WGC-Bridgestone Invitational interview: Nick PriceJuly 30, 2013
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Nick Price, thanks for joining us here at the Bridgestone Invitational, where you played five times on the Presidents Cup team during your career and now you get the opportunity to captain the international team just down the road at Jack's place. If we could start with some opening comments about a wonderful opportunity for you.
NICK PRICE: Oh, it certainly is a huge opportunity for me, and something that is a real honor to be honest.
I've been ‑‑ you may know I've been injured the last year or so. It's been really wonderful timing. If I was going to get injured, this was the time to have it because it's given me so much time to spend on the Presidents Cup and look at the stats and look at the performance of the players. But it's been very rewarding.
I think one of the things that has been so enjoyable for me is the fact that when you get out on the Champions Tour, you kind of lose touch with all the young players. You don't know all the young players. And coming back out here I've gotten to meet all the young players again, Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen. I know them a little bit in South Africa, but you get to spend a lot of quality time with them. Just now I spent 15 minutes with Hideki Matsuyama from Japan who's played so well. I hadn't met him, but obviously watched him the last two or three months with great interest.
But our team has done pretty well this year. Adam winning the Masters and Jason Day playing really well. Louis Oosthuizen unfortunately right now is injured, and I spoke to him about a week ago, four or five days ago, and he's not going to play until the Dunhill Cup, which is the week before the Presidents Cup. So we really won't know if he's match fit or not until the week before, which being one of the top four or five players that I have on the team, it's a concern. But for most of us, or me anyway, I said to him, just get healthy first. That's the most important thing. I don't really want him to injure himself further.
He has a hip flexor, I think it is, problem, and anything in the torso in the golf swing, as many of you know, can be very painful. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, I think. He's going to keep me posted on his progress, and he's gone back to South Africa to rest up.
This is an interesting time because the points change. We've got so many points with the majors and the Playoffs coming, the points, especially sort of like my eighth through 13th, 14th, 15th players, there's going to be a lot of jockeying for position over the next five or six weeks, so I'm keeping a close eye on the performances of the players.
And what can I say, we've got a really good team shaping up. My biggest concern is to get some team spirit and to try and get the guys together as a team before we actually get there, but of course I've only got a month to do that because I choose the team a month before the actual Presidents Cup. That's going to be quite a daunting task.
But I have asked the more established players, Ernie and Adam and that, to play with some of the younger guys a little bit more frequently, spend a little bit more time with them, maybe have dinner with them, spend lunch with them in the locker room so when the week does come, they're not going to feel like it's nice‑to‑meet‑you week.
It should be a very strong team that we put together, but we will have our work cut out at Muirfield.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: And not to get off track regarding the Presidents Cup, but you have some significant history here at Firestone Country Club. What do you remember about your win here?
NICK PRICE: It was 30 years ago. (Laughter.)
Someone reminded me of that on the practice tee. And then I walked through the clubhouse, through the locker room, and there's a couple of pictures of me, and I had to do a double take there.
This golf course was so very kind to me; I can't tell you. In 1983, when I won here, what was so significant was the fact it was on the heels of basically throwing the British Open away in 1982, where I played the last six holes rather poorly. So to come here on this stage, and if you have a look who I beat in that last round, it was Nicklaus, Floyd, Aoki, Hale Irwin, the real powerhouses of golf in the early '80s and late '70s at that time. So as a 26‑year‑old, it was quite intimidating to say the least. But it launched my career, started my career here in the U.S.
And then I lost again in a playoff, I think, to Norman. I think David Duval and I lost ‑‑ I can't remember who the third one was.
Q. Billy Mayfair.
NICK PRICE: Billy Mayfair, thanks. We lost in the first extra hole. Greg chipped in. I think that was '97 or '98.
But this place has such wonderful memories. It's a different golf course to the one that I won on. It's a lot longer now, and the greens were changed back in the mid '80s. But it's still the same golf course to me.
Q. You mentioned the concern for you was perhaps lack of camaraderie or cohesion in the team. Given the fact there's six South Africans, it's not a bad start and there's already a nucleus there from the same country?
NICK PRICE: Exactly, and I think we have three Aussies or four Aussies in there right now, so that's going to be a big bonus, as well, even though we are rivals in sport and other sports, when it comes to the Presidents Cup, I think what I've learnt, in fact, from a lot of the other guys that over the years. Because the team has changed particularly in '11 and '09 quite dramatically and it's going to change again this year. There's no real continuity. You have your top four or five players that played in those, but the rest are all new‑comers.
The difference between the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup for the Americans is they're going to be a big majority of their players who played in the Ryder Cup last year are going to be in the Presidents Cup team next year. Fred is going to have the edge because he has some of the pairings that played very well together. I'm going to have to come up with a whole lot of new pairings.
