U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin has some important advice to give his five rookies. (Redington/Getty Images)
Transcript of Corey Pavin's Sept. 17 Ryder Cup teleconference
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin covered many topics in his final pre-Ryder Cup teleconference on Sept. 17. Read all of what he had to say.
JULIUS MASON (Senior Director of Public Relations and Media Relations for The PGA of America): Good morning, everybody, from Los Angeles. Appreciate your time, as you all have a very, very busy week next week, we wanted to make sure we got out in front and get you the opportunity to speak with our United States Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin before we all jump on a plane in nine days and head over to Wales. We will wind up departing Atlanta on the team charter at about 10:00 p.m., and it's guesstimated that we will arrive in Cardiff at 11 o'clock a.m. on Monday. We will do a quick news conference with Ryder Cup Captains Montgomerie and Pavin at the airport, and then a big news conference at 4 o'clock in the afternoon at the media center on Monday afternoon.
With that, I would like to go ahead and turn it over to our captain for an opening comment. Captain, good morning.
COREY PAVIN: Good morning, everyone. Hope everyone is doing good. It's been the last time I talked to you guys was probably around the picks' times, and been busy the last, what's it been I don't even know what it's been, nine, ten days, just busy talking to the assistant captains and players and trying to get everything organized with them so that they understand what's happening during the week and trying to figure out pairings; been working on that for the last few days pretty hard. And with that, I guess let you guys ask your questions and we'll go from there.
Q. Just curious your thoughts on, I guess start it off with a question about Tiger. You know, in every other Ryder Cup that he's played in, he's been the leading points getter. It was a foregone conclusion that he would be a big part of the team. This time, it was different; you had to pick him. Just curious from your standpoint, do you feel that there's a good bit of pressure on him this time, maybe more so than in past Ryder Cups?
COREY PAVIN: I'd argue the opposite, actually. I think, you know, he's in a position as a pick, and he has not played up to his own standards, but he's playing some very good golf now; that I think just like everybody on the team, he's one of 12 guys and I'm going to pair him and talk to him just like all of the other players I've talked to about what they want to play with and who I feel is best for them.
I'm just going to look at every player and try to figure out how many times to play them and where they will do better. The object is to get more points than the other team at the end of the competition, and that's what I'm looking at.
Q. Wondering if you can mentally rewind to 1991. I'm hoping to put together a story talking to various a guys on the team about their first shot struck in Ryder Cup competition. Some guys have said that's about as nervous as it gets because of having at additional pressure of having a country kind of riding on your back and all that. What do you remember about your first match? Who were you paired with, what were the circumstances, did you hit the first ball, and was your heart in your throat?
COREY PAVIN: The first match I played in '91, I was paired with Mark Calcavecchia, and to be honest with you, I don't remember the first shot. So I either topped it or something. I must have hit a bad shot and I put it out of my mind.
You know, I just remember being pretty excited about playing, and I had been playing pretty good that year. You know, we lost that match pretty badly, actually. I think we were playing Steven Richardson and Mark James, I believe. We got pummeled pretty good. So that was my introduction to The Ryder Cup. I remember '93 a lot better, because Lanny Wadkins was my partner and we were playing foursomes and we were the first match out and I hit the first shot of The Ryder Cup that year.
COREY PAVIN: We had about a two-hour fog delay, and I remember just standing around waiting and waiting and waiting, and then we got to the tee and it dawned on me that I had the odd holes. So I was hitting the first shot of The Ryder Cup that year as the away team, we had the honor. And I just remember being extremely nervous. I remember putting the peg in the ground and trying to putt the ball on the tee, and I was having a difficult time of it because my hand was shaking so much, but I managed to get the ball on the tee and I hit a good drive and we went on to win that match.
So I remember that. And in '95, we were actually the first match out again and Tom Lehman was my partner and he was a rookie on that team, and he hit the first shot off the first hole and just piped it right down the middle. So for some reason, '91 is not sticking out in my mind, so there wasn't anything too memorable about it, but I am sure I was as nervous as can be.
Q. Is it as simple as having teammates, and you're not just out there playing for yourself? Is that the simple explanation or is there more to it than that, something that I'm not … maybe not considering just in terms of why the pressure seems to be a little bit more?
