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Couples & Price Discuss Presidents Cup Teams
The two captains for the American and International teams competing in this year's President's Cup squared off at a press conference Tuesday.
International captain Nick Price and team USA's Fred Couples appeared before the media in advance of the biennial competition, which starts Thursday at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
The Americans have won the past four competitions and seven overall - with one loss and a tie - in the nine previous Presidents Cups, which originated in 1994. Couples has been the winning captain the past two, including last year by a 19-15 score at Royal Melbourne in Australia.
One of the players on the losing 2011 squad, Adam Scott, has told reporters that this year's competition is a must win situation for the Internationals. When asked what he thought of that comment, Price responded, "I think all of us we've been involved in the Presidents Cup, know how important this one is. I wouldn't say it's a must win. That's a hard thing to put on anyone. But this one needs to be competitive.
"I think more important than anything else, this Presidents Cup needs to be very competitive, because in the past, the last four Presidents Cups, you can argue either way, but I honestly believe they have not been that competitive. So when we started out with the Presidents Cup, the initial guys, myself and Greg (Norman) and Ernie (Els), we so enjoyed watching the Ryder Cup and so wanted to be a part of the Ryder Cup type format and then the Presidents Cup came along and that was fantastic.
"The first couple were pretty exciting, but as we have seen in the last decade, since 2003, just has not been as competitive as we would like."
Here's what else Price and Couples had to tell reporters Tuesday at Muirfield Village.
MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started. Want to welcome our captains for the Presidents Cup 2013 here at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Excited to get this underway. I know a lot of work has gone in by both of you, and it's kind of finally upon us now. If you could, start with Captain Price, some opening comments and then we'll get some comments from Captain Couples.
NICK PRICE: Thank you. This has been an 18 month weighty guess, and it's finally arrived, and we're all very excited to be here. The golf course is in great shape. We've got a great week's weather ahead of us. The International team is very excited. They are very motivated this week and we had a couple of good chats last night in the players' room. So with the dynamics of our team, obviously with the guys from all over the place, they only get together, probably the first time all of them have ever been in one room together last night, so it was a good evening.
Just try to find out from the guys who they felt they wanted to play with, who they would be comfortable playing with each other and the pairings, got a lot of good feedback from the guys on that. They were pretty sure about who they wanted to play with, which made my job a lot easier. Obviously with the six Southern Africans, that was easy, because a lot of them had played amateur golf together and had played alternate shot in some four ball golf over the years. You know, it's wonderful to be here. I was amazed this morning when we drove in and looked at the enormity of everything and the amount of tents and stands. Just it's amazing. It's so much bigger than I thought it was going to be, and it's going to be great. Ohio fans love golf, and I think we are going to get a lot of support this week. Looking forward to it very much.
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I think Nick hit almost every point there was. The golf course, I drove around a little bit yesterday, saw the new tee on 18 and just to go a little further than Nick, we both played here several years and we know what kind of golf course it is. But we know who's in charge, Jack Nicklaus, of allowing us to come and play besides the Memorial, the Presidents Cup; it is a true great golf course and it's in great shape.
Our team is excited, too. Like Nick said, his team is very motivated. Our team does play every year in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, so it's pretty obvious that the pairings are probably easier for me, but as Nick said, these guys figure it out pretty quickly and that's good for their team, because that is a problem when you get different languages. We had a great meal. Both teams are out there playing now, and I'm sure Nick and I are ready to get through this and get back out there and watch.
Q. You mentioned the pairings being easier for you. What are you taking into account when you're deciding who to pair with Tiger?
FRED COUPLES: Well, everyone wants to play with Tiger. You can only get one partner. I think this is a course that everyone's played. So if you look at how the course is set up, the par 5s are on odd holes, the par3s are on even holes, and when you look at that, I pretty much have let the guys decide. If you go out and look at our pairings, you can probably figure out who is playing with who today. It's not going to be too difficult. We do have one very young player, Jordan Spieth, who is playing phenomenal golf, and he's out there playing with a veteran who he's probably going to go with. With Tiger, it's two or three guys, the usual, Steve Stricker will probably play with him a little bit and Matt Kuchar is out playing with him and Dufner. So I let them tell me. I think just like Nick did last night, I can't tell someone who to play with. When you get down to the last, you know, couple guys, then they just all get together.
