Tom Watson and Ray Floyd interview transcript
This is the trancript of the news conference in which Tom Watson named Ray Floyd has his second vice captain for the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team:
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, thank you for joining us today as we try to get with you for our monthly Ryder Cup Captain news conference. Tom happened to be in the Los Angeles area, so he was able to kill a couple of birds with one stone. One, being able to spend some quality time with you today and two being able to spend some time with some of the players here at Riviera.
Tom, thank you for joining us today. Not quite sure if you knew or not, but
TOM WATSON: I'd rather be playing.
JULIUS MASON: Wanted to let you know it's only 226 days until somebody is hitting that first shot.
TOM WATSON: Only you could figure that out, Julius.
JULIUS MASON: And again, welcome, thanks, and what's new?
TOM WATSON: What's new? Well, what's new here at Riviera, one of my favorite places are, favorite golf courses in the world right here. Had some good experiences here at Riviera over my part year and it was good to sit down at breakfast and see some of the old faces, like Davis Love and David Toms, but see some of the young faces, as well.
Had the opportunity to go down to the practice range and watch some of these guys hit try to hit it over that fence, which they have raised 30 feet up there, and it's good to be back on TOUR and to kind of get a little bit more knowledge of some of the players who might be on The Ryder Cup Team. And with that said, one of the chores it's not really a chore but one of the things that a captain has to do is create an environment for the players that they are comfortable with and one of the things that you do there is you get some captains or vice captains who will be a part of that environment to help the players out in whatever they need to be helped with, and also help me out in help me try to determine a lot of different variables that go into creating my picks, or choosing the picks, the three picks that I have on September 2 that will be coming up, and also on site to help me with information about the players and how they are playing, that's one of the critical things that a vice captain does.
With that said, it's great to have somebody with experience, it's great to have somebody who can really play, and I've chosen Raymond Floyd to be my vice captain. Raymond has had a tremendous amount of Ryder Cup experience. He's been successful as a Ryder Cup player. I actually played for him in 1989 when I was on The Ryder Cup Team. I actually chose him in 1993 to be one of my at large picks along with Lanny Watkins and he performed admirably.
Good story in that, and I'm sure Raymond might tell you a little bit about playing that 1993 Ryder Cup, actually was the last time we've won on European soil, foreign soil.
But in that Ryder Cup, the go to group that I had picked was Paul Azinger and Payne Stewart. They were just shooting lights out in the practice rounds. They were making eight, nine birdies. They were the team. They were the team that was going to propel us to victory.
Well, that first morning, that Friday morning, we had a fog delay and hat went one hour, two hours and three hours, and I was looking over at Paul and Paul's eyes got wider and wider and wider, and you could just see the tension just building and building with Paul and Payne and they went out and it was kind of a whitewash. They got beat 6 & 5, and basically I said, you know, I don't want to have an effect on their confidence.
But I kind of have to split up the team and do something with it so I took Payne and put him with Raymond in the afternoon, and they went out and won the match. And that was a move that actually, I think it was we discussed that with Raymond and Lanny, my two picks, discussed that together and we made that decision and it was a good move.
Raymond was, the way I looked at Raymond, I still do, you look at Raymond's eyes, you never saw his eyes waver, no matter if he was shooting 80, which he rarely did, or shooting 65, his eyes had a focus that you like to see. And that's the way he played the game was every shot counted, and that's the type of guy that I want to be taking care of my six, my back, as the captain; and with that said, I guess maybe we have Raymond on the phone?
JULIUS MASON: Technology would be really cool if Raymond happened to be on the phone lines. Raymond, are you there?
RAYMOND FLOYD: I'm here.
JULIUS MASON: What do you think about those comments from Captain Watson?
RAYMOND FLOYD: I'm flattered obviously, and it's going to be a thrill for me to have his back, and I think it will be a lot of fun.
Q. What did you know about Jimmy Walker before all of this and what do you know now?
TOM WATSON: Well, I know that Jimmy Walker has won three tournaments. I also know that he still hasn't made enough points to be on The Ryder Cup Team.
One of the things that happens with The Ryder Cup system, the points system is that the major championships are worth double and since there's a lot of money involved in those tournaments, a tremendous amount of money, 10 million at the PGA, in particular. Those double points would put them 1.8 million, double that, that's 3,600 points right there and puts them right there where Jimmy is right now, 3,600 points, just winning that one tournament.
But getting back to your point, what do you know about Jimmy? Studied him a little bit. He's 35 years old. He has an interesting in astronomy, which I do. The first book I read was "All About Astronomy". If he makes The Ryder Cup Team, maybe we'll have some common things to talk about.
