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Couples & Norman Discuss 2011 Presidents Cup
Fred Couples and Greg Norman, the captains for the American and International teams in the 2011 Presidents Cup, respectively, met with reporters on Sunday to discuss next year's matches. This will be the third straight match that the popular players known as "Boom Boom" and the "Great White Shark" are serving as captains.
The biennial Ryder Cup-style competition will be held November 14-20 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia, the site of the Americans' only loss 12 years ago.
Originated in 1994, the series features teams with players representing the U.S. and an International squad consisting of players from the rest of the world, except Europe.
The Americans hold an overall 6-1-1 record in the event, with the only tie coming in 2003 in South Africa when captains Jack Nicklaus of the U.S. and Gary Player of the International team famously agreed to share the Cup as darkness descended on Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate after three playoff holes remained deadlocked.
Here's what the two captains, along with Presidents Cup executive director Matt Kamienski, had to say during their wide-ranging media session on Sunday.
MODERATOR: It is a delight to be here, and even more of a delight to be associated with Channel 9, who along with Fox Sports will be broadcasting the 2011 Presidents Cup. In fact, in all there will be 28 hours of live television. I'd also like to take just a very short time to welcome some very, very special guests. First of all, US Team Captain Fred Couples. Great to have you back here in Melbourne; and also the International Captain Greg Norman. A collective round of applause if you would, also, for Sir Rod Eddington, Peter Thomson, Geoff Ogilvy is here, our event sponsors Steve Roberts representing Citi and also Patrick Boutellier representing Rolex.
Just a little bit of housekeeping, this media conference is going live around Australia and also live around the world via teleconference, so for those people who can't see us, let me just fill you in, it's another beautiful day in Melbourne, not a cloud in the sky, about 25 degrees and not a breath of wind, so I guess you wish you were here. We do, again, welcome each and every one of you. We will throw the floor open later on for any questions you have for both Greg and Fred, but to tell us more about the Presidents Cup and tell us more about the man who is very much in golf and what's happening. He's living it, breathing it every minute of every day leading into day one of the tournament, will you please welcome the executive director of the Presidents Cup, Mr. Matt Kamienski.
MATT KAMIENSKI: I'd like to welcome everybody to today's captains' day for The Presidents Cup 2011. I think you guys all had a great time out there on the course. As Tony said, it probably did bring you to your knees, the wind and what they did to the golf course is tremendous. Tony recognized all of our dignitaries, but I'd like to say a special welcome to Greg Norman, International Team Captain, and Fred Couples, thank you very much for being here today. To Rod Eddington, chairman of Victoria Major Events Company, Peter and Mary Thomson. Peter Thomson is a five-time British Open champion, but we like to say he's a three-time Presidents Cup Team Captain and the only man to win The Presidents Cup for the Internation Team. So I think he hangs that over Greg a little bit right now.
I'd also like to say thank you to Geoff and Julie Ogilvy for being here today. It was great of you guys to come. I'd also like to recognize Richard Allen, who's the captain of Royal Melbourne Golf Club. As I said before, this golf course has come a long way in a year, from re-turfing this whole property, and I think it's a testament to the staff and to the superintendent Richard Forsyth, and we've seen what they've done, and I think in 350 days' time it's going to be unbelievable. I'd also like to thank our other event partners from the media, from the government and from the other corporate sponsors for being here today, and without your support we couldn't do this. Last week we announced our second global partners. As you can see on the backdrop here, Rolex and Citi are our two global partners. I'd like to say a special welcome to Steven Roberts, who's the CEO of Citi Australia as well as Patrick Boutellier with Rolex, who's the general manager of Australia. So we really appreciate your support and look forward to working with you to make the event bigger and better over the year to come. Thank you very much.
