HERE is the full transcript of the media conference in which 2011 Presidents Cup captains Greg Norman and Fred Couples announce and explain their team selections and Tiger Woods, Bill Haas, Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley comment on their inclusion.
LAURA HILL: It’s a pleasure to welcome U.S. Presidents Cup team captain, Fred Couples, and International Team captain Greg Norman to the call.
As you all know the Top?10 on The Presidents Cup standings for both teams were finalized on September 18 after the BMW Championship, so today we’ll be rounding out the U.S. and international teams as each captain chooses two players to add to their squads.
Just a little bit of housekeeping, the format, we’ll start with Fred Couples as the quote, unquote, visiting captain in Australia this year. He’ll name his first pick, who will give us his reaction and we’ll move over to Greg who will name his pick and back and forth.
We are fortunate to have all four picks on the line. So they each will comment after their names are announced and from there we will open up for Q&A. With that said, I would like to welcome Fred and have him make his first pick.
FRED COUPLES: Thank you very much. And my first pick is Tiger Woods, from Palm Beach, Florida. Very excited about that. I made that pick, I don’t know, six weeks ago. We’ve had a few conversations since then and a lot of texts, and I’m just thrilled that Tiger is healthy and ready to play and wants to be on the team.
LAURA HILL: Tiger, if we can get a quick reaction from you, as well.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, just want to say thanks to Fred. I’m honored to be a part of the team. Really looking forward to representing our country and playing with my teammates. It’s always been a special honor to play in these teams. And to go back down to Australia again and play in The Presidents Cup is something I’m really looking forward to. I know we haven’t done it since ’98 but really looking forward to getting down there and mixing it up with the boys.
LAURA HILL: Greg, your turn.
GREG NORMAN: My first pick is Robert Allenby. And the reason why I picked Robert is his performances around Royal Melbourne over the years have been extraordinary. I do believe at one time he won by ten shots. His love for the golf course is very, very much evident. He’s still playing the golf course there. He’s a great team player. He has a lot of tenacity in these team competitions. His spirit in the locker room or cabin with the other guys is very, very high, and so he was an automatic pick for me.
LAURA HILL: Robert, can we get your reaction, please?
ROBERT ALLENBY: Thanks, Greg. It’s an absolute honor to be on the team, and also to be on the team with you as the captain, as well. The last Presidents Cup, you did a fantastic job. And I think out of all of The Presidents Cups for me, going down to Melbourne and playing at Royal Melbourne is probably one of the biggest highlights in my career to be on that team.
Royal Melbourne is obviously a golf course that ?? it is my No. 1 golf course in the world; it’s my favorite, and I have a pretty good record around there.
I know with the team that we have, I’m just thrilled to be in it. It’s just an absolute honor, and I really can’t wait to be part of the team again and get down there and hopefully we have a great showing.
LAURA HILL: Thank you, Robert. Okay, Fred your last pick.
FRED COUPLES: My second pick is Bill Haas, last week’s double?winner. Bill for the last two years has played phenomenal golf, winning three times and losing a couple of times in a playoff and it was a very close race with Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley. But Bill, knowing he had to win last week to be on the team he went out and did it and he’s my second pick.
LAURA HILL: Bill, if we can hear from you, please.
BILL HAAS: Yes, I’m honored to be on the team. Thanks to Fred for picking me. This is a very special thing. It’s something that I’ve worked for, kind of set as a goal from the beginning of the year. And for it to happen like this is awesome. Fred is someone I’ve looked up to and been a good friend of my dad’s ever since I was growing up; and to play on his team makes it that much more special.
And like these other guys have said, I can’t wait to get down there and compete in an event like this, and it’s pretty special to be it a part of it.
LAURA HILL: Okay, Greg, the last announcement for you?
GREG NORMAN: My last pick is Aaron Baddeley. It actually was a very interesting way we came about it. I actually put in a call to both Aaron Baddeley and John Senden at the start of THE TOUR Championship out of courtesy. Also on the list was Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas, and obviously Louis Oosthuizen.
But knowing that we are playing in the backyard of Australia, I wanted to hopefully load up the team with as many Aussies as I possibly could. And with the way Aaron performed, and John Senden performed in THE TOUR Championship, I put them both on notice that those two were under scrutiny, and whoever played the best at THE TOUR Championship would obviously get the final nod.
So Aaron put in a tremendous performance there, and had a chance of winning the golf tournament, played extremely well and has played very, very well for a few years now. So to bring him down to one of his favorite golf courses, as well, and play in his backyard obviously was a tough decision. But Aaron is the No. 2 pick.
LAURA HILL: Aaron, if we could get your reaction, please.
AARON BADDELEY: I’m so excited and thankful that Greg picked me to be part of my first Presidents Cup team. It’s extremely special and it’s an honor to play for your country, and because I remember back in ’98 when The Presidents Cup was there last, I have vivid memories of watching the tournament and being there and being outside the ropes.
