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Rick Martino, PGA of America director of instruction
Rick Martino, PGA of America director of instruction

Q&A: PGA of America director of instruction Martino

Rick Martino, the director of instruction at the PGA of American, sat down with following Friday's first day at the 35th Ryder Cup Matches and offered his thoughts on what unfolded at Oakland Hills Country Club.

September 17, 2004 Thanks for your time, Rick. First off, give us your general thoughts on what you saw out there today.

Martino: My general thoughts were that the putts that needed to go in went in for the Europeans only. The Americans played golf from tee to green reasonably well, but the drive Phil (Mickelson) hit on the last hole really hurt because if he and Tiger (Woods) come out of that with at least a half a point or a point, you don't feel so bad. Now, can the opposite happen (Saturday)? Yes, the Americans could just as well come out tomorrow and win six points. But it's a three-day event -- Saturday is moving day. You've got to get in position to win. So the Americans need to win enough points tomorrow to put themselves in position to win. The golf course today was very fair. The pin positions were very difficult. There was not any time out there where they could easily access the pin. They required perfect shots and you had to control your spin. Downwind there a couple of holes -- like 16 -- where they couldn't keep the ball on the green. But that's just part of playing here. So, the pin positions will be different (Saturday), and that will make a difference, too. So that leads us to pairings. The question becomes, do you break up Tiger and Phil or not? I think not. I think you leave them together. First off, they've practiced alternate-shot together with the same golf ball, so it would be hard to break them up. As far as foursomes go, I think you put them out first, you put them out just like today and you say to them, "OK, you've had one day of Ryder Cup play. Let's see you do it tomorrow." And you hope they draw the same pairings because you'd like to see them play the same people again. Earlier today you mentioned the greens here at Oakland Hills. During the week, they didn't look like they were all that fast, and the players were saying they were kind of soft, kind of receptive. Today they sped up a little bit. What kind of adjustments do you have to make from greens that were puttable like they were during the practice rounds to today when they were a little bit quicker?

Martino: With as much experience as these guys have, when they look at the green itself, when they walk on it, they get the feel of how fast the green is. But Oakland Hills is very famous for places you cannot leave yourself. We saw a lot of putts that were hit 8, 10 feet from the hole. We saw chips that they could not get close to the hole. I think they're going to be more cognizant of that (Saturday). I think they'll really pay a lot more attention to being under the hole. Phil's last drive on 18 -- Did you notice anything that he did? Did he just push it or was it just a bad swing?

Martino: No, he didn't just push it. I mean, that was not just a push. That was just a bad golf swing. It was not an equipment failure of any kind. Simply just a bad golf swing. I think he was pumped up and he tried to get the ball in the fairway too far. I think he just overhit it, just like most of us do when we get to a hole that's either into the wind or long. It's the longest par-4 on the course, and he wanted to give Tiger a chance to hit the shot to win the hole. I just think he was too pumped up and tried to hit it too hard and he got his body way ahead of his arms, the face was wide open, the ball was shoved, and he was lucky it wasn't out of bounds. But the penalty was probably worse than being out of bounds almost because they immediately had to take an unplayable lie and then just get it back in the fairway. So, they were really behind the 8-ball there. This morning you mentioned that the crowd was kind of quiet. Chris DiMarco, he appeared to be the only one who was showing any kind of emotion. He tried to get the people fired up and he played extremely well today.

Martino: Yes he did. He said he and Jay Haas were going to go out this afternoon and try to put some red on the board immediately because they wanted the crowd into it. They wanted the roars to be circulating through the course, and they did their part. They played very well. Chris made a lot of putts early, and then Jay Haas hit some beautiful irons shots coming in. I mean, they beat Miguel Angel Jimenez, who had been playing just fabulously. Could you have imagined that the United States would leave the first day with just one-and-a-half points given the lineup that they have?

Martino: No, I don't think anybody could have imagined that. But that's part of golf. Now, how often does the first-day leader of a tournament go on and win the tournament? If this was four days of stroke play, we wouldn't think a thing about having the ability to come back. But in match play when each round is completed, the point is awarded, so you have to win the next round to get that point back. I think the U.S. is looking at this like they did at Brookline -- all we have to do is go out and play our game. If you're Hal Sutton, what do you tell the boys in the team room?

Martino: I don't think he has to tell them anything. I think they're looking at each and they're telling each other, "You know, we didn't do it today. But we're capable of doing it." I think now it becomes each one of them looking inside themselves and saying, "OK, I have the skills to do this. I need to go out and do it tomorrow." These guys are professionals and they're faced with this type of situation every week. How do they not look at what they today and say, "OK, tomorrow's a new day?"

Martino: Well, the thing that every good golfer does -- and everybody at home needs to learn to do -- is to play one shot at a time. That's why alternate shot is such an interesting format. I suggest all of you go out and get your best partner and play alternate shot once in a while. If you only have nine holes in the evening, go out and play alternate shot with somebody. You get a whole different variety of shots. You get pressure on yourself that you're not used to because you're playing for somebody else. The point is, alternate shot puts a lot of pressure on you. Plus it's hard when you're only playing every other shot, soyou don't get to get into your rythm and flow. I think tomorrow we're going to see a different American team. But the European Team, boy they're hot. If their putters stay as hot and they play as well as they did today, I think we'd be lucky to pick up a point or two.

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