I'd also like to say one thing. This is the ninth playing that we'll be playing The Presidents Cup. In eight times we've done unbelievable things with this event, and I think coming here to Royal Melbourne and coming here to the city of Melbourne, it's just going to be -- there's no city in the world that does it better than Melbourne. I've done events all over. I've been to South America, I've been to Canada, I've been to South Africa. I don't think there's another place in the world that does big events, and I think everybody in this room knows that and lives it and breathes and is part of it. We're very excited about being here in Melbourne and Victoria. Presidents Cup will be shown in over 200 countries throughout the world and 500 million homes, so I think the world will be on Melbourne when we're here November 15th through the 20th of 2011. One thing that's really -- I need to stick to everybody here is what the Presidents Cup is all about. Players are not personally paid to play in this event. There's no prize money. Each player rather designates a portion of the proceeds, the net proceeds that come from this event, to charities of their choosing.
In the last, I guess, eight playings of the event, and this is going to be the ninth playing, over 377 charities have benefitted from The Presidents Cup worldwide, and many of those charities have been here in Australia with all the players that have played on The Presidents Cup from Australia, $4.2 million last year given of that amount in 2009 in San Francisco which brought our record totals to nearly $22 million in the eight playings. But as I said before, because of those Australian players, many of the charities have benefitted, including Australian Sports Foundation, the Children's Cancer Institute for Australia, the Australian Red Cross, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Australia and the Starlight Children's Foundation just to name a few, not to mention the great foundations of players such as Greg Norman, Peter Thomson, Adam Scott, have put good money back into the community here, both in Victoria but all the way through every state in Australia.
We expect an unbelievable event in 2011, and I think one thing in 2009 when Greg and Fred came on to be captains it opened up a new era in this event. It was the first time we had players that had actually experienced the event as competitors to serve as captains and lead their teams. It wasn't so much their competitive fire, it was their leadership. It was what they stand for in the game of golf and we really appreciate that and we're so excited to have you guys back again. I don't think there's two better ambassadors in the game of golf and for the Presidents Cup so thank you very much, gentlemen, for being here. I'd also like to just close by saying, overemphasize the gratitude and everything that I feel and The Presidents Cup feels for everybody -- the support that we've had here in Melbourne, and thank the media for being here today and covering this and pushing this event home. I think it's going to be an exciting 350 days to look forward to, and I'm going to turn it over to Tony to ask a few questions to Greg and Fred and for you in the room to do the same. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it, and have a good one.
MODERATOR: Good on you, Matt, and all the very best in the countdown to the actual tournament. Now to our two guests of honor, and it's not like they need an introduction. We'll get to a snapshot of their careers. Fred Couples owns 15 PGA Tour victories including the 1992 Masters and also a pair of Players Championships. He's competed on four U.S. Presidents Cup teams, and is this season on the Champions Tour as a rookie, shall we say, four wins and 13 top-ten finishes. Great to have you here. Greg Norman, who's a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, with 20 PGA Tour victories and another 69 around the world, plenty of those being here, thank goodness. He's a two-time British Open champion and the 1994 Players Championship winner with three Presidents Cup appearances to his credit. Would you please welcome please Fred and Greg before they join us on stage. Let's have a look at the video and just recap a couple of brilliant careers. (Video shown.)
Well, it really does whet the appetite for what we can expect. Hopefully the tables can be turned in just under a year from now. Please welcome the two captains, Greg Norman and Fred Couples. Now, gentlemen, I'm sure it's great to be back in Melbourne. Greg, can I preface it by saying that about five years ago at Royal Melbourne you were competing, and I realized I've been at Channel 9 for about 20 years and have never asked you a question, and the issue at the time was women playing in men's events, and I asked you whether you would actually consider pulling out of an event if a female had entered, and you just looked at me and said, that is a very good question. I thought, I'll never ask Greg Norman another question again, so excuse me if I don't ask you any questions today, Greg. Fred, must be great to be back in Melbourne.
FRED COUPLES: Yes, for sure. I was here in '88, '98 and then today and I'm here next week to play with Greg. Certainly was thrilled to be the winning captain last year and then asked again to come back to be the captain here in Melbourne next year.
