October 18, 2000
JAMES CRAMER: Thanks for coming to this afternoon's press conference featuring six members of the International Team. I'd like to introduce Retief Goosen, Carlos Franco, Ernie Els, Shigeki Maruyama, Nick Price and Mike Weir. And at this point if there are any questions I ask you raise your hand.
Q. Ernie, how do you feel about the pairings, playing with Vijay, playing against Tiger, I know you and Tiger have gone head to head a lot this year, here you are again.
ERNIE ELS: I've got a good partner this time, at least. Foursomes is a different game. Tomorrow it's almost we call it a half a game. You play half your game tomorrow. You play with your partner and it's kind of a situation where foursomes is different than playing your own game. So you play with your partner, and hopefully you gel together. We're playing for a team, it's a different format than we've had the whole time. Tiger has kind of beaten the whole Tour, not just myself this year. So it's a different format, it's match play. And as I say, I've got a partner this time to help me out. So I feel we can play well together.
Q. There was an occasion at the Ryder Cup when Crenshaw put Tiger and David who were one and two together, and they got beat. And we wondered if Lee and Darren didn't raise their game. I wonder if because of what Tiger has done this summer, how much of a lift it might give the entire team when you go out and bring them down, if that's the case.
ERNIE ELS: We're not going to bring down the whole of the American team. Tiger is a team member. There's 12 guys we've got to beat, and we've got four days to try to do that. And every day, as we said, is a different format and kind of a different day. And Tiger is -- how many points is one game? I think it's one point, isn't it? So it's not like he's going to -- not going to win or lose it for them. He's a team member. So myself and Vijay have got one point to play for tomorrow and we're playing for the team and we're going to try to do our best.
Q. There's no emotional carryover, no lift for the rest of the team?
ERNIE ELS: I don't think so. We come here as a team. Next week when we play in the Disney or THE TOUR Championship, you're playing for yourself again, and these guys are going to be our competitors, are going to be playing against us. This week we're a team, so we're taking it as a team effort. And whoever we play, we play for one point. If it's Tiger Woods, it's Tiger Woods and Notah Begay tomorrow and Nick Price -- I don't know who they're playing, we're playing for points here, we're not playing the individuals. And I think that's the way we're trying to approach it. Tiger is the best player in the game, no question about it. But at least we've got -- it's a fair score for everybody.
Q. This is for the whole team, but maybe directed to Carlos specifically. We spoke with Stuart Appleby yesterday and he said you guys really get along great, a lot of spirit between the 12 of you. And that you even poke fun at each other. He said that Carlos was making fun of Shigeki, doing some sort of an impression. Do you guys know anything about that? Maybe we can have a little demonstration, possibly.
CARLOS FRANCO: Is this for me?
CARLOS FRANCO: For me, it's the second time I've played at Presidents Cup. For Nick Price and -- I respect Maruyama. I'd like to have my team play well and my partner play well every day. I need to win the game. I need to win one point for every day. Maruyama and I practiced together today.
Q. Nick, how is the chemistry on the team? You've got 8 different countries represented. Why is it working so well?
NICK PRICE: I don't know. I think if you look at how many of us played in the last one, we've got quite a bit of team spirit carried over from the last one. But also from the first two, there were a few of us who played in the first two together. And I think I've been surprised, probably as surprised as anyone, that we've managed a real hodgepodge of players from all over the world have come together, and our main objective is to win. And we all want to play our best. And the friendship that I've made, the friendships that I've made with these guys over the years is something very special. And you certainly learn a lot about the guys you play with when you're under this kind of format and the intense pressure that we all play under. I've been lucky, I've played with so many different players over the years, and in fact I feel a little bit like a comedian, because I've played with about every type of player that we've had, Ernie and Carlos and so many guys over the years. And it's been great fun. And that's what, I think, we're trying to make it. We're trying to make it a fun event for all of us. And win or lose we're going to give it our very, very best shot. And I think that's the spirit that we have in our camp. There's going to be a lot of sportsmanship and I think that's what is going to make this different to maybe some of the other events. We all know each other very well, both teams. And I think we're going to have some great matches out there. There's going to be some very exciting golf and I hope just as much as everyone else that it comes very close and that we hole a putt on the last day on the last green on the last match to win. I think that's what we all want. We all want it to be a well competed event.