Q. Ray Floyd was part of Paul Azinger's pod system group of assistant captains. What do you foresee him doing for you as an assistant captain this time around?
TOM WATSON: What Raymond brings here is his experience now and respect of the players. When these players look at Raymond, this he know he's been there and they know he's been successful. They know he wants to win. I don't really need anything else. We don't need anything else. We need those players to understand that we are there to support them. We have their back. Whatever they need, we'll bring it to them it.
And all we expect as I said, I'm the stage manager. We are the stage managers. We set the stage for these players to go compete. They have to go out and they have to act. Raymond couldn't be in my opinion, he couldn't be a better person from the standpoint of the respect of the players because he's been there. He'll have stories to share and he'll have an understanding of what the pressure is like. He'll be able to relate to the players if they have and be there for them. He'll be able to see how nervous they get and talk to them from the standpoint of, this is this is how I did it. Maybe you can do the same thing.
Q. The Ryder Cup has become such a massive event and often sometimes referred to as the 'Hyper Cup.' Do you need achieve a level of calmness in the room on a day to day basis to make sure that that the players don't get into hyper situation.
TOM WATSON: Well, if you look at the rooms, the way they are set up with the ping pong tables and the other things that the kids do with the social media and recall that sort of stuff, they will have a sanctuary. That's one of the things, you'll have a sanctuary where they can get together and coalesce, if you will, and be able to kick back. These rooms won't be formal in any respect.
Will I make a Knute Rockne speech or anything like that? Probably not. There will be there will be some subtle comments and things that Raymond and Andy and I will be able to talk to the players from a private standpoint.
But the players know why they are going to be there. They don't have to be motivated. They will be motivated to be there. They will not have to be inspired. The motivation is there. The main motivation, as I said the last time I talked about The Ryder Cup, is the fact that we lost the last one. We had a big lead and we lost it. If that's not motivation enough for the players of the 2014 Ryder Cup Team, then we're spinning our wheels.
Q. Are you going to have a Twitter policy?
TOM WATSON: I think it's going to be probably pretty much the same, no pictures. These guys can Tweet all they want. That's one of the great things about social media. Of course, it's a two edged sword here but I think they have enough common sense to know what they should be able to say and what they shouldn't.
Q. I was thinking more of you.
TOM WATSON: For me? Yeah, this guy said
For me? Yeah, this guy (turning to Julius) said, "Watson, you've got to get on Twitter." Well, I reluctantly got on Twitter. (Laughter) still don't know how to use the darned thing. Actually, I do. Just hit that you hit that thing up there with the pin on it.
JULIUS MASON: He's playing with you. He's better than he thinks.
TOM WATSON: (Laughing). Actually it's a great way to expand The Ryder Cup to people who maybe don't know big in The Ryder Cup. One of the things, in 2009, when I did well at the British Open at Turnberry, I got a text from Kelly, my step daughter and she said, "You're trending." I said to Hilary,
"What's that mean? I'm trending on Twitter?" So I figured that out finally and really, everybody's talking about it.
That's one of the things about social media. I go back to the last Ryder Cup and what a crushing defeat, what a pit it left in my stomach for several days afterwards. I watched and I haven't been there like Raymond. Raymond has actually been; he's been out there with Maria and followed not only in the United States but overseas, because he loves The Ryder Cup so much. He loves the competition so much. You know, the pit in my stomach was the same in Ray's stomach and Andy's stomach when we lost, and that's the main motivating factor of this coming Ryder Cup for the U.S. Team.
JULIUS MASON: Just to hitchhike what Tom was saying about your passion for The Ryder Cup, outside of your captaincy and outside of the teams you've played for, did you spectate at other Ryder Cups here in and abroad?
RAYMOND FLOYD: Absolutely. I went to well, abroad, the last one I went to was in Ireland and except the last Ryder Cup in Chicago when Maria had just passed, I wasn't ready, but I've been to the others in the U.S. each and every year.
Q. Do you think having some new blood, guys that don't have bad memories about The Ryder Cup will be helpful?
TOM WATSON: The Ryder Cup Team is always in flux, you're always going to have new players play.
They earn their way when I first started as a pro, like Tom Lehman said, he wanted to make The Ryder Cup Team. He wanted to be a waning captain on a Ryder Cup Team. I was the same way. I wanted to be on The Ryder Cup Team. I remember I guess it was in '85, we played at Cherry Hills and I wasn't playing particularly well.