MODERATOR: I'll break my rule, Greg. For you this is almost like a second home. You've been synonymous with golf in this state.
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, very much so. I think from a sportsperson's point of view there's no better place to play than Melbourne. I know we played some great places, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, but just the atmosphere they've created here. What is it? Is it the people, is it the golf courses, is it just the fact that the support of sport in this state is just different to everywhere else? It's a combination of all of those. Quite honestly it's an honor to come here and play golf. I don't care whether you're Fred Couples or Greg Norman or Tiger Woods or whatever. Everybody gets an incredible amount of support. And then we get the support of the locals like Geoff Ogilvy. We feel like it's just fun to come back and play golf here.
MODERATOR: We hang out to see the makeup of the two teams. I mean, that's one of the great things about the Presidents Cup, the intrigue heading into it. But also in recent time the two assistants that you guys choose. Can you give us an insight today into who they might be?
FRED COUPLES: Well, for me it's going to be the same, probably. Jay Haas is my assistant, and then Michael Jordan, who I asked a couple years ago, and he's pretty sure he'll make it, but he's now the owner of a basketball team, Charlotte Bobcats, and that's kind of when they start their season. So I'm hoping he'll come, but those would be my two picks, Jay for sure.
GREG NORMAN: And mine is definitely Frank Nobilo. He's agreed to come back. We saw a clip of Frank in '98. He was my assistant captain last year, so we pretty much put the same team around. As for somebody equal to a Michael Jordan, I'm in discussions with a couple individuals but again might have scheduling issues and making sure they can be here, so that's yet to be announced.
MODERATOR: He's not necessarily a golfer?
GREG NORMAN: No, not a golfer.
MODERATOR: Maybe a cricketer?
GREG NORMAN: There's those questions again.
MODERATOR: I knew I should have quit while I was ahead. To my colleagues in the media, I'm sure there's plenty of questions you'd want to ask of Fred and Greg, so we'll get the ball rolling and hand it over to you.
Q. Greg, the composite course has had two significant changes with two new holes. What do you think of those changes to the new holes coming in?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I definitely think the new 14 was a great change. I know the old composite 16, the par-3 up the hill, was a great par-3, but I have always encouraged right from the beginning to use that hole as you walk by every time. Probably one of the best green complexes, bunker-green complexes and settings I've ever seen. I know Royal Melbourne has got 36 other great ones or 35 other great ones, but this one is just a phenomenal hole. So I think that's an extremely positive move. As for the other ones, Freddie and I are going to go take a look at it now. I've never played that hole. I've walked by it several times but I've never played it. I'll be honest with you, as a player, I'm a bit biased of the old third of the composite because there's so much character about the greens and so many things can happen with three-putts or leaving a bunker shot in the bunker could affect a tight pin position on the front left.
Again, we've got to take into consideration all the reasons why the changes will be, not just from a player's perspective, and Matt and I have had a great conversation about it, so Freddie and I will go around later and take a look.
Q. Greg, how is married life treating you?
GREG NORMAN: Very good, thank you.
Q. We know you brought your new bride back out to Australia. Hopefully she'll be joining you next time I would imagine, and it's all been a bit of a whirlwind I would imagine?
GREG NORMAN: Actually it hasn't been. It's been very, very quiet. We had a beautiful wedding in the Caribbean, very understated, and yeah, she's going into Sydney next week. Her father lives in Sydney, so she's looking forward to going back and seeing him. Her sister come down with her this trip. She hadn't been down to Australia in a long, long period of time, so it's great to have her come back. No, there' been no drama, just very, very nice and peaceful and quiet.
FRED COUPLES: How old is her sister? Or is she married? (Laughter.)
GREG NORMAN: We'll talk about it later on.
Q. We've all seen everything up there, all the things you guys have accomplished. What does it actually mean to you and the American Team to come down here and try your hardest to win again?
FRED COUPLES: Right, well, we'll definitely try. We'll field a great team. This is a world-class course. It's in the top three of my all-time favorites with St. Andrews and Augusta, but I'm not playing. So Greg and I have said the whole time, we've had a great time putting teams together last time, and this year will be no different. But we have a lot of work. We didn't even make a match of this in 1998. We weren't even in the ballgame. So this time, you know, as a captain, my goal will be to try and make sure everyone is playing golf and ready to play at that time. Times are a little bit different the last 12 years. There's golf everywhere, but now we're still playing tournaments in mid-November, so when we come here, there's time change, all that stuff, but when we lost to these guys last time, they were just better. I don't think we were not on our games or on our games, they were just much better players, and I think last time at Harding Park for me as a captain, it was the most inside fun I've ever had on Tour.
So to be able to do it again, first, it's an honor, but just to watch and see the reactions of not only my team but Greg's team, too, all of his team are very close friends, even the young kid I played in Japan with even before Greg picked him, and such a nice, young kid, it was just fun to watch his reaction to the whole thing. And he certainly played well. But my guys were phenomenal; Stricker and Tiger and Phil are our leaders. I think that's what you need. When we come here, we have to have our best players play well, otherwise we'll be in trouble again.
Q. There's obviously been debate over where the lead-up tournament should be. What's both of your respective preferences I guess from your team's perspective?
FRED COUPLES: I'll take the easy way out. I think Greg can answer that. I've talked to a couple people today. I honestly don't really know what's right or wrong or what's best for Australian golf or anything. I just know that whatever is chosen I'm going to try and get as many of my players to come and play.
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, Freddie is absolutely right. No matter where it's going to be played it's going to be the right decision. We've also got to consider what's happening on the Singapore to Barclays, the HSBC the week before Singapore, then there's a couple of major tournaments on the U.S. PGA Tour, as well, so they're going to be factored into the whole scheme of things. So as a captain we look at it, when you look at the number of weeks that have been played by these players before you get to the Presidents Cup, whether it's the Masters here in Melbourne or whether it's the Australian Open in Sydney, it doesn't really matter. I think the players need to play. We'd like to come into a golf tournament playing. Most players can adapt very, very quickly coming from a golf course in Sydney, for example, to the golf course at Royal Melbourne. We have that ability. We have enough practice rounds and advice from other players. We'll leave it to the powers that be, and whatever happens, happens.
Q. Greg, in your experience what changes in the psyche of the top players when you're playing team golf?
GREG NORMAN: I think Freddie hit the nail on the head. It's what happens when you walk into the locker room. Golf is such an individual sport, and when we get high up on that tree and we're competing like Freddie and I did in the '80s, and when you walk in the locker room, sometimes you want to sit down and have breakfast with a guy before you tee off and just have idle chitchat, and there's guys that want to cut your throat out before you walk out on the first tee. It's just a difference that everybody reacts differently on a individual basis. Get involved in the team sport it's the total opposite. Guys who are a bit of a recluse now want to be involved, voice an opinion, their spouses are involved. It's just incredible to see it. The general public doesn't get to see it, the media definitely doesn't get to see it, and it's a bit of a shame actually because you see the true spirit of the individual come out in that locker room. From my perspective that's the best part about being captain.
Q. Is it an advantage playing on a course like Royal Melbourne that several of your players might have possibly played here before where a lot of the Americans haven't seen the course before?
GREG NORMAN: A huge advantage, especially now that Royal Melbourne has gone through the changes and getting the Sutton's mix back on the greens. Many years ago when they changed away from it and went back into another bentgrass, I don't know which one it was, excuse me on that, but Sutton's mix is just super quick, super fast, firm greens to putt on, and there's no question about it, local knowledge comes into play. Freddie has played here, so he's going to instill some of the thought processes like you mentioned up there; today the wind is blowing pretty hard on one day and the opposite the next day, so you've got to understand those conditions. So local knowledge is very, very important, no question about it. You know, the fortunate part about us coming down here is, like you said, we'll have more players that have played this golf course than what the American Team will.