And so for this time to be part of the team is something that will be probably one of the most special memories of my whole year. So I’m excited to get down there. I’m excited to be part of the team. Golf is such an individual sport; to be part of a team is going to be a very special week.
LAURA HILL: Congratulations to all of the picks. Jay Haas is on the line with us, as well, and obviously a special day for the Haas family with Bill being chosen today.
Q. Tiger, I was hoping you might be able to just update us on where things stand with you right now, with your game, your health; have you had any setbacks, and how are things coming along?
TIGER WOODS: You know, Bob, things are going great. We’re practicing very hard up at Medalist, and I’m playing as much as I possibly can, something that I hadn’t not done all summer, because I hadn’t been cleared to do it. Now I have the clearance to do that. My training sessions are great. Strength has come back. My explosiveness has come back through my training, and now just trying to get my feels back, and it feels great.
Sean has come down a few times, and we’ve worked, and we had wonderful sessions. And really looking forward to playing next week at the Fry’s, and after that, I’m playing at the Aussie Open in Sydney, and really looking forward to getting my game rounded for The Presidents Cup.
Q. Are you at the point where you’re itching to get back out there? It has been a while now since the PGA.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I am looking to get out there and compete, no doubt. That’s something that I have pretty much ?? and I played two events, but didn’t play very well in those few events at Akron and the PGA.
Really excited to get back out there and compete, and knowing that I’m finally healthy enough to do it now, and I’ve practiced, something I had not done in preparation for Akron and the PGA.
But now that I’ve actually practiced, I’ve gotten even stronger in my lifting sessions, so things it are definitely shaping up quickly.
Q. My question is for the Aussie contingent obviously; Aaron Baddeley, especially, after the hard luck on the weekend, how pleasing is it that you were able to deliver, and Greg, is that what you really expected him to do?
GREG NORMAN: Aaron, how about you first.
AARON BADDELEY: Yeah, after Greg gave us a call on the Monday, it was really just a matter of just sort of trying to put it out of my mind and go out and just play golf.
So Tuesday and Wednesday, I spent a lot of time, especially on the putting green, trying to really feel like I was getting in the game in order and be ready for the week and stay in the week. The game felt good; and it was pleasing to be able to play that well, when I knew that Greg was watching so closely, with so much on the line, I was really pleased to be able to perform when I needed to.
GREG NORMAN: From my perspective, I always felt that if somebody was keeping an eye on me and wanted me to perform, I wanted to know. I always like to know how people perform under pressure, and by knowing ?? having the knowledge in the back of your head, it’s tough. It’s very good for your concentration, very good for your commitment of where you want to go, and at the end of the day, you have to perform.
Getting into The Presidents Cup, and you perform under the highest of pressures, that’s obviously a lot more than playing in the TOUR Championship and a stroke?play event. I suspected both of them to play very, very well actually. John Senden was just as excited about the phone call and looking forward to the week. Obviously Aaron played the better golf.
At the end of the day, and this might be of interest to you, it was the same thing I did with Geoff Ogilvy. I called Geoff up many weeks ago, because he had fallen out of the Top?10. And I just said: Hey, Geoff, I need you on the team, what can I do to help you relax your mind. And I basically said to him that, Geoff, don’t worry about it, you’re going to be on the team, irrespective whether you’re in the Top?10 or what.
So at the end of the day, I took the pressure off of him because he wanted to be on the team so badly. So by taking the pressure off him, he went out there and played extremely well and got himself in the Top?10. I went two different ways with my guys. I needed all of them. I needed Robert; I needed Aaron; I needed Geoff; I needed three guys on the team and the end of the day it just worked out perfectly for us.
Q. Two questions, one for Tiger and one for Tiger and Fred. Tiger, given your lack of competitive starts over the last couple of months, how much does that matter, given that not only it’s match play, but it’s team match play, and if you can just talk about the dynamics of that.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that ?? well, I’m playing in two stroke?play events prior to that to get myself ready for The Presidents Cup, and granted, it is match play, and you know, we as Presidents Cuppers, we play every day, which is very different than The Ryder Cup. Every player must play every day.
So knowing that going down there, we are going to be basically playing all four matches, it’s fun. It’s something I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully Stricks is healthy enough and Mr. Couples will be nice enough to put us together again, something I’m looking toward to and hope that will happen.
Q. And for both of you, how do you avoid what happened the last time you went down there in ’98?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I think we are trying to solve that problem. Guys are playing all over, and to be perfectly honest with you, they were just better. They played extremely well. You know, I would like to say sometimes that we may have had a few weeks off where we didn’t play much golf. It was in early December. A lot of us were playing in Adelaide the week before; at Royal Melbourne, the International Team was better.