Q. Ernie, this is so different because it is team, but throughout the year obviously golf is individual. There's been so much written and spoken of Tiger Woods. Do you think that in a way it takes away a little bit from the team concept because of the emphasis, Tiger versus you, because the two of you have been competing so much against each other all year?
ERNIE ELS: That's a separate issue, I think, this week. Obviously Tiger, like I said before, has risen above us a little bit this year, winning three majors and really being almost unstoppable at times. So he's definitely lifting the rest of the world's game, definitely. Everybody is trying to play a little better, because we have to. So that's good for the game, for golf. So, again, like Nick said, I think it's going to be great matches come what may, whoever we're going to play, you have to play well to win out there this week. So what you guys have written about Tiger this year, it's been self-explanatory. He's been dominant and it's kind of easy to write about him. So you can't do anything about that. Next year is next year, and hopefully we can play better and maybe win some tournaments ourselves. But this week, this event, totally different.
Q. This question is for Mike Weir. Mike, most of you guys know each other on both teams, playing on the PGA TOUR. I wonder how well you know Retief Goosen, how well he knows you, and how important that is under tomorrow's format?
MIKE WEIR: I haven't really gotten to know him until this week, and we played today. And he's a great guy and obviously a very good player. He's playing well right now. He just won in Europe recently. And I've been playing pretty well recently. I think we'll gel tomorrow. He's probably longer than I am. But I think we're both kind of control players. And I'm looking forward to playing with Retief definitely tomorrow.
RETIEF GOOSEN: It's really this week that I really got to know Mike. I saw him at the Air Canada Championship, because he was quite the draw card there. But we played together for the first time. We tried different golf balls, and I think we really got to worked out for tomorrow. I think we're going to have a good combination, and we're really looking forward to it.
Q. Nick, Peter was asked about the pairing of you and Carlos, and he said, "Well, you know Nick, he can play with anybody." Can you talk a little bit about playing with Carlos tomorrow, and especially going up against Davis?
NICK PRICE: We've got a formidable pairing, both of those guys. David is certainly in form after his win two weeks ago, and Davis has played great for, I don't know, four or five years now. It helps me because Carlos hits the ball a little further than I do and he can hit some iron shots that are needed on this golf course, some high, towering iron shots. And I think that's going to help a lot. It's going to help me a lot tomorrow. We've just got to go out there and play our very best, because I think that's what it's going to take to beat those guys. But one thing -- 18-hole match play, it always favors the underdogs. If you had 72-hole match play it might be different. But 18-hole match play is very difficult to predict. And if you get -- if your opponents get off to a hard start and they may birdie three or four of the first five, six holes, and you get behind the 8 ball early on, it's hard to make up that ground, especially in alternate shot. And vice-versa, if you go out and do the same it's difficult for your opponents to make up that ground. And I think that's what makes this format so exciting, the fact that you can have, as we had at Melbourne, probably the strongest team ever assembled on paper in the U.S. team, and we were clearly the underdogs. But we played out of our trees that week. We played unbelievably well. And no one would have ever predicted at the beginning of that week that we were going to win by the margin we did. And I think again this week we come in maybe slightly underdogs, but 18-hole match play, I've seen all of these guys elevate their games in certain circumstances. And that's what makes it so exciting. You're going to see some shots, and you're going to see some golf played down the stretch that is going to amaze not only us -- sometimes we say how did I hit that shot -- but amaze everyone else. That's the nature of match play. And when you've got one hole on the line and it doesn't matter whether -- you've got to take a chance. And sometimes you fire at flags where you would never, ever fire at them. So I think we're going to have some exciting matches. But we've certainly got our work cut out tomorrow.
Q. This is a question for each of you, and you can answer just one at a time. By virtue of where you were born you can't be involved in probably the number one team event in golf, which is the Ryder Cup.
NICK PRICE: This is number one for us.
Q. And that follows on with what I'm about to say. Should this International Team be included in some way in the Ryder Cup format, do you guys feel that you deserve the chance, do you feel that you're just as good, if not better than the other two teams, and you deserve a crack at it?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, we've got to qualify for the Ryder Cup, and there's nothing we can do about it. This is another way of making up for that. This event, as we see, has grown every year, and is becoming just as big as the Ryder Cup, if not better than the Ryder Cup. So we all enjoy playing for this side and for the rest of the world. And it's great to have the opportunity to play match play, just like the Europeans do. So it's great for us to also have that feeling to come out here and play this sort of format and get that experience.
