An Interview With: MATT KUCHAR
KELLY ELBIN: Making his second consecutive Ryder Cup appearance for the United States, Matt Kuchar joins us at the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. Matt was 1 1 2 at his bay due in Wales in 2010 and I imagine you're ready to get this Ryder Cup experience at home starting tomorrow.
MATT KUCHAR: Yeah, so far I've played two team Cups, and both of them have been international, both of them have been outside the U.S. so really been looking forward to making the team for qualifying for this team was a big deal, and to make a home Ryder Cup in Chicago, then have Davis Love as captain was something really high on my list of goals, and excited to be here.
KELLY ELBIN: Give us a little sense of what the week has been like for you, from getting together with the team all the way through the gala last night.
MATT KUCHAR: It's a great group of guys, fantastic player, really strong team we put together, and just fun guys to be with.
So far we've had a lot of laughs, a lot of good times, played some good golf, and it's awe fun group that has a good group of young guys and veteran guys, and I think this format is so helpful to have veteran guys because it's not your normal practice rounds playing match play, playing team competition. There's so much more strategy than going around your typical practice round than just plotting a course as you would. There's so much thought that goes into alternate shot, best ball, how to work strategy. So there's a lot that goes on, and it helps to have the veteran leadership and kind of guide you through that.
Q. Your experience playing match play, do you play or think differently depending on who you're paired with?
MATT KUCHAR: When it comes to singles, I try to treat match play like stroke play. I think there are very few instances where I change my strategy as far as if a guy is out of play; if a guy has hit one really close. For the most part. I just try to play golf as normal.
When it comes to teams and partnerships, my game is pretty much a given; it's consistent; it's not a flashy game. It's a drive it down the middle, hit quality shots.
But if I'm with a guy that's got a huge amount of potential, a huge amount of power, I'm pretty much going to try to just keep it in play and let him try to take advantage again. I'm not going to go and ply too risky unless the situation demands that.
Q. We've heard you're a whiz on the ping pong table. How did you develop your gift for ping pong, and what other group activities have the guys been participating in?
MATT KUCHAR: It's been a busy week. We've got three ping pong tables set up in our hotel team room, but there hasn't been quite as much ping pong. There's been a lot of activities so far. There hasn't been as much in the team room hanging out; with the big gala last night, nobody even went down to the team room.
So there's been maybe a little bit less ping pong this year, but there's been a handful of matches, and they've been fun. With three tables, it's fun because you get a lot of extra people involved. You get the wives playing; you get a lot of doubles matches played. It makes for a great deal of camaraderie when you've got doubles playing and interacting with the other players.
I took to it young. I remember going out to the garage playing with dad. Dad was really good, and that was the nightly activity. We would unfold the table in the garage and play. He was really good and we had some great battles as I grew up. It seemed to be every evening, we would go out and battle each other. And finally, I got the upper hand. It was a long time before I could get the upper hand on Dad. He might have been the one that got me to this point.
Q. What are some things that Davis is doing to bring the best out of you guys?
MATT KUCHAR: He's made it as relaxed as possible. I think that's been the biggest help. From a guy that's played on so many of these, and those demands on the time, it seems like they're late evenings and early mornings time and time again, and it seems like he's relaxed in the mornings a little better, letting us try to get a little more sleep in.
I think he's got the understanding through the Ryder Cup situation so many times, he understands that we can get run down by week's end.
And I think he's done a really good job of trying to alleviate as much of the extra stress as possible when it comes to a Ryder Cup and made things just simple for us. We get to the team area and everything is simple, you know what you're doing, and it's been a big help.
Q. What time are you guys waking up compared to maybe for other events where it's even earlier?
MATT KUCHAR: He's kind of put that on us. Yesterday I think some guys came out to play earlier, some guys came out to play nine holes. The guys that wanted to play more holes got out a little earlier. I forget what time we started yesterday, but it was late. I had a nice sleep in; so it was nice not to wake up in the 5:00 or 6:00 range; it was 7:00 and after a wake up call, so that was good.
Q. A chicken egg type question; which comes first do you think: The players feeding off the home fans' energy and enthusiasm, or the fans feeding off the home team's play?
MATT KUCHAR: I've got to believe the fans are going to be jacked up for any sort of play for the U.S.
I've got a feeling that almost regardless of the U.S. play, the fans are going to be really excited, really passionate, really into it. It really just takes one good shot to get them going. I expect the fans to be really supportive, really passionate, and I'm looking forward to seeing that sort of passion for the game of golf.
Q. Do you think the 15th hole could be a pivotal hole in the matches, and can you talk about the 15th?
MATT KUCHAR: Yeah, 15th can be a short par 4 or a really short par 4, a long par 3 basically.
