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An Interview with: Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger
JULIUS MASON: Good late afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and thanks for joining us at the Kentucky Exposition Center for this Ryder Cup Captain's news conference. Nick, I would like to welcome you to Louisville, Kentucky, and thank you for joining us today.
Also joining us United States Ryder Cup Captain, Mr. Paul Azinger. I'll turn it over to United States Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger for some opening comments.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Thank you, Julius, I appreciate it. I want to thank you all for being here. Want to welcome you. I was worried you might get some turbulence from Hurricane Ike but I guess your pilot avoided that, which is good.
You brought a great team over here again. I've been kind of marveling at how well all of you guys have been playing. I know we'll be a little bit of the underdogs going into these matches this week, but hopefully we can rise to the occasion and put on a good show, and I just wanted to say welcome. We've been waiting for this for two years, or more, and I'll turn it over to you.
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: Thanks, Paul, it's great to be here. It's finally here. This day, I've been captain for I think nearly four years or something, 3 1/2 years, and obviously we've been official captains for the last two years, and finally this day has come. A little surreal, when you've been thinking about this day since I guess April, starting to plan for this day and finally it all happens and here we are.
Anyway, we were looking forward to getting settled in and be out on the golf course tomorrow.
Q. Could you gauge for us the mood on the plane on the flight over here, and on a transatlantic flight like that on Ryder Cup week, have you had time to consider your pairings on the plane?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: I've already done that. I spoke to the guys the last two weeks, and I said I've had a couple of weeks now and spoke to a few players, sowed a few seeds, some ideas I've been having, and we talked. Haven't talked pairings, but been working on little scenarios already.
But I'm looking forward to my first team meeting tonight, the first time I've actually got the team all in one place this evening.
The guys are resting. Our Open Champion is a fine sleeper. He had four sleeps, as I would call it. The guys are resting hard. The back of the plane may have been enjoying things a little bit, I'm not too sure, I didn't go down there much. Everybody was in very good spirits.
Q. What were your impressions of the course, I know you got to ride around it today and there's a lot of damage in the area but the course looked pretty good, didn't it?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: They did a great job cleaning up everything. There was still a lot of evidence of what was going on out there yesterday, 75 mile an hour hurricane wind force, broken limbs and trees, and we had a TV tower go down on the 12th green and they repaired that already. Mark Wilson, the superintendent, knows what he's doing and they have a tremendous crew. They worked really hard. I guess they started last night and they of course knew what they had in store for them this morning. By the time I got out there, the majority of the mess had been cleaned up. So I think the course will be perfect for the tournament.
Q. Curious for both captains, the arrival day, how different is it as a captain and as a player?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: I guess very different. As a player, you make the team, all you've got to do is pack your golf clubs. As a captain, your golf clubs are in your mind this week. Just a lot of thinking. Got to prepare yourselves for team meetings and all sorts of strategy and all sorts of different things, and our daily routine, you have to go through all of that, double check everything.
So yeah, there's a lot going on in your mind. With the players here, they have a very simple goal. They are itching to get out on the golf course and get out and play. That's how I was in my day.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Actually I was more nervous as a player coming in trying to figure out the golf course and who I would be playing with and stuff like that I guess.
As a captain, I feel like I've got the lion's share of my work behind me. I don't feel a lot of stress or pressure. I was talking even on the way to the airport, the difference in the butterflies that the players feel versus as a captain, I really don't feel any butterflies. I for the most part know where I'm going, and I've been here a day or two already, so my walk-throughs are over, and I think we're going to be ready.
Q. There was a story in the Chicago Tribune last week that you were thinking about having Lou Holtz talk to your team; is that, in fact, true, and if so, what are you looking for?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I'm not really looking for anything. Coach called me up a couple of weeks ago and he loves golf. He's just totally addicted to golf and said he would love to come in and hang out with us one day. He may be hanging with us tomorrow on the course a little bit.
We talked on the phone for a little while, so I think he's a great motivational speaker, but he's also a huge fan of golf. So he's just going to come hang out with us. There's no special speech set aside for Lou Holtz.
Q. You've both played home and away matches; are they different challenges, and is one easier than the other?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: I think they are very similar now. I think back 20 odd years ago when we first came to Muirfield Village, the golf course in that era was very different to what we played in Europe because more players of The European Team played in Europe and now they are international players. It was very much getting used to the conditioning of different style golf courses. The most obvious thing is the crowd support will be a bigger percentage, 25 percent Europeans here to 75 percent I assume will be American fans.
So outside of those two differences, not a great deal of difference.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I agree. The European players are very comfortable over here.
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: Better water pressure, as well, is probably the biggest difference. (Laughter).
Q. And did you find one easier than the other, being at home or playing in front of your home crowd?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: No, I don't think so. No, I'm casting my mind back to the '87 one at Muirfield Village when we had 2,000 fans and America had 20,000, and our 2,000 out-sang them and that was an amazing atmosphere. That was the start of the great crowd participation.
Q. By your own admission, you've taken a bit of a bashing from the Irish media recently; but can you give us your thoughts on the two Irish golfers you've got on your team and whether you fancy playing them together? And to Paul, how pleased were you to see Darren Clarke not in Nick's lineup?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: Blimey.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: All I'll say is that I didn't want to justify why I didn't pick anybody but I would be glad to justify why I picked the guys I did.
So I'm not going to try to justify why Nick didn't pick Darren Clarke. He just brought over 12 I think pretty darned good players, and he had a couple more that he could have chosen. If it was 14 players, I'm pretty sure I know who the other two would be, but it's only 12.
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: The Irish boys are playing well. From two years ago, we have a three-time major winner, who is pretty impressive. And whoever I put the two Irish boys together, it's Monday afternoon, I just walked off a plane.
Q. How important is it for you to sort of generate an awful lot of excitement along the local fans here in the days leading up?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I think the local fans are already motivated and we'll do everything we can to get those fans ready. I think those fans, they have been waiting for two years for this, so I think they have embraced The Ryder Cup. I feel like they have made me one of their own here and I'm real happy to be here and I couldn't think of a better place for us to play the 37th Ryder Cup than Louisville, Kentucky. If I could hand-pick any place in the country, this would probably be the spot. I think they will be behind us. The message to the crowd is be enthusiastic, raucous, crazy if you like, but keep it all within the realm of good sportsmanship.
Q. The Open Champion, would you be slightly worried about what you've seen in the last few weeks, that perhaps fatigue might be setting in, and is it that you think the adrenaline rush of The Ryder Cup can overcome that?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: No, he's rested. I spoke to him. I'm very pleased. We're very pleased, the way guys that played last week in Germany, obviously Robert Karlsson won, and the rest of the guys played very well.
Outside of that, the rest of the team is rested, and Padraig is one of them. He's had the weeks off. I chatted with him and he knew what he was doing with his schedule, so the guys have been practicing and kept themselves all light and well oiled, that was kind of one of my requests. No, the team is raring to go.
Q. I've heard enough from Paul on this but not really your thoughts; on the absence of Tiger, what effect does that have do you think on the U.S. Team in?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: I think because they have had so much time, I think if it happened the week before, maybe that could make a difference. But the fact that it happened in June, what's that, a good three months ago, three or four months ago, I feel the American Team at times have recognized that and set their game plan, and I don't feel it's ... I can see the positives and the negative.
I think the positive might be the American Team might want to show the rest of the golfing world, the rest of America and maybe Tiger, that they can play and they can perform better and they can win without him.
On my side, I reckon this is the one that Tiger was going to play a blind eye and win every match. I think they have lost out on a few points.
Q. Just wanted to know your thoughts on Captain's Assistants, you seemed to have a change of heart and you've added some more people this week?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: I've got a couple of ideas up my sleeve, yeah, which will be revealed.
Q. And do you plan to play every one of the players before the singles?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: I'm going to play them all the first day, yeah, I'm going to get 12 out against his eight. I thought that would be good tactics (shaking head).
There will be goals we want and whether we can achieve them, yeah, my No. 1 goal will be that I'll be scratching my head ... well, I won't have to scratch my head maybe Thursday afternoon when I put the team; I have 12 guys playing so well. We shall see. We shall see where we get to in the next three days' practice.
Q. By saying, therefore, that you will have something sorted out on that count, do you now expect, therefore, that it's not possible to captain aside to the proper extent of The Ryder Cup with just two of you?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: No, I'm not saying that. Tony Jacklin did all right. How many did Tony have?
Q. Two people.
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: Did he.
Q. Fewer people at the matches; it's easier.
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: I have a game plan. I know how I can hop around. I know how I can get my information. I'm more than happy with what I've got and the way I'm doing it and what I've got up my sleeve.
Q. Can I just go back on the previous answer about, is it your intention or your hope to play all 12 on the first day?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: Do you want it in stone?
Q. What is your hope?
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: What is my hope? I think if things were going very well, I'd have all 12 out day one.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the Kentucky boys, pairing them together; that could be the crowd, a way to get them involved, especially in the first match maybe, and they have said they played quite a bit together as well.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, they do. I might put them out first day, first match, get everybody going, we'll see. (Laughter).
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: Where's my pen? (Looking around and under table).
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Haven't decided. I'll let you know, though. (Laughter).
Q. Is there more pressure on the Europeans to continue the dominance you've had recently or on the Americans to finally get the Ryder Cup back?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: You know, there's always pressure at The Ryder Cup, and anybody who says there's not pressure is either out of touch or has never been here. So I feel like that the Americans, we have an opportunity here that I think the Europeans have brought an incredible team over here and we have a great opportunity to change it.
We have I think everything to gain in this situation, not a lot of people expect us to pull this off, minus Tiger Woods, so I feel like our guys are going to ... everybody feels pressure, but hopefully they will be free-wheeling out there. That's my hope.
CAPTAIN NICK FALDO: Yeah, I feel ... well, I've got 12 guys who want to win, simple as that.
And it's going to be an electrifying, spectacular week this week. We shall see.
Q. If you look back over the last 10 years, the U.S. players have had far more different partnerships than Europe; do you think that's a product of Europe winning early and being comfortable with sticking with what they have got, or the U.S. maybe panicking and switching and trying to find a hot hand?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I believe the team that loses always makes the necessary adjustments to fix the problem.
So clearly, if you're behind every morning for six straight Ryder Cups, or every day the first day for six straight Ryder Cups, which we have been, that's 12 years of Ryder Cup Matches we've been behind on the first day; then, of course, you're going to make some changes, and if you're the team that's doing all of the getting ahead, then you're going to stick with what's been working.
So it's no different than the NFL teams play each other twice in the season, you lose the first game, the team that wins the game does everything the same and the team that loses makes the necessary adjustments to try to get it right.
I believe a lot of the switching around has been simply the results of being behind early.
JULIUS MASON: Let Ryder Cup week begin, ladies and gentlemen, Captain Faldo, Captain Azinger.
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