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An Interview With Hal Sutton


September 17, 2004

JULIUS MASON: Captain Hal Sutton, ladies and gentlemen.

Captain, some thoughts on your morning, your afternoon?

HAL SUTTON: Well, we made history today. You know, they played great and we played very poorly. So that's what you get whenever you get a lopsided score like that when that happens.

My impression of what went on out there today, it looked like they were trying to make something happen and it looked like we were trying to make sure we didn't have anything bad happen. That's my impression. So we can take it from there.

JULIUS MASON: Questions folks, please.

Q. Is it safe to say that you never saw Phil and Tiger losing two matches, you never saw that coming?

HAL SUTTON: Who would have seen that coming? And also, who would have seen Davis Love, who played twice today and didn't win a point.

You know, you could have owned me today if you'd have wanted to take that bet because I'd bet it all. I'd bet the ranch.

Q. You mentioned before earlier today that you go in with a strategy, a game plan that totally went to hell, so to speak, what do you rethink now going into Saturday with still a chance?

HAL SUTTON: Oh, we've got a chance. I mean, we're not out of this thing by any means. We have to set a goal now to gain points tomorrow. I'm just going to tell the guys tonight, we have to have five points or more tomorrow. That's it, pure and simple. You're going to have to give it to yourself. Don't give it to anybody else in the world, give it to yourself. Because if you don't, we're going to have an insurmountable -- I mean, Sunday will be a field point (ph).

I hate to say this, but if the Americans keep this up, it won't be long before they are considered the underdog, instead of the favorite.

Q. First of all, Bernhard Langer said he had eight strong players in his four-ball tomorrow, do you believe you still have eight strong players after today's -- how they played today? And secondly, the reasoning for holding Phil Mickelson out tomorrow morning?

HAL SUTTON: Well, I wished y'all would have gone through what I've gone through the last hour trying to mix-and-match, because I didn't see just a hell of a lot out there that gave me some conclusive points on what I should do. So I was about at as big of a loss as anybody in this room could have been at. And the reason for holding Phil out is, Phil didn't play very well this afternoon. I just felt like it was the thing to do.

Q. If you could just delve into your mind, try to come up with whatever explanation you can for the reason why Tiger and Phil didn't get any points today, what did you see out there between them that maybe was lacking?

HAL SUTTON: They ran into a buzz saw early, got behind, although they didn't play badly to begin with.

And then I saw a lot of frustration on both of their faces after that. You know, I said it yesterday in the opening ceremonies, I felt like the world wanted to see them together, I wanted to see them together, I think they wanted to see each other together and we gave it a good shot and we're going to have to move on.

You know, I didn't see any downside risk to that. I thought when they got beat this morning, they'd be on fire this afternoon, and they started out on fire. They were 3-up.

Now, would you have ever bet -- I mean, how big of a bet would you have made that they wouldn't have lost their match after they got 3-up? You'd have made a big bet on that, wouldn't you. We'd all be broke. (Laughter.)

They'd have bet on it, too, I can tell you.

Q. Phil struggled specifically, there's questions about using the ball, the new equipment, not being on this course for the last two days, did any of that contribute to his struggles specifically?

HAL SUTTON: We'll all be left scratching our heads on that. We'll all want answers to that. But the most important person that's going to have to wonder about that is going to be Phil Mickelson.

It's not going to cause us any grief in the morning because he's going to be cheering instead of playing.

Q. Hal, you scratched David on the sheet here, what was your reasoning?

HAL SUTTON: Well, I went back and forth, and, you know, when I pulled David and Jim Furyk's numbers up there, Jim Furyk's scores were the ones that were counting and David's wasn't. I mean, it went down to that. It was just -- it was a guess on my part.

Q. In the morning, Chad Campbell comes to mind, in the afternoon, Kenny Perry, but a lot of the players had 6-, 8-footers for birdies to either win holes or tie holes and the first five or six holes just didn't go the Americans way, how crucial did that end up being?

HAL SUTTON: Well, it always ends up crucial. At some point, this is what the Ryder Cup is all about. At some point, you have to make a lot of 6-footers. It's inevitable. You will be called on to either make them to win or to tie.

And I saw the Europeans doing it consistently and I saw the Americans missing them consistently. And I saw one other thing out there today. I saw every time we had a chance to put the pressure on them, we didn't do it. And they constantly had the pressure on the Americans.

I mean, what I mean by that is, they made a 10-footer and left us with an 8-footer that we had to make instead of us making the 10-footer and leaving them with the 8-footer that they had to make.

You know, it gets a lot easier to make that putt when there's no pressure on you. So, what we've got to do is turn it around and shift the pressure to the other side.

Q. What did Phil say about his performance to you today when he finished and how did he take it when you told him he would not be playing tomorrow morning?

HAL SUTTON: He doesn't know it. Nobody knows on our team -- I just turned this in. They were gone. I sent them all back. I didn't tell anybody. I'll tell them when they get back or they will hear it on TV or something.

You know, listen, that doesn't mean anything because Phil is sitting in the morning. He's a great player. He knows he's a great player and y'all know he's a great player.

The truth of the matter is, is that we could easily play this thing and nobody play five matches. So I don't want y'all to read anything into that. I think this is the teams that I felt like we had to go with and that's what we're going to do.

Q. You were on a team in '87 at Muirfield that was down by four on the first day. Can you compare and contrast what you went through as a player on that opening day and what you saw in your team today?

HAL SUTTON: I've been seeing this for a long time what's going on. I've preached it all week long. You've got to try to make something happen rather than not make something -- rather than to try to keep something from happening.

A perfect example was Colin Montgomerie's chip on the eighth hole today when he's playing Davis Love and Fred Funk. They are over the green, he's got an impossible shot. He chips it into the fringe on the right-hand side and almost makes it. And I'm standing beside Chris Riley and I said, "Chris, do you think he was concerned with the putt that he was fixing to leave, or the chip for that matter that he was fixing to leave Padraig Harrington with?" He was doing one thing, trying to get that chip close, with no concern of what was fixing to happen the next shot, the next play. And I saw more of the Americans trying to make sure they didn't leave anything of any distance, you know. It's hard to make -- you don't dive these putts in the hole on this golf course, they are breaking too much. I saw so many of our putts die just on the topside of the hole or just on the underside of the hole. At some point we have to get mad and say, "I don't give a damn if we have to make a 6- or 8-footer coming back."

Q. Chris DiMarco probably showed the most enthusiasm and fire out there today, I wonder if you could just talk about his play today and the contribution he tried to make.

HAL SUTTON: I felt really strongly about Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas. I hated to leave anybody out in the morning matches but I felt like they deserved to be out there first because I thought they were a great team. I thought they could get us off to a good start, and they did. They did do that.

They were the only ones that invited the crowd to get excited about the American's golf. And I mean that, just to be able to appreciate a good shot or a good putt. That's what I'm saying by that.

I mean, you know, one of the guys said, "You know the crowd was kind of dead out there today."

I said, "Well they would have been cheering pars and bogeys if they had have been cheering, you know." (Laughter.) We just weren't getting any birdies in the hole. (Laughter.) I mean, what do you want them to do? Let's give them something to do, you know.

Q. I know that hindsight is a wonderful thing but with the benefit of hindsight do you wish the U.S. Team had practiced more foursomes and four-balls in the matches rather than preparing as they would as individuals in the week of a major championship?

HAL SUTTON: You know what, no, I really don't, to be honest with you. I think the Americans have got to start playing for themselves. They have got too much going on.

You know what I see out there is I see too much tightness. I see Americans wanting to do it too much. I see free wheeling on the Europeans.

As a player, I mean, this is the one thing I can tell you that's different about being a captain versus being a player. You can't see that as a player. So if I can't talk them into believing what my eyes see, then they may not get it. Because they are involved in the action, and, see, I'm not involved in the action. I'm seeing the reality of it. I'm seeing what's really happening. So they had better trust what I saw out there today.

So it's still going to take the individual performances, free-wheeling, in order to make this work.

Q. Do you plan to have everybody, pull everybody together tonight for a team meeting?

HAL SUTTON: Oh, yeah, we're going to have a team meeting. (Laughter.) Oh, yeah. I'm going to have to put that cowboy hat back on. This time I may get the reins out too, and make them wet. (Laughter.)

Q. What sort of things are you planning on tell them?

HAL SUTTON: You know what, I'm just going to tell them to be themselves. They weren't themselves out there today. Y'all saw very few of the Americans really show up today.

I'm hoping that's going to be different tomorrow.

Q. When you're out there as a captain and you're not inside the ropes, and you're watching this transpire over eight hours, did you feel helpless, did you feel embarrassed, did you feel mad, all of the above, what?

HAL SUTTON: You feel every emotional adjective that you just named and the ones you didn't name, basically.