Q. If you could elaborate more on the Southern African nucleus you've got; how much of an advantage do you think that will bring having that nucleus?
NICK PRICE: I think there's a lot of comfort amongst those guys. They all look up to Ernie. There are two of them or three of them who have been proteges and come up through Ernie Els' junior golf foundation. They played so much golf together, those guys, the Southern Africans. I think Brendon de Jonge obviously has not played a whole lot of golf with everyone. I put him out there with Ernie today, because I think that Ernie's a wonderful calming influence an Brendon, he and Marc maybe with the picks, a little nervous and apprehensive so my thinking was putting them with some of the more experienced guys.
But of course as Fred said, you've got to try and figure out compatibility more than anything else amongst players. Even though you put guys who have similar games - the golf ball is an issue, who plays which golf ball, which that's one of the reasons why we are out there today playing alternate shot. I wanted the guys to find out whose golf ball they are going to play. You know, there's so many permutations that you have when you look at the match-ups and your pairings, and if you change one, you kind of throw out the order of the other five. So, you know I think the big thing here, these guys are, I think with all the communication that we've done, I think they feel more of a team today, and so we tried to get everyone to speak a little bit last night; experience, certainly to know me, I want to get feedback from the guys and find out how they felt about things. They are just gung ho. They are ready to go. It's good and it's going to make my job a lot easier (smiling).
Q. As a veteran of both these matches, Presidents and Ryder, how much of this week is fun compared with how much of it is intense?
FRED COUPLES: Well, that depends on the individual. I think when you watch golf on the Tour, everyone is an individual. Here it's a team event. You do get a partner. A couple guys change a little bit. They are a little more fun loving, fun going, outgoing in the team room, but when you get out in the course, it depends at the right time, make a 20 foot putt for stiff an iron, you get a little more adamant with your partner. I just believe these are 24 of the best players that we can get out there. I know Nick's team. I like a lot of the guys on the team, and that's what I look at. I go by golf. I don't go by what they are doing. I don't think it's intense for me. It's a little nerve wracking, but I'm not really doing anything. The most funny think I'll have is facing Nick and Shigeki and Tony and Mark tomorrow and trying to figure out our pairings, and then once they go, you hope for the best for everybody. But guys are going to win matches and lose matches, and at the end of the day, you just need one more point than them to win.
Q. Would you say, though, and either one can answer this question, would intensity elevate the overall interest in the Presidents Cup aside from -
FRED COUPLES: Let me finish before - it's intense. I'm not - guys are not running around laughing and giggling when they hit poor shots. They are all competitors. I mean, any time I play, I don't want to embarrass myself and when I do I get frustrated, so they are all trying as hard as they can. But if we are going to say, that they are not ready to go and intense, I would say we are on the wrong path there. They are ready to go and they are excited.
Q. Can you maybe update us on Louis's health and if there's any sort of contingency plan in place there and what it might be if there is?
NICK PRICE: Louis is 100 percent. He played four rounds at the Dunhill last week in cool temperatures. That's always hard when you're coming back from an injury to play in cool temperatures. He missed the cut but he said he played really well and he didn't have any pain. I think the warmth this week will help him a little bit more. I think he's hit balls; he practiced for probably a week and a half before he went to the Dunhill, and he's going to be ready. I think he's playing with Charl; I think being out there with Charl today, Charl probably knows his swing as well as Louis knows his own swing, so they will probably help each other and feed a little off each other. No, I think he's 100 percent.
Q. Back to the subject of playing with Tiger, the three guys you mentioned, for lack of a better term, are probably flat liners; is that as important, if not more important, in a pairing with Tiger to have somebody like that with that personality, maybe more important than what kind of game they have?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I played in a couple Presidents Cups with Tiger. I wouldn't say I'm like Jason Dufner, but Jason Dufner's got a huge sense of humor. He's totally different than what anyone thinks, and I think Tiger likes all the guys. It's just that it's a team and guys pair up, and Tiger's a pretty smart guy. He knows who played well at the Ryder Cup last year. He knows who played well at the Presidents Cup in Australia.
