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Interview with Hal Sutton

The following is the transcript from the Oct. 24 news conference announcing Hal Sutton as the Captain of the United States team for the 35th Ryder Cup Matches.


August 19, 2004

Special Attendees:
BOB GIGLIOTTI, General Chairman, 35th Ryder Cup Matches
HAL SUTTON, 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain
JACK CONNELLY, President, PGA of America
JOHN ENGLER, Governor, Michigan

JULIUS MASON: Now, ladies and gentlemen, let's hear from the man who would be Captain, Hal Sutton. You are the 23rd United States Ryder Cup Captain. How does that sound now?

HAL SUTTON: I am overwhelmed, honored, looking forward to the challenge. I am in awe of it. As a matter of fact, Julius, I am as proud as I can be. It's one of the great honors that any golfer could ever have bestowed on him, to be able to lead a team in the United States in international competition like the Ryder Cup. There is no other event in the world like it. I am totally honored.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks very much, Hal. We're going to start with questions at Oakland Hills Country Club first, ladies and gentlemen.

Q. You are on the PGA Tour's Policy Board. With so much to do as a player and Ryder Cup Captain, what will you do?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: It's something I have thought about pretty seriously the last few days. I will have to talk to [PGA Tour Commissioner] Tim Finchem about that, and there is going to be a lot of responsibilities with being the Ryder Cup Captain and it will certainly have my fullest of attention. That's something I am going to have to think about.

Q. Congratulations.

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Thank you.

Q. You said last week that there's too much talent on this American Team or in American golf, to have the results that we have had the last few times. What are you going to do differently to see that that changes, the trend changes?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Last night I looked at my packet and I noticed where we lost six out of the nine matches. That was disturbing to me and I have been a part of three of those losses, so only was able to experience one win which was, as we all know, very dramatic in 1999.

We possess all kinds of talent in America when it comes to golf, and we have got the world's greatest player in it and the world second-greatest player in it on our team.

I don't know what the missing ingredient is right now other than I think we need to become more passionate about it. I think back to every time the flag is raised in every Ryder Cup ceremony that I have ever been in, and every time I put my hand over my heart, it's passionate to me and I think if we can just take it to that level with every player, and become that passionate, I think we'll come out victorious.

Q. You have been there. We have all been there. We all get emotional, even the media, at the opening ceremonies and during the competition. Why do you suppose it is that the players aren't as passionate as they should be?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: I don't know that I can give you that answer right now. I think everybody is. The world is so busy that we live in today and these guys are all over the world playing golf and I don't have the answer to that question. I would not want to leave the impression that our players aren't passionate about the Ryder Cup because I do think they are. I think they show it in different ways.

This year when we were walking to the opening ceremonies David Toms was walking right behind me. It was quite a walk to get to the opening ceremonies, and I waited until we got right to where we turned the corner to walk down into the aisleway to where we were going to be seated at and I looked around at him and I said: Are you feeling it yet. He could barely get it out he was feeling it so much. His play showed that too. He was very passionate about the way he felt and he played tremendous and you know, I am looking forward to hopefully we can instill that in every player.

Q. [European Captain] Sam Torrance did a good job in setting up the Belfry. What are your thoughts about setting up Oakland Hills?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Well, first of all, it doesn't need much work. That's one of the greatest golf courses in the world. I will start by saying in 1985 when I teed it up in the U.S. Open I was paired with Jack Nicklaus that week, and we started out on the first hole, I looked out there and I don't need to tell everybody what the first hole is like here but it was 17 yards wide, the fairway was, and the rough was looked like knee deep. Greens got tiers all over them, and I said, hey, there is a fairway out there; isn't there?

I think it's one of the toughest venues you can take any major championship to. It's a tremendous golf course. The PGA of America are professionals at what they do. They have a great staff. I don't want to beat the Europeans with poor course set-up. I'd rather beat them with sterling play.

(APPLAUSE)

We're going to leave that up to the PGA of America, which they do well. They set up great Championship golf courses for the PGA Championship and I am sure they will do a great job there too.

Q. Congratulations again. I am wondering if the way your career has gone with some ups and downs and then the way you won your most significant Championships, if you look at your record you have got a history of winning big tournaments by one shot, with great players as a runner-up. Has all this gone into making you the type of person that you believe the PGA wants out of a Captain?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Is that a backhanded way of saying has adversity made me stronger; is that what you are trying to say?