This year, several of us are playing in Sydney the week before, including myself and Greg. We’ll be having a good time. The guys will be loose and limber, and hopefully one of the Presidents Cup team players can win, whether it’s on our side or Greg’s side.
Reality sets in when you get there. Not all of the players are going to be playing their best, but what you need is consistency and you need to get points, and we have been very good at that over the years. But that one year at Royal Melbourne, we just ?? we were smoked. Every single day, they were out better than us.
Q. Would you tell us, going into THE TOUR Championship, did it come down to which of those three guys played the best, or did Billy actually have to win to maybe get ahead of one of the others?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, Jay is on the line, so Jay and I talked about this scenario, and Michael, Michael Jordan. We went over this probably a month ago and the way for us to do this was really to let the guys play. I know Greg said he told Geoff Ogilvy and some guys that Tiger is on the team.
Bill Haas knew he had to win last week, and he did it. I talked to Bill ?? I did not bother him during the tournament. I think he’s smart enough to know that what happened, happened.
Keegan Bradley, I thought the world of Keegan Bradley and I explained a lot of things to him. He’s a great young player. If Steve Stricker is hurt, Keegan will be the pick to take Steve’s spot. And that’s not very easy to say or makes him feel any better.
But the other guy was Brandt Snedeker, and all of these guys, they want to be there. I know the Australian players certainly work hard, and Aaron has had an unbelievable year, and Robert Allenby, a member there, I believe, has played well.
For my guys, they knew what they had to do and it was just a matter of Bill winning. And I could not leave him off the team after that; when a guy knows second place wasn’t ?? and he’ll tell you, second place isn’t good enough, and he understood that. So took the day off yesterday, let everything is settled and called him this morning and he was going Down Under.
Q. Just curious when you told Bradley and how he reacted since he’s the only American with a major this year; that must have been a tough blow.
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, he’s the only American with a major the last two years. You know, I tried to explain just a few things to him. He’ll tell you, I’m not one to say, hey, you’re going to be on plenty of teams. I wouldn’t want to hear that. I know he’s a young player. I just felt like ?? I laid it out on the line and told him, you know, for really, three or four weeks now, where everyone stood. Obviously he’s a Major winner. Also a winner at the Byron Nelson under very tough conditions on a very hard course.
It just felt like in this instance, Bill Haas has played two years, never been outside the Top?12 position. He’s been inside the Top?10 most of the time. And you know, if Keegan would have finished fourth or fifth last week and Bill would have lost to Hunter Mahan, the others assistants will tell you that Keegan would have been chosen.
Q. Tiger, are you going to have an opportunity to get to work at all with Joe LaCava? I know he’s one of the best caddies in the business, but prior to you teeing it up, are you going to have an opportunity for him to get a feel for how far you hit shots and whatnot?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I certainly hit the ball shorter than Dustin, so he’s going to have to adjust that.
As far as working, we’re working together at the Fry’s and we’re working going forward ?? at The Presidents Cup. I will probably see the week before at the Aussie Open, I’m playing that, and in a round ?? (audio distortion) and in other practice sessions, but we are going to have ?? wing it on the fly at the Fry’s and it will be our (audio distortion. )
Q. Greg, you indicated you were going to pick the player and not the flag, and you ended up with two Aussies, which probably is a smart play. What do you expect that environment to be like especially with both of those guys being home boys?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think the environment is going to be exactly what it was like in 1998. It’s going to be very, very enthusiastic. Obviously the balance of my team is predominately southern hemisphere guys, South Africa and Australia.
But at the same time, I think the way my team has balanced out, the pairings look very easy to tell you the truth. The guys are so keen to play, and I don’t see anything different, I really don’t. I think the performance of my team, the guys are so excited. I’ve spoken to every single one of them. They are extremely excited. They want to get down there. They know they have lost the Presidents Cup every year except one, and they want to try to win The Presidents Cup, no question, and the Aussies want to do it in their backyard.
I think the spirit of the competition is going to be very, very high. The intensity is probably going to be high. I know many of the boys are going to being come down there with playing their way in.
And Freddie was a 100 percent correct. Back in ’98, guys were taking time off before they got there and flew right in. Most of the guys are either going to be in the same time zone, whether it’s Singapore, China or in Australia, so they are going to be over the time zone. I think the competition is going to be closer and tougher than what we experienced in ’98.
Q. Robert and Aaron, you must be absolutely pumped to get home and get back out onto Royal.
ROBERT ALLENBY: Yeah, I’m very excited. Yeah, trying to make this team, it’s been one of my goals all year. And to be finally chosen on the team is definitely a huge thrill. Obviously going down to Royal Melbourne and playing there is super special, as well.
And I think from an Australian and Presidents Cup, playing in Australia and having Greg Norman as a captain, the buzz that we will have down there will be just unbelievable.
AARON BADDELEY: I definitely reiterate what Robert was saying. For an Aussie to play in The Presidents Cup, it really does not get any better than that, and especially with Greg being the captain, because I mean, I know for me, Greg was the man I looked up to growing up. I always got up early to watch TV, to watch Greg; and to have him captain the team in Australia, to me, that’s an absolute dream come true.
So going to be exciting. I think the atmosphere is going fantastic. The Aussies love to get behind Aussies, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Q. Robert, whenever you found out from Greg that you were selected for the team can you talk about the relief that was, given you were a spectator in ’98?
ROBERT ALLENBY: Yeah, obviously a huge relief. I think everyone, Greg knew ?? I think everyone’s known how much and how important it was for me to try to get in that team and what it really meant to me. Obviously Melbourne is my home. I’ve been playing at Royal Melbourne since I was 12 years old. I’ve had some success there, and the relief was humongous. Greg will tell you himself how happy I was, and you know the first thing I said was that you’ll get 12 billion percent out of me to get the absolute best out of my ability that I have to play the game of golf. And as I said, to be on that team with Greg as the captain is even more special.
Q. Did you offer to wax his boat or anything?
ROBERT ALLENBY: (Laughing) I could probably wax the boat he’s got now ?? I could wax it.
Q. For either Tiger or Fred, how much have you been in touch with Stricker, and if for whatever reason he might not be able to go, do you have any preference on who you would like to be paired with?
TIGER WOODS: I have been texting Stricks, and obviously he’s having his MRI today. I don’t know the results of that, if that’s what you’re asking. But as far as any of the guys on the team, we have a hell of a team and I would like to go out with anybody. We have got a great mix of young guys and some older players, so looking forward to it either way.
Q. What are the most important things you guys have got to do for the next two months?
FRED COUPLES: The most important things? I think for me it’s pretty much getting ready to go down to Royal Melbourne, which I’m not playing, but it’s one of my favorite places in the whole world is Melbourne, and the week before, I’m going to Sydney.
But you know, today was a tough day for me. We had some picks to be made and Greg certainly handled them well. And I really like those two players that he chose, and I certainly liked the way Bill Haas played last week.
For me, it’s pretty much over. The clothing is set. The gifts are all set. Now we just have to all make sure we catch our flights.
Q. Following up on what you said about letting Geoff know he was on the team, and Adam Scott you mentioned was a leader in this situation, how much much an effect did those two have in your decision making? Did you listen to the boys push for the other two Australians?
GREG NORMAN: I had constant communication with Adam and Jason Day. It was nonstop. I had to seek the opinion of those guys, and obviously Timmy Clark and Frank Nobilo were integral parts as well. They all know each other’s games and they know them as individuals. So, yeah, I did consult them.
Adam was very, very forthright in his thoughts and opinions on having a Geoff Ogilvy or Robert Allenby or an Aaron Baddeley or a John Senden on the team. He wanted to see it loaded up with Aussies, because obviously it’s in our backyard. And Jason Day, between the two of those young guys, they have just been absolutely the Standard Bearers for the International side out there on TOUR right now.
The enthusiasm they have shown, not just in the last month, but in the last six months, when Adam was staying with me for the Florida Swing, back in the early part of the year, that’s all we talked about was The Presidents Cup and how do we prepare for it and who could be on the team and who may not be on the team. And as the months went by and the players were changing dramatically, he started texts me more and more and actually picking up the phone and just speaking to me about it.
So I love that type of open communication with my guys and it’s been no different, all the way through to Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang; all of the guys have been very, very up front with me about how they feel about this coming Presidents Cup.
Q. Do you think you will put Jason and Adam together? I know you don’t want to give too much away?
GREG NORMAN: That’s a decision I’ll make with Frank and Tim Clark when we go down there and prepare and see how the guys are playing and how balanced they are with themselves on the golf course, off the golf course.
There’s a lot goes into the pairings, and people think that it’s automatic, but when I look at my team, it does look very simplified in a lot of ways, but the end of the day, you won’t make that decision until you’re on the spot.
I completely agree with Freddie. I think that his team is, the balance of his team, these two picks are just phenomenal picks. One guy who has basically dominated the game for years and has a tremendous amount of respect out there, to young Bill who has done a tremendous job in earning his way on the team.
Both of us have been in a really tough position. I had to leave off major championship winners in Louis Oosthuizen and Vijay Singh. I had to look at those guys and John Senden and Camilo Villegas. It really is a tough call. Answering a question that I didn’t answer before for Steve, our work is done. And now that it’s done, we can sit back and just prepare and getting ready and I’m just now enjoying practicing myself, which I haven’t been able to do for the last 12 months basically. Now the fun starts.
LAURA HILL: Thank you, Fred and Greg, for joining us, and congratulations to the four picks. We look forward to seeing all of you and the rest of both teams in just less than seven weeks down at Royal Melbourne. Thank you all.