COREY PAVIN: I'm sure you've got it all figured out, but I think it's a combination of a lot of things. No. 1, The Ryder Cup only comes around once every two years. So you have eight majors in the time that you have one Ryder Cup, and so there's quite a build-up and a lot of anticipation with The Ryder Cup; more so than even with majors in my opinion. And you have 11 teammates that you don't want to let down and you want to play well for.
Obviously you're representing all your peers on Tour and of course you're representing the United States of America. There's more attention given to The Ryder Cup by fans than anything else, just even in the last few weeks walking around Dallas or L.A. or wherever I am, I've had so many people come up and say something to me, you know, good luck, bring back the Cup, things like that, that you don't hear normally walking around between tournaments.
So there's a big awareness that the fan base have in the United States in Europe and around the world, and after a while, you just realize how big an event it is. It's just gigantic. That creates a lot of pressure, and obviously if you're playing with a partner, the first two days, you don't want to let your partner down, and that's an unusual feeling to have because we don't play that format very often. So there's pressure there.
And you know, you're playing in front of a lot of people that are emotionally charged when you're on the golf course, so you combine all those things, and I've always said that I've been so much more nervous playing in Ryder Cups than any other time; hitting the last shot at the U.S. Open in '95, seemed like a walk in the park compared to playing in The Ryder Cup.
Q. What will you tell rookie players about how to handle that first tee shot?
COREY PAVIN: Well, the first thing is … breathe would be a good thing. I think, you know, when you're nervous like that, you tend to do things a little bit quicker, so, you know, I'll just ask him to slow down a little bit and take some breaths and just try to relax and just try to make a good rhythmic swing. Things happen so fast when you're nervous.
I think those guys will have three practice rounds under their belts, and they will have a pretty good taste of what the crowds are going to be like and the feeling; and I'll just ask them to try to integrate all that that's happening Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and just try to relax as much as they can.
But I certainly want them to be nervous. I want them to be feeling that way because that means it means a lot to them and they will just have to deal with their emotions and their feelings the best way that they can. My job is just to make sure that they know that those emotions and feelings are going to be coming and to be prepared for it.
Q. Could you talk a little about Dustin Johnson and his resiliency, obviously tough break at the PGA Championship, U.S. Open but he wins last week at Cog Hill. So can you just talk a little bit about Dustin?
COREY PAVIN: I think Dustin has had one of those years that he'll never forget, and hopefully there will be a lot more positive things happening in the next couple of weeks.
You know, his win in Chicago, it was a huge deal for him. The things that have happened to him this year, the maturity that he's shown as the year has gone on. And to come back after the U.S. Open and play well at the PGA Championship the last day and with the bad break there on the last hole, he handled that very well, certainly with the media, and he just seemed to be he understood it and he digested the whole situation very quickly, and that was a big sign of maturity.
And then to come to Chicago and win that tournament with everything that's happened during the year, you can just see him growing as a player. Obviously as captain, I was very pleased to see it. And he's playing well, you know, things look good and he'll we how he plays at The Tour Championship. But he's definitely on a good roll right now, and I'm certainly happy to see that going into The Ryder Cup. I hope he plays well next week at East Lake and he keeps on that same track.
Q. Can you talk about how to prepare your team for an away game may be different for a home game? What are the big differences you try to make players aware of, especially for rookies who have never played the event?
COREY PAVIN: Yeah, I think the most important thing is just to understand where we are and what kind of reaction that the players on the team are going to see from the fans out there. Obviously there's going to be 80, 85 percent of the fans are going to be pro-European, which is great. I think that's good fun. You know, they are going to be cheering and going crazy for The European Team, and I'm sure they will be very respectful for our guys.
But it's different when you're out there and you're playing and maybe you miss a putt somewhere and Europe wins the hole; you know, there might be a pause and then applause, which you're not used to hearing.
But I think the players have to be aware of that, the young guys that haven't been in that situation need to understand that there might be some clapping for bad shots possibly and to kind of be able to integrate that into their thinking before you go out there. That's just preparation for them. And you know, just a general preparation for them to be in a stage that they have never been on before.
You can't really explain it to them completely so that they can handle the situation and be 100 percent sure. They are going to have to get out there, feel what's going on and understand their feelings and deal with them. But I can just tell them as much as I can say.