Q. Do you think it should be a tri-nation, for want of a better term, a three-prong tournament, in other words you should be in on the mix?
RETIEF GOOSEN: That could be a possibility, I think, but I think that's some way away. I think as it is now it's just the right way of doing it. I don't think three teams is really going to work.
ERNIE ELS: That is two different, PGA of America is running the Ryder Cup and PGA TOUR is running this tournament. PGA of America is making some good money out of the Ryder Cup and PGA TOUR is going to make some good cash out of this tournament. I don't know if they're going to combine the two for that reason. I don't think it's got anything to do with us at the moment. I think it's become a big corporate show piece, especially the Ryder Cup, and I think this tournament is going to go the same way. I think it's going to be huge monies made out of us out of this event, and I think that's why -- I think the players wouldn't mind having a triangle kind of tournament, the three teams getting together, maybe playing one tournament or the winner of the Ryder Cup plays the winner of the Brit, that isn't going to happen, because this is Tim Finchem's baby, and the PGA of America has the Ryder Cup. And I don't think those two are going to work together. Because some of the money is going to us and to the PGA TOUR and some of the other money is going to the PGA of America. So they won't work together, I don't think.
Q. Nick, do you have anything to say about that?
NICK PRICE: I've never been eligible for the Ryder Cup, so it hasn't been a priority of mine. If I had been a young man growing up in Zimbabwe and eligible for the Ryder Cup, that would be a goal of mine. I don't know if the three teams should play against each other, but I think that this event in the years to come is going to grow in popularity and stature, and it would be interesting to see in 40 years time where this event stands, because I think you'll probably have more of the top 50 players in this event than you will have in the Ryder Cup. And that's -- the International, when you look at how many people -- how many countries our team is made up from, it's certainly -- it would be a lot more great International players coming up in the next 15, 20 years. So it's going to be -- it's going to have its own character, this event. To combine the two, that's -- I really couldn't say, but I didn't mean to laugh so hard at you when you say the number one event. For us that is not the number one event. This is the number one event for us, because this is the only one we can play in. It's obviously very important for the Americans and for the Europeans, but this event means a lot to all of us.
Q. Nick, following that up, was there frustration over the years when you did watch the Ryder Cup and you couldn't compete?
NICK PRICE: No, not at all. It never even factored, because it's not -- it just was -- there was never an option there, never an option.
Q. Question for Ernie and also for Nick. When the Americans talk about what happened in Melbourne last time, they talk about bad time of the year for them, having to travel all the way down to Australia. And as an afterthought they mentioned that you guys happened to play well that week. Do you take some offense to that? I think a lot of you guys had to travel down there as well. Is there any sense this week of proving that you could win anywhere?
ERNIE ELS: Well, first of all, yeah, we played great in Australia. There's a silent joke going around that both teams, we both live in America, we play our golf in America, but we play for different teams. So saying that, we all had to travel to Australia, come what may. Even Greg Norman had to travel out of Florida to play in Australia. I think we were all jet lagged when we got to Australia. I think that event was run professionally and great. We played a great golf course down there. I think it was fair for both teams. You had to play controlled golf. And Maruyama was 5 and 0. And Carlos played great there. We all played really well. We putted well and did what we had to do to win. We couldn't help that the Americans weren't up to playing. And if they didn't want to play, that was their prerogative. We were up to play. Nicky just won the million dollars the week before, and I wasn't playing well at that time of the year. And going across there, I was in kind of the same mood as the Americans, too, I didn't want to go. But when I got there and I saw the team spirit that we had and it definitely lifted my game and I really had a great week. I played well. I think I lost one game and played really nice. And guys like Maruyama and Carlos and the rest of the team just lifted everybody's spirits and we had a great week. So we're looking good this week. A lot of us have played this golf course before in the past in this format and even the guys who haven't, I think we've had good practice rounds and we've got good team spirit again. I don't want to get into it too much with you, but we've got a good chance this week.
NICK PRICE: We were all tired and we had all traveled. And it was all past the season for us. It wasn't a good time. But I think we adapted better than the U.S. team did. And I think it was just a question of going out there and doing the very best that you could, being as tired as you were. And it was so hot. I was exhausted at the end of the week, I really was. And I think that can be said for everyone. But maybe we just adapted a little faster.