And so he's not going to go say, I want to go play with this guy and break up a team when he knows that Hunter and Bill Haas are a pretty good team. The idea of pairings, I have consistency in Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Tiger, and pretty much whatever they say is going to happen. They have been on 50 teams probably amongst the three of them. We do have Davis and Jay as assistants, but we go to those three guys and ask them what they think, and they know they are going to get more out of the players than probably Jay and I, because they are walking every shot with them today and tomorrow. As far as Tiger goes, he's our No. 1 guy. Like I said, all the other guys want to play with him. Phil probably won't (laughter). Keegan and Phil are already a great team together. That worked out last year at The Ryder Cup. No one would have thought that. But they make a good team and that's kind of how it works, just like Stricker and Tiger did a few years ago.
Q. Arguably one of the hottest players you've got on your team coming in is Graham DeLaet, can you speak about what he brings to the team and what you're expecting from him?
NICK PRICE: He had a great post season. I've sort of learned and watched I met him a couple of years back and I watched his game mature, and particularly this year. He's really come out of his shell this year and I think he's starting to believe in himself and his ability. He's probably rounded off a few of the rough edges that he had in the first couple of years as a professional. He's learned how to play the game, and he plays it so beautifully. I mean, he's a great driver of the ball, great ball striker. So it was easy to find him someone to play with to be honest. It's great, we really needed a Canadian on the team, too. It's been great. We are going to have a lot of support from the Canadians and I think we are going to have a lot of pep down here from Canada in the next four or five days, so good for him.
Q. Adam Scott has been pretty outspoken about how important this Presidents Cup is from the International side. Just wondering, is this a must win for the Internationals, and if there's a feeling of that, does that actually help you to maybe feel like your backs are against the wall?
NICK PRICE: Yeah, I think all of us we've been involved in the Presidents Cup, know how important this one is. I wouldn't say it's a must win. That's a hard thing to putt on anyone. But this one needs to be competitive. I think more important than anything else, this Presidents Cup needs to be very competitive, because in the past, the last four Presidents Cups, you can argue either way, but I honestly believe they have not been that competitive. So when we started out with The Presidents Cup, the initial guys, myself and Greg and Ernie, we so enjoyed watching the Ryder Cup and so wanted to be a part of the Ryder Cup type format and then the Presidents Cup came along and that was fantastic. The first couple were pretty exciting, but as we have seen in the last decade, since 2003, just has not been as competitive as we would like.
And you can debate why; there's many reasons. Maybe the players, it's harder for us to be more united as a team - I don't believe that for one minute, because I believe every single player on the International Team, on every one I've ever played on, is competitive, and I don't think pairing a South African with an Aussie or having, let's say, for example, a Swede and a Spaniard, are more competitive playing the U.S. than an Aussie and a South African. I don't believe that for one minute. We all, we don't like getting beaten. This is, to all of us, I think it's a really big week.
Q. You've already spoken about the tough choices you had to make for your two wild card picks. Is that likely to be the toughest position you would have made both during the buildup to this week and during this week? NICK PRICE: The two picks I made? Without a doubt. I confided an awful lot in Tim Clark over the last year and a half, actually, because he had been on both sides. And his insight and his knowledge of the Presidents Cup - and I was convinced he was going to make the team to be honest. For the longest, he was in the top 10 and I didn't really think I was going to have to pick him. It was probably the hardest phone all I've ever had to make because I was convinced that he was going to make the team. You know, when it came down to, there were three picks, there were three guys, it was him, Marc and Brendon, and then I had to go on track records, who has played here and who has played best here and unfortunately Tim had only played here once since 2006. So you know, it was a very tough decision.
Q. And you don't expect any other decision this week to be anywhere near as tough?
NICK PRICE: Oh, I'm sure I'm going to have some of them. This is the first time for me, he's done it before, there's all sort of new experiences going on here. Fortunately I know all the players. That's probably the hardest thing is knowing the individual characteristics and individual characters; the compatibility of everyone. All of the American guys, they play together every week. And like I said earlier, it's probably the first time that may team has been in one room, all 12 of them in one room ever, so you - that's a tough thing as a captain.
