An Interview With: CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM & CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN
18 September 2006
SCOTT CROCKETT: All right, everyone, thank you very much for your attendance today. Minister O'Donoghue, Glen and Melissa, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the start of what promises to be one of the greatest weeks, not only in the history of golf, but also in the history of Ireland itself, as this wonderful country plays host to the 36th Ryder Cup.
Two men central to the week's proceedings of course are with me on the top table on my far left, United States Captain Tom Lehman and my immediate left, European Captain Ian Woosnam. Gentlemen, it's my great privilege to welcome you both and be one of the first people to wish both you and your teams the very best of luck this week at The K Club.
Before we open up the floor to questions, can I invite you firstly, Ian, and you Tom, to say a few words to kick us off. Ian?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Nice to see you, Tom.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You, too.
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: And Melissa and all of the lovely ladies. Welcome to Ireland. It's nice to see you. I'd like to take a moment to thank the Dublin Airport Authorities for your help and support today. Thank you very much.
Well, it all starts here, Tom. Another week of great golf, and above all, another week of fun. Let's enjoy the contest, the craic, and the fantastic Irish hospitality. To you, Tom and to your team, the best of luck over the next week, but then again, we'll be trying our darnedest to keep this Ryder Cup here for another two years. Thank you. (Applause.)
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Woosie, thank you very much. Glen, it's good to see you, too. One of my favourite things about Ireland is when you walk off the plane or get out of the car and you say hello and they say, "You're very welcome." And I guess to me epitomizes to me that we feel very welcome here and we certainly appreciate it. On behalf of my team, my team, caddies, our official party, thank you for opening your arms to us in country and the hospitality that you've always given us and you will give us this week.
I, too, think it's going to be a phenomenal week. It's historical, significant, both teams have an awful lot to play for. So, Woosie, I know that you guys have the Cup and will be trying extremely hard to get it back, as it should be. I know that the spirit of the competition will be tough. It will be fierce. It will be full of respect. There's been a lot that's transpired over the course of this year which I think really leaves us to have a great perspective on competition, and our team and your team I'm sure as well will be right there, so we look forward to the competition. We look forward to playing hard and good luck to you guys, too. (Applause).
SCOTT CROCKETT: Ian, Tom, thank you very much for those opening comments. We'll now open up the floor to some questions.
Q. Ian, just while we're waiting for the American team to arrive, some interesting quotes from you in Golf Digest about things you don't like, one of which was, you don't like people to be late. "If someone is late, I always tell them they have a two.shot penalty," so does that mean we have an advantage on Friday morning?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Well, that doesn't count to today. The American team has had to travel from a long distance, and you know, we've got to expect in this time, it's going to be late sometimes and we didn't mind waiting. Pity it started raining just as they came off the plane, but I'm glad to see everybody got here safe, anyway.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: We're always the one down, anyway, so doesn't make any difference then.
Q. How was the journey? Obviously you did have the delay, but can you give us an insight to what it was like with you and the rest of the guys?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I would just say that we brought more than our share of luggage, which was the reason for the delay. I think we were trying to put together a puzzle, trying to fit all the stuff inside the plane. You could see the guys outside the plane in the windows going, "How are we going to get all this stuff in," but they managed to do it.
Our team is very excited we're coming back. We were here just a few weeks ago. Everybody to a man felt like this is in some ways coming back to something very familiar and looking forward to it with a lot of anticipation. A couple of our guys are already over here and will be waiting at The K Club for us. So there's just a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.
Q. Were you able to watch anything of the World Match Play Championship last week, and if so, do you read anything into the results there?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I remember one year before the Ryder Cup I missed the cut at the B.C. Open by about ten shots, so I never read anything into the week before or making the cut or not missing the cut or whatever. A lot of times you're looking ahead, you're working on your game and thinking of something you're trying to work on for the following week and you're not totally in the moment and you're thinking about the next week. But still, whatever happened the week before is just preparation.
Q. A quick question on that for Ian. Do you share that view or have you taken a great deal of enthusiasm from the performance of your team at Wentworth?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Obviously I take the enthusiasm, it's great for us. But I think the Ryder Cup is completely different than what the World Match Play is. I know you're playing match play, but you're here and you're playing for your team. I've played in Ryder Cups when I have been playing very well the weeks before and I managed to play well. And I think everybody tends to raise up their game for the Ryder Cup and I agree with Tom what he says.
Q. I know it's of little consolation to hear that the last four days are really beautiful weather and it would have been lovely if the Ryder Cup was last weekend, and you're heading into a week of uncertain weather and it does look as though there will be wind and possibly a bit of rain. Comments from both of you on perhaps inclement conditions in the week ahead.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You know, it is what it is. That's the way our team looks at it. We have a bunch of guys who grew up in parts of the world where there might have been wind or rain or a bunch of guys from Texas and a bunch of guys from Florida. You've got a guy from Connecticut, and there's all kind of different locales in the States where you get some wind and rain. So I don't think wind and rain really affects anybody much. Everybody has to play in it, so it's just a matter of who has the mental toughness to deal with it through to the end.
