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SUNDAY INTERVIEW: TEAM USA
Sept. 21, 2008
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: It's a pretty a amazing feeling. I have to say that for two years, I honestly didn't think about what the outcome could be. I felt like that I had a responsibility to try to get the best players here, whatever that took, and I've told you before, that the changing of the selection process, working with the PGA of America and their willingness to look at this process in it an objective way made a big difference.
We got the best players here as a result. I was able to make four picks. It turned out to be the best possible picks I could have ever have imagined, and to get to do that three weeks later was important. I focused on the team building strategy, and I had help from my friend Ron Braund on that, my assistants were fantastic, and you know, in the end, I had to sell it to the players. And the players, to a man, were behind this.
I never thought about the result until today. Today it really hit me about the outcome. I guess maybe Friday I was thinking about it a little bit. But I tried to stay on point personally. I never tried to get ahead of myself. I never tried to think about what the outcome might be, and I started to dream about it a little bit today thinking this could actually happen, this could happen. And until it happened, you know, all I can say is these guys played great. But for the most it just feels great to have it back on soil, to answer your question.
Q. For Phil and for Jim Furyk, you guys have been on the past three losers, I believe. Can you tell us about the rookies that were there, not so much their play, but the enthusiasm and the energy that they brought, what that added to the team, because particularly if you compare it to The K Club, especially the energy level on this team seemed completely different than it did two years ago.
PHIL MICKELSON: Go ahead, Jim.
JIM FURYK: Well, I think Paul earlier in the week said something that stuck with me and should stick with you. When you're playing well, when you're ahead, when you're winning, you always have a lot more energy and you always have that look of having fun and enjoying yourself; and when you're down, when you lose, when you're trying to come from behind, it's a lot more difficult to have a good time. I think some of that is evident.
I was going to save this for the team room later, but now that you've asked the question, honestly, my hat is off I've played in a lot of Ryder Cups, experience, experience, experience, that's what we've always driven, and we had a lot of newcomers here and a lot of young guys. Right on down the line, you look at them, six new guys and a lot of young guys on this team. They brought a lot of enthusiasm. They fired up the crowd. They infused, I mean, just amazing energy into the crowd, and also into the team, and won probably the majority of the points on this team.
So from my heart, I appreciate what the young guys did, this one sitting right next to me (tapping Anthony Kim). They helped us win The Ryder Cup and I appreciate it.
KELLY ELBIN: The rookies on the team combined for a 9 4 8 record on this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought that Jim covered that very well (laughter).
JIM FURYK: Thank you.
KELLY ELBIN: He said it a lot better than I did (laughter).
Q. If one or two players could address this, Lou Holtz, he spoke to you guys, what did he mean, maybe a college football fan or two could talk about that?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I'll start with Lou Holtz. He called me out of the blue and didn't want anybody to know he was coming. I don't know how it got out. He loves golf. He's addicted to the game.
You know, he came in with a great message. One of the messages was what's important now. We stuck to that message. I mentioned that I'll bet to every player. If they got in trouble, I brought it up; remember Lou Holtz talked about what's important now, and let's forget what's behind us.
Lou Holtz I think made a big difference for me, and the wives, you know, he's a cute little guy, they just loved him (laughter). He was fun to have around.
ANTHONY KIM: Yes.
Q. When you found out you were going to lead off, how exciting was that? How preferable was that to sitting around all day and waiting to play, and how important did you think that was going to be to the outcome today, how you did in the first match?
ANTHONY KIM: Well, you know, I asked Paul to put me out early. I felt like I could get some points on the board. I knew everybody, if I didn't play well, that the rest of the guys were playing great golf. I mean, we all played with each other, and everyone was really playing well. I didn't have too much pressure on me on my own ball. It was just about the team, and obviously we had plenty of guys playing well.
So didn't really have to worry about it, but I was doing my best to make as many birdies as possible.
