Captains Fired Up about Matches


American captain Davis Love III and his European counterpart José Maria Olazábal are ready to go in the latest edition of the Ryder Cup. The biennial competition starts Friday at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.

Both captains said they've received input, best wishes and even a talisman or two prior to the matches. Love has taken calls from past captains, while Olazabal is being borne by the spirit of the late, great Seve Ballesteros, a fellow Spaniard who changed the Ryder Cup from a U.S.-dominated event and helped propel the Europeans to nine victories in the past 13 matches.

The two team leaders recently met with reporters and discussed their respective teams as well as their personal investment in the outcome of the 39th Ryder Cup. Here's what they had to say during a joint press conference.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago. We are joined on this beautiful Chamber of Commerce Monday by José Maria Olazábal, The European team captain; Davis Love III, the United States team captain, and this beautiful gold chalice in between them. Captain Love, at long last, welcome to the Ryder Cup.

DAVIS LOVE III: Thank you, Kelly. We are excited to be here. I welcome José Maria and his team on behalf of the U.S. Team. We are delighted he brought this beautiful little cup, as Ben Crenshaw always said, and it's great that we are actually going to get down to playing some golf. It's been a long two years for the both of us, but now we are excited to play golf and get this great match started.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Davis. Captain Olazábal, a few opening remarks, please, and we'll open it up for questions.

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here. This is a huge week for our game and for all of us. I hope we will have a great time this week here. Davis, it's been a long wait, but the time has come. It's fantastic to start the week here next to you and I want to thank you and Robin and everyone here for the wonderful welcome that we had today. We landed a couple of hours ago, and I have to say that the guys at Rockford Airport were fantastic. They made our arrival really smooth, and we are delighted to be here.

MODERATOR: Thank you, captain, and let's open it up for questions to our two Ryder Cup Captains.

Q. Davis, I'm just wondering if you feel any smarter this weekend after the weekend Brandt had and what you think of what you saw.

DAVIS LOVE III: Brandt's feeling smarter. I said, I joked earlier, he didn't come up here last night because he had to go to the bank (laughter). He's obviously very excited, and he's been playing well, really all year. And you know, I think everybody we picked has shown great - a few great rounds, and played well, and then obviously Brandt I just love watching the FedEx, because you never know who is going to win, and that's obviously the guy that gets hot and Brandt got hot at the right time. It could have been him or Rory down to the end, so it was very exciting. He had a very emotional day yesterday going to visit our friend, Tucker Anderson, in the morning, and then winning the golf tournament and then off to the Ryder Cup. So I know he'll be excited when he gets here.

Q. Could you just enlighten us of sort of the nature of the journey that you had? Obviously it wasn't the whole team by any stretch of the imagination. Did that feel slightly strange?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, it feels a little strange, but there's no surprise. There was only a few players on that flight, and the rest of the guys, five of them, were playing last week, and the rest have a house or have a place here in the States. So obviously, you know, it was very logical for them to stay here and just make the trip from their homes here to Chicago, to Medinah. The trip has been really smooth. We had a little chat before jumping on the plane. We had a good time during the flight. So everyone is relaxed so far.

Q. Just curious, we had Dustin's caddie go down on the weekend in Atlanta. Do you know if there's been any provisions made for Bobby to work or have you brought anyone else in?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, we are hoping that Bobby gets better. He came in last night struggling, but luckily, Jeff Sluman and his wife, who is a doctor, live here in town. Got him well taken care of today, and we're hoping he gets going. And again, because of the format the former captains have set up for us, my caddie is here, Jeff Weber, who we have gotten to be good friends with Dustin over the last few years. My brother is here, who has caddied a lot. And even I offered to caddie for him. I said, Dustin Johnson, I'll caddie for Dustin Johnson. He's well covered, and everyone wants to pitch in. That's one of the things about the team, a lot of guys are willing to do whatever, and luckily we have Jeff and Mark here who have both caddied a lot here on the Tour and can handle it. We are hoping he'll be better though; he feels a lot better today.

Q. You called being a captain the chance of a lifetime. You want to elaborate a little more on that?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, obviously I've been watching a lot of videos and stuff, getting ready, and I saw Raymond Floyd in an interview say he played on eight teams, but his captaincy was the biggest thrill of his life, and I'm starting to agree with that. This has been an incredible - I told José, finally we are going to get to play golf, and unfortunately that means it's almost over. It's been a long two year journey for us, but it really has been a lot of fun. I can't tell you how many moments I've had in the last week or two that it's really hit me how much fun it is and how exciting it is and what an honor it is.

I was playing right along; until I missed the cut at Barclays, I didn't really realize this double life I've been trying to lead wasn't working well. I've really enjoyed the details of the golf the last - you know, our team, The PGA of America and everybody that worked so hard at this have done a great job, but the golf is what it's ultimately all about. Now we are getting to that side of it, and it gets more and more exciting every day. I'm sure Friday morning it will ramp up another notch, too.

MODERATOR: I'm sure it will.

Q. Obviously Europe won two years ago at Celtic Manor and they have won four of the last five Ryder Cups. How much of a psychological advantage does that give you or do you think it ultimately counts for nothing?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: To be honest, this is a new Ryder Cup. We are playing here against a very strong team. We are playing away. The crowds are going to be rooting for the home team really strong, so in that regard, we have to be prepared for that. I think I've said it all along, I think both teams are pretty much even and it's going to be a close match. From that point of view, I don't see any favorites, and it will have to be decided, obviously, on the golf course.

Q. I know you've thought long and hard about how best to honor the memory of Seve this week; can you confirm, first of all, that the team will be wearing his blue and white on Sunday, and also, what else is being done in the team room perhaps?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I don't know if I should answer that first question. You know, it's going to be - Seve is going to be there in our team in some way or form. I have to say in that regard that I talked to Davis regarding that question, that first question, and he was very understanding of it, and I'll say no more at the moment.

Q. As two players who have played in The Ryder Cup, can you talk about the pressure that's involved in playing in this competition, as opposed to just a regular event?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I've said all along that it's a lot like the last nine holes when you have a chance to win a major championship, except that it starts Friday morning; it doesn't wait till the last nine holes. It's right off the bat. You know, it's a pride in playing for your country and being a part of a team. That adds pressure. And then I think the difference is, it's a little bit of - there's winning and losing in it, and when you're playing in an individual game, it's a little more of trying to accomplish a goal and playing a little bit different game. I think when you come here, it's trying to win this Cup; it's trying to support your teammates and trying to play for your country. It's a different kind of pressure.

Paul Azinger said it the best: We see the greatest shots ever and more shots holed and more incredible things in this, and I think that you have to have that kind of pressure for it to be the excitement and the competitiveness of this event. It's very, very intense. It's almost unfair to the players, but I think these guys love the challenge of that and see how they can react under that kind of pressure.

Q. When José Maria talked about the number of guys coming up from Orlando, just made me wonder, if both of you could speak to what it was like, let's say, 10, 20 years ago, when there was a little bit more unfamiliarity between the teams. I think you've got five or six players who are joint members of the U.S. Tour, and before maybe they saw each other three or four times a year in competition. Can you talk about how that's different than it is now?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, it's obviously completely different to, let's say, 15 years ago. Obviously when you look at some of the European players, have their home base here. They play the Tour over here. They are very familiar with the golf courses around here, with their opponents, and in that regard, I think they feel really more comfortable with the whole situation of coming here to the States to play the Ryder Cup. It has changed in that respect and also that they have realized through the years that they have been able to compete against the players here. And that somehow boosts your confidence, and that is a very important part when you are playing match play.

MODERATOR: Davis, any comment on the familiarity today?

DAVIS LOVE III: Familiarity is key. I think it's also built a lot stronger friendships. Certainly the respect that I have for a lot of these guys from the captain down, Darren and Thomas and those guys, I've spent so much time with Luke Donald over the years because of relationships through business in golf, and we are just more familiar with them. They are our friends. They are our guys we travel with week in and week out on the Tour. That doesn't make it any less competitive. It just makes it that we know each other a lot better. Makes the team room party on Sunday night a lot more fun.

I think the biggest difference I noticed, you know, he's just come off an airplane, but he had three of his team. My first Ryder Cup, when I ran up against Seve and José three times, which was a fond memory except for the outcome (laughter) - but Tom Watson took us together to New York and we all flew together on the Concorde, and before we got on the plane, he said, "It's going to be a grand adventure, it's going to be incredible." I miss that a little bit, we all gather and fly over; they fly over here. That was a really cool thing.

But I think what we have got now is a much bigger event and we have got 30 - 24 of the top 36 or 38 guys in the world; I think that golf has got incredibly better. But what we have in our team rooms now and the camaraderie between the two teams is just incredible, and it's amazing how much it's changed over the years. And we're playing against our friends, but it's still as intense, maybe even more, because we are more familiar with them.

Q. If you could just talk about the course conditions, did they get it set up the way you were hoping for?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, Curtis Tyrell and the greens staff have done an incredible job, and José Maria will agree with me. We've been here the last couple of summers when he's been battling through the hottest, driest, most unbelievable conditions. The greens, I had four guys out there today, and they reported back that the greens are just absolutely perfect. There's not a lot of rough, which the members like, and hopefully everybody else likes it. You know, the fairways have made an incredible transformation in the last six weeks. You know, the golf course has basically been closed the last four or five weeks. Curtis did an unbelievable job of over-seeding, topdressing, firming them up.

It's amazing, I've been here two weeks ago, a week ago, and was out on the golf course playing yesterday; and literally, every day, every day it just gets better and better. It's amazing, and on TV, it's just going to be so gorgeous. It's going to be so pretty, on a day like today where it's sunny and everything mowed, it's just incredible. And there's not a lot of divots; nobody has been playing. Half the divots out there are from me and Drew Love, so there are not a whole lot of divots out there.

Q. Another airplane related question: You said it was strange coming over with three members of your team. When you have come over to America to play in the Ryder Cup, it's been as part of a whole team on a plane. How important when you look back were those flights in creating team bonding, if you like, and how much does what has happened today with you only coming with three members put you a little bit behind the schedule that other captains might have enjoyed of which you have not been able to?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, I don't see that as a disadvantage to be honest. We have had a good time; the three players, the two vice captains and myself, had a good time. We have always been a close team, and in that regard, we have been in touch through the phone talking to the players, and they are going to be all there by the time I get to the hotel today, they are going to be all there. We are going to have a relaxing time and we'll chat together, and we will create that bond that you are talking about. And in that regard, I don't see that I'm just behind it at all. We do have three more days ahead of us before the tournament starts, so it's plenty of time.

They know each other really well. By instance, when you look at the last couple weeks, Francesco and Nicola and Martin played together, Peter Hanson was there, so we've been close, even though we didn't flew together on the plane.

Q. Just wondering, did you read Paul Azinger's book, and what are some things that you might be doing to strengthen the bond among your players?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, Paul has given us, not just me, but our assistant captains and some of the players, a lot of advice and a lot of great advice. He grabbed my caddie, Jeff Weber, last night on the way into the hotel and Jeff came in to dinner and sat down and goes, "You're not going to believe all the stuff Paul just told me." "Yeah, I've heard it." He's so fired up and so passionate about The Ryder Cup, and it's so exciting to see that; because on teams with him, watching him play Ryder Cups and then the mistake I made was not going to Valhalla and watching. I should have gone, because it was right there, it was home. I think I was at a horse show with my daughter or something. I should have gone, because he really put so much into it, and he really has, he's given me a lot of very good advice and I'll pick on him a little bit. When the iPhone says Paul Azinger, I have to make a decision; do I have 30, 45 minutes, or do I hit the ignore button. And sometimes I hit ignore and sometimes I answered it. (Laughter.) It's really incredible how much thought and passion he put into it, and I could tell you 10 or 12 things we're going to do.

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Go ahead. (Laughter.)

DAVIS LOVE III: That he told us. And it has been - that's one of the things, honestly, in a week, I'm going to miss is Paul calling me and going, "Just one more thing, I forgot one thing." And then it's six. But it's been a lot of fun, and I know José Maria has been getting it from other captains. I talked to Ray Floyd a couple nights ago, and Seve will be watching over our team room as will Maria Floyd and a lot of others. But it's been a lot of fun to catch up with those guys. Crenshaw sent me a really nice gift for us to play with that he had in '99. The past captains have been incredible supporting me and my team helping us out and giving us advice.

Q. In the Ryder Cups that you've played and a little bit to what you were just talking about Davis and some of the captains you've spoken to and some of the things you've learned from Seve, José, what have you drawn out of it that makes a good captain, from what you've seen of previous captains?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, it's hard to say but I think the most important thing is the passion that everyone brings into the team and into the game itself. I think that's the most important part. You have to make your players believe that you're playing for something really special, that it's a unique moment. It only happens, you know, once every two years. And just let them realize that there are moments that are unique to this event; that it won't happen anywhere else in any other tournament, and then obviously the knowledge, the knowledge that everyone has through experience. You try to pass that on to the players. That's what I learned from Seve, from Bernhard, and all of the past captains. You know, you have to be really prepared to give your best and your all for this week.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I agree with José Maria. I think you have to tell them how big it is and then tell them how not to treat it as something completely different. It's still a golf match, and you want them to go out and enjoy it and go out and show off and have those moments that Paul Azinger talked about that only happen in a Ryder Cup, that can only happen under that kind of pressure. You know, the David Duval pumping his fist and running around the green; or Paul Azinger's passion or Corey Pavin's chip ins; those things just don't happen in a Tour event, or sometimes very rarely in the last nine holes of a Major Championship. But there will be a guy jumping up and down and celebrating on the third hole Friday morning, and it's going to be that kind of passion, and you have to prepare them. It's different, but it's fun and it's exciting, and they need to soak it all in.

And I go back to Tom Watson, it's an adventure, it's not just a three day golf match. You build relationships in this event that you don't build anywhere else; friendships; respect for your competitors that you don't gain in a regular tournament. José is right. These guys are going to have moments out there this week that will change their careers and that they will remember the rest of their lives.

Q. At this time two years ago, you were preparing for Celtic Manor in an ambassadorial role only, and then you got the call from Colin after it rained. How much of that impromptu involvement can you take into this Ryder Cup?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, every time you're part of a Ryder Cup team, it doesn't matter if you're playing or if you're a captain or a vice captain; you always learn from it. It was a great learning experience and it was a unique Ryder Cup in the sense that, you know, everybody had to play because of the rain delay. There was not any other chance trying to regain the number of matches that we were trying to play. And it was nice to be part of it; the same way at Valhalla. I was on my own there and I was really close to the players, and you learn from each Ryder Cup in that regard. You get to know the players a little bit better. When you look at the team, European Team this week, most of them have played the last two Ryder Cups. So I get to know the guys a little bit better, know how they think, what they want, and all those little things help you, also, when you have to make certain decisions.

Q. Davis, both you and José Maria have experienced some pretty fiery atmospheres in The Ryder Cup during your time as players. What sort of atmosphere are you expecting, and how much of a lift can the home fans give your team?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think when we travel over there, it's tough on us; and when they travel over here, it's tough on them. Chicago is an incredible sports town, and they are going to be fired up. It's going to be it's an incredible, big golf course and a big stage, and I think the first tee could be the loudest any of these guys have ever seen to start off a golf tournament. So I expect a lot of passion. I expect if we are winning holes, it's going to get pretty loud out there, and that's what the home field advantage is all about.

As José Maria said, that's what you prepare these guys for. You have to tell them, hey, this is going to be something like you've never seen before. And we both know; we know what the good cheers sound like and what the bad cheers sound like. We'll try to get them going loud in our favor.

Q. We have just hosted a very successful Olympic Games back in London. It was very competitive and very sporting occasion. Can the Ryder Cup become like this, or will it always be a partisan event?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I think it already is. To be honest, I think it already is. You know, I think both teams, we respect each other a lot. Obviously we are going to try to beat each other, no questions about that. But we respect each member of our opponent team, and in that regard, I think we are very similar in that kind of philosophy, if you compare us to the Olympics. In that regard, with Davis and I, we have competed against each other quite a few times, not just in The Ryder Cup but in other events, and here we are sitting together and each one of us has a huge respect towards the other. So in that regard, I think the spirit is there to be honest.

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I would think that we are fortunate to play a game and represent a game that is the model for all other sports. It always has been. I think that's what our commissioner has stressed in his whole tenure is that we are the model for other sports and we have to uphold that. And we are fortunate that the Seve Ballesteroses and the players that came before us, down to my dad, they demanded that, that respect of the game and to carry on traditions of the game. I think this match and the friendship that it begins with and the friendship that it ends with is different than any other sport.

Q. I think Brandt has probably had one week off dating to Lytham, and there are a number of players who have played a lot of golf, Rory, Lee, both sides; do you think they are hitting their strides or crawling across the finish line here?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think - well, Brandt doesn't ever need a week off. He's perpetual energy. But I've been stressing to them to make sure that they get some rest, and that they are prepared. You know, Jason did what people thought was a strange way to start the FedEx Cup by skipping a week, but you know, guys have to prepare the way they need to prepare. And Brandt had six or eight weeks off, and I think that's the way he felt was I need to play, I need to play my way on to the team, and I need to play my way into the FedEx.

And they did have a week off before Atlanta, and Atlanta is an easy week relative to the rest of our Tour events. It's a pretty easy week. They all get to sleep in every day. I kept waiting for the scores to start and they wouldn't start; they didn't play until 11:30. The guys I've talked to, they seem pretty well rested. We have four guys at the movies with Freddie this afternoon, four guys out chipping and putting and we've got another four coming in all during the afternoon. I think they are taking it easy today and they will be ready to go. This is a long week, and I've been stressing that. Even starting tomorrow, we need to be pacing ourselves a little bit and not be wearing ourselves out.

Q. As Davis mentioned, 24 of the top players in the world. What do you guys see as your primary role as captain of such a great group of players?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, first of all, to get the team spirit going, you have to create a bond between the players. And pretty much, I will go back to what I said before: You have to make the players realize that this is a very special event. It's very unique. You know, you're going to live moments that you will cherish for the rest of your life. As Davis said, there are relationships that are created just at this event, the camaraderie between the players, but not just within the team, but between both teams, and the respect that will grow from that, those things, you have to pass that on to the players, make them realize that they are part of something really special.

Q. Webb Simpson was talking earlier last week about how Jim Furyk had really kind of pulled him aside and told him a lot of various things. Is that something you're encouraging, for the veterans to be talking to the rookies, and is there anybody that you can remember from your early days that was a mentor in your first Ryder Cup experience?

DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, for sure. Well, that's why - one of the reasons that Jim Furyk's on the team; this is his eighth Ryder Cup and he's the experienced veteran that a guy like Webb needs to go to. They will come to us for some things, but they will go talk to the Tiger Woodses and the Steve Strickers and Jim Furyks about, what do I do now; I don't want to embarrass myself and ask the captain or the captain is too busy. So you need those guys, that leadership. And Tom Kite and Ray Floyd and Lanny Watkins, Curtis Strange were those guys for me, that I was a raw rookie going over to The Belfry, and Kite took me under his wing and played with me three times and made it easy for me, explained how the ropes go.

I don't need to explain to Jim Furyk what to do tomorrow. But Jim can tell Webb, hey, don't worry about it, all you have to do is get in the car, 7:30, and the rest of the day they will tell you what to do. Jim has done it enough times that it makes it easy. I'm encouraging all of our team to talk to each other, and I think to the question earlier, not traveling together on an airplane together over here, we have both done I think a very good job of getting our team together at certain times in the last few months, having dinners, making sure we are all communicating; now with text messaging and e mails, you can't get away from each other. You can't get a break.

I think we have built those relationships and we have used our veterans to bond the team. And another thing I learned from Paul Azinger, you'd better do it before you get there on Monday, because it might be a little late. If everybody's unorganized and discombobulated on Monday night and Tuesday, you don't have time to catch up. It seems like we have both done a pretty good job of - this Ryder Cup didn't start yesterday for us. It's been a long process of getting guys ready and thinking about it and organized.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Captain Olazábal, comments on mentoring; certainly Seve would be at the top of the list of those who mentored you?

JOSÉ MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Yes, without a doubt. I've told this story before, I was a rookie in '87 at Muirfield Village, and he took me under his wing. He made clear to Tony Jacklin that he wanted to play with me. I will never forget that little walk from the putting green to the first tee. I was shaking like a leaf. You know, it was huge crowds, very loud, similar to what we are going to see here this week. So I kept my head down, and he approached me as we were walking on to the first tee. He looked at me, and said, "José Maria, you play your game, I'll take care of the rest." (Laughter.) And he did. (Laughter.)

Yes, he was a great figure. I think not just for myself, but for the whole European squad, not just that year, but every year that he played in that team. We are going to miss him a lot. It's going to be actually the first time that he's not going to be with us, and yeah, he was a special man, yeah.

Q. As the host captain, you get the advantage of sort of setting the table for this competition in terms of setting up the course. You've had a lot of time here and spent a lot of time. Can you talk about what it is about the course, the way it is set up right now, in the context of how you think it will advantage your team?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I struggled for two years to kind of come up with a way, how do you get an advantage. As we said, we have 24 of the best players in the world. They are all pretty good at adapting to conditions. One thing I've never liked is rough. And I've been lucky enough to have a little bit of an influence on two golf tournaments, our McGladrey Classic and this Ryder Cup, and neither one of them had a lot of rough. I just don't like rough.

But I think the fans want to see a little excitement. They want to see birdies. I think one thing at Valhalla, it was exciting. There was a lot of birdies. Even holes tied at birdies are more fun than 6 footers tying for par. We want to let these unbelievable athletes free wheel it a little bit and play. Medinah is such a big, long golf course, and with the weather turning bad on us, I don't think we wanted a lot of rough. Other than that, this is a major championship style golf course, and it's just a matter, do you want the greens to be 11 or 12 or 13. They have done a great job with the greens. I think the guys that are out there today say they are just the right speed.

You know, you're not going to trick them by all of a sudden having deep grass. Well, they are used to that. Short grass, they are used to that. I think fair and fun and exciting for the fans on TV is the way to go. I remember Tommy Roy coming into a PGA Tour board meeting, he said we want some risk/reward, we want some guys to make some mistakes, and we want some guys to make some birdies and some eagles. I think that's fun for the fans and fun for the players and it'll be fun for this Ryder Cup. It's still going to be tough. It's a tough golf course. But without the deep rough, saves us the chip outs and the grinding it out style of golf. It will be a little bit more freer than the two PGAs they have played here.

MODERATOR: Ryder Cup week has begun. Thank you, captains, and best of luck this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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