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: I agree on that. It doesn't matter where we have played over the last number of years, sunshine, rain, whatever it is. We've all got to be prepared to what you're going to play in.
You know, when you're so focused on what you're trying to achieve in the Ryder Cup, I don't think it doesn't matter what weather you're playing in. Only thing would be nice is for all of the crowds from all over the world is hopefully the weather is pretty decent.
Q. In different ways you've both had players in serious form over the last few week and from a European perspective it's been a welcome return to form for quite a few players, not the least, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey, but, you too, Tom have had Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk in flying form. In the general sense have you seen your players come into form at the right time, and some of those who haven't been, what do you say about them and how you're going to be using them, to both of you?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Yeah, I think, you know, obviously over the last few weeks, as you said, our side has come much more onto form which is great. They have raised up their game ready for this match. There you go, again, you just don't know what's going to happen in the match itself.
But it's nice to see both sides raising their games, and I think that's going to make it a more exciting match for the week ahead.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Well, yeah, I think everybody, I'm sure on both sides has been working very hard on their game to be prepared.
So, you know, the preparation sometimes comes in different forms. Some guys tee it up, the week before wanting to get in the hunt, wanting to win and feel like they have got to get that kind of momentum going and go to tournaments focusing on a part of their game they have to work on and just doesn't care about the results; they just simply want to get their game in gear.
And so the week before a big one, you know, is a preparation week and you always take confidence in your guys playing well. But you really certainly don't lose heart because a guy maybe didn't.
Q. Ian, Tom, it's been a long build.up to the Ryder Cup and the week is finally on us. I suppose that's when the pressure starts to kick in, but what will you be doing as captains to make sure that your teams enjoy this week more than anything?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: You know, to me, it's such an honour and a privilege to be in a Ryder Cup. If you can't enjoy it, there's really something wrong with you, and I think that's kind of the approach of our whole team has taken, is this is a once.in.a.lifetime opportunity for an American team to come to Ireland. There's so many reasons to enjoy it. We as kids grew up dreaming about something like this.
So I think to a man, we're going to make the best of it, go ahead and take our best shot and enjoy everything we're doing about it. Enjoy the fans, enjoy the golf, enjoy the hospitality, enjoy the golf course, enjoy having our family and friends supporting us and enjoy the other fans that are here and enjoy it afterwards, because I do know that when all is said and done this week, the biggest winner of all will be the people of Ireland and the game of golf. So I think we'll all enjoy all of that, as well.
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Exactly the same. I agree with Tom. You know, as I even said to my guys, a lot of guys have played before, but I think it's important that, you know, you're honoured and privileged to be here and be on a team, try and look at each other, look at the fans, enjoy it, because it's such a very, very special week. You're going to have millions and millions of people around the world watching this tournament and it's just a pleasure to play this. And it's very important to enjoy it and have fun, and we're all great friends and we'll always be great friends afterwards and that's the most important in sportsmanship. That's what it's all about.
Q. I know you had some concerns over the fitness of Scott Verplank a couple of weeks ago. Can you give us an update on his back?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Yeah, he suffered a small injury at the Firestone tournament about a month ago. He came over here and he didn't play. He just decided to rest and he rested about a week and began practising and played last week and he's 100%.
Q. As we all know, just security is going to be a big issue, right throughout the duration of the Ryder Cup and The K Club and the Minister of Sport has already averted to the issue on radio this morning, but at the Open Championship at Hoylake it was obvious to onlookers there was a huge security presence around Tiger Woods surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards, etc., are we going to see similar scenes at The K Club, or what are the security precautions envisioned around the world's No. 1?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I really don't know exactly what they are. I kind of feel like we're here to play golf. We're here to play golf, and Tiger is here to play golf and the U.S. Team is here to play and compete as a team. What the security levels are around Tiger, that's not my expertise. So it will be whatever it is. Whatever it is is probably required. Tiger kind of lives in that world so he's used to it.
Any time you get a sportsman of that stature of which he is, obviously that upper orbit that almost nobody ever gets to, you're going to have more security than not. So it is what it's going to be, but I don't think it's going to affect any of the competition.
Q. The history of the Ryder Cup has not always been glorious, and something you touched on, Tom, given events in the world, how important is it that this year the game is played, the matches are played in the right spirit and the game of golf is presented in the best possible light?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Well, I think the .. I'm sure Woosie and I both struggled with, for example, making our two picks. Making two picks is tough because you're not picking a bunch of other guys, and you certainly hate to throw cold water on their hopes and dreams when they have worked so hard. In the middle of the night when I was making mine, I got a phone call from Rick Riley and he said, "Hey, there's 2 billion Chinese who don't care who you pick." It was a very short message. There's billions of folks in this world who don't care who wins this Ryder Cup, too.