So from that point of view, it's difficult. But I keep saying this, and I'm going to go back to it: 18‑hole match play is anybody's game. The American team is going to have a lot stronger on paper than our team is going to be. But it's hard to measure the camaraderie and the willpower and the spirit of a team because that can overcome a lot of things. So that's one of my prime objectives is to get amongst the guys and to sell them how keen I am and how keen I want them to be on playing in it and to really be a part of it. Because as I say, in the past I think that's been the hardest thing. No disrespect and no criticism to any other captains; it's just logistically, if you look at the dynamics of our team, it's all over the place. If a European captain wants to go and see his players, he just pitches up at a tournament in Europe and most of them are there. I've got to go to Japan and to Europe to meet with these guys. I only get three or four occasions during the year that I get to speak to them, and then of course your team changes so dramatically.
I think it's going to be up to the players and up to me and up to my assistant captains to really get these guys fired up.
Q. Greg Norman talked about his biggest issues were he didn't even have a complete team of English‑speaking players.
NICK PRICE: Well, that's one of the reasons why I got Shigeki Maruyama to be one of the captains because at that stage it was looking like in the early days there were maybe two Japanese guys who were going to be on the team.
My biggest thing is, too, I want them to be comfortable. Hideki Matsuyama, I spoke to him today. He's obviously got big game temperament, no doubt, playing the way he did at the U.S. Open and at the British Open as a rookie was simply amazing. And I sort of was a little bit of a Doubting Thomas because I watched him play and having sort of this meteoric rise up the World Rankings. I didn't even really know apart from when he played in the Masters this year who he really was, and next thing I know he's like ninth on my team's list.
So I did a little bit of research, and then at the U.S. Open I thought this is maybe going to be a little bit of a wake‑up call for him, and he came out with guns a blazing which was fantastic to watch how well he played there. Then he did it again at the British Open. So he's got the big match temperament.
But he's going to get nervous there because he's playing with 11 players. He's not going to be playing for himself, and there is a difference. Any of the guys who have played on the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup will tell you, being on the team, it's different. It's a different feeling, different when you're out on the golf course and you're playing for someone else.
But I don't want him to be nervous about that. That's the big thing. So I think Shigeki and I will chat a lot about that and how to find a way to make him feel a big part of the team, which he will be.
Q. You've mentioned the difficulty of getting the international players together coming from different tours. You've also referred to the fact that the Americans have the Ryder Cup every previous year, as well. Would that explain to some extent why the international team has such a poor record in this competition over the years?
NICK PRICE: To me it's pure and simple; it's the point difference in the two events. This is something I've been quite outspoken about, the simple fact that we play for six more points in the Presidents Cup. It plays into the hands of the stronger team.
But having said that, this is not a defeatist attitude at all. I still believe. We did it once before and we tied once before. But we've got our work cut out. It's hard because our bottom four players play more than the bottom four players in the Ryder Cup. It's a different format, but it's all about momentum. That's what's happened.
When we won in Australia, it was a huge momentum change in the second day, and so ‑‑ and we just parlayed that into the weekend, and that's what basically what won it for us down there.
It's interesting to know, though, the two Presidents Cups that we've done well in were both outside the U.S. that's another difficult thing for us, you know, playing in front of ‑‑ having the U.S. play in front of their home crowds. But as I said to Charl and all the other guys, you guys play a lot of your golf here in the U.S., and if you've got your own fan base, you'll have lots of your own fans out there, and don't get caught up in the moment by people cheering or maybe saying something negative towards you on the golf course. You know, it's only natural that people are going to root for their own country and their own team. There's a lot of things that go through your mind and a lot of things that happen to you out there.
Having played over here for so many years, when I got onto the Presidents Cup and hearing some of the negative and some of the things that were said negatively while I was playing, it really disturbed me at first, but then after a while you just ‑‑ you know that that's only natural.
Q. I assume you're already strategizing stuff like four‑ball and foursomes. What do you look for in terms of guys fitting together? Is it personality? Is it just their game, and how much have you thought this through?
NICK PRICE: It's starting to take better shape now. There's always that old belief that you put one of your stronger players, one of your senior players with a rookie to give him a little bit of support. That's something that Tony and Mark and Shigeki, my team captains, my vice‑captains, will look at really hard. That's probably going to be the hardest thing is matching up the players and who will be compatible.
You know, I've not always been a believer that good friends play well together. Sometimes that happens, sometimes that doesn't, but you've really got to find two guys' games who complement each other. So whether that's ‑‑ you can put like a shorter hitter of the ball with a longer hitter or put two shorter hitters together or medium length hitters together. You know, it just depends. I've asked the guys really to practice, bump up their short game schedules now or their practice regimen the next six weeks, seven weeks leading up, because I think this kind of competition is won on the greens and around the greens, and I think that was very apparent last year when we saw at Medinah at the Ryder Cup, where you just see the winning team make the most putts.