Q. Do you feel pressure as captains in the same way that you feel it as a player?
FRED COUPLES: I have a quick story on that. It's not really funny unless you were there, but I was extremely nervous on Wednesday afternoon when we went in to do our pairings, and we did these pairings in 35 seconds. So the nerves were gone right out the door the rest -- Greg said I want Adam Scott here. I said, okay, Mickelson here. It just was a no-brainer back and forth. But going into that room I was like a nervous wreck that I wouldn't even be able to pick a player to go up against one of these guys. I think when you're out there, the gentlemen who asked questions about the players in the locker room was a very good question because we both did our best, and I know how his team respects Greg and how they look up to he and Frank. And then at the end of the week our team won. I didn't do a better job than Greg, our team made a couple more putts.
So when I see Greg and we come here, obviously it's going to be different. The course is a world-class golf course. But you have to have some luck. And we're going to need a lot of luck to win on this course. But it's a lot of fun for me not to be nervous. I was a little nervous at the end of the day on Sunday when you've got to somehow get that last point. But other than that, it was really fun.
GREG NORMAN: For me I got nervous because I wanted the players to perform. Being a player, you know what it's like to be out there when you need to hit a shot, and when you couldn't, when you couldn't actually pull a club out of the bag, I was very uptight for every shot everybody was playing, especially getting close towards the end. Even though we could go up to the players and tell them what was happening with a putt, what the hell the golf course was playing, you still couldn't relay the message the way you would do as a player. To me just trying to calm my enthusiasm about, hey, go out there and make that putt you son of a bitch, what are you doing, you really get uptight about that. All week long I was exactly the same.
Q. Can I ask you, I understand it's year-round, the player components are a little up in the air, but how important is it to get that international mix to give this team a truly international feel?
GREG NORMAN: I think it's had an international feel every Presidents Cup. Right now if I were to pick today, we'd have five South Africans, we'd have one Japanese and we'd have two Australians. Right now the South Africans are dominating the game of golf. But obviously a lot of time is going to go by. From our perspective the hardest thing for the International players is to really pull everybody under the one flag. American Team has stars and stripes and everybody playing for their country, to make sure the players feel like they're playing for the International Team, what does the International Team represent, it represents global golf outside of Europe, and to try to instill that into the players big time and ensure we have to do it for the rest of the world. At the same time if you're from South Africa, you're going to win it for South Africa.
So it's an interesting dynamic to play. Back in Harding Park in 2009, every player got it and understood it very, very clearly. They want to win this event, there's no question about it. Freddie is absolutely correct. Once we put our teams together, we can't do anything more about it. We've just got to sit back and let the players play. But my guys will want to win, bad. Sometimes it gets to the point where they want to win too much, and instead of an individual you go out there and trust it for yourself, as a team you're trusting your partner. Okay, we haven't won one in a while, let's go do it. It's got a dynamic that the players don't like to have. I think it's a little bit more difficult for us going into 2011 now that America got their butts kicked in the Ryder Cup because they won't want to go two losses. So I know Freddie doesn't want to do that; the players definitely don't want to do that for sure. If I was a player on the team, I wouldn't want to say I lost the Ryder Cup and I lost The Presidents Cup. You know they've got a bit more of a sting in them to go out there and play well and win The Presidents Cup in 2011.
Q. Fred, can you entertain a scenario in a year's time where Tiger Woods isn't on your team?
FRED COUPLES: I hope so. You know, I've never really -- that's not even crossed my mind. I guess maybe if he's having some kind of a surgery. I think he's working hard on his game. It's slipped a little bit, but I still think he's definitely the leader of our team, probably the best U.S. player, and he'll be on the team for sure. I think Greg would say the same if he was in my shoes. As you get going, guys get older and older and older. The Steve Strickers who I want on the team. I don't look at it too much. Maybe come May where I start to really worry about guys moving their way up, because there are guys I want on the team. I mean, I would love to have the same guys. But the Hunter Mahans who are now playing really well should make it, Dustin Johnson should make it, but it's some of the other flavor that you want, because as Greg will tell you, he's been on teams that you get used to maybe the same partner, and it's kind of an easy scenario where you say, hey, you're going with him. And if you get eight or nine new guys then it's a little bit of a tough thing to put these guys together.
