Team USA Vice-Captain News Conference Transcript

Team USA Vice-Captain News Conference Transcript

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

MODERATOR: All right. We'll go ahead and get started. We would like to welcome someone really that does not need much of an introduction, Tom Watson. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes, World Golf Hall of Fame member and Greenbrier ambassador. With that being said, I'll just turn it over to you for a few opening comments on obviously what a special week it is for you to be here.

TOM WATSON: First things first, we're here to play the Greenbrier Classic. Mr. Justice has done a wonderful thing to get this golf tournament here and get the course to where it's a very tough golf course. It's a little long for old guys like me, but it's a wonderful place to be and you see all the players here with their families enjoying the time here at the Greenbrier and it's going to be a good week if we can keep away from the rain.

My game's in pretty good shape right now, I played pretty well last week, so we'll see what happens. There are certain holes on the golf course that I have some problems with. I have problems with No. 2, No. 13. Actually, No. 15, the par 3, I have a hard time hitting the right club on that hole. I'm in awe of these kids. I played with a couple of kids in the practice round on Monday afternoon, we played KJ Choi and James Hahn and Noh, we all played together. Those kids hit the ball just like I guess maybe the way I used to. I can't remember, I don't think I ever hit it like that.

It's fun to be out here and scouting, that's what I'm doing right now. I'm just like a baseball scout, I'm scouting for talent, I'm scouting for the players that may be on the Ryder Cup team. Those players, they should be comprised of two or three qualities that I think are the essential qualities of being a player that you would want on your Ryder Cup team.

The first one is guts, heart, how they play in the wind, how do they play in bad weather, can they make that five footer every time when they have to, guys than can hold the lead. Those are the types of guys that you want on your Ryder Cup team.

Over the past several years, actually for probably the last, what is it ... well, I've known the gentleman now that I'm going to announce as my assistant captain, my vice captain, I've known him since 1967. I played with him in the Western Amateur, and actually I played against him in the Western Amateur, I think it was 1967 or '68 I played against him. He's somebody I can rely on to tell me about the TOUR, what's going on on the TOUR, because his job is an ESPN announcer. He has worked for ESPN for the last 12 years and he knows the players inside and out.

I'm very happy to announce that Andy North is going to be my assistant captain. Andy has always been the type of player that I've enjoyed to play golf with, I've competed against, and although he didn't win a lot of tournaments out there, he won a couple U.S. Opens, which when you win a couple U.S. Opens, that means you can really play. He knows what it takes to close the deal and that's what we need on the Ryder Cup team. We need players who can close the deal.

Andy has been ... and I've asked him ever since ... actually, I asked him to be my assistant captain earlier this year and we've been discussing the players already back and forth and the types of ... most of them have been the young players, young players who might make the team, the types of players that actually I hope make the team. I hope we have some young blood on this team. Players that will not only play in 2014 but will continue to play in Ryder Cup teams in '16 and '18 and '20. Those are the types of players that you want. You want to give these players some experience and get them ... throw them into the fire and see how they react to it. Andy and I have been going back and forth on many of these young players, and of course some of the older players, too, like as I said, this list is a pretty good Ryder Cup list right here with Mickelson, Woods and Snedeker, Dufner, and John Hunt, he's coming into his own, he is playing very good golf. Steve Stricker, he's the retired Ryder Cup player right now. Matt Kuchar, of course he won earlier this year at the Memorial, is having a wonderful year so far. Billy Horschel, with the exception of those octopus pants or whatever you call those pants, he's a player to be able ... I think he's going to be right there, too. Hunter Mahan could have been chosen in the last year's Ryder Cup team very easily, he was 9th in the point list. Rickie Fowler, he's played on the Ryder Cup team, he knows what the pressure is. Bo Van Pelt, Dustin Johnson's played. You have old Freddy right there. Who knows, even Freddy may be on the Ryder Cup team. ...

Going down the list right here, starting to form up to a really solid team already even after just two events. This is a process and it doesn't happen overnight, but it's starting to form right now and I'm certainly happy to have Andy be on my side and in my ear helping me, helping make the decisions that will bring this cup back home from Europe this time. It's been way too long. We've lost seven out of the last nine Ryder Cups and I don't like that and I know the players don't like that. It's time to change the tide and hope that the players that are on the team come in playing well.

