same team as him. Just spending time around him the last few years he couldn't be more of a normal person that just can't quite live a normal life.

You know, like I said, I'm just glad he's on my side. To me, he's a great team player. I think he's going to take the lead role this week and I think he's going to play well and lead by example, for sure.

Q. What's the most significant thing Captain Sutton has said to you all week?

DAVID TOMS: Most significant thing? You know what, to now, up to this point, I think it's just been more about getting all of the side show out of the way. I think tonight I think he'll have plenty to say. But to now it's been more about, "Don't forget your cuff links and does anybody know how to tie a bow tie?" That's what it's all been about. I think tonight is when it's really going to start. I'm sure he'll have plenty to say and I'm sure when we go to bed tonight, it's probably going to be tough to sleep, everybody will be so fired up to play tomorrow morning.

Q. I think everyone knows about your love for LSU football so a couple of questions real quick. How much have you thought about the Auburn/LSU game this week or have you put it completely out of your mind and do you see any similarities in Nick Saban, the way he treated the Tigers and led them last year and what Hal Sutton is doing for you guys this year?

DAVID TOMS: I had not thought much about the football game other than I hope they win and I was hoping for a night game so I could watch it but that didn't happen.

But, you know, as far as those two guys, I think it's all about taking command of the team and having them look up to you, respect you for either what you've done in the game, what you've been able to accomplish as a coach or just having that respect. You know, Hal Sutton has a respect as a player, as somebody we can look up to that sets a great example and for a guy that's intense and the pride that he has in his country, I think the guys are going to rally behind that.

As far as comparing the two guys, you know, that's what Coach Saban has been able to do for the Tigers. They believe in his system. I think that our team is going to believe in what Hal is putting out there and the example that he's setting for us.

Q. From what you and all of the others say about the spirit of the U.S. captain, how can it be that people say that European success over the years has been down to better team spirit?

DAVID TOMS: That's a tough thing because obviously this is only my second team, I don't see how a team, I mean from what I've been around, how you could come together more than the American squad has. To me, that's not even a part of it, to be honest with you. I think it's a fact of playing good golf. Because the whole team thing, I mean, when you put on red, white and blue and you're together all the time and you're having fun off the golf course, I just don't see -- do we all have to sleep in the same bed at night? What do you have to do to be more of a team? I mean, obviously, those guys on the European Tour, do they hang out more and drink a beer more together? Maybe our guys don't drink beer, so why would we go hang out and have one. To me that's not even part of it. To me it's about us going out and playing well. If we play well, everything will be just fine.

Q. One thing people have talked about is maybe matching up players that play the same ball. Will you get anybody's ball to get a feel for it in case you have to play with it in alternate shots?

DAVID TOMS: I guess you can do that. Like Hal commented last night, he said the ball is going to get worse and worse because you have so many option. Used to be you have two, three, four companies and now you have had a half a dozen companies and they all have half a dozen balls. So to me the odds on everybody playing the same ball, it's going to be tough from now on. So to me you've just got to go out and play. If you get a funny reaction from a golf ball, just, hey, go tell your partner to go find it and play it, because that's going to get worse and worse as far as this ball not being like this ball. Just like the custom fit clubs, they are custom fitting golf balls now and obviously I don't have the same swing speed as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, so am I going to play their same golf ball? That's always going to be a tough thing.

I think it's just go hit the golf shot and, you know, like I said, it's just going to get tougher and tougher.

Q. Yesterday Chris Riley talked about this energy test that you guys did, did this test prove anything for you?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, it did. I mean, it was pretty neat. That's a perfect example of the things we do off the golf course. You're just up there having fun and you're making fun of Ashley Sutton because she is trying to do this whole thing and at the same time she's trying to get somebody's attention, somebody is playing AC/DC in the other room or playing pool. It's just a fun thing.

You know, it's mind over matter, I guess it's better to tell yourself you can make a putt than say you're going to miss it. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

JULIUS MASON: Questions? Questions twice? Thanks, folks.

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