These guys are professionals and they know what they are doing out there and they have been in a lot of different situations and some of the players have played Walker Cup, some of the rookies, and they have played it overseas and they have seen that type of situation before. Maybe not quite on the scale that they will see it on The Ryder Cup but they have seen it before, as well.
Q. You mentioned Lanny Wadkins a minute ago. He was one of the real, true Ryder Cup studs that America has produced. What does it take for a person to kind of become a great Ryder Cup player? Because there are some great players right now in America who really don't have very good Ryder Cup records?
COREY PAVIN: To become a great Ryder Cup player, you've got to obviously play in a lot of Ryder Cups and win points. I think that's the general definition.
But you could still play a lot of Ryder Cups. We have some guys on the team that have played a lot of Ryder Cups that maybe have a 50/50 record that are still great Ryder Cup players. It's hard to win matches. You're playing against great players, and they are pretty tough. And in match play, you know, one bounce of the ball could mean the difference between winning and losing. It's tough. You know, just having the experience of playing certainly helps.
I had Lanny as my partner, since you mentioned him earlier, we played three times in '93 as partners, and I mean, there's a tough guy that just loved match play, loved the situation of The Ryder Cup, and everything about it, he embraced. When you get a type of player that likes that situation, they are usually going to perform well.
Performing well doesn't mean you're going to win your match necessarily, but performing well under that kind of pressure is a pretty incredible feeling as a player. It's something that you can take into the rest of your career and it can really help the rest of your career after playing in Ryder Cups. I think I've seen guys that have had good careers and they have done well and they get into a Ryder Cup and the next year, they seem to have a fabulous year because they are playing under a new kind of pressure and they are understanding more about their game.
Q. Maybe some of the less than Lanny, with Ryder Cup records, guys like Furyk and Phil, have coincided with European success in the Cup. You were there when that shift began. What do you attribute that to? Why have the Europeans have the upper hand since about '95?
COREY PAVIN: I think their teams have been a lot stronger. As simple as that. I think that their players from one to 12 have gotten better over the years, and they are just a stronger team than they used to be. I don't think there's any question about that. And to me, there's nothing much more to it than that.
Q. Despite being the giant event that it's become, The Ryder Cup is pretty much everything that golf typically is not. It's team; it's not individual, it's nationalistic, us versus them. Is that okay and easy to deal with because it's the uniqueness of every two years, or is that something that you have to think about and talk about and try to embrace?
COREY PAVIN: Well, it's certainly okay. Is it easy to deal with? No. I think that's why you see certain things happen in The Ryder Cup that you don't see other places.
I think the fans cheer for their teams, and it's pretty rare now that you see them cheering against the other guys. And you know, I think that's what's kind of cool about golf is that you know there's not that cheering against, which I think is fantastic; it's just more for.
I think the event itself is so unique, and happening every two years creates an atmosphere that you don't see anywhere else in the golf world.
And, you know, I think as a fan that is watching The Ryder Cup, I can't tell you how many people I've talked to that have said, you know, I watch golf and The Ryder Cup is just something different; I mean, I watch every minute of The Ryder Cup on TV, because the fans get to see something different. The players get to do something different, as well, and it's fun for us to do that.
I always loved, obviously, playing in it, but I played once overseas and that was a blast for me, because I loved going into that type of atmosphere and trying to quiet the crowd down with making birdies or whatever I did. That was fun for me. And it was fun for a lot of the players on the team and I think the group of guys that we have on the team this year, are going to enjoy playing over there. I think they understand what's going to happen over there, and they are looking forward to it.
As you said, they are going to embrace it, and that's the type of team that I would like to see the USA take over there, guys that are up for the challenge and want to be in that situation.
Q. Another story I'm working on, Mickelson has been saying the last couple of years that he thinks the FedExCup Playoffs have really helped keep the team sharp leading into either the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup, and you're aware the U.S. has won three in a row in international competition. Back in your day, was there a lot of disconnect between when the matches were held and when you were winding down your season; and can you understand his point in that regard?
COREY PAVIN: Yeah, well, I've actually said that in the past; that the FedExCup has really helped the United States prepare for the Ryder Cup. You know, guys are playing leading up to The Ryder Cup, where last time it was right in the middle of the FedExCup and this year it's the week after. That helps us a lot.
I think back in the day, so to speak, when I was on teams, we played the PGA Championship, and I think it was six weeks till we played The Ryder Cup. And honestly, a lot of guys had a hard time because they weren't playing events between the PGA and The Ryder Cup, and it's hard to keep your game sharp when you're not playing tournaments. And that's a difficult thing.
I believe the FedExCup, being where it is now and with The Ryder Cup right in the middle of it, has definitely helped the United States be more ready to play, and you know, I think the change in the system the last time is a big help to create a better team for the United States.
Q. Can I ask you one more unrelated question?
COREY PAVIN: Sure. You can always ask a question, Steve.
Q. I'm hoping I get an answer. There's been a lot of feedback, I guess, on the early iterations of the uniforms. I'm wondering, are we actually going to see these guys wearing lavender sweaters?
COREY PAVIN: I think the actual colors what's the color, Julius, cornflower? If you look at Peter Millar, their catalog or whatever, you'll see the color. Yeah, we are wearing that.
I think Lisa and I are really pleased with the way the uniforms turned out. We had a vision of what we wanted, and Lisa made it happen and she was involved in it a lot. But there's a lot of cool things about the uniform. It's kind of an old school look, it's kind of a retro look, but you know, with a modern twist to it. There's some cool things. There's a felt patch on the chest that's unique and different, and I'm really pleased with the way the uniforms turned out.
Q. There was a feeling for the longest time that Tiger was somebody who was hard to find a partner for and Steve Stricker and Tiger were so good together at The Presidents Cup; wondering about your observations about their chemistry together and how it affects your decisions in pairings this year?
COREY PAVIN: You know, I think Tiger can play with quite a few guys. There's a lot of options for partners for Tiger.
You know, I think it's easier now to pair him, and you know, I just think as you get as a player, when you've been out here longer and longer, I think the players get to know you better and better, and certainly players know Tiger a lot better than they used to know him. I think there's a lot of options open for me to pair Tiger with almost anybody on the team. So I'm thinking about it, I'm working on it obviously, and I guess we'll all find out, you know, Friday who he's going to play with, or two weeks from today.
I just feel like there's so many options with all of the players on the team. It's a team that really mixes well. You can almost pull two names out of a hat and you've got a good pairing, and that's a nice problem to have as the captain. It also creates an issue to me to try to figure out who to pair with. Sometimes there's pretty obvious pairings and sometimes there aren't. I think this year, there's so many options, and that helps a lot, it really does. But I've got to figure it out and work on it the next couple of weeks.
Q. How much do you take into account who players want to play with? Is that important to you?
COREY PAVIN: Absolutely. It's very important. You know, I want guys playing together that want to play together, and I've asked the guys, and they have given me their lists. Some are very long, some are not as long, and I'm going to try to make that happen. Because I think that's, you know, when the guys want to play with another guy, it makes for a better pairing, simple as that, a better partnership.
Q. Do you remember any angst over the pairings, and do you remember if you felt that it helped or hindered in the victories and losses overall, or did you feel it just more came down to how well the guys played? When it was all said, did the playing matter more than the discussion about who got put with whom?
COREY PAVIN: Well, obviously you have to play well. I mean, that's the bottom line. Everybody would agree with that.
You know, who you're paired with is important, definitely. You want to have guys that are out there that understand each other and that play well together. For me, my captains, the three Ryder Cups I played, I had a pretty good idea of who I was going to play with. There might have been a surprise here and there, but for me it's very easy for me to adapt and kind of roll with the punches so to speak, and I had no problems with that. I think there's certain players that can do that very well and there are certain players that it helps them immensely to know who they are going to play with.
You know, that's all part of my thinking and how I go about pairings and what I tell the guys beforehand. So you know, if there's if I'm doing something on the fly during The Ryder Cup, that is going to be part of my thinking is, you know, can I put this player with that player and do it at the last minute and are they going to be fine with it, or do I have to go a different direction. All of those things are part of the equation.
Q. Do you think you need to use the practice rounds to experiment, or do you feel that you have a pretty good handle on what you want to do regardless of those three days leading up?