But I knew what I had to do in the last round to make The Ryder Cup Team, I knew the points system and everything like that. And it came to the 18th hole, uphill par 4 with a fairway that sloped sharply from right to left and was hard to get the ball in the fairway and I hit a beautiful drive right up the right side with a cut and the ball ran all the way across the fairway down into a divot in the semi rough and I've got to go uphill out of this divot, and I said, well, don't hit it fat. So I hit it thin and I hit it over green, I made bogey. If I had made par, I would have been on The Ryder Cup Team. And that stuck with me for a long time. I wanted to make that team so badly.
That's the way I've always looked at The Ryder Cup. It's a chance to play for your country, it's a chance to play with a group of guys in a different format, and you act as a team, and it's just I just have always felt that, you know, I play for myself all the time and now I'm playing for the team and for my country.
I never had a chance to play in the Walker Cup. Never had a chance to play in the Olympics. And it gave me that opportunity to play for my country. And boy did I relish that and I have to say that I've never been as nervous on a golf course as I was as a captain of The Ryder Cup in '93. Now I wouldn't do anything about it. That's why I got so darned nervous, because here are these guys out here, playing their guts out, and just it was nip and tuck, we got behind early in '93 and then we came back and then things happened and Davis made that 5 foot putt to win, Raymond followed it up the last hole.
And going up the last hole following Raymond, that last match, Payne Stewart came up to me and he slapped me on the shoulder and the reason he slapped me on the shoulder, he said something that I had related to the team that Roy Williams had told me. When I asked Roy, "How do you coach somebody?" I'm not a coach. I'm an individual. So I asked when I am, "What do you do?"
He said, "When we go to an away game, Tom, I tell players two things. I say: The first thing I want to you to do is make the crowd go silent during the game and the last thing I want you to do, I want you to watch them leave early when they are beaten." When Payne Stewart slapped me on the back, he said, "Captain!" Slapped me on the back. "Look the stands up there! "
He didn't have to say they were half empty. That's a feeling that I want to have again this year, obviously, on the 26th to 28th. On September 28th, that's the feeling I want to have.
Q. Speaking of that, the European players know Gleneagles quite well as you know. Are you doing anything previous captains have had, to take a group of players over to play the course, get to know it beforehand?
TOM WATSON: We are. We are. We are going to offer the course on the Monday, maybe the Tuesday after The Open Championship, the British Open at Hoylake, get them up there, have chance to play the golf course and see it. We are going to give them the opportunity.
Don't ask me who is going to do that. I don't know yet. This list right here is really young. We can start talking about who is going to be on the team, but these major championship points are really going to skew this thing. It's going to change this list a lot. I don't know who is going to be up there but we are going to offer that to the players, yes, we are.
Q. If you look at this list, which as you already indicated is very early in the process, there's probably ten of the Top 15 guys have never played Ryder Cup before. And you're indicating that the biggest motivator is going to be what happened in 2012 in Chicago. Some of those guys may not have seen those matches, understood those matches, have any idea, really, what happened except for the fact that the U.S. lost. So if that's the case, what's the secondary motivator?
TOM WATSON: Well, in my case, all I can do from experience, my motivation is I'm playing for my country. I'm playing for the team and to get the cup back. I mean, there's the beautiful thing about The Ryder Cup, it's partisan. It's us against them. And that is that's the bottom line.
But in that in that context, the game of golf, but to have a match like happened in last Ryder Cup, I have to admit, I look at it objectively; it's one of the greatest Ryder Cups in the history. Even though we lost, it was one of the greatest come backs it was the greatest come back in history.
As Mickey Mantle me, I think he talked about The Ryder Cup, I want to say it was the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, he caught me and he said, "Tom, that was the greatest sporting event I ever watched."
"You talking about the World Series?"
He said, "No, it's the greatest sporting event I ever watched." Watching that comeback in '99.
Q. In what context?
TOM WATSON: The context, we were basically shooting I wish I could say what context was. I don't know. I don't remember exactly how we got into it. We were at where were we I think I ran into him at Preston Trail. He was a member at Preston Trail in Dallas where we played the Byron Nelson Golf Classic. I wouldn't stake my life on where we met but I do remember his comment there.
And I just, I said, wow, Mickey Mantle said, this is greater than any World Series? It did have an impact. That's where the social media comes in. It transcends a lot of different sports.
Now, you get people talking about The Ryder Cup on Twitter, and you get people interested in it and seeing what happens and getting back to this last Ryder Cup, it was exciting. It was about the most exciting Ryder Cup there was going back to 1999 that was exciting from our standpoint.