Q. For Paul, listening to you this week, you've used a lot of language like team building strategy and staying on point. I'm wondering, did you get an MBA that we don't know about? Where did your ideas for this, the way you organized the team, the strategies, come from? Is it some sort of organizational book you've read or does this come from your heart?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: No, actually about four or five years ago, I watched a documentary, it was kind of like I won't even tell you.
I've had this idea for about five years, if I was ever the captain, how I would try to approach the team. You know, we just decided to come together in small groups, that was it. Beyond that, I don't know what else to tell you. I think you guys probably by now, if you haven't, I'm not as impressed with you as maybe I used to be. But we put four guys together in practice rounds and they played together every day, and they were the four guys that stayed together the whole week and they were never going to come out of their little group. That's the way I did it.
Beyond that, I think you already figured that out.
BOO WEEKLEY: And it worked.
KELLY ELBIN: What was the documentary, Paul?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: It was about how to take small groups and just to break them up.
Q. Question for Jim. You spoke about being at The Belfry in 2002 and being on the other end of a winning Ryder Cup putt to decide the match; could you compare the two emotions, how you felt on the other side?
JIM FURYK: Well, one, I had a pretty rotten look on my face during this press conference, and now I'm pretty damn happy.
Yeah, I mean, to stand on the 18th green at The Belfry, Paul McGinley, I really like, he's a friend, and he had about a 10 or 12 footer to halve the match. He knocked that in. That half a point was enough to retain the Cup for Europe and the place went bananas. To be standing out there by yourself on the green when that happens and hear the cheers, honestly, it's a miserable feeling. It's never one player's fault but it's an awful feeling to have.
To have it flip, and I think you dream of winning The Ryder Cup, knocking in the 10 footer for your team and having the place go bananas, mine was a two foot conceded putt, but I'll take it, how's that.
Q. Continuing with the veterans, it's been a lot of slings and arrows over the last nine years, and just talk about the battle to kind of get the U.S. flag back on top of the pole, and how long it's taken and maybe why it worked this time, if you've got any theories there.
JIM FURYK: (Looking at Phil) oh, yeah, that one's yours.
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm sorry, I wasn't listening, what was that?
Q. (No mic.)
PHIL MICKELSON: That's all right, I'll just talk about something else (laughter).
I thought it was such a fun week for us. We got along so well off the course, but we've always gotten along well off the golf course, but this week, we just had a lot of fun, off the course, as well as on, because we were all playing well.
For Jim and I and for some of the guys, Kenny has been on some teams and Chad Campbell has been on some teams and same with Stewart here, we have played on Ryder Cups and have not won; we know what it's like to be on the other side of it. It's no fun.
We had six guys who had not experienced that, who were determined to help turn the United States' performance in The Ryder Cup around, and they did that. Look at their record; it was phenomenal. They brought a game, an attitude, an energy, and it invigorated the U.S. Team.
Q. Jim and Phil just said some pretty nice things for you guys
PHIL MICKELSON: Not about Boo, I was talking about (laughter).
JIM FURYK: Never say anything that nice about Anthony.
PHIL MICKELSON: No, we all compatibated (sic); it was great.
Q. So they did just say some pretty complimentary things about you guys. Did you think part of the competition was not only to play well but to bring enthusiasm and energy to the crowd and the course?
BOO WEEKLEY: More or less, I thought that's why I made the team. I mean, granted, and I played well enough to get on the team, but at the same time, like I told Paul, you know, if he needs to sit me, sit me. But I'm here. I'm their biggest cheerleaders. I'm their biggest cheerleader. It ain't about me. There ain't no "I" on this team. It's time to go and let's just go play. That's what I told Paul.
ANTHONY KIM: Well, I just the PGA Tour, we play every week, and sometimes, almost every golf tournament, unless you're leading the golf tournament, you don't have that many people behind you and pulling for you.
You know, here, we've got a great bunch of guys that were pulling for each other, and really hoping every one of us did their absolute best, whether it was a win or a loss. We just wanted to stick with each other and keep that attitude going. Obviously to have all of Kentucky and the United States behind us was tremendous and we just tried to bring our own attitudes. It wasn't that we had to change and Boo had to be somebody else. That's Boo every day.
