An Interview With: PHIL MICKELSON, DUSTIN JOHNSON, BUBBA WATSON, KEEGAN BRADLEY and WEBB SIMPSON
KELLY ELBIN: With the United States leading 5 3 at the end of the first day of the 2012 Ryder Cup, we are joined by Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson here at Medinah Country Club.
Looking at the scores today, Bubba and Webb defeated ball Lawrie and Peter Hanson in four balls, 5 & 4, and Keegan, in his debut as a Ryder Cup Team member, paired with Phil Mickelson twice for victories, first over Luke Donald and Sergio García, and then over Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Let's open up for comments, please. Webb, start with you on the victory to start things off this afternoon, 5 & 4 over Lawrie and Hanson.
WEBB SIMPSON: It was a great day, I mean, my first day as a Ryder Cup Team member, I couldn't ask for anything more. Bubba Watson and I just, we gelled so well together, we are great friends off the golf course and we got off to a great start.
And the crowd was our 13th team member out there. Never been to a tournament in my life where the crowd was so loud. And so we just had a blast. We got off to a good start, and we do what we do best; we had fun. And luckily the birdies kept rolling.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. Keegan, how with the world would you describe your first day of Ryder Cup competition?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Well, I had such a great day, it was one of the best days of my life. So much fun, and to do it alongside Phil Mickelson, one of my idols, makes it even more special.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. Bubba, talk a little bit, also, about getting things off to a good start this afternoon.
BUBBA WATSON: The key thing for us was just about having fun. You know, we are playing in The Ryder Cup. If we would have lost today, we are still playing in The Ryder Cup.
So I just wanted to try to loosen up Webb, same thing I did at The Presidents Cup. It's not really about me, how I'm playing golf; it's about making Webb be the best player he can be; and U.S. Open champ, obviously he knows how to play. I just made sure he was loose, and he kept making birdies.
Q. Keegan, do you think you were born for this?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: You know, I think that this type of format and this type of energy, like having these guys on my team, just makes it so exciting. I just enjoy that moment so much, and to have Chicago come out and cheer like they did, it was just an unbelievable day.
Q. I know you've talked about it a couple times; can you describe that last shot that Phil hit on 17?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, you know, I didn't hit the best shot, and Phil stepped up there and without a doubt in my mind, it's the greatest shot I've ever seen. It never left the flagstick.
BUBBA WATSON: You ever see that shot that I hit that one time? (Laughter.)
KEEGAN BRADLEY: We were running down the fairway, we had our arms around each other, we were screaming; it was like a Patriots game out there.
It was just a moment that I'll obviously never forget the rest of my life.
BUBBA WATSON: Any more questions for Keegan?
Q. For Webb and Bubba
WEBB SIMPSON: (Cheering.)
Q. A lot of us thought that this format was made for Keegan; can you talk about that, just the way his personality and energy and whatnot
BUBBA WATSON: He's got that weird eye, still not sure what he's looking when he does that, scares the hole, I'm not sure (indicating looking down with one eye).
WEBB SIMPSON: I'm not sure there's a format that doesn't fit well for Keegan. Keegan and I have been friends for a long time, and seeing him getting so excited this morning when Bubba and I were eating lunch getting ready for our round gets us that much more pumped up. I was sitting there yawning, and I see his energy and another guy's energy and it got me fired up.
Q. For Webb and Bubba, we kind of thought that maybe there was a format that wouldn't be good for you, which would be foursomes, and because of how well you played today, do you expect to play in both sessions tomorrow?
BUBBA WATSON: I mean, if you look at the stats, if we're looking at stats, I think I'm seventh in the world and I think he's eighth in the world, so I think we can play golf.
Whatever Captain says we are playing in, we are going to play in and we are going to try our best. And so whatever you know, we haven't heard anything. I don't know what we are doing. I don't even know what time the first tee time is. I just know that I'm tired and I'm hungry.
But you know, we are looking forward to it. Whatever he tells us to do, that's what we are going to do. And if he tells us we are not playing, we'll just cheer on the rest of the guys. We don't have to cheer on Keegan, he does that for himself.
KEEGAN BRADLEY: (Laughing.)
Q. Webb and Bubba, how hard was it for you to sit out this morning? Bubba, you like to get out and get going, and I don't know if Webb's personality is the same way, but
BUBBA WATSON: I think as a competitor, a sportsman I guess you would say, I want to play. Nobody wants to sit. That would be like if I was playing basketball and they took me out of the game. You have to do the what captain says and the captain says that's the right thing to do and it's worked. We are leading so he obviously knew what he was doing.