I felt bad for those guys out there. I felt bad for -- you know, everybody wonders what the Ryder Cup is about. You know, Phil Mickelson trying to win the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, drives it might down the middle of the fairway, and misses the fairway on 18 today by however many yards he missed it by when it really counted when it was on the line, and that's not knocking Phil. All I'm trying to tell you is that's what the Ryder Cup means to players. Nobody will beat Phil Mickelson up worse than Phil Mickelson tonight, I'll tell you that right now.

We are talking about Phil because I left him out and I think that's why we're talking about that.

There are other guys that we could be talking about that same way. You know, we just didn't get it done. I can't say -- I tell you who I was proud of today and I thought it was going to really make a difference today. Chris Riley made a putt today on the 18th hole when it was really needed. He kept, and I told him this on the 18th green I pulled him aside before he talked to anybody, I said, "You understand one thing, you, Chris Riley, kept the Americans from getting skunked, not Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. You, Chris Riley, kept that from happening."

And he played good this morning. We haven't even mentioned Chris, but he played darned good. We need more of that. We're going to have to have more of that tomorrow.

Q. You sound right now like a football coach at half time who is ready to throw a chair through a back board?

HAL SUTTON: I tell you what, we're not at half time yet. (Laughter.)

Q. Maybe the first quarter.

HAL SUTTON: We called timeout is all we've done. (Laughter.)

Q. Will your approach tonight be one of anger, of cajoling, sympathy, how do you it tonight at this team meeting?

HAL SUTTON: I'm not sure, I don't know. I don't think they want to be consoled. I've felt every one of these emotions in my life. When I get really mad at myself, I don't want somebody patting me on the back and loving on me. I can assure you I'm not going to be loving on them. (Laughter.)

Q. If you lose this by tomorrow evening, will you bother about playing the singles or do we all go home? (Laughter.)

JULIUS MASON: Do you really want to ask that question? Go get 'em, Hal.

HAL SUTTON: You know what, you wonder why there's bad will here sometimes. (Laughter.)

Next question. (Laughter.)

Q. Could you have done that? Could you have changed clubs a week before the Ryder Cup and played well?

HAL SUTTON: You know what, I didn't do that, and it will never be debated whether Hal Sutton could have done that.

Q. Would you have done it?

HAL SUTTON: No, I won't have done it, but I'm not Phil Mickelson and I'm not in his shoes.

You know what, Phil Mickelson is capable of playing good golf with anything, that's what I'll say.

Q. Who would you expect in this situation you're in now to emerge as the leader of the clubhouse on your team?

HAL SUTTON: I expect Tiger Woods to play unbelievable tomorrow. I think Tiger was very frustrated. I think he thought he was right on the verge of playing really, really good today and he just never could get anything going. They just weren't matching up good.

You know, Chris DiMarco played great. Made the putts that he had to make when he had to make them. Jay Haas played nice today. They teamed well.

You know, that's why they got the first position tomorrow.

Q. You mentioned Chris Riley played well, and he played two great pressure shots on 17 and 18, and then he was left out in the afternoon, could you explain your reasons for doing that?

HAL SUTTON: I said I was going to play everybody, and Chris didn't really want to play the alternate-shot, to be honest with you. I told everybody I was going to play everybody and that's just the way it shook out. We had the pairings done and I still liked everything that we did. I mean, I really liked the way the guys were paired.

You know, we can talk about this all we want to. I could turn the pairings over to every one of you guys. We've got 12 qualified guys on the American team. We'd come up with a lot of different scenarios, and if they don't play good, we'd all be wrong.

Q. Based on your experience in team play, do you think that if Tiger Woods had a different partner today, he gets you some points?

HAL SUTTON: Well, we'll never know that answer. He's got a different partner tomorrow. We'll see if they get some points tomorrow.

You know, I mean, that sounds like, if we answer that question, that sounds like I think that Tiger contributed -- or Phil contributed to their loss more than Tiger did.

They just didn't play well enough to win together. You know, when you put two superstars together like that, you know, there's either good karma or there's bad karma there's really not any in between. There's no gray area. It's been said many times that there is no gray area with golfers, it's either black or white. They went south in the middle of that second round, and it was -- I mean, it was pretty evident on both of their face.

Q. What will Socrates say to the team tonight?

HAL SUTTON: Socrates says, we have to release the putter. He says we're holding on to the putter.

So, anyway. Anybody else? We're good? Thank you.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks.

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