Q. If I can be permitted to switch direction, the inspiration provided by you and Raymond and others, to what degree do you see age thresholds or age barriers changing in golf overall?
TOM WATSON: You know, the question has been asked in another form: Are you too old to be a Ryder Cup Captain. And the way I answer that, and I believe this with all my heart, is that these players know Raymond, Andy and myself. We've been there. We know what the Ryder Cup pressure is all about. We've played under the pressure. We've been captains; Raymond and I have been captains. We know what's going on.
And to have that respect and the trust from the players that we know what's going on, that can help them. So the age difference, actually it's kind of like a professor. You go to learn from a professor. He's been there, he knows he has the experience, he has the knowledge; the experience and the knowledge, and that's what we bring as captains and vice captains to The Ryder Cup.
Q. Did you see Medinah as a great comeback or a great failure?
TOM WATSON: I saw it was a great comeback. They did what they had to do. The last day, that team was 25 under par collectively, The European Team. We were eight under par collectively.
It's playing with a lead; sometimes it's hard. You know it, you write about it every week. You see a lead look at Jimmy Walker this last week. I mean, the guys coming from behind were free wheeling it and Jimmy, he's trying to, as he said, I was leaking a little oil coming in. Well, you do that. That's just human nature. You want to play a little differently. It's like prevent defenses. You look at what happens to prevent defenses a lot. They get busted. That's what happens in golf. It's just human nature.
So maybe it's a combination of it, but The European Team did what they had to do. You know, you look at Paul Lawrie, he didn't play very well, but the last match, he won his individual match that last match. It was close, a lot of close matches.
And you look at really what happened, Justin Rose makes that 40 footer on Phil, if he doesn't make that, we win. It came that's why it was you can almost term it the most exciting Ryder Cup in history.
Q. You get a sense that the talent level out here is deeper than it's been, maybe ever, and there's a lot of number of players that are playing great, and you earn your way on to The Ryder Cup team as you mentioned. Kind of the balance of the fact that you earn your spot there, and the potential of having a lot of faces that you really don't know that much about, maybe not you personally, but even the American golf public doesn't know that much about. How do you deal with that?
TOM WATSON: The way I look at it, you've got to start somewhere. You've got to get on the team first. Once you get on the team, then you learn what it's all about. And if you get on the team again, you have that experience to deal with it.
Some of these guys have played Walker Cup and there's the same type of pressures in the Walker Cup playing for your country.
You know, I call them the kids; they play under pressure every week. But the role of a captain, as I said, we set the stage. Right now, I'm going to New York at the end of the month, we are going to finish up The Ryder Cup clothing and get that all settled, rain suits, make sure all the different things. But we are going to make it so everything and right and get it all ready.
As I said, we set the stage for these guys to perform. Give them their Mark, that's where you're supposed to be, first tee, first group, Friday morning, I'll be there. Now it's up to you.
Q. When you talk about making your picks, do you think there's a particular style of play that will lead to success in The Ryder Cup, or just match play in general?
TOM WATSON: What Jimmy Walker did this last week is what I'm looking for on that last hole. He knocked it from 25 feet, he knocked it five feet by and he holed that putt coming back. That's not an easy putt to make because that putt doesn't break. It just doesn't. You can play it right edge and it just hangs on the right edge. It doesn't break, and he made it. That's what I'm looking for, the guy that's going to make that 5 footer to win or to tie. That's what I'm looking for, the guts it takes to do that.
Q. Do you anticipate naming any more assistant captains?
TOM WATSON: Honestly I don't know. I don't know. Yes and no; I don't know.
Q. Could you share a story, your first Ryder Cup and how maybe that shaped you for a captaincy, maybe something you learned or anything like that?
TOM WATSON: Well, the first Ryder Cup, my most vivid memory is actually at the flag raising ceremony on Thursday afternoon. It was kind of a cool, cloudy day, dark and Dow Finsterwald was our captain and he made a beautiful speech concerning our Ryder Cup and the countries and the competitions and the history of it. And to see the American flag go up there, man, I'm playing for my country. But then first match, I was playing with Hubert Green, and that Ryder Cup, the Europeans decided they were going to try to beat us by eliminating two of the four ball / foursome matches. We were going to play 1 four ball, the first day, a series of four or five matches, I can't remember, and then for the second day, just 14 some match, and then play the singles.
He said maybe they could get closer that way. And I played with Hubert Green, and on the first green, the par 3, I made about a 40 footer for birdie and we were off to the races. We had them 5 down after 10 holes and we play the 11th hole, a par 5. I knock it on in two, Tommy Horton, they were chopping it around and Tommy Horton had about a is a footer for birdie. I leave my putt about five feet short, Tommy Horton makes it and I miss, and when I missed, there was a cheer that went up.