So it does put a bit of a perspective on it. We're not dealing with world peace. We're not dealing with AIDS in Africa or we're not dealing with heavy things. We are playing a contest, we're playing a game, which is an important game and everybody is passionate about it. They want to win, but the end of the day, it is just a game. I don't have any concerns whatsoever that our teams are going to play to win and play hard, but also at the end shake hands and move on as respected sportsmen. So I think we are in a good place.
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Exactly. On the end of the day, whether we win or lose, we walk off that 18th green and we're all going to shake hands. And, you know, we're all going to be competing against each other the next week and the next tournament. And as I said before, we're here to have fun, we're going to play with pride and passion and honour and friendship and sportsmanship and that's what this contest is all about. You know, it's for the fans, it's for the millions of fans around the world, and as you say, let's have fun and have a good time.
Q. You were here with your team a few weeks ago when the weather was quite poor. Do you think in hindsight that could be a help considering the changeable weather we're expecting this week?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I think that it's always good to see a place at its toughest, as the worst with the weather, the first day we were here, that's kind of the way it was, wasn't real pleasant, the squalls that came through, blowing 40, 45 miles an hour; it was kind of a typical tough day here in Ireland. The course, though, really wasn't playing probably like it's playing right now. The grass is real lush and there's a lot of grass in the greens and the ball landing in the fairways was going virtually nowhere.
But with that said, it's nice to kind of see the course play that way because now our guys know what to expect if it does get nasty. They do know there's going to be a lot of long irons and there's going to be some tough shots and the short game is going to be supremely important. So all in all, those two days we spent here were two really good days for our team.
Q. I believe you were going to visit a veteran's hospital before you flew over here, can you confirm that, and also just talk about the reasons behind that before you came here?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: We had a group that went to Walter Reed Hospital which is where they bring all of the shoulders who have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. I went there on my own about a year and a half ago during the Booz Allen tournament. Just wanted to say hi to the troops. Let them know how proud we are of them and their commitment, their sacrifice; that there's people back home who are on their side and proud of what they are doing. It had a huge impact on me, again, and I really wanted to go back again with our official party, so we did.
We heard some amazing stories, one in particular, this kid was telling me he was in one of those fighting vehicles and he got shot and they pulled him out of that and put him on a second one in order to get him back to safety. And on the way out of that one, they got hit by a mortar and it started on fire, and the men that was with them was panicking, he wasn't used to that kind of situation. He was panicking that the thing was on fire, and this kid who had been shot who was bleeding had to kind of talk down the medic to open the hatch and finally got him calmed down so he opened the hatch and the guy crawled out and pulled him out, and then the thing incinerated, a bunch of melted metal when it was all done. You hear stories like that and the following line is always, when I get out of here, "I'm going to go back to my team."
To me it was just inspiration. They were inspired by the fact that we stopped by, but all of us who stopped by were inspired by their stories, their courage, their honour and sense of honour and sense of duty and their commitment to their team. We didn't go to find some kind of a special recipe for our Ryder Cup Team. We went there because it's the right thing to do as an American and support our troops.
Q. Can you tell me who exactly was there with your team, was that members of the team or Ryder Cup officials?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: No. It was my wife and I and the PGA of America officials.
Q. To both captains Seve Ballesteros today said today he believes it's time to do away with the captain's picks. Would that have made your job a lot easier, and do you think it's a good idea?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Would certainly have been a bit easier a couple of weeks ago. It's been a tough time over the last week or so. (Laughter.)
You know, it would be nice, but I think in the end of the day, I think there's ten people who ultimately gets on the team, and it's up to myself and Tom to have a choice who to pick after that. And if you definitely want to be on the team, being one of them ten, don't leave yourself having the option that you're not going to get picked.
Yeah, it was a difficult decision, the same as Tom. A lot of friends out there, but the end of the day, you have to do what you feel best is for the team. And I felt I did the right thing by picking the two players I did, and we've got a very strong team. I'm happy with it, everybody else seems to be happy with it.
Q. Tom, for you about the picks, would it be an easier job and are you better off going down the rankings 1 to 12 and go from there?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: Those two picks are not easy. Sometimes they can be. Sometimes the selections seem to be pretty self.evident and pretty obvious and other teams their not. So for those times that they are not, that captain, he has .. it's very troublesome. Part of it is the fact that I've been picked before and I've been overlooked before. I finished 11th one year on our list and having played one year the last three Ryder Cups, and I didn't get picked.
I know the disappointment you feel as a player and it can cause some real hard feelings. There's some guys who I didn't pick this year with who I spent two years encouraging and talking to and patting on the back, making phone calls, trying to just help them relax and play their game. And at the end of the day, they don't make the team and they are crushed.