Q. Exactly. That plus the fact that you have stared down Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, among other players, to win significant Championships. And has this made you a stronger person?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Well, I would certainly like to think that it made me a stronger person. I am honored that the PGA of America thinks that I'd make a great Captain. I am going to do the best that I can to make that vision true, bring the Cup back to the United States. I will reemphasize one more time the United States is loaded with talent. We just need to let that talent shine. We're not doing that right now for whatever reason and I have been in the team room with these guys. They want it to shine, it just hasn't. We're going to do our best to do that this time.

Q. Congratulations.

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Thank you.

Q. What kind of Captain, what kind of approach do you think you will take with the 12 players and secondly, if you qualify on points, would you play yourself?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: I will answer the second part first. No, I would not play if I qualified on points for which that's very important for me to do. One of the things that and this is going a little bit further into this, I waited a few days to say that I would take the Captaincy; not because it's not the greatest honor that has ever been bestowed on me, but because I felt like my family should be in on the decision. And on top of that, I don't want to throw in the towel as a player. I still don't feel like I have accomplished everything that I can. It has been a tough year for me this last year and I do want to continue to play and play at a high level. I don't like playing at a lower level. It's not much fun.

But as far as what kind of Captain it's going to take, to make everybody rise to the level that you are talking about or -- I am not sure. I think -- the kind of Captain that I intend to be is a players' Captain. I want to go to the guys and I want to ask them what they expect, what they'd like to see happen. I am not going to cave in into every one of their desires. I think one of the things that we want to try to put back into this is the tradition that the Ryder Cup is all about.

I have said this many times, I said this on Saturday night this last Ryder Cup Matches, it's one of the true barometers of success today that you can parallel your career to a past champion. You can't do it in money anymore because money is not the same but you can go back and say, okay. I don't have the specifics on how many times Hogan made the Ryder Cup team or how many times Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer or Sam Snead or any of those guys, but I know that the qualifications of the best 12 players that the U.S. could come up with made it then and that's the same way it is today.

I think it should be a lot of pride in making the Ryder Cup team. And I think one of the things that we have got to get past is that we're no longer playing for ourself when we go out there and play in Ryder Cup matches; we're playing for each other and our country. And we have got to make decisions on the golf course like that.

Q. Following up, Hal, one of the most curious stats in golf is that until Saturday at the past Ryder Cup Tiger Woods had lost eight consecutive fourball matches in Ryder and Presidents Cups. America can't seem to find him a partner. Can you explain that and do you have any ideas?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: (Laughs) Well, Tiger is in a position because he is so good you feel like he can play with anybody. He's certainly had two great partners in Paul Azinger and Mark Calcavecchia the first two days. But I am a little bit more of a believer and I mean it. We could debate world ranking all we want to here as to whether it is correct or not correct, but to the media it has some significance, I think.

I think what we need to do with the U.S. team is we need to put some of our best players together, our very best players, and we need to try to secure two matches every time we go out there, both morning and afternoon and I think our four best players in the world are going to do that each and every time. If we come through on the other two, we're either going to either be 3-1 or 4-0. I think the thing that's hurt us the most is we go into Sunday with a lot of -- we were actually even this time, but in the past we have been behind every time we have gone into Sunday and all the pressure is on us on Sunday. Tiger is going to shine in the Ryder Cup, I will assure you. It hasn't presented itself, but he's too great a champion. He's doing things that we have never seen in the game and he will shine.

Q. As member of the PGA Tour policy board and Ryder Cup Captain, are you concerned that maybe the U.S. players are being asked, you know, they are asked too much to have to play for The Presidents Cup and then the Ryder Cup each and every year. I mean, the European team has a year off in between and how long before maybe some of our players beg off one or other in these competitions?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: They are asking a lot but I will tell you let's look at it from a different angle. It is a compliment that everybody wants to play the United States of America. The Ryder Cup was the original format of this and The Presidents Cup was dreamed up after that because it was such a great event. And the rest of the world wanted to be involved in a similar type of event. They both have their importance, but the Ryder Cup was the original format of that kind, and I think sometimes that we need to bear that in mind as players, that it's an honor that everybody wants to play the United States of America.