We played good this afternoon. We really got pumped up and we really got excited watching the guys and sitting out, and it worked to our advantage so far.
WEBB SIMPSON: I always try to look at things in the best way possible. And you know, did it surprise me we sat? No. I mean, he's got 12 guys that are unbelievable players. But Bubba and I just talked last night that we get let's get some rest, let's sleep in a little bit and come out and cheer the guys on. It's been a long week, and so whatever he wants to do, he's going to make great decisions, and I think we came out today with more energy because of it.
Q. Can you describe the birdie putt you made on the 8th hole, how you felt, and where that ranks in today's highlight reel?
BUBBA WATSON: Kind of like Tom Brady's touchdown pass.
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, it did feel like a Tom Brady touchdown pass. I was excited that I was outside of Graeme because I felt so good about that putt. Phil was on a similar line, and I told him I was going to make it and I just one of those putts that you barely have to read. You're just excited to go hit it.
And I had it read perfectly and it went dead center, and I'm having a hard time holding in my emotions out here. I'm really just enjoying going crazy and playing golf.
Q. Can you remember a time when you've been this excited playing golf in any atmosphere whatsoever, and a sporting event where you were this excited for such a long period of time?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Definitely not. You know, I was lucky enough to go to the '99 Ryder Cup, and I remember the atmosphere. It was very similar to this.
And I just really enjoy the crowd going crazy and, you know, talking to Phil and getting each other pumped up and just kind of waiting for that moment that you always want and making that putt like it did on 8 or like Phil hit on 17. And just enjoying it, and going crazy.
KELLY ELBIN: Before we continue with this line of questioning, we are joined by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, who won their afternoon four balls match 3 & 2 over Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer.
Gentlemen, comments on the victory. Matt, start with you, please.
BUBBA WATSON: Comment on y'all's match.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: We had a great match. They made a great putt on 1 to go 1 down and I came back and made one on 2, but all day we just kept saying, let's just have some fun, and the crowds out there were great. I had a blast all day long. You know, it's probably the most fun I've ever had playing golf today.
MATT KUCHAR: It was tough waiting around. It was tough not playing the morning session and having to wait, and then being fourth off and having the tee time bumped back; I remember I woke up this morning, 7:00, I was anxious to turn on SportsCenter, see what happened on Thursday night football, and I found out that Ryder Cup was being televised, 7:00 AM. And I was so excited. I was just like a fan, couldn't wait to watch the excitement of The Ryder Cup this morning.
And then to know that I was going to go out and play and actually be part of that excitement, it was a real thrill, and knowing that I had a partner like Dustin Johnson, it was a great day. We partnered together great.
It seemed like every time I was struggling, he was in there for birdies, we had a lot of chances or both of us had chances; when I was out, he was there and the other way, as well. We really worked well together as a team.
Q. The scene on the first tee, the crowd was making noise, you asked for more, and then you chose to hit your shot when they were going crazy. Was that thought about? Did you want to do that? Talk about that.
BUBBA WATSON: I did it in Phoenix, the tournament in Phoenix, the regular tournament. So I've done it before with an iron. So I did it yesterday in the practice round just for the fun of it and then today. I figured if I was going to play bad today I'd better have fun on the first hole at least.
So I just got the crowd into it. Just did it for fun. And then somehow I played good after that.
But you know, I just did it for the fun of it. It's The Ryder Cup. Why not have fun? We made it here, and got to enjoy your time here and have fun playing golf.
Q. I'm struck by the similarity that all three of you in your major wins had extremely intense pressure over the final few holes of those wins. Can you contrast, there you're accountable to yourself and here your pressure is sort of accountable to the rest of the people on the team. Can you contrast the feeling of being accountable to yourself or being accountable to your team under pressure?
BUBBA WATSON: When it comes down the stretch, trying to win a big tournament, you have pressure. You have tough shots, but you get in the moment and you try to pull off these shots.
Today, today coming down, trying to win points, trying to win the holes, I think that we it's a little bit more intense, because there's a lot more people pulling for you. The crowds were amazing today. But for me, it's the same shot. It's the same golf shot. It's just, you know, are you going to pull it off at that moment.