COREY PAVIN: I'll probably have a pretty good idea going in what I want to do. It certainly helps the guys to play a little bit of golf together, but I don't think it's critical having guys who I'm going to pair together play practice rounds together. They might play once together and that's enough. It depends on who they are and how I think they are going to react.
So each pairing is going to be its own individual pairing, and I'll deal with that as we go on.
Q. A lot of the so called experts have spent time analyzing the upcoming matches and the U.S. often comes up as the underdog. You've had some time now to take a good look at both teams, and I'm curious how you feel yours shapes up, stacks up?
COREY PAVIN: Well, I think both teams are pretty good, that's for sure. I still feel that we are going to be the underdogs going in there. Playing overseas and playing in that environment is difficult. Travelling and going to a five hour time zone change is not easy, and just being in a foreign country is never an easy thing to do to get acclimated.
Do I think these guys can do it? Absolutely, I think they can do it. I think the Europeans will be favored. We will be playing in front of obviously a fan base that's going to be European, pro European, and that's difficult. We are playing a golf course that they play one of their Tour events on, so some of the European players have had experience playing Celtic Manor in a tournament situation, and that helps, too. So there's a lot much things going on there, so can Team USA overcome toes things? He is why, I think we can, but it's an uphill battle.
Q. Getting back to the last thing I asked you about European dominance in The Ryder Cup, and definitely improvement of depth in their team, but is there an attitude thing there, too? Is it that they bond better or have a different view of The Ryder Cup, do you think?
COREY PAVIN: I was over in '06 with Tom Lehman as captain, as an assistant captain, and you know, obviously I was in Team USA's, where, we eat and hang around, our team room, and I saw 12 guys that had a great time and bonded beautifully. When it's all said and done, you have to go out and play well, and you know, the team just didn't play that well that week. It wasn't because of lack of bonding or anything like that. I think that's kind of a misnomer that's been out there.
Every team I've been on has been fantastic. All of the guys have been great together. It's just a matter of how you play when you get on the golf course, and you know, Europe for the last decade has played some pretty good golf. We have had a couple wins in there, as well.
But you know, they have just played better in The Ryder Cup, except for, in '99 and '08. So to me, I see both teams get along great. They have good times, fun times in the team rooms, but you have to go out and perform. You have to go out there and play golf and you have to make putts and hit great shots, and that's what wins The Ryder Cup.
Q. Do you think that when they had the breakthrough, was it maybe 79 or so, that that kind much just shifted their mentality, that they kind of broke through and felt like, hey, we can win this thing now and that kind of maybe opened a flood gate so to speak?
COREY PAVIN: I think when Europe was added when the Continent was added to Great Britain and Ireland, it not initially gave them more depth, but over time it's given them a lot more depth. And when you have that depth that they have now, and really both teams have great depth; that it's going to be much more competitive.
Any time you get in a situation where you haven't been competitive and then all of a sudden you are, you know, it certainly gives you confidence. There's no doubt about it. But both teams are pretty equal now and it's been that way for a little while. And as I said, it's just a matter of who goes out and performs better. But both teams I think are fairly confident going in there year and feel good about their chances and it's just a matter of who makes the putts.
Q. What's the roll out the first day? Is it best ball or what's first, what's second on Friday and Saturday?
COREY PAVIN: Both Friday and Saturday are better ball in the morning and foursomes in the afternoon.
Q. Does Monty get to set the schedule because he's the home team or do you guys do that jointly?
COREY PAVIN: No, that's Captain Montgomerie's call. I think that started I think the that order of the matches, whether you play better ball or foursomes, the captain has decided that, I think I want to say starting in '06, I believe. You'll have to check on that. I think that was the first year where the captain had a choice of the order of how the matches went.
Q. Does that create any kind of advantage that you can see for either side? Are you okay with that? Obviously it seems like the team that starts fast historically seems to get a leg up in these things, and the U.S. has often struggled in the two man affair; what are your impressions going in about that order?
COREY PAVIN: Obviously Colin thinks an advantage or he wouldn't have done it. Why he thinks that's an advantage, you'll have to ask him. As far as I know, we have to play both formats each day, and the order is not that important to me. So you know, I'm just going to try to putt out the best teams that I can in the morning and the afternoon, and hopefully they will play well and we will do nicely.
Thank you, everybody.
JULIUS MASON: We'll see everybody hopefully not too long in Wales.
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