Q. Given the 35th Ryder Cup matches coming here at Oakland Hills and how the popularity has grown especially in the United States I think probably since 1991, where does it rank in terms of the other majors perhaps in your eyes and in the eyes of your colleagues on the Tour?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Let me put it to you like this: The 1999 Ryder Cup was the highlight of my golfing life. It was also, at one point during that week, the lowest point in my golfing life.

Now, you can't carry those emotional highs and lows without it being of great significance. I think anybody that has ever watched the American flag raised, to have the opportunity to play for your country, there's nothing in the world like it. As I speak about this right now I get chills you know, I think back to Boston when F-15s or F-16s did the flyby, I mean, if you don't understand the significance of it, after those two events, the flag raising and then the jets flying by, I mean, you know, I played on two Walker Cup teams; I played with a lot of pride; tried to do the best I could. Sometimes I was successful and sometimes I wasn't. But you know, to me, when asked to do that, I don't want to compare it to war, but I mean if it were war you would be bleeding your last drop. That's the way it is. That's how passionately I try to play the game whenever I am asked to do that, and I hope we can instill that in our players here.

Q. Back to your playing career, you said you don't want to throw in the towel. So is taking this Captain's job not a concession that you are going towards retirement at this point?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Absolutely it is not a concession of that.

That was one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to my wife about it. We do have several things going on in our life right now and it was just one more thing we were adding to it and I wanted to say, you know, I may give up something in order to do this, but it's not going to be my own career. I think that's part of being a good Captain is being current. I need to be out there. I need to be listening to these guys. I need to be communicating with these guys and I need to be playing well enough that they respect me a little bit. And what I think -- and so I am going to be giving it all I have. I want to beat these guys that are going to be playing on this team. I love them all, but I still love to play the game, too.

Q. You just mentioned the importance of the World Cup Ranking and then you said best two players to go. Did you just announce a pairing?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: No. I did not. (Laughter). I did not announce a pairing. I do think that we need to secure some points and I mean, obviously we don't know where the World Rankings are going to put everybody in two years, but I do think that we need to maybe pair a little bit differently than we had. Curtis adjusted this year. He put Davis Love and Tiger together on the second day and they were victorious in both matches, weren't they, I think?

Again, I want to comment Mark Calcavecchia and Paul Azinger are great champions in their own right and certainly very deserving players. They are great partners.

Q. I wonder if the modern golfer in America is capable of becoming an effective team player today and if so, how would you be able to do that and put those guys together in the next couple of years?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: I don't know that a modern player in the United States is any different than a modern player in the Europe. All the modern Europeans players want to come to the United States to become a modern American player (laughs, you know the Sergios [Garcia] of the word and all that sort of stuff.

So I don't have any ingredients to creating the greatest team player in the world. I don't know if it's scientific or not. Have got two years to delve into this to try to figure out what we have got to do in order to make the Championship team that we all want. And I am going to solicit a lot of help from past captains and people that I think can help us become more of a team. Not asking too much to be a team for a week, I don't think, do y'all? So I don't have the ingredients if that's your question.

Q. Does it appear to you that the Europeans are more -- have been more passionate about the Ryder Cup than the Americans in the past few Cups?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Jeff, I don't think they have been more passionate about it. I think that maybe -- it's pretty apparent that they work together better as a team. By that I mean, they are reading each other's putts and talking to each other going down the fairway, all that sort of stuff. If anything, maybe we haven't done as good a job at that aspect of it as maybe we can. In no way do I want anybody to have the impression that the American players are not passionate about winning the Ryder Cup.

I think if you were to have sat in the team room and listened to what the players had to say about it, I think it would be easier for you to write about the passion that the American players have. Let's face it, everybody wants to knock the Americans off, you know, and they get pretty intense about doing that. We need to be just as intense to make sure that that doesn't happen. We need to not want to be knocked off, if you will.

Q. Following up regarding the setup. The last two setups in Europe, both [European captain Sam] Torrance and [1997 European Captain] Seve [Ballesteros] have gotten praise for doing everything they could to give their teams an advantage and you kind of said you are not that concerned about it. Can you elaborate on that and is setup not that big of a deal in your mine?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: I don't think it's that big a deal. I guess I could say something real controversial here like I don't see many Europeans winning any of our major championships other than the Masters, and that's probably pretty controversial here and there it is, it is out on the table (laughter).

