Smyth, Baker join forces with Woosnam at The K Club
Ian Woosnam named Irishman Des Smyth and Peter Baker of England as his Assistant Captains during a Ryder Cup news conference Wednesday.
27 June 2005
STRAFFAN, Ireland -- The following is the official transcript of Wednesday's Ryder Cup Match news conference held at the The Smurfit European Open, during which European Captain Ian Woosnam, United States captain Tom Lehman, chief executive of F-ilte Ireland Shaun Quinn and Ryder Cup director Richard Hills addressed the media.
GORDON SIMPSON: Welcome everyone. It's nice to see we're playing in front of a sellout crowd today here in the interview room, and first and foremost I'll introduce the top table. On my far left is Shaun Quinn who is chief executive of F-ilte Ireland. Next to Sean is the missing man, or missing for the moment, Tom Lehman, Ryder Cup Captain for the USA, and he will be joining us in a few moments. Right in the middle there is the European Captain, Ian Woosnam, and Ian will have a few words to say in a few seconds, and next to me here is Richard Hills, the Ryder Cup director. I think Ian you can lead off proceedings by imparting some information to everyone today.
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Well, good afternoon, everybody. As I said in Dubai, I would announce my vice captains here at the Smurfit European Open, and my announcement is going to be: From Ireland, will be Des Smyth, who is a very good friend of mine, and I've known him for a very long time, since I first came on Tour in 1976, '78, '79, and I've known him very well and he's going to be very, very special part of my team and is Irish, as well. He's a special guy in Ireland, and he's playing very well in America at the moment.
The other is a very close friend of mine, I've known for a long time is Peter Baker. I've played with Peter in the Ryder Cup, is a very close friend and I spent a lot of time on The European Tour with and he's very popular with all of the players.
So these are my two announcements for the assistants, Ryder Cup assistants. Obviously there's been a bit of speculation about Sandy Lyle and I'd like to announce as well that Sandy Lyle is going to be assistant to the advice captains, and also DJ Russell. So that is just to clear that up, and I hope everybody gets that straight.
Obviously Sandy is a very close friend of mine, as well, and DJ Russell. Obviously I want to have a very close knit team around me and they are the four guys I feel like is going to do the best job for me.
GORDON SIMPSON: Take some questions.
Q. Des and Peter will have equal status?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Equal, yeah.
Q. Have you told Smythy yet?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: I'm sure when I ring him up later on, I'm sure he's going to be very happy about it.
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: And very surprised. I'm sure it will go well this week.
Q. What was your thought, you made it a point of having an Irish assistant?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Other than that, we're playing in Ireland, I feel that the right way and for team spirit as well, and for the crowd. I think that will be a benefit to the European Tour. The assistants, Des is a very close friend of mine and I've been very close friend of Des for a long time. We shared a room when I was a very young lad, we shared a room together, and, you know, we've been close ever since.
Q. The two assistants and you have, DJ and Sandy, when you rang them up in Dubai, Sandy was very disappointed and felt as if he was the forgotten man of golf?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Yeah, we've not been so close for the last 20, 25 years, Sandy has lived in Scotland, lived in America. So I've been very much closer to Peter Baker, and I feel that Sandy Lyle has missed out on a lot and I feel that he's got to be part of my team. You know, he's been a great player in his time and he's got a wealth of experience and I'll sure he will fetch a lot to the team as well.
Q. What was Des's reaction?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: I haven't told him yet. No, I spoke to him when I was announced as the Ryder Cup Captain. I spoke to him and asked him if he would be the Ryder Cup vice captain, or one of the vice captains and he was over the moon and overjoyed to be part of the Ryder Cup, and you know, he's played two Ryder Cups and he has not been on The European Tour for the last few years, but we all know Smythy and he'll be giving his best out there.
Q. Will he still be playing the U.S. or European Tour next year? Will he be able to fulfill his duties?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: I'm sure when you're out there, the Golf Channel covers all of The European Tour, and he'll be watching the golf and I'll be speaking to Des. I'm sure if anybody out there wants to speak to Des today or tomorrow, whatever, and he's more than happy to speak to them and give his thoughts on what his duty is going to be.
Q. What are your requirements? What are you going to want them to do?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Let's put this way. I'll be more involved just with Des and Peter. I'll be making decisions and I will be asking their advice and what they think. They will have their own little thoughts what they think, but hopefully I'm picking two members who think like me, think the right way, and when we go and we pick the team, we'll be working all together. They will be putting their support to me really.