We do have next year's schedule, we'll have a week off basically before the Ryder Cup is played rather than going right from Atlanta right to the Ryder Cup as you did this past year. So there will be a week off for the players to get a little breathing room and catch their breath before going overseas to play at Gleneagles, the Centenary course. I think that's a really good deal, and we thank the TOUR for making those accommodations for the Ryder Cup, which Tim Finchem did.

With that, I'll open it up to any questions, unless we want to hear from our assistant captain. Andy, are you there?

ANDY NORTH: I am here, thank you. If they can hear me all right, first of all, I really would like to thank you and the PGA of America to get this opportunity. It's obviously an honor and we'll do whatever we possibly can to get the cup where it belongs, back here at home.

TOM WATSON: Well, that's the whole idea, sir.

ANDY NORTH: We have 16 months to go so, there's a lot that's going to happen over the next 16 months. Our hope at the end is you've got a great team of players playing well and go over there and have some fun.

TOM WATSON: What I liked about you, Andrew, many times in all the major championships you were with that last group, you were coming down the wire, you were watching these players play under pressure. What are the qualities that you look for in a player playing under pressure? Do you have anything that you're looking for or is it so individual it's different for everybody?

ANDY NORTH: I think that's been one of the things I've enjoyed the most over the last 20 plus years working with ESPN to be with that last group coming down the stretch. A lot of people ask me, what are you feeling? As a competitor there are times you get caught up in it a little bit. It's wonderful to watch players execute under pressure and to see how they can handle pressure. I think that as a player is what you look to yourself about. You put all kinds of practice and effort in, how do I handle it once I get there. That's what I like to see, how these guys handle it. Some struggle, as we all have. Some figure it out early in their careers and they understand how to deal with the pressures within yourself. Everybody's different. I think the biggest thing is understanding yourself and understanding how you operate when there's pressure on you. Does the adrenaline get going and do you hit it 10 yards further? What do you have to do to slow your emotions and your brain down under those kind of situations. To me, the guys that figure that out are the guys that win on Sunday afternoons.

TOM WATSON: And they have to be in that situation more than once or twice to kind of figure it out, don't you think?

ANDY NORTH: Oh, absolutely. Unfortunately, as you know and as I know, you fail a lot before you succeed. I think we had a great example of that a couple weeks ago. Billy Haas has had an incredible career already, was disappointed in himself that he didn't finish events out better. Well, he did that just a week ago, which was wonderful to see. He's the type of player that has a lot of ability and he's a guy that you would hope would play well enough to be playing for you next year.

TOM WATSON: Well, we'll see about that. Billy is certainly, he's really a good player. As he said in the post interview, he made mention of the fact that he has not handled the pressure very well, but that last day where he won the tournament by three shots, he said, I made the putts that before I missed. You build on that. You build on that. Like you say, you fail before you succeed a lot of times in this game. That goes with learning the golf courses, but you also learn how you deal with pressure yourself under TOUR conditions. Again, getting back to what we're looking for, we're looking for people who can handle that pressure. A lot of good pressure, as great a pressure you'll ever have playing competitive golf, Ryder Cup pressure. Actually, my job as a captain is a stage manager, I'm there to set the stage. The actors go out and they perform. I have my assistant stage manager in Andy North and maybe a couple players to be named later, and that's what we're going to do. We're going to try to set the stage perfectly for our players to go out and perform their best and we'll just see how they do. Questions?

Q. Taking off of coaching the Ryder Cup team before in '93, what will you use to motivate your players next year, some of those things that you think can help us get over the losing ways on the road?

TOM WATSON: Well, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve, I don't need to necessarily talk about them right now. I had a couple tricks up my sleeve in '93 that maybe one of them worked, you never know. There you try to figure out your team, try to figure out who's playing well, who's not playing well. You're not going to have the luxury of everybody, all 12 players playing at A level. You're not going to have that luxury, we know that. The thing is that as a stage manager, you're going to go out there and say to these players, I know you can do it, just dig deep and get it done. Plus one of the things that we can do is try to keep it light and get out of their way, let them blow off some steam here and there. When the event's going on, these guys are ... they're exhausted. They play 36 holes under that type of pressure, I know they're kids, but you wear yourself out. One of the great things that I remember on my Ryder Cup team, and to this day I admire him greatly for it, very greatly for it, is Raymond Floyd. I picked him as one of my players. I had two picks, him and Lanny Wadkins, and after Saturday's double round, Raymond played two rounds on Saturday, it was dark, it was almost dark, and I'm walking from the ... I can't remember, but I walked and I look over at the practice tee and there is Raymond Floyd hitting golf balls on the practice tee after playing 36 holes. I walked over there and said, "Raymond, what the hell are you doing?" He said, "I had a thought moment about my swing and I wanted to figure it out, I'm just going to hit 15 shots." Now that is what you like, that's what you want, that's the type of player you want. So anyway, we'll see what comes up. Again, it's young, the process has started. We're on our way, looking forward to it. More questions?

Q. I have a question for Andy. Andy, can you just talk about what it was like to get that call from Tom and what excites you or frightens you about your job as vice captain?

ANDY NORTH: Well, we went down and visited Tom and Hilary during the basketball season. We had gone to a basketball game, my wife and I had driven down. We usually get down to Kansas City two or three times a year. We're sitting around at dinner and Tom says, "Hey, I've got something to ask you. Would you want to be my assistant?" Of course ... it took me maybe a second and a half, he didn't get it out of his mouth before I was giddy, absolutely giddy over the opportunity to not only hopefully have a role to get the cup back, but also to be able to help a dear friend and if I can take a little bit of the responsibility off of his shoulders and make it an easier week for him, that will be awesome for me. I'm looking forward to it, a lot of excitement to the Ryder Cup, it means an awful lot to me. I've been lucky enough to cover it for ESPN for maybe the last four Ryder Cups, and I get emotional covering it. It's going to be a great experience, and the bottom line is we get a W at the end of the week.

Q. Andy, I wanted to ask you about what qualities do you bring to the table and do you plan to be a silent or a vocal assistant captain?

ANDY NORTH: Well, I think the biggest thing right now is I think the one thing I do bring, there's a lot of experience of being around these players, and hopefully I can help Tom get a good grasp on some of them. It's nice to have four eyes looking at players versus just two. I think it's going to be an interesting time that I'll do whatever the captain wants me to do, you know? I think the most important thing for me is that if he asks me a question, I give an honest answer immediately, I think that's going to be very important. You don't have time to sit down and go through 45 different scenarios of something if he needs an answer right away and we're going to have to come up with some answers. That excites me and I can't tell you how much fun this is going to be over the next 16 months.

Q. Tom, outside of the competition this week, can you just talk about what your goals are? You mentioned it's almost like a scouting trip. What is it that you'll be doing?

TOM WATSON: Well, this week, I see a lot of players, watch them on the practice range, watch how they swing, their fundamentals, their grip, how they set up, how they hit the ball. I've been watching a lot more PGA TOUR golf on TV, I can assure you that, I'm watching these players, how they're finishing, how they're doing on TV when the chips are down and the pressure's high. You see a lot by looking in the player's eyes, I think. You can tell a lot about a player. I'll be watching their eyes a lot.

Q. Tom, regarding this week with The Old White and everything, they moved back the tee box on No. 18. How much of a different do you really think that will make for the players?

TOM WATSON: Well, it's going to make a little difference, I think. The kids that are hitting wedges in there and I'm hitting 8 iron, 7 iron in there, they're hitting wedges. It's going ... that contour in the middle of the green really plays with you. It's easy in the pro am, you know, it's easy. When the chips are down, it makes that green play very small, makes it very small, especially if the greens get hard and firm. That's probably going to be a luxury this week, we're probably going to be a little bit damp this week unfortunately, so it's going to play easier. If that green was hard it would make a difference, not a question.

Q. Tom, since you've been scouting a little bit, can you give us a scouting report on this tournament? Who do you think The Old White sets up nicely for in this tournament?

TOM WATSON: That's a good question. The players are playing well, the guys who hit the ball high, I like that on this golf course. The greens still, even though they're soft, they're hard. There's a firmness to it, the ball will skid and bounce. Even if they're a little bit damp, it will skid. The greens changed here three years ago. They really were hard, I mean firm, and to stop the ball on the green, it was a tough chore and the guys who hit the ball high can stop it. Unfortunately, I probably could name about 50 players that hit the ball high, I can't pick one because they all hit it ... they all launch it up here like I used to be able to. I can't do that anymore. That's the elements you need on this golf course, height.

MODERATOR: Well, thank you all very much.

TOM WATSON: Glad to be back at the Greenbrier and we're looking forward to the process. Andrew, thanks for the call in.

ANDY NORTH: Well, thank you for the confidence, and thanks everybody for being here today for this. Thank you.