That's one other thing that I've asked them. But these guys are all individuals, and it's up to them. I want them to feel comfortable who they play with, and most of these guys haven't played any kind of team golf for a long, long time. In fact Thongchai Jaidee, I don't know if he's ever played in a team event at all, and he's 10th or 11th on my list, but I think he'll be a great teammate. I'm not going to say anything negative about him because I think he's a really good player. He's show his maturity over the last two or three years, and he'd be a great teammate.
Like I say, I'm sort of focusing on the top seven or eight guys because I don't think that the team is going to change that much.
Q. Obviously Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup, they're constantly compared. Ryder Cup through the years has always seemed to be played at this fevered pitch where everybody is really into it. I wonder, having played in the Presidents Cup and watched the Ryder Cup, do you like the way the Presidents Cup is on its own? Does it need more of what the Ryder Cups had, or is that just maybe ‑‑ if it's more of a competition maybe it'll attain more of that?
NICK PRICE: You know, I think the Presidents Cup is where the Ryder Cup was in the '70s right now. Something is waiting to happen. Okay, and the only time that the Ryder Cup ever became exciting was when it was closely contested, and that's what we need.
When we watch a football game or if we watch motor racing or if we watch anything, golf, you want it to come down to the last hole, the last game and one putt or a bunker shot or a chip. That's what makes it exciting. You don't want the games to finish the fourth game on Sunday and it's all over when you've got another eight groups or seven groups out there. You don't want it to finish that early. You want it to be exciting, and that's what the Ryder Cup has done so well. It's exciting. So whatever that recipe is, and I have a good idea of what I think it is.
I think, as I said to you, it's the points thing, but in the years to come, I would envisage the Presidents Cup becoming more and more exciting and more closely contested, and whether they change the points or how they change the format or whatever it is, I have my ideas as I told you, but it will be more exciting. Because we are, what, 1‑7‑1 out of nine, the international team, so that's got to change. That's all I'm saying.
Q. You talk about the chemistry and building a team chemistry, and I have to imagine that as a captain you can only do so much. Is there one player on your side that you will kind of rely on to help rally the troops along those lines?
NICK PRICE: I think it'll come from the senior guys who have played in multiple Presidents Cups. I think Ernie, obviously Adam Scott has played in five now. I think this will be his fifth. The other guys really ‑‑ those are the two sort of senior guys. The other guys haven't played that many. Jason, this will be his third, I think, either his second or his third. Cabrera has only played in two, I think. Tim Clark has been around. Obviously he was injured, and I think Greg had him as an assistant last year or last time. So I'll probably lean on Adam and Ernie, and I have done so far with advice and that and what they feel with certain decisions that have to be made which is the best decision, which is the best way to go from clothing all the way through to who maybe the pairings are going to be. We've discussed this quite a bit over the last year.
There's so many facets. There's so many permutations. There's so many decisions to be made that you basically, what I'm trying to do is let the players ‑‑ I want them to play golf. That's all I'm trying to do is I want them to go out there and play golf and have fun. If they don't have fun and they don't enjoy it, they're not going to play at their best level. I'm trying along with my vice‑captains to make their week as easy as possible so they can just go out there and play golf. I'm not going to over ‑‑ I'm going to try not to over‑captain or under‑captain. There's sort of a fine line that you walk. But I just want them ‑‑ they'll know that I'm there for anything for them for the week. It's probably the only week in their lives where they'll have me, McNulty, Tony Johnson and Maruyama as their skivvies, doing their shoes, getting their sweaters for them and everything. So I told them to make the most of it. But we'll have a lot of laughs. That's what we're going to try and do, and have a good time.
Q. With your picks, are you thinking hot hand or are you thinking a guy that might have experience, a Geoff Ogilvy type, or are you thinking about a guy that's coming in hot?
NICK PRICE: That's the $64,000 question, and that's what I'm going to have to make a decision on come September 3rd is do I look at ‑‑ I will weigh that up along with my captain and my co‑captains. We will weigh up how much experience we have on the team, who the hot players are, and if we're short on experience, we may throw in a guy there who has more experience. You know, the other factors are who plays over here a lot, the American‑based players, because guys who have played Muirfield in the past, that's going to be a factor.
There's so many things to think about, but I think that will be the biggest dilemma: Do we add more experience or do we go in there with someone who's playing really well?
Q. Earlier you mentioned how the guys are sort of not on paper as strong, which is to the case in fact it's probably a situation where on paper this is probably one of the weaker, if you will ‑ that's not a fair word ‑ teams. I just spoke to Jason Day. He said he thinks he's got a sneaky good team, and it's a situation where no one will expect them to do anything and they could be part