Q. Lame excuse?
NICK PRICE: I wouldn't say it's a lame excuse, but we were all tired. I'm not going to point fingers and say they were wrong, but it's hard playing outside of your home country. I've played 99.9 percent of my golf outside of my home country. And it's difficult. It's wonderful playing at home in front of your own galleries, and I think that's the spirit that this cup, this competition needs to keep going. It has to rotate, it has to go to different places every second year. So the advantage is shared.
Q. Nick, you talked earlier about being some of the top 50 players in the world playing in this event. How much depth is there on this team compared to another European team, so to speak, that doesn't have as many players playing on it?
NICK PRICE: Looking at our team, with no disrespect to the other teams I played on, the bottom four or five players on this team are probably stronger than we've had in the past. I think the top players speak for themselves. But certainly the last three or four guys on the team are much stronger players than we've had in the past. And that points just as important as the point up at the top. And I think it's going to be key this week to get the pairings correct, and I think Peter is doing a great job of that.
Q. This is for Nick and also for Ernie. But Nick this goes back to your previous comment that you feel this event needs to rotate to different countries in order to keep that spirit alive. It appears as though it's not final yet that it may come to South Africa in 2002. At this point some of the American players have yet to commit 100 percent to making that trip, and I wonder if that upsets you guys in any way or can you maybe emphasize with their opinion at all?
NICK PRICE: Traveling the world is hard. But you know, I think back to the '60s and if Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player hadn't traveled as much as they had, I certainly wouldn't be here now. I was inspired by watching them as a kid. I think there are a lot of kids around the world who would love to see Tiger Woods play in their home countries, as in Australia last year. I don't know when Tiger will get back to Australia, but I know the kids that watched him play in Melbourne last year were very inspired and have probably been hitting balls out there practicing and wanting to be like Tiger. And I think that's what's important. It's not a question of what you personally want to do. I think is it better for the game. And I think that's very important. And over the years all our top players from wherever they've been in the world have always traveled. To us, 12 guys to go and travel for one week out of 52 weeks to play in a foreign country for the betterment of the game, because that's what we're here for. There's no money in it for us. We're here to play head-to-head competition against the 12 best players from America and we want to put on a show. We want to put on a great show. And the people who are going to be watching this week, be it on TV or here in person, are going to get treated to a great show. And I think when the inception -- when we first spoke about doing The Presidents Cup with Commissioner Finchem, Ernie and I were both adamant and Greg, that it has to rotate and it has to travel. Because if we're going to give up our time to come and play in this event I think it's fair that the American guys should give up their time and come and play in our countries. We all live here, sure, but we're still very supportive of our own countries. And we want nothing better than to see our countries benefit, and the young kids in our countries benefit through us putting in time like in this event.
Q. I appreciate that. Ernie, as a follow-up, have you had any informal discussions with the guys about 2002 and that possibility and would you be upset if guys said, I'm not going to make that trip, it doesn't fit my schedule, too far to go?
ERNIE ELS: If it goes down there it will be played probably this time or maybe even later, maybe in November. One good thing that goes for this event, there is the million dollar down in South Africa. And I know that the organizers there will make the field bigger if they have to to accommodate The Presidents Cup players if they want to stay over for another week. So they don't have to come for one week and not get paid, because they can play the million dollar and play for some good money the week after, and have it a two week kind of an affair. And maybe a couple of days off to go on safari or whatever. You can make it a nice trip down there. And the people in South Africa, I don't know if you've been down there, are great people. They'll do anything, whatever they can to really accommodate these guys, these players. These people down in South Africa watch all these great players, like Nick mentioned, and they would love to see these kind of players come down there and it makes them feel proud of our country. And as Nick says, this is The Presidents Cup. We've got an International Team here. After South Africa, if South Africa gets it, I don't know if it goes to Japan or maybe even South America, that's why this is so unique. It's not the Ryder Cup where you travel to Europe or America. We can travel places here and go see some places. In a way we can't help it, but Tim Finchem really made the PGA TOUR so big now, and we're playing for so much money, and it's so convenient, it's easy to stay in America. But it's like Nick said, all the great players in the past, in the history have all traveled. And they've promoted the game around the world. And I think it's our job to do that now.
Q. I'll ask Nick, you have spoken about wanting to keep the sportsmanship element. The captains were in here speaking about it and the other players have. How much does this depend on the galleries? If they're abusive, if they're like the country club last year, can this event come off the way you want it to?