Q. Fred, just on the Ryder Cup compared to the Presidents Cup, does it feel the same from an American point of view playing in the two competitions or is the Ryder Cup a longer tradition and the Presidents Cup not quite at that level yet?
FRED COUPLES: You know, that's a great question. This year I did speak to Corey, and with all the rain they had they kind of went through a Presidents Cup format where everyone played, and Greg has never been on a Ryder Cup team but I've been on them where the hardest thing you have to do is sit there and you -- not everyone plays. As a matter of fact, a lot of guys may only play two matches. And in the Presidents Cup everyone plays, so that's the easiest thing. I feel like when you're comparing the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, you take away the Ryder Cup is how many years old, 70, 80 years old and the Presidents Cup is 20, that's the only thing holding them back.
The International Team, when you're an American, you look at their team, you go, oh, my God, not only are they all major champions, they're just -- we see them all the time. So if you look at Europe's game, it doesn't mean they're not as powerful, but there are guys that a few Americans don't really know that well. Whereas on the International Teams we've been fortunate -- and we've had almost every match has been a home match, and that's a huge advantage. You can sit here all you want and say every time we play at home, and now we're moving around, and again, the two times we've gone, we got smoked here. I think we won kind of easily in Canada, I might be wrong, but that's still almost a home match as far as traveling. But we'll be ready, we'll give it a shot, and we'll go from there.
Q. Fred, getting back to '98, what's the most prominent memory of that -- emotional memory that comes to mind?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I got to play with Tiger twice as a partner, and the first day I'll never forget it, we went out and I played very well, and we beat Ernie and Vijay I think 7 & 6, and then they've shown some highlights where Craig Parry chipped in and that was the second time I played with him where I couldn't hit a shot, make a putt or whatever, and they beat us on the last hole. My memory is, A, Melbourne is such a great, great spot to play, and really we've talked about it the whole time, I've never played a tournament here where Thursday through Sunday it's just jam packed with fans, and that's what we all want. And obviously The Presidents Cup is going to have a capacity every single day. But I just remember the fans were incredible. I don't think we were in the golf that much. I think we were behind every single round. But you go away, this is some great golf course.
Q. What do you think your individual team has that will allow you to win over the opposition?
FRED COUPLES: Well, that's a tough question. I think our team, I don't know who's going to be on the team, but I can tell you that we'll field 12 great players. The best we have will be in putting, and these are some of the finest greens in the world. They're tough to putt, but if you go look at it, when you see people winning they're making putts from all over the place. If we do well, we'll putt well, and we'll be a good team if we make key putts. Any time you see a match come down to the last couple holes just like a regular golf tournament, whoever makes the putts at the end, and let me tell you, every match is like you're trying to win a golf tournament from the first hole on, whereas on a Thursday in a regular event if you don't play well and score well you're still okay. If you're playing a match and you miss a few shots here and there, you're probably not going to win your match. It's down to putting.
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, and I agree with Freddie, but I think the other component is that you marry up your playing partners. Pairing is really crucial. Freddie backing Steve Stricker with Tiger Woods, their being a great benefit to whatever team they've play on, so you know you can automatically trust them. And the other 10 players, you go, okay, these guys really team off well together and then just really pair off from there. So to me it's the pairings, and with the players we sit down and we talk about it. It's not the easiest thing to do. You say John Smith going to play with Jim Doe and why they don't want to play with each other, so it's that type of spirit which you can generate very, very early on during the week, and it can happen during practice rounds, as well, the way you actually would expect two players to gel and they do, and you go, okay, now I've got to go revamp my initial thinking, changing this to these other two players. So I think that's another crucial part of dealings with teams early on.
MODERATOR: We certainly want to thank both our captains. We don't want to wish our life away, but the tournament can't come around quickly enough.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.