Q. Will you use 2002 as a model for your operation?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: No doubt about it. As I say, it was the first time I had been in that situation, working with Sam, and I learned a lot. I didn't realize, you know, as a player, how pampered you are as a player, really, and that's what you want your team to be. You want to give them the best, and when they go out there, they want to perform at their best.
I didn't realize how much there is in the background of what goes on. I learned a lot from Sam and the organization. You know, I've got plenty of time to think about it, but, you know, obviously we've got to see which way the team is going to shape up in the next, well, 14 months, really, or when it starts in September and see. I'll be thinking every week and making adjustments who I think will be playing with each other, which will be the best in four balls, foursomes, singles. And so it's a 12 month job to think who is going to be playing in the right pairings, really. I'll be asking my vice captains the same thing, who do they think. I'll be asking them to write down who they think should be paired together and who shouldn't be.
Q. I know it's a long way off, but are you encouraged by the fact that the European players are winning regularly on the U.S. Tour?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Very much, yeah. You know, Padraig, he'd won once this year early on and he'd just gone off the ball a little bit. And (his win on Sunday) it was great, I watched his putt on the 18th the other night and it was great to see him come back to form. That's a great spirit for the guys coming up.
You know, what's going to be interesting to see is what schedules they have got next year. Obviously that's going to be a little bit of a problem for me, guys playing in America, who is going to play in Europe. So we'll have to see what that situation is when we come down to it. I guess the two picks is going to be very important at the end of the day.
Q. Are you concerned that more will be playing in America?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Yeah, I guess that's why there's a World Ranking. We'll have to see. Hopefully the guys are going to make the right decision. If they desperately want to play in the Ryder Cup, they are going to make the right decision.
Q. The fact that you're playing a limited schedule next year, will that affect you?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: No, I don't think so. I think the best I could do will be out there playing with the guys, and therefore I can persuade the Tour to (let me) play with some of the guys I need to, who I want to keep my eye on or who I feel like I want to get to know their game a little bit more; or I don't know some of the guys that well, to get to know them a little bit more. And hopefully as the team comes together, if we can get some dinners together and get a little bit more of a family atmosphere going together, I think that's very important.
Q. Are you concerned that there going to be an awful lot of people playing in America next season and your team may not be totally represented by all of The European Tour?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Yeah, as I said early on, that is a big worry to me. I'm not sure how I can handle that, but I'm sure there is going to be when we come down to it, next August if someone is going to miss out, that's going to be very disappointing for someone. But a decision has got to be made. I'm sure whoever is playing well at the time is going to be picked. Someone who is not playing that well isn't going to get picked.
Q. Would you hold it against any player if they didn't play a lot in Europe?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: I don't want to answer that one. (Laughing). You know, I can see that people want to get on with their life and it all depends how badly they want to play in the Ryder Cup. You know, they have got to accept their fate if they don't support The European Tour.
Q. In your time did you have any desire to play in America?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Not really, because I always felt that I wanted to play in Europe. I had a young family and I wanted to play in Europe and I didn't want to go to America. Things are a little bit different now, there's a lot of money to be made in America, World Ranking points and everything. You can see the glamour of going to America.
I think to be a top class player in the world, you have to play around the world to show that you can play in any country.
Q. Do you think the balance of the Tour is such that players can play on both Tours now?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: I think so. I think if you go to America early on, you can get a lot of tournaments in there and then come back for the big tournaments in Europe. And I think you possibly can, yeah, especially with the World tournaments, five of them and there's you can do it. It all depends on if you want to do it.
Q. Do you feel the efforts have been made to bring the course to your specification?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Here?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Yes. I think Gerry (Byrne), when we were at the Irish Open, we spent a good afternoon walking around the golf course, made a few alterations. I think this course was built to play this way, run offs surrounding the greens, little slopes, and I think Jerry has done a fantastic job and made a couple improvements to make this course even better. Some of the guys might not like it but some of the guys will like it.
You know, if you hit a bad shot and you get on the wrong side, you're going to go in the water or you're going to run off the green. You know it's there. Get in the right position.
Q. Have you had any reaction from it?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Well, I've spoke to a couple of guys and some places they say it's a little bit severe, but that's why it's been set up that way, to maybe get the feel.
GORDON SIMPSON: We are now joined by Tom Lehman, the U.S. Captain. I don't know if you've got any major announcements, but Ian has done his bit now. And Tom, if you'd like to take the microphone for a little bit and just tell us a bit about your thoughts being here at The K Club.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: First of all I just want to say that I am very happy to be here at The K Club. I'm very proud to be here as a PGA TOUR player and very, very proud to be here as the upcoming 2006 Ryder Cup Captain.
I'd like to congratulate Woosie on his selection, I think as we all know, it's very, very well deserved, certainly Ryder Cup experience and so many great victories, major championships. His playing career has been phenomenal and his passion for the Ryder Cup obviously everybody knows about, so I think it's well deserved and you ought to be proud of yourself.
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Only the singles, Tom. Let's get past that one. (Laughter) I won't be coming out for the singles.
GORDON SIMPSON: Tom, of course you've played here a couple of teams in the past. Have you noticed any subtle changes to the course since you were here, or not so subtle?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I almost didn't recognize the golf course, quite frankly. The last time I played here was '96 and the course was really matured beautifully. It's improved I think significantly. I actually I like the course. I love the course now. I hope the guys on our team love it as much as I do.
I think it's a tremendous golf course. You know, like I was saying before, I think that being in Ireland, it will be a special occasion for this Ryder Cup. I love this country, there's a lot of history between this country and ours, a lot of shared values and shared people. So I think the chance to be here is really a dream come true for me.
GORDON SIMPSON: Well, it's an open forum now. If any of the gentlemen in the top floor will take questions, we'll just move on.
Q. At the last Ryder Cup, virtually every press conference was about the fact or the supposition that The European Team was greater than the American team spirit, and while you may or may not agree with that, how will you deal with that aspect of things?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Well, I can assure you that the passion and the love for the Ryder Cup amongst our players is there. I think there has been a lot written about that, and I do know that our guys care a great deal about it. I know they will care especially in 2006. It's a real challenge to all of us. We've had a rough patch over the last several years and nobody is very happy about that. I can sure you that there is a great deal of passion and excitement and enthusiasm about this upcoming Ryder Cup.
Q. Most people feel that the Americans will be the underdog.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Really? Wow, okay. (Laughter) you know what, I have a very, very difficult time calling someone like Tiger Woods an underdog. However, however, in team events, you know, the two plus two does equal about six or seven, and the European teams have always done that. They always play just phenomenally together and hole a lot of putts. I see so much great golf every Ryder Cup. I think that, quite frankly, that even as good as our players are, we will be underdogs, there's no doubt about it. We deserve to be underdogs. There's just a bunch of talent on this European Tour and The European Team will be very, very strong.
Q. What did you learn from the way Hal Sutton captained the American team last year?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You know, Hal is very passionate. He's a very strong in his opinions and there's no dancing around things with Hal. I think he did a great job being that way, just true to who he is and to himself and true to his personality. I think that because the team lost, you know, it should not be a reflection on the job that Hal did or his concern and his love for his job as captain.
You know, I didn't play, I wasn't there, from what I saw on the outside looking in, from the things I've talked to him about and the things I've talked to other things about, the things that he did the guys liked. They seem to think he did a pretty good job.
Q. Do you have an explanation for the score?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: The European teams make a lot of putts and chips and wedges and 5 irons and 3 irons and whatever else. They played great golf. You either start there, you start with the European Team played great golf, and the U.S. Team probably has not played up to its potential.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Why? That's a good question. I think the U.S. Team tends to play with a little more apprehension, a little more pressure, self inflicted pressure, a little more fear of failure maybe, possibly. There's a lot of expectation on the U.S. Team in America to always you talked about just showing up and winning. That's kind of always been the expectation is U.S. Teams have to show up to win, and as we've seen over and over again, not just golf but all sports, that doesn't really hold true anymore.
There's a lot of pressure for the U.S. Team to play well and to win by the U.S. media, I believe, and that tends to also take a little bit of the fun out of the game.
Q. Are you surprised that inaudible?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: There is the Tour has changed. Our tour has changed and one of the main reasons why, I believe, is the number of international players who play our tour. You know, I think the number this year is something like 78 or 79 international players on the PGA TOUR. Nineteen, well, twenty years ago, I think there was ten. So there's a significant increase in the number of international players, which means there's less opportunity for younger players. You have to be a Phil Mickelson or a Tiger Woods or that calibre of player to step right in and make a difference now as a young player in America. You're getting all of the top players from everywhere who want to play over there, so it does take away the opportunity. As we all know, golf is all about opportunity. You get the opportunity, the chance to play, you improve.
Q. Ian has just announced his vice captains. Can you talk about the implication that might have?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I think you add that on top which, by the way was a great selection. I think both of the selections are great selections. But you add that on top of having Harrington and Clarke and McGinley, maybe McDowell, who knows, maybe a lot of Irishmen, that just adds more flavor, more fun to the event.
The thing I appreciate most about the Ryder Cup is the passion and the enthusiasm and the nationalism and the songs that you hear on the golf course, the flags and people painting their faces. To me that's what makes the Ryder Cup so special, and I believe that having Des Smyth as part of Ian's team will just add to that. I think it makes it even better.
Q. Just going back to what you were saying about the international players on the American tour, do you think that weakens or reflects why you might see the U.S. inaudible?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You know, the U.S. Tour, part of the reason why it's so strong is because of those players. So the Tour as a whole is extremely healthy. It's extremely competitive. It's not to say that there are not good young players I don't want to be mistaken by saying that. There are a number of good young players. They just are they are kind of getting beat up a little bit more early in their career than they used to, and confidence is a big deal. Confidence in golf is everything. The opportunities to raise that confidence level come fewer and far between now for younger players, but there are some young guys who are extremely talented, and I think over the next five to ten years, you're going to see those guys really shine.
Q. As you're building up into your Ryder Cup year, does it concern you that the European press is making itself felt, saying how good of players they are to the American side?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I think the American public already knows how good of a player Padraig Harrington is or Darren Clarke or all of the top European players. I think the American public is very aware and very supportive, actually, of all international players who come to play in the States. And so I think we all know and they all know how strong the team is, guys like Ian Poulter, are very, very talented, very, very talented players. So, you know, I think the U.S. Team and the U.S. public, we all know we have our hands full.
Q. Some of your potential American team are playing in Ireland on Monday and Tuesday; do you think more should make an effort to play this week on a Ryder Cup course?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: There's a number of guys who would like to have been here, but we also have a lot of guys, one ever their favourite events going this week at the Western Open. Players love to play that tournament. There will be plenty of opportunity in the future for Americans to be here on this golf course, and I can assure you, you'll see a whole bunch of them.
Q. In the wake of Oakland Hills, some of your players, some of the American players, I think it was Davis Love was certainly one of them, felt that the Presidents Cup created a problem in that they were playing serious team golf every year, and not the Europeans; do you think that's valid?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You know, that's a dicey question right there, by the way. I'm not sure Tim Finchem would like to read what I'm actually thinking about that. (Laughter). But there is something to that. If you were to hold the Olympics every two years instead of every four years, it would not be quite as special. Even though it's different individuals involved, the Presidents Cup has provided the opportunity for other international players who deserve to be a part of something like that. But at the same time, I think it's diminished I shouldn't say diminished, but it has affected I think the U.S. Team in some ways.
Q. Do you see any way around it?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I've not thought about that. I'm not really sure I can answer that question. I really don't see it as a problem. I don't see that as a problem affecting the Ryder Cup. You know, if I were the Presidents Cup, I'd be more worried.
Q. Have you ruled out playing Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods together?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: What would you do? (Laughter).
Oh, gosh, you know, that pairing should have worked, there's no doubt about it. You know, I would never say never about anything, but I probably would have to have those guys come to me and say we want a second chance before I did that.
Q. Why do you think it didn't work?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: It didn't work, as we all you know, I remember we played Monty and Faldo the first match, and at the time they were the two strongest players and we got beat in the afternoon and that twosome kind of quickly got disbanded. Sometimes putting your top two guys together, if they don't win, it can be a psychological blow. Although that year, actually the Europeans did win, so I guess it didn't hurt them too badly.
Q. Will you be looking to Tiger to lead the team?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I think definitely, you look to your top players to provide the leadership and to provide the inspiration. You look to them to kind of lead the way. If the guys you really are counting on are not only getting trounced but not having much fun together, you know, that's difficult, so, what are you going to do.
Q. Will you be a playing captain?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I said that we want to play our 12 best players on the golf course, no matter who they are. If my game has been a little bit it's improved lately and it keeps on improving and I happen to earn my spot and I'm one of the Top 12 players, I would definitely have to consider that strongly. My whole thing is, you have the 12 best guys, whoever they might be.
Q. What would you do if you were to be?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I haven't even thought that far ahead. I've selected a couple very able assistants as well, Corey Pavin has a lot of experience. I'm not sure what would happen, but all I know is we want our strongest team on the golf course.
GORDON SIMPSON: Well, Tom, Ian, thank you very much for your attendance today.
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