NICK PRICE: I think the sportsmanship is all amongst the players. And let me just give you a situation that may occur here, which if it occurred in South Africa, I would be the first one to go up to the gallery and speak to them. If there was any way that I felt that a guest in my country or in Southern Africa was being abused by the gallery, I would certainly try to speak to those people, so as not to interfere or hinder that person's opportunity to play his shot to the best of his ability. And we know that last year at the Ryder Cup there were some incidents that that was not the case. I think it's very important that we all let our clubs do the talking. We don't mind the support for the U.S. team. I just don't like having derogatory things thrown at me or any of my team members, because I don't think it's justified. And I think if the players respond, the American players, and we've had enough experience of playing out there, we'll know when a guy is genuine about wanting the gallery to behave. I think that's very important. And I've seen Tiger, in the last two or three years -- when I first played with him three years ago the gallery would go off to move when I was getting ready to putt. And he didn't say anything. But in the last two years he's improved so much in that respect, that he now has sympathy or understands the situation and will actually ask the crowd to stop while his playing partners finish out their game. And that's very important. I think that's just what the game is all about. So I really believe it's up to the players. And I know we're going to have some abuse thrown at us, but as long as it's not derogatory towards us as individuals and our characters, we don't mind. We're more than happy to hear the guys pull for the American team. And sometimes it inspires us. You might hit a good shot and the crowd stays dead quiet and it kind of gets you going a little bit. But I know that the players -- the 12 players on this team I've played an awful lot of golf with on the American team -- I've played an awful lot of golf with, and there's not one in there that I could say has a questionable -- any gamesmanship, sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is strong on their team, as well. And I think that's one thing, we do not want to let this event go down. We want to keep this event up on the pedestal it's been on for the last four years, because it's very important, to me, anyway.
Q. I just wanted to talk about '98 with Shigeki for just a minute. Ernie just talked about the week ahead. I was wondering what your memories of it were, and if you felt like you might have another week like this week?
SHIGEKI MARUYAMA: Two years ago I was on fire, everything was clicking together, very well. This year I'm not been very good, but getting better. I'm just going to do my best.
Q. You're not playing tomorrow. I wondered, we've been told that you will play considerably more before the matches are over on Sunday. I wonder what your thoughts are about sitting out tomorrow and being brought in another day?
SHIGEKI MARUYAMA: I was very worried about the effect when I played bad for the game. So I'm really happy to get to rest tomorrow and can practice the whole day to get ready for Friday and the rest of the days.
Q. I guess this is for either Ernie or Nick. You guys have spent your entire careers traveling all over the world to play your golf, to make your living. Do you get the sense at all that the U.S. team, maybe the U.S. guys, are a little spoiled in that fact, that they have played all their golf here and haven't had to do what you guys have had to do, and maybe that's why they are making these rumblings about going to South Africa?
ERNIE ELS: I think it's great to travel. I grew up in a great environment, probably the best place on the planet for golf. I could play 365 days a year. I had a great time there. And was talented enough to become pro, and that's what I did. Obviously if you want to get somewhere, there is no real Tour in South Africa. There's only about eight or nine tournaments. So to get anywhere I had to start traveling. So that's what I did and everything came together for me. The last ten years have been really great. It's just been a natural thing for me to do. Who knows, if I was American -- if I was American I probably would have -- I might have done the same as the American team right now. What do you do, everything is right here in your backyard. You've got a beautiful Tour, you play on the best golf courses in the world, some of the best players in the world are playing on your Tour, and you've got a guy like Tim Finchem who does a lot for your Tour. And what do you do? You make your million dollars a year and here you are. It's kind of easy. So I can't take anything away from the Americans, that's just the way their lives have been. They've had it right here and we've had to travel to do it. Carlos from South America, Shigeki from Japan and Mike from Canada. We've all had to travel our whole lives. And it's been a natural thing for us to do, really. If we have to go and play in Australia the first week of next year, I'm going. I know it's a long way to go, but that's the way I've always been. I've been traveling.
Q. Nick Price has had, by my count, 8 partners in 11 games at the Presidents Cup. Clearly he can't get a regular game.
CARLOS FRANCO: I hope Shigeki and me have a good combination tomorrow. I played the last two years in Melbourne together. I play well, he's played well, but lost the game. I hope it's changed this year. He's played better this year, he's looking only for a win.
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