So, you know, it would make it easier on the captain to not pick them, but I'm not really certain that you're doing your team any good by not picking them. I think you need to give the captain his two choices and round out the team the way he feels is best.
Q. Pardon me, another parochial question, we have three Irishmen, we're in Ireland, doesn't happen too often. The three Irish players playing this week, because all three have got issues with form, and Padraig Harrington's case, very good form, 23 birdies and an eagle over the week last week, but firstly, did you have any contact with Darren Clarke over the last week over what seemed like a fairly good four days in Madrid, and what were your feelings about how he did there?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: Going back to Padraig to start off with, yeah, 23 birdies, that's a great thing for the Ryder Cup. If you're making that many birdies, that's what you want in a four.ball. That's great for me, and obviously he's hitting some really good shots.
Going back to Darren, I've seen his article in the paper, a very emotional time, and after he shot 68, I spoke to Darren. You know, he says it was important for him to do a good score and it was important for me, as well, on myself, just to say because why I picked him really, and I think Darren did very well last week.
I think as Tom said, it's just about a week of getting yourself playing a bit of golf. Darren hasn't played for a couple of months, but he came over here about ten days ago, played a round of golf and Darren played some wonderful golf, and he's up for it. For Darren it's just a matter of him knocking a few putts and he is ready.
Paul has been struggling. He's definitely had a difficult time over the last few months, but I'm sure Paul being in Ireland with all of the Irish fans, it is going to lift his game and he's a very important member of the team.
Q. All three are strong characters as well as good golfers, in terms of the leaders in the team room, you have no shortage of them, but do you see all of them being leaders in the team room?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: I think in our team, we've got ten people who have played before, and there's only two rookies. You know, we've got so many guys that played. Monty I think this might be his seventh or eighth time; Olazabal seven or eight times. Those players have played a lot of times in the Ryder Cup, and the guys who haven't played there have been in before and asked my advice, the other players' advice, and you know, get the feeling of what it's going to be like.
Q. Just a comment from you about Darren playing literally five, six weeks after the sad death of Heather, his wife.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I think it's a much better Ryder Cup with him playing. I know that every man on our team is pleased and happy that he is he's playing. We all know what he's been through. And Woosie's mentioned it, the guys on these tours are friendly. The relationships, they go a long way back. So there has obviously always been a lot of support for Darren over these past couple of years, and through the last couple of months, there's been the same outpouring of support for him.
I'm happy he's playing. I think he's going to make The European Team stronger. I think he's going to make the Ryder Cup better, and I think it would not be nearly as good a Ryder Cup without him.
Q. Ian and Tom, you both know what it's like to experience first.day nerves making your debut as a player in the Ryder Cup, and now that this week is here, wondering how you're both feeling as captains, any apprehension?
CAPTAIN IAN WOOSNAM: I think actually now that I've got here I feel relaxed and better and start getting it out of the way. I think what both of us want to do is get the formalities out of the way and let's get on the golf course and get it on, see how it all turns out.
As I said, 18 months ago, seemed like a long time ago and it seemed to drag on and drag on. The last few weeks it just seemed to have gone so quickly, and we're here, and Tom's here and all his team, the ladies. You know, I'm really looking forward to it.
Yeah, I think we're all going to be a little bit nervous because we don't know what the outcome is going to be. But the end of the day, it's only a game of golf.
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: The time thing is really right. I think the last three or four weeks, it's basically been a blur. It seemed like time stood still and then, bam, all of a sudden it just accelerated at light speed and before you know it, you're sitting here in Ireland. I think that there are nerves. Everybody has nerves and there are fears and you're anxious, but to me, that's all part of the Ryder Cup. It's so much emotion and passion involved with it. There's so much excitement, and if you don't feel nervous, you wouldn't be a human being. So I think our whole team is embracing the nerves because they know that it will get them sharp. I think more than anything else, our team feels really, really prepared, and we feel like we've got a lot accomplished, that we've done all we can do to prepare for this tournament and we're ready to play. So it's very much, hey, let's get out there on the golf course, let's get our work done and get this match going on Friday.
Q. Because of the results in recent Ryder Cups, Europe winning four of the last five, do you believe your team are underdogs coming into this year's match?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I think The European Team is extremely strong and very, very strong top to bottom. In fact, our team is very strong. We have four rookies that are always a bit of a question mark. Although I believe that they are tremendous players. I have total confidence in them. But at the end of the day, I think The European Team based on the strength of their team playing here in Ireland would probably have to be favoured slightly. I think it will be a great match.
Q. But being the role of underdog, something you're not used to, is that something you can use to your advantage?
CAPTAIN TOM LEHMAN: I'm not opposed to it.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Ian and Tom, thank you very much for today, and once again, very best of luck for this week.
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