And that was the first time I had ever missed a putt and somebody really cheered. I got the feeling what the Ryder Cup's about right there.
Then the next day I saw Dave Stockton here, he was playing with Jerry McGee, and he was actually pretty close. The points were close. We were kind of tied with him, one behind for the total matches, and they were 2 down with three to go.
And Dave Stockton told Jerry on the 16th fairway, "Just get me on green." Dave made a 30 footer for birdie at 16, I think a 40 footer for par at 17 and a 30 footer for birdie at 18 to win 1 up, and it turned the match around just like that.
You can ask Dave about that, "Just get me on the green" and he made those three putts. Nobody writes about that but I can remember that and those are the stories that I'll impart to some of the players. You're never out of it, pal, you're never, ever out of it.
Q. When the cheer went up when you missed, that's when you started to understand, I would think, the emotional and etiquette component of The Ryder Cup is different from the Masters or the Northern Trust Open?
TOM WATSON: It surprised me.
Q. And were you okay with it at the time?
TOM WATSON: No, it angered me. It angered me.
Q. And how long did it take to understand that this is a different deal?
TOM WATSON: I'm glad it didn't take me a short time. I'm glad it still stuck with me (chuckling).
Yeah, I looked at it rationally pretty much, pretty much rationally, but I still had some anger. I didn't like to be cheered against. But I said, wait a minute, it's us versus them here. Figured it out pretty quick. But it was it surprised me.
Q. And is it something that when you were first captain, did those players at that point on your team in '93, did they understand that component, or is it something that you addressed in terms of playing in a different emotional milieu?
TOM WATSON: The veteran players understood that, like Nicklaus and January and the guys that had played on the team before. They understood that. But it takes the experience to understand it when you're on there. You miss a putt and people cheer.
The beauty of it is that, what we try to do and what I did as a captain in '93, after the infamous War by the Shore and the mentality of some of our fans at Kiawah, Bernard Gallacher and I basically just we just made an agreement to try to keep it down. Make a point to talk about it in front of the public and to say, we're here you know, keep the etiquette of the game right. This isn't a soccer match. This isn't a baseball game where you yell, "Swing, swing, swing batter." It's not that sort of stuff. We don't do that in golf.
That's what separates golf from other sports, honestly. And I think that's why it has a different way of playing and a different set of etiquette, rules of etiquette that makes it refreshing.
Q. You used the term, "Veteran" a lot today. The two guys that you picked as your captain's picks, you mentioned Lanny Watkins and Raymond Floyd because they were veterans; the two assistants you already picked are certainly veterans in Andy and Raymond. How important is veteran dynamism for you going into 2014 and at the same time, there have been times now lately that there's rookies being picked for these teams, because of their talent level, not necessarily because they made it by points. Is veteran dynamism for important than what a guy can do out here?
TOM WATSON: Let me share, I think you've heard this story about how I made my picks in '93. '93, I was looking I had two picks in '93, and you know, throughout the late spring and the summer, the guys who are on the borderline, the cusp of 11th on down, these guys were not playing well. I looked at it objectively. These guys weren't they were missing cuts; when they were making cuts, they were finishing 50th.
I mean, I wanted to go with somebody who is playing well; going it into it they have a good stretch of golf going. And I'm going to look at it the same way this year. I'm looking at whoever is getting it, who is lighting it up, who is making putts, who is doing well and winning. If they are not on the team, they are going to be right there at my first choice. I want somebody who is running the tables. How do I find that out? Well, I'll find that out through my connections out here. I'll be looking at them. It's going to be a critical element in whom I pick for the team.
Q. Does it matter what names are on those bags?
TOM WATSON: Does it matter? No, it doesn't. No, those players who get on the team are going to be the best possible players we can have on the team. That's the way I'm looking at it. If we can get if they perform, they will win..
JULIUS MASON: Vice Captain Floyd, some final thoughts before we say good bye?
RAYMOND FLOYD: I would echo almost everything Tom said. It was profound; it is the way it is. Tom is the captain, and whomever he picks as vice captain, we don't hit a shot. So all our responsibilities are to see that these guys are comfortable, they are happy with the surroundings, and we try to be an uplifting spirit, if you would, and if there are any questions, they have to be comfortable to come to us, and I think that's what we bring to the party and we've all been there and hopefully they will respect that and they will respond.
JULIUS MASON: Raymond, welcome back and congratulations again. Captain Watson, thank you very much for joining us.