It's an exciting hole. I think courses are exciting and fun with a hole like that, with a drivable hole, with an opportunity to have some risk reward. That hole has got potential for a drive to be put on the green, and an eagle to be made or a drive you put in the water. So, yeah, there's a lot that can happen.
But in match play, it's just one hole. It's not like somebody can make a birdie and another team makes a 6, and you're just all of a sudden out of the tournament.
So it is just a one hole, so it can be an exciting hole, but I think in match that hole shapes up differently than anybody stroke play.
Q. You played with Dustin last week in Atlanta in a practice round, you played with him before. I'm not trying to give up the pairing, but where does the chemistry come from? You seem like two different types of guys but you seem to gel really well together.
MATT KUCHAR: Yeah, we get along great. He's a fun guy to be with, and I think our games, although they're very different, they match up well together. I think he's kind of raw power. He's a fantastic player with huge amounts of ability and a lot of passion, and I think I have a little bit of a calming influence, a steady influence, and I think a few times we've played together, we've played together well.
Q. Not to harp on the ping pong story too much here, but there's been a lot that's made been made of you as the best ping pong player on the team, Steve Stricker said you are that guy on the team, and I think Phil Mickelson mentioned something yesterday on that front. Would you say that you are the best ping pong player on the team? You mentioned you haven't gotten to play much yet, but how do you handicap yourself?
MATT KUCHAR: Maybe a 1 or a 2 handicap. Certainly can't compete with the top level players, but a good player, and yeah, on our team I'd be the best player.
But we have some great matches, games to 11, games to 21. There can be some fun runs and guys can get ahead. It's a game that if a guy makes a run, he can start talking smack.
It's been a fun bonding, because there is that ability to kind of go out and be boys and kind of feel like you're in the locker room while you're competing against each other.
And then it's also fun; the doubles might be the most fun where you're, again, part of a team, where you're helping out your partner and kind of going at it in a team atmosphere.
Q. What's the dynamic like between the two teams here? It's different from the Ryder Cup used to be where guys didn't know each other. You play with these guys every week. What's it like when you're here, and are there any players over there who you are particularly good friends with?
MATT KUCHAR: That's an interesting point. I didn't really think 20 years ago that guys wouldn't really know each other, there would be two separate tours and you wouldn't see each other very much other than a couple majors and the Ryder Cup.
But now we seem to see each other all the time, week in and week out. There's a large nucleus of each team playing in all the events, and you get to know the other members of each team. The game of golf, you just form a lot of friendships.
So yeah, I'd be friendly with a lot of the guys. Justin Rose has kids similar ages to mine, so we see a lot of Justin and Kate and their kids; Graeme McDowell, I grew up kind of playing college golf with and Walker Cups with. So I've seen a lot of Graeme McDowell and become friendly with Graeme.
So there are a lot of guys that I feel like I know pretty well. The evenings are last night's gala, we do dinner together, and it's a very friendly atmosphere. We all have seen each other, we all play with each other in the regular course of a year and regular tournaments. You just form some good friendships.
Q. You mentioned earlier how excited you are to be playing your first Ryder Cup on home soil. Just curious, you were a rookie at Celtic Manor two years ago; how different or similar has the buildup to this Ryder Cup been for you?
MATT KUCHAR: I think walking to the first tee on Tuesday, I knew we weren't in Wales. That was just such a big difference to me. It was so exciting knowing that we were on home turf and there was such an eruption of excitement when we got to the first tee. It was an awesome feeling.
So I've been like I said earlier, it's been one of my major goals to make this team for a number of reasons. Once you play your first team competition, you don't want to miss out on another one.
But then to be able to play on home soil, to be able to play for Captain Davis Love who's a neighbor of mine down on Sea Island; we've got just a great contingent of folks from Sea Island, a great number of guys coming up to spectate and support us.
It's something I was very much excited to be a part of, and now to actually be here, it's been everything I hoped for so far.
Q. There's been a fair amount of talk about Davis Love's participation in the course setup, shorter rough, maybe softer greens. How much do you think course setup is going to be a factor this weekend?
MATT KUCHAR: Hard to say. You're looking at 24 of the best players in the world, guys that play mostly on the U.S. Tour, guys that play mostly the same courses. You'd hope if the U.S. captain is trying to set up a course that it's trying to set it up advantageously for the U.S., for his squad.
I think if I was in his position, I would be trying to do the same thing. Hard to say how well it will work; we have got great players on both teams. We've all gotten to see it for three days before the competition begins, and we're all able to figure a course out pretty well in three days.
KELLY ELBIN: Matt Kuchar of the United States, thank you very much.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports.