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Americans Celebrate 'Great' Week in Australia
The International team figured to provide some stiff adversity for the Americans in the ninth Presidents Cup. After all, the biennial event was held at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, the site of the Internationals' only victory in 1998.
But thanks to a team of veterans blending with some talented rookies, the U.S. prevailed, beating their hosts 19-15 to go to 7-1-1 in the competition. Beyond lauding his teams' diverse skill sets, U.S. captain Fred Couples said later that the International team is at a disadvantage because of the Americans' participation in the Ryder Cup, which takes place in even-numbered years.
"The Internationals need to go play another format somewhere," Couples said. "We play in the Ryder Cup and we play in the Presidents Cup. So do we have an advantage by playing alternate shot? I couldn't argue that more. Greg's guys very rarely do it.
"But you know, in years coming up, maybe they will have another tournament where they play an alternate shot or whatever. But I'm not picking on Greg at any given time, but our guys are polished players, and they do - they are lucky enough, all of these guys have played on Ryder Cup teams and the Bill Haases and Webb Simpsons and Nick Watneys are going to be on Ryder Cup teams and Presidents Cup teams, and that's an advantage, no doubt."
Following the awards ceremony, several jubilant members of the American squad - along with captain Couples - sat down with reporters and discussed their whirlwind week Down Under. Here's what they had to say.
MODERATOR: We would like to introduce the 2011 Presidents Cup champions, captained by Fred Couples. Fred, if you can start with some opening comments.
FRED COUPLES: Yes, it was a great week. Like I said in the - whatever that little victory ceremonial thing we just did, I give the guys a lot of credit, because obviously - they came a couple weeks before this tournament, and we had a game plan to come play as a team, win as a team, and that's what we did.
Q. Last time you were here, you told people this was the best second-shot golf course in the world.
TIGER WOODS: Yep.
Q. You've had a few more rounds now here. What's changed or how do you still feel about Royal Melbourne?
TIGER WOODS: It has not changed. This is an incredible second-shot golf course. I mean, they have slowed down the fairways a bit, but still, trying to get after some of these flags, I mean, with this wind, it was virtually impossible. And then when the greens are this firm, these had to be very conservative. This would have been frightening if this was a stroke-play vent. Not too many guys would have been under par, if any. So thankfully it was match play, and you know, you could afford to make a few high numbers.
But as you saw during the entire week, not a lot of birdies out there. A lot of holes were won with pars. Amazing, amazing golf course. I just wish that more golf courses were designed like this. We don't have to have a 250-yard par-3 for it to be hard. This week, No. 5 was a hell of a test, and it was between a wedge and a 7-iron today.
Q. I know you mentioned it on TV about pairing with Phil and why you seemed to work so well; can I get your thoughts on that, and Phil, can I get yours, as well, on why it worked so well pairing with Jim this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I think what made pairing easy with Jim was that he made a lot of birdies, and it's pretty easy to pair with a guy that does that and makes solid 4-, 5-footers when you need it. What we did well was when one of us wasn't sharp, we were able to kind of get them through that patch and then they turned it. The biggest thing was we had a lot of fun. Because when you have a lot of fun, you end up getting your best golf out at some point; whether you struggle or not, you get it out, and I thought we were able to do a good job with that. But most importantly, we had a lot of fun doing it.
JIM FURYK: Well, I kind of said it earlier. I enjoy the team atmosphere, and knowing Phil for as many years as I have -- I'm guessing, I have not talked to him about this, so I'll probably surprise him by saying this, but I'm guessing he asked to play with me, because one, I struggled so much this year and played poorly and probably -- well, definitely, the worst of anybody that's sitting up here right now. So knowing him for as long as I have, being good friends, I assume that he asked to play with me because he felt like he could get a lot out of me this week; that maybe he could help me and pump some confidence into me and get me playing well, and he did that. And the one round that I really didn't play all that well at all was when I played with Nick, and you know, he played great. He might have faltered for two or three holes, and I was able to make a big putt here and there. I hit a good bunker shot, and kept us in the match. But Nick played so great, and really just want to thank my partners for being there for me this week, and I had a great time with all these guys, it was a lot of fun.
Q. I wanted to ask you just -- just analyze your game, how it's evolving and obviously seems to be getting better and better. Today was very good. And secondly, the atmosphere, you all seem to have a really good time at these things. Do you think -- just out there, but do you think Freddie would make, for instance, a good Ryder Cup captain in terms of loosening up the team and getting you bonded like this?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think my game, it's getting better. I played well this week. Very pleased at the progress I've made so far. This is an unbelievable team. I've been on a variety of different teams over the years, and this has been just a great atmosphere to be around. And it starts from the captain. As you said, would Freddie make a great Ryder Cup captain; absolutely. He's just a great captain, period. He's fun to play for. I'm thankful that he picked me. Greg is probably not happy about it after I closed out the Cup today. But it's been great to be a part of this team. I'm thankful that Freddie believed in me to be a part of this team, and this is, as I said, just a great bunch of guys.
Q. The guys that were here last time, as Freddie said, you got smoked; how much of this is some unfinished business that you took care of?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, in '98, I was in high school.
JIM FURYK: Well, it's a totally different year. I think we are talking about 13 years ago, totally different teams. As Freddie said, we were unprepared the last time we came here. I was a little surprised to hear, I think one of the most surprising things to me all week, I kept hearing that a lot of people didn't feel like our games would adapt here or that we would be able to figure out this golf course. Where Americans have won the Masters, the British Open, the PGA and the U.S. Open, have won major tournaments all over the world; I feel like if we can figure out links golf and figure out golf courses on those stages, as wonderful as this golf course is, I feel like we should be able to conquer this one, and I'm glad we were able to this week.
Q. Steve, just wondering how you're doing after what you went through to get here and the injury and everything. Looked like you might have been favoring a little bit at times. Is it okay, and what do you do from here?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it was good this week. It's not right yet, I don't think, but I really had no effects from it at all. I think the time off, the six weeks, where I played very little, I think helped a lot. Got some treatments over here on a daily basis; I think helped. It was really a non-issue really. Never bothered me once.
Q. Playing in two weeks?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I'm going to play Tiger's event in a couple of weeks, and then Shark Shootout.
Q. You keep talking about how you're hitting the ball at home and bringing it out here; having not played but only one tournament in two or three months, was there a point in Australia over your two weeks that gave you the confidence to know that you could play the way you did over the last, say, eight rounds?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was actually leading the tournament in Australia up there in Sydney for two days. It's not like I was playing poorly. I felt like I could easily have won that event if I had just putted halfway decent on Saturday. I was hitting the ball well enough. Unfortunately just had one bad day of putting which cost me an event. Just continued on this week, and as I say, this is the way I've been hitting it at home. I'm very pleased with the progress I've made with Sean and it's finally paying off under pressure. It held up nicely last week at The Open and it held up nicely this week.
Q. Could you tell us your highlights of the week, and also your thoughts on Kim and Ishikawa who you played against.
BUBBA WATSON: You want me to go? This one time? I'm so excited! I didn't think y'all knew that we were here to answer questions. We had a great week. Me and Webb, we putted well. He played great, and I got to ride his coattails, so I got some wins out of it. And all I know is Ryo Ishikawa can putt really good (laughing).
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, it was a fun week for me being here and you know, having a chance to play with Bubba the first four matches was great. Fortunate to get three wins out of it, and you know, I played a young player, K.T. Kim today, who is a great player and made a lot of putts. You know, he's going to do well in this game, I believe, and it was a great week overall for me and excited to be a part of this team.
Q. All directed back to those two guys again.
BUBBA WATSON: (Looking eager) Yes!
Q. There's been a lot of technical talk about the wind and what-have-you, what about the celebration, and for anyone who wants to chip in, what are you going to be doing tonight? We haven't heard much about the feeling amongst the group, the celebrations that are ahead.
BUBBA WATSON: We are going to watch Matt Kuchar dominate Phil Mickelson in ping-pong. He's trying to act like he didn't hear me right now, but he did.
PHIL MICKELSON: (Looking up) What?
BUBBA WATSON: Nothing. So that's probably pretty much what we are going to be doing. I don't gamble.
MATT KUCHAR: (Whispering) baccarat.
BUBBA WATSON: Baccarat. How do you say it? (Turning to Phil).
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I've heard of it (laughter).
BUBBA WATSON: We are not going to drink anything; water.
Q. Is that the directive, not do anything, celebrate? Surely you'll be out and about doing something?
FRED COUPLES: We will be. We'll be celebrating, staying up late, and we have flights tomorrow, but you know, I think it's not top secret, but we'll have a beer or two and gamble a little bit tonight. We're staying at the Crown, and hang out and tell stories about how we won. (Laughter).
Q. For Jay and John, so they avoid the shutout, can you talk a little about what the experience (as assistant captains for Couples) has been for both of you guys?
JOHN COOK: Thanks, Bob, for getting us in the press release. I'm just very fortunate that Fred gave me a call a couple of weeks ago. Honored to be with these guys. The veteran leadership on this squad was phenomenal, between Phil and Tiger, and Strick, David, Jim Furyk. It's fantastic. The young guys stepped up. So happy that I got a chance to be around these young guys and actually see them play, see what their games are like. I'm so happy that the direction of young American golf is going the way it is. These guys are winners. They are class guys. They are just great to be around. So I was very fortunate, very honored to be around these guys; one of my great experiences in golf.
JAY HAAS: I've been on as many teams as some of the guys over there have, but the ones I've been around, I think this probably was the best team chemistry I'd seen in all of the teams I've been on. Just never an issue. I honestly think that what John said, the veteran players were fantastic, and obviously they showed out today. But the young guys starting off those matches, Webb and Bubba, getting those points, the first few times, was huge. Everybody contributed. And just really, really fun to see great golf.
Q. Phil, you've been on more of these teams than anybody here. Why do you think the level of success in this event, and the more struggles in The Ryder Cup -- especially given that the International Team is pretty formidable usually every time.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't -- I don't have a direct way to answer that. I think that when I first played in my team events, we were very tight; that guys would get the directive that we need this point, this is critical, and we would play tight. You know, we wouldn't have as much fun, and we wouldn't be playing our best. I think Matt wants his mic on - did you have something to say, Matt Kuchar? (Webb removing Matt's microphone). As teams, we have had a lot more success I have found when we end up playing loose, and when we end up having off the golf course; we end up having fun on the golf course. We when end up playing better and we have had better results. I think we have won five of the last 16, four of the last five, or five out of the last 16 events we have played as a unit. A lot of the same guys are on the teams, and I'm proud of the way we have played together as a team.
Q. Greg and some of his players have talked about the necessity of making changes to the format; if it be they get four picks or defer on making the selection process or whether it be foursomes versus four-ball needs to be changed, whatever it is. And is there a point where it's actually imperative, 7-1-1, that if they don't make any changes that it's going to be difficult for the Internationals to win -- from the U.S. side, how do you feel about that?
FRED COUPLES: I don't even understand any of that. (Laughter).
Q. Come on, Fred.
FRED COUPLES: Well, we get - they are going off - we have got guys that kill themselves for two years. They have got guys that kill themselves for two years, too, but they go offer the World Rankings and then he makes a couple picks or whatever it is, Greg, or the next captain. I don't understand what there would be a problem - we have been very lucky. The best thing I feel great about is our team won in Australia on away soil, which is a demanding task. But as far as the categories, I think everyone up here will say, you play alternate-shot, everyone plays, which to answer what Phil was talking about the Ryder Cup, I think this tournament is just so much more fun for the players, because they are playing all the time. No one sits. You don't get tight by going out and watching Phil play or Tiger play and seeing all of those people. You're out playing every single day.
But as far as having four picks or foursomes or best-ball, that's the way it is, and I don't know how you can change any of that, except giving more picks. And if that's what they want, then the Tour will get involved, but I don't - I don't know - that's not why we win. We win because we - a lot of times, we have been in America. That's one that helps. But we won this week because we were better players, and I think we have a little motivation, and we teamed well and we won. I don't know what they would have said if they would have won. Everything would have been fair. But we won, and you know, I'm not saying anything bad to Greg. I'm just saying, I don't get that. We had 10 players; they got two picks. We got 10 players and two picks and we won.
Q. I think what Greg was leading up to, that the international players only have an opportunity once every two years.
FRED COUPLES: Well, that's true. They may need to find other players to play. That's pretty simple. The internationals need to go play another format somewhere. We play in The Ryder Cup and we play in The Presidents Cup. So do we have an advantage by playing alternate-shot? I couldn't argue that more. Greg's guys very rarely do it. But you know, in years coming up, maybe they will have another tournament where they play an alternate-shot or whatever. But I'm not picking on Greg at any given time, but our guys are polished players, and they do -- they are lucky enough, all of these guys have played on Ryder Cup teams and the Bill Haases and Webb Simpsons and Nick Watneys are going to be on Ryder Cup teams and Presidents Cup teams, and that's an advantage, no doubt.
Q. You talked about being motivated, what was the motivation from?
FRED COUPLES: Motivation was by telling these guys they had better win. That's the motivation. I didn't want to lose.
Q. Just again, you've played on Ryder Cup teams, and you've now captained two Presidents Cups teams; what would you bring? How would you change it? Why is the Ryder Cup more of a challenge, and how would you change the atmosphere, and as Phil just alluded to earlier, make it a little looser and less tight?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I'm not serious, but the Ryder Cup is the Ryder Cup. I think one of the problems is that you get a little edgy because, you know, you make the team and you don't get to play all the time. Everyone is like -- you walk in and you say, "Hey, captain, am I playing." And you look at them and you say, "No, I sat you down." Then you go back and you tell your wife, that, no, I'm not playing tomorrow. How much fun can that be?
Here, hell they are all excited to find out who they are playing with, what time they are playing and who they are playing against. Nothing bad happens at the Presidents Cup. So that's the easiest thing for Jay and I think John and I this year is, you know, tough to sit Phil down on Saturday afternoon. He wanted to play. Steve, you know, was a little easier. And then Nick Watney looked at me like I was crazy for not playing him, and it's a sad day, but as far as changing anything, you know, I'm very loose, but I can't make Bubba Watson any looser than he already is, or make Phil have more fun.
One thing we have done in the last four years is, you know, I have Tiger and Phil and Stricker, and Phil and Tiger and Stricker - who am I leaving out - Jimmy, in the team room making every decision, and last time it was Jay and Michael, and this time John. We sat the pairings, did get the older guys at the end, and they did very, very well today and I give them a lot of credit for sitting 20 minutes yesterday and doing that. We're a team. I'm the captain but we are a team all day long all week long. I'm not telling Jim Furyk when to play and what slot to be in. And then they give me all the information on the younger players, too. So it worked out really well in San Francisco, and it worked out well here.
MODERATOR: Thank you and congratulations.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.