Q. There have been reports that Zach Johnson is quite ill and I was wondering how ill exactly is - is this a case where you fly someone in, or, you know, maybe you or Davis might step in -
FRED COUPLES: I'm not (laughing). Davis is playing today, just to be a fourth out there and he's having a blast. But Zach got in about 20 minutes ago and he had, you know, what he considers the two or three day flu, which was bad enough that he couldn't fly and even be here. He'll be - I'm going to say fine. I haven't seen him but we've talked to him a few times, so he's doing okay. So he'll get in today. You know, he said he wants to come out, chip and putt. We haven't really addressed that yet, but he'll play tomorrow and he's ready to go.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Steve Stricker. As you know, he had kind of a rough Ryder Cup last year; you were there. In the aftermath of that, he sort of intimated that he was done with team competition. He didn't think that he would be doing this anymore. Just wonder if you have spoken to him at all in the years since, and what you think of him actually making it back here on his own?
FRED COUPLES: Well, we spoke Sunday night at the Ryder Cup. And then I've texted Steve, 15 or 20 years, 20 times a month and tell him all kind of stuff, how great he's doing, how great he's playing. He's one of my all time favorites. To be honest with you, when he set his schedule, he had a long road to hoe to get here, but he's played such phenomenal golf that he made the team, deserves to be on the team and is actually maybe more excited than anyone but Jordan, and that's a good thing.
But, you know, as Nick was talking about his team, Nick's done a great job. He has not been playing much because he has not been feeling perfect, but I know where he's been. He's been to all of these events. He talks to his players, and for me, I talk to them a little differently, because this is my third year doing it, and I tease him a lot and have fun with him. But if it was my first year, I would handle it a very differently. And I'm rounding this question out; I've been with Steve so many times, that you can't win every match, and you feel bad when you lose. Nick is going to have guys on his team that are going to play great matches and win, and they are going to lose, and it just depends on what you tell them and how you tell them. And they all have fun. But it is an intense week. But Steve Stricker is a true pro.
Q. Would both of you talk to what makes this a good match play course and what are the pivotal holes you think about?
NICK PRICE: Well, all the par3s are even holes and all the par 5s are odd holes. So from that perspective, I think it's easier for the guys to figure out who is going to drive off the first tee and play all the hard holes. The finish on this golf course, with 14, 15, 16, those are holes that are - 14, you can make a birdie or a triple bogey on that hole. Same goes for 15. 16 has become over the years since the re do, a really tough par 3, and I'm sure we are going to have breeze all week. It's fall and we are going to probably have some kind of wind all week. So club selection on those holes, No. 12, for example, down in the bowl there, there's always the wind blowing all over the place there. So it's going to be interesting. The back nine is great for match play. A lot of excitement. And even if you're 2 or 3 down, anything can happen on that back nine. So it's I think a very exciting golf course for match play.
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think it's a course where, again, most - more of my guys have played than Nick's. I don't really think that's - that's an advantage, let me rephrase that. It's such a ball striker's course. When Nick played and when I played, everyone likes the course. It's not one that you say, well, geez, I don't play there because I don't like it. It's just a really fun course, perfect greens, always fast. And I think weather permitting, if it doesn't get real windy, it looks okay.
There's a couple things going to happen, but a lot of birdies I think will be made, I really do. And as Nick said, in alternate shot, there are some holes that are going to make you step up. The 12th hole is now like 175 yards and it's no longer - with the way kids are hitting the ball, we were hitting 6 irons or 7 iron, but they moved it back, and now, 6 or 7 iron, it's 180 yards long; and when the wind starts blowing, I think that will be a pivotal hole, because you may win the 11th and be up first and stand up there and have to hit a quality shot on 12. You know, the rest of the holes, like 16 is brutal, and then they have lengthened 18. Not every match is going to get to the 18th hole but it's a much harder hole.
Q. This isn't the Ryder Cup, but last year America didn't have the finish that they wanted to have, and I'm just wondering if your guys are a little more eager; has anybody talked about, they want to get back out there and have another experience and kind of turn it more into a positive after what happened?