Q. That's kind of where I am going, if there's a school of thought that perhaps Ryder Cups in the U.S. should be set up more like the U.S. Open where Americans tend to do better?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: In this case it's the PGA Championship.

Q. Or the PGA Championship.

CAPTAIN SUTTON: I am going to say this one more time. The PGA of America is professional at what they do. They also play the game at a high level, most of these guys could. They understand what it is to be a player trying to make birdies and pars, and keep double bogeys from happening, and all that sort of stuff. They have done a great job of setting up their major championships. I commended them last night about their setup in Hazeltine [at the 2002 PGA Championship]. The wind blew really hard on Sunday, 16th hole at Hazeltine is a pretty controversial hole or could have been, they adjusted. They do a great job. I having been on four teams. Being the Captain is going to have a lot of requirements and a lot of responsibilities of which none of them really need to be course setup. I am going to leave that into good hands.

Q. We have seen a lot of Captains been very different how they handle the actual weeks. Seve was very hands-on. I remember you telling me last week that Curtis probably allowed more input than you have been around. How much do you see yourself being hands-on that week and very involved in matches and talking to players and putting your imprint on the team?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: I look to -- I think the year leading into the Ryder Cup I think there will be a lot of talk going on. I think I will solicit a lot of conversation out of all the players that I think are going to make the team and the ones that have possibilities of making it.

One thing that I thought [1999 U.S. Captain] Ben [Crenshaw] did very well is he pretty much had his mind made up which way we were going to go going into it. I think it is actually good that players kind of have an understanding going into it as to what we're going to do. You have a plan, you stick to your plan. Every time I have ever played a golf tournament I kind of had an idea as to what I could look forward to; how I was going to play the golf course. I think that's really how an American player plays today, is they have a game plan in mind. And I am going to try to have a game plan in place to where we all know what we're going to be doing, and then it's just a matter of going out and trying to make that game plan become a reality.

Q. You talked about the fact that you want to make the guys play more like a team. But to a man at the American Express event the week before this year's Ryder Cup they all defended Tiger's comments about playing individually and winning that event would be more important than winning the Ryder Cup. Kind of sounds like you have a Herculean effort to deal with. How are you going to shape these guys into thinking about a team versus individually?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: Well, let's take Tiger's case. I am going to step out on a limb here and suggest I am going to talk a little bit to Tiger here for a minute. Tiger parallels his career to Jack Nicklaus, most everything that we see, he has got Jack Nicklaus's records right in sight. You know, Jack Nicklaus had a pretty sterling career in the Ryder Cup. And if Tiger was sitting right here and I guess he will read what I have to say anyway, I would like to challenge Tiger to look at Jack Nicklaus' Ryder Cup record and let's go after that one too. And I think Jack understood the passion of the Ryder Cup. He understood what it was like to play. In that way of doing that, we have allowed Tiger to be a little bit individual in it, but at the same time, it's certainly being a team player, if he brings his best game forward I can tell you that right now.

Tiger is the greatest -- if not the greatest player, one of the greatest players that we have ever seen in the game, and he's going to bring that game out this next time, I am going to assure you.

Q. Relative to your selection, you hear a lot about the Europeans talking about because of the worldwide nature of the game looking at a new selection format for them, is there any interest in format change for selection for the U.S. team, i.e., giving you four picks or going with guys that are hot within three months of a tournament?

CAPTAIN SUTTON: To my knowledge there is no thoughts of any changes in the selection of the U.S. team and if my opinion counts for anything, I would encourage us not to do that because again, I want to reflect back on what I said earlier about it being a true barometer of comparison or success to players of yesterday versus today. I hope we can keep that same tradition alive when it comes to the Ryder Cup.

JULIUS MASON: Transcript, ladies and gentlemen from today's teleconference is available at PGA.com if you are interested. On site media representatives, I encourage you on your exit to pick up the Media Guide, the press kit and a little extra something else, especially for you. That will conclude the 2004 United States Ryder Cup Captain announcement, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for joining us.

(APPLAUSE)

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