You know, I was just who I am, and Jim was who he was, Phil was who he was, and what is that word called?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: "Compatibate."
ANTHONY KIM: We "compatibated" well out there and just tried to have a lot of fun.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. We'll get the spelling on that later (laughter).
Q. Kenny, I was just wondering, given how much stock you put into The Ryder Cup and making the team and everything, I was wondering how much of your future after this you have considered. Is there any chance
KENNY PERRY: This is it. I'm going out on top.
You know, I'm 48, and I don't have the nerves for this anymore.
BOO WEEKLEY: (Clapping.)
KENNY PERRY: I'm going to have to go to the belly putter or something, I think.
No, this was my dream, it really was. I focused my whole year on this day and this week, and you know what, it came true for me. It all fell my way. The team won. I've got great teammates, and I'll forever cherish this for the rest of my life.
It was neat having my dad out there. He came out there on the green with me. He's 85 years old, and it was neat to have him there. He started me in the game, he was there in '91 at the Memorial when I won my first, and just to have him come out there was just a special moment for me and him.
Q. Could you comment on the two Kentucky guys, as well as they played this weekend, and that helped get the fans involved, as well?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I felt like coming in that Kenny and J.B. would have the most pressure on them. Kenny made it an obvious goal that this is what he wanted to play for this year.
He came through. You know, you read in the paper at the Memorial, I was quoted as saying that, "You're not going to make this team unless you win."
But what you actually said was, "It will be difficult under the new selection process to make the team unless you win."
Well, he took it one way, when I said it another, and he went out and won Memorial four days later. Four days later, he's the Memorial champion and then he wins two more times and he meets his goal. You know, he's got months yet before the matches come and there's this build, and he's on the cover of magazines and I just felt like he would have a lot of pressure on him.
I picked J.B., and I figured J.B. would have a lot of pressure on him, but you know what, these two guys, they embraced the pressure, they embraced the crowd. They came in here with an attitude of everything to gain and they exploited it, and they played terrific golf, both of them, and I think Kentucky should be proud of maybe the two best I don't know, I won't say that, I don't know who all has come from Kentucky that's played this game. But these two guys are unbelievable, and a lot of heart.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, Kenny and J.B. were 4 1 2 in their matches over the three days.
Q. This one is for J.B. Can you just talk about winning this one and having thousands of your closest friends there with you to share in this win and what it meant to you?
J.B. HOLMES: It's pretty much perfect. I couldn't draw it up any better. There's not very many people that even get the opportunity to play in a Ryder Cup, and I'd say even fewer that get a chance to play in their home state and their home country, and then to win on top of it, is just, it's perfect. You couldn't draw it up any better at all. It's unbelievable.
Q. You were part of a Ryder Cup Team in '91 that won, but they wrapped themselves heavily in the flag and were criticized for it afterwards. This year, you're a player who has always worn the colors close to his heart. Did you consciously not try to play up the nationalism or the things we saw in '91, or is that just the nature of this competition as compared to that one?
BOO WEEKLEY: (Laughing.)
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: All I tried to play up was the team concept here, and the concept worked. I didn't play to over play nationalism and we didn't try to come up with any aggressive messaging or anything like that. The message was to stay on point and embrace the crowd. The pep rally, I've got to tell you, Thursday night was the most unbelievable experience that I've ever had, and I think the players would vouch for that.
But without the great play of Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard this week, and without the great play of Boo Weekley the list goes on and on, and look at what these guys did out here. I've got to look, but Furyk played great. Anthony was unbelievable. KP and J.B. Holmes came through. I anchored Chad Campbell today. I've been there; I tell you what, you don't sleep and you're nervous all day. I've been in the first spot; Anthony handled it well. Stewart Cink was unbelievable. These guys contributed like you can't believe, and for Ben Curtis to win five of the last seven holes today to win his match today, and Stricker, the putt Stricker made today last night, I'll tell you, I think that putt made the difference in these matches for us. Steve Stricker, in one moment, just kept us in there, and everybody on this team to a man contributed. I'm just it's just amazing.
It's not about wrapping ourselves in the flag. It's about these guys gutting it out. I knew I had 12 gamers. These guys are all gamers. Phil Mickelson was a gamer and contributed a ton. They all did. Did I leave anybody out? Have I mentioned all of you? Furyk? Have I mentioned everybody? 12 gamers, right here.
ANTHONY KIM: (Chanting, "Boo, Boo".)
Q. You all have invigorated this nation today, and there's a lot of people across the Commonwealth who will now take up golf because of this weekend, kids as well as adults. If Kenny and J.B. could tell us if there's any advice for these new golfers.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I can give you J.B.'s advice, just learn how to hit it really far (laughter).
J.B. HOLMES: That's what I was going to say, just swing really hard.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Swing really hard in case you hit it.
KENNY PERRY: What I loved was the gallery. We fed off the fans this week. Kentucky is starved for golf. I think our junior program will grow because of this. I had a guy, our cart driver, he was driving me, telling me he was the head of the junior golf program in this area. I was telling him, if this don't get them fired up, nothing will.
It was great for the State of Kentucky. It was nice that the world got to see how great our fans are and how great the people are here. Got a lot of good southern hospitality, and I got a lot of fried chicken this week and I love fried chicken, so it was a fun week for us.
J.B. HOLMES: Being a person that came up through the junior golf in Kentucky, I thought they had a great program starting up. We brought out a lot of good players. Yeah, hopefully it will continue to grow, and you know, it's a great state to live in, and a great state to be from and I'm just proud to be from Kentucky.
Q. For Boo, there had been so much said about the tension and pressure of The Ryder Cup, and you go galloping down the first fairway there doing your Happy Gilmore thing. Where did that come from, and did you once feel nervous this entire week?
BOO WEEKLEY: I felt nervous right out of the gate, the first day. Just going out I was nervous, which I'm always nervous, you know, out there on the first hole.
But I felt like I just had to do it to loosen it up a little bit. I mean, the first, everybody else is done going off, and it's just my nature to be a little goofy, anyway.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: No (incredulously).
Q. It's not happened for a long time, but would you consider doing this again, or was that ever in the thoughts at all? Would you think about doing it?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: (Eyes widening.)
PHIL MICKELSON: Zinger in 2010.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: I'm not going to think about it. I'm just going to stay up all night and party with my boys.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Zinger in '10.
PHIL MICKELSON: Zinger in '10.
JIM FURYK: Is that a promise, by the way?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: We're going to have a good time tonight, fellas, we're going to have a good time.
Q. For anybody else besides Boo can you just talk about what he does? The governor of Kentucky said he's going to adopt him; he's already signed the papers to adopt him
JIM FURYK: Hell, Panhandle, Alabama, Kentucky, it's all the same thing, isn't it (laughter)?
Q. Just what he does for you as far as a teammate and kind of loosen you up, and I know a couple of guys were watching him gallop down the first fairway.
JIM FURYK: I just heard of that honestly and I think it's hilarious. Couldn't stop laughing.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: That's one of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life. Hey, I'm nervous, and I'm nervous for everybody today. I was nervous for every player today. There was a lot at stake for us. We had a little lead, and for him to gallop off that first tee, I'm telling you what, the whole place just cracked up and embraced that guy, embraced him all day. That was an amazing moment, never to be duplicated or equaled, I don't think. That was unbelievable.
Q. For Paul, some of the European players have been critical of the behavior of some of the crowd this week. Are you totally happy with the way the whole 13th-man plan worked out?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Well, I talked to a bunch of the police officers and they didn't throw anybody out the whole week. So I thought the crowd was phenomenal. They made a big difference, and I thought everybody was beautifully behaved. I'm real, real proud. There was a lot of alcohol served out there and there were no fights going on, nobody screaming at inappropriate times. I couldn't be prouder of the fans from this nation and the way they embraced us, from this state the way they embraced us, and the European fans were fantastic, as well.
So the incidents, if there were some, they were few and far between. There were thousands of people out there; I thought it was amazing.
Q. You have for months talked, it's all been about team and whatnot, and you've been almost reticent to talk about yourself. Just wondered, you've won a major championship and you've won double digit wins on Tour. Where does this rank in what you've done and can you reflect on what this means to you?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: You know, winning the PGA Championship was phenomenal for me. I was the best player not to win a major at the time and all that. Got monkeys off my back, so I was really happy about that. It's an individual achievement and I can share it with a few friends.
This is a group effort that required some team building and for these guys to bind to a concept. My philosophy, along with some of the others, was to have this be a great experience for my family; to be a great experience for the players and their families; parents, cousins and uncles, whoever the heck, children and wives, and for my assistants; for it to be a great experience for them. That was my goal.
When I won the PGA, I don't know how many text messages I've got; I've had a hundred text messages today, maybe more. This is bigger to me than anything I've ever been a part of. I just can't tell you, it was the plan coming together and the guys embracing it, and I had to sit back and trust these players to do what they do. I didn't come here and try to teach one player how to play this game.
To a man, these guys can flat out play. I didn't believe that I needed to hold anybody's hand. I didn't bring my assistants in as baby sitters. I brought them in because I wanted to share the experience with them. I thought the players would enjoy having them around. And these guys were trustworthy. They embraced a concept, they embraced the pressure and they embraced this crowd, and they did it, not me. They did it.
Q. You had a chance to end your match at 16, instead it goes to 17. Can you talk about the emotion of almost getting it there, but at 17, being able to get the clinching point?
JIM FURYK: Well, as I said earlier, my apologies to J.B. because it would have been his point, actually. If I would have sucked it up and knocked that putt in on 16, J.B. would have closed it out on 17. I was a little anxious, to be honest with you. I made a big putt on 15 to top Miguel, and I knew I had that about a five or six footer to end the match on 16. I was a little anxious. I pulled it a touch, and I lipped it out. And quite honestly, I didn't want to go past 15, but ended up having to go to 17. So thankful to get it done. I was pretty tight out there. I think we are all relatively nervous to some respect, but individual matches probably make me the most nervous. I don't know why that is.
Happy to get a win out there. Been on the other side. Nice to be on this side of this and celebrate with my teammates.
Q. Now that you've run around the greyhound track and caught the rabbit, what did it taste like?
BOO WEEKLEY: Chicken (laughter).
KELLY ELBIN: Not sure how you follow that up.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: That's a great question. That's a great answer.
Q. The order of play in the singles is always the subject of debate and analysis. When you grouped your three southern players, Kenny Perry and Boo and J.B. together in the middle of the order, was that the result of a specific piece of strategic thinking?
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: (Pausing) Yes, it was. I felt like honestly, the way I felt about this was I wanted my four aggressive personalities and players to go out first, which they did. I wanted Kentucky and and Jim Furyk to go out, and Boo, in the middle, which they did.
JIM FURYK: I was trying to be as southern as I could this week.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: And I wanted my steady, supportive kind of personality guys that are just rock solid, unflappable personalities to anchor this team. So I just went four, four and four in my mind, and that's how I did it. We collectively came together. We circled the table. I gave the players a couple of options and they shot me down right away. They liked the first option right away.
Honestly, I had the first option in my head for probably two weeks.
Q. Could you just talk a little bit about how you were embraced by the fans this week and how it affected your play out there?
BOO WEEKLEY: I had to say, it probably helped my play. I mean, just being able to pump the crowd a little bit, and you know, I reckon just being in the south, it's just part of me and it's just part of who I am and they are like a family.
And being able to show them a little bit of golf and them hollering and hooting your name, it's unreal, it really is. But it's been just unbelievable, seriously, unbelievable, the support that the fans gave us, and I think it took my game to the next level.
Q. You're the only one who can answer this question. Can you define the word "compatibate"?
BOO WEEKLEY: No, I can't, but they made a big article about it up in the little room that we got.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: He has no idea what that says.
BOO WEEKLEY: Look, here, they got so many words in there, I couldn't look. They got some words in there I can't understand. So I just leave it alone. They just laugh and, you know (laughter).
KELLY ELBIN: I'd like to get a comment from the four guys who have not had a chance to talk because of Boo. Let's start on the far left with Chad Campbell, just thoughts on the week and being part of the victory today, please.
CHAD CAMPBELL: Obviously it was a great week. Everybody played really well. I thought it was huge today, Anthony getting off to such a great start and really playing well against a very, very tough opponent.
You know, it's awesome. This is my third one, and this definitely feels way better than the previous two. So you know, it's awesome. Everybody on the team played so great, and you know, it was a great team and we got along well and had a lot of fun.
Obviously winning points helps having a lot of fun. So it was just an awesome week.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. Hunter, you went 2 0 3, had 3½ points, led the U.S. Team. Talk about your first Ryder Cup experience and it being a victorious one.
HUNTER MAHAN: It was great, long, tough. We beat a good team, and man, it feels good. I mean, it was every match was difficult, but I felt like our good was good enough. I didn't think we needed to do anything extra. We didn't need to do anything special. We just had to feed off the Kentucky people cheering for us, and that would be good enough for us to win if we just played our game, and luckily it was.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. Steve, Captain referenced your lengthy put on Saturday afternoon. Talk about the significance of that looking back and if that helped lead to the victory of today.
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know if it was that significant. I mean, it was half a point when it all comes down to it.
Just to get together with the teammates and to bond for the week was way beyond my expectations of the atmosphere, how it was to play out there in front of our home crowd and to come out on top was way better than anything personally I have done, individually for sure. And to get together with everybody in the team room and to enjoy each other throughout the week was unbelievable and it was a great time and something that we can all live with for the rest of our lives.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. Ben, you won five of the last holes to beat Lee Westwood 2&1. Talk a little bit about that comeback and this experience.
BEN CURTIS: My teammates helped me out; they got it done before a lot of that happened.
Like Steve said, it's the most unbelievable experience I've ever had with a group of guys at this level. Most of the time you're playing, trying to beat them, and now you're rooting them on and cheering for them in every way you can. To bond with these 11 other guys, you cannot ask for better teammates.
Captain, he was phenomenal all week, he kept us loose and kept us going. You know, to come back against Lee was just I felt like I was playing good all week. It just never came around, and finally last nine holes, I started making some putts and that was the difference.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. Justin, talk for a minute about your chemistry with Hunter and the way that went the first couple of days, and also getting the victory today.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I really enjoyed playing golf with Hunter Mahan this week. I've known Hunter for a long time, and I knew he had a lot of talent. But as Zinger said a couple of weeks ago, when he picked Hunter, the guy has the courage of a burglar.
CAPTAIN PAUL AZINGER: Guts of a burglar.
JUSTIN LEONARD: That's what you said. But I saw that this week. It's been a great week, and I think the first step to getting here and winning this Ryder Cup was when Zinger changed the selection process two years ago.
You know, we've got the 12 best available players here this week, and I saw some incredible golf, and it was inspiring to me by every one of these guys and by our captain, and I'm very proud to be a part of this group.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you, Justin. Finally, Stewart, you and Chad had a terrific come back on Friday morning that maybe set the pace. Talk about that and the experience of this week, please.
STEWART CINK: It was a fantastic experience, playing with Chad for the first time in Ryder Cup. We've been on a few teams together but finally got the chance to go out there and play some meaningful matches. That was just it was like a dream match when you look at how many down we were. I think we were 3 down through seven, and we circled the wagons and just chipped away at it. It was just to get a point right there coming to the last hole, at that stage, you know, to give the team a big lead right there in the first session was something that in four Ryder Cups now, I've never experienced.
If you look at the way the scoring ended up, that was it. I mean, the first session was really was basically the way the difference played out. Just to be a part of that with Chad, I think we shared something that we'll never forget. It was a great experience.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you, Captain Azinger, and the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup Team, thank you.
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