FRED COUPLES: Well, yeah. I mean, Nick talked - we've lost the Ryder Cup a lot in the last, however many, 15, 18 years. Just like the Internationals don't take losing the Presidents Cup; and we've had better luck in the Presidents Cup. So coming in here, you're not talking about a loss you had in the Ryder Cup. And also, like last night, a lot of guys were talking about, the golf course. We can't stop or see or worry about how Adam Scott is playing and Brendon de Jonge and Graham DeLaet. These guys see them every week, so they know how good they are. And our guys, you know, are going to team up and come out and play. They want to play the best they can, but the Ryder Cup was really a bad Sunday. I mean, they played I was there, one of Davis's assistants, they were phenomenal and they just weren't very good on Sunday and that's a big day in these things. We took it in the shins, and I don't think that will be brought up much.
Q. Just to follow up on something that Fred referenced earlier, obviously your team has collectively less rounds, less starts at the Memorial than they do and you have other guys that have never played the tournament; do you see that as a disadvantage?
NICK PRICE: I'll go back to this; I always try to explain, 18 hole match play is one of the most unpredictable games in golf as far as I'm concerned. You know, they will learn - the professional guys on this team are going to learn about this golf course very quickly. It only takes a practice round or two to figure out things. Now you talk about Hideki, he'll adapt very quickly. I think he'll learn to play this golf course; plus he's got Adam out there today to show him around a little bit. I don't think that's so much of an issue. I think, you know, as a captain, and Fred having been on, this is his third go around, he'll tell you that it's all about the camaraderie and the team spirit the room I think and how motivated the guys are. They will overcome many, many hurdles and obstacles if you have that camaraderie and are that support from your other 11 teammates.
So I think that bonding, you can knock down walls very quickly with that. So that's where we are at. The team side of it is so important, and momentum. So we saw in the Ryder Cup last year, as Fred alluded to there, they played fantastic the first two days, the U.S., and then there was momentum on the European side on Sunday. So how do you create that? I think you create that through great team spirit.
Q. For either captain, do you like the idea that a neutral party, being the Tour in this case, is in charge of setting up the course, or do you think it would be better off or different if the home captain was in charge of high rough, no rough, fast greens, slow greens, whatever?
FRED COUPLES: I don't really - they are so good, you know. When we went to Australia last year, there was really no other way to set up Royal Melbourne. It played fast. The greens were obnoxiously fast. It's not built for rough. So there's that's a little different than here. For instance, the grass could be growing here, but just let it grow. I think the Tour does a great job. I don't know, Nick, I want to hear what Nick - it's been in America more, so it would be totally unfair. And now that it's going on this pace, it could change. But I think the Tour does a great job. I only saw a few holes; was on the first green today and then had to come in for this. The course looks good. I don't think it's going to be easy, but I think that this time of year with the weather, there will be a lot of birdies made, because so far the weather looks like it's going to be fairly warm.
But I would like to hear Nick, because our players, even when Nick and I played in the 90s, everyone was good. I particularly think they are better players now, and if the rough was out there, it would be more of a harder feel, wouldn't show off guys' skills. But at the same time, I think their team are bombers. They are long, they are straight, they are tough, they are good players and I think our team is, too. I think it's going to be an unbelievable match, I really do.
NICK PRICE: I think the Tour has done a great job of setting up our courses over the years. I think trying to give someone an advantage to set up the golf course, you've got 12 players, they all play different games. I mean, they all look similar, but you know, say you grow the rough up; that's also a disadvantage for some of your players, or if you make the greens hard and fast, that's also a disadvantage to some of your players.
So it's the same for everything. The great thing about match play is that the guy you're playing or the team you're playing is playing exactly the same conditions as you are. There's no three hour delay in the tee time, not an afternoon or a morning pairing. You guys play the golf course exactly the same. So it's probably the most even of any kind of match up that you could have in golf. You go to the British Open or even Augusta, you tee off in the morning and it's freezing and the wind is blowing and then you switch on the TV at 3 o'clock and you watch the guys play; and it's beautiful, no wind in the afternoon and totally different conditions. Match play is very good in that I think. So if conditions change, your partner feels them just as much as you do. But to be honest, I don't think the golf course setup is as huge an issue as some people make it out to be.
MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen, good luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.