We've been lucky enough to pull it off in majors, each of us. And then today, our teams have pulled off a couple good shots today where we won the points.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I mean, the pressure I felt in the U.S. Open was all the same pressure you feel in a regular event, just a little more. And it is I had a tough time in college golf trying to figure out the whole individual/team thing. But I mean, for us to be able to come together one week a year and play as a team when every other week we are trying to beat each other is pretty special.
And when you feel guys really pulling for you, it just makes you want to play well that much more. And so obviously today is my first Ryder Cup day and so I enjoyed the nerves on the first tee and enjoyed watching Bubba do his thing.
KELLY ELBIN: Speak to that if you would, please, comparing your PGA Championship win to your first Ryder Cup.
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, it's a similar pressure. It's almost a little easier because you know you have a partner. I have Phil Mickelson, he's hitting it in the woods, he's hitting it over here I told him, I know, I've played too many matches against you where you hit it in the woods and I think you're done and you hit some big, high fade to two feet. I saw him do that a few times today.
You know, I just enjoyed when me and Phil were playing and we looked up and saw Bubba and Webb 6 up through eight or whatever they were, it got us all fired up. It's just such a unique experience and feeling.
KELLY ELBIN: Speaking of Phil, Phil Mickelson joining us, he and Keegan teamed to win both of their matches today. Today a lot of excitement out there; talk about the opportunity to team with Keegan and come away with two victories.
PHIL MICKELSON: We had a lot of fun today. We had a good time and we played well, and it was really fun for me to play with Keegan. He's just got a lot of great energy. He hits a lot of great shots and he drives the ball as well as I've ever seen a person drive it.
Alternate shot was my favorite format because I got to hit the next shot. Best ball, I had to play my own drive, which wasn't as fun. We made some putts and we were able to walk away with two wins over two really tough teams.
There's a lot of golf left, though. This is we are going to relish this moment and kind of enjoy today, because we have a two point lead. But we know that tomorrow is a big day. We know the Europeans are going to come out hungry and ready to play. And we know how good they are, so we have got a lot of work to do tonight.
But for right now, for this moment, for the next hour or two, we are just going to enjoy the fact that we had a fun, successful day.
Q. One of the BBC commentators today wondered how you got such a suntan because you spent so much time in the trees; would you like to comment?
PHIL MICKELSON: Ah, you know, we won, right? I'm not sure you saw the result. Okay.
Q. Irrespective of that last question, can you talk about most of us think this might have been your best day in Ryder Cup since you've been playing in the nine Ryder Cups you've been in. Can you talk about that and also partnering with Keegan and how much that meant to you in regards to your play.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it was a huge factor in my play. It was a really big deal, because he's got such great, positive energy. And Alex, you know, when we were walking down the first hole, and I'm 50 yards ahead of our playing partner in the middle of the fairway with a little L wedge, I just knew that over the course of 18 holes, if you keep giving me wedges in the fairway, and having Keegan putt it next, we are going to be really tough to beat. And over 18 holes, I just think that the odds are going to be in our favor.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, today is the first time that Phil won both of his matches, team matches, in the same day in Ryder Cup history.
Q. A lot of people are saying that your win was bigger than one point because you rallied everybody behind you. Do you think that's the case? And to everybody else up there, was it the case and how did you feed off their win?
WEBB SIMPSON: I mean, you know, Bubba and I got to go first in Australia in The Presidents Cup each match, and both of us, we don't like to wait around. We like to just get up and go, and I think that's what it was fun to get out there ahead of everybody in Australia and try to get a point and encourage the guys behind us. Luckily we were able to do that today and got up and played some good golf early.
I don't think it's fair to say that we helped the other guys win, but I think in this kind of format, what we learned today, every time we got to the green, we had 30 seconds to spare and look up and see the other guys playing well and made us want to keep playing well and keep making birdies and see how soon we could get the W.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the dynamic of Keegan and what makes him so perfect for this format, his personality, his energy, his game?
PHIL MICKELSON: There's a really simple reason why Keegan is perfect for The Ryder Cup. It's because
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Oh. (Sighing.)
PHIL MICKELSON: The more pressure the situation, the better he plays; the better he sees the shot; the better he focuses; and the better the result.
And there's no more pressure situation, no higher pressure situation than The Ryder Cup. As a player, you feel more pressure and intensity during these matches than you do at any other event. And that's when he's at his best.
KELLY ELBIN: One half of the United States Team that leads 5 3 after the first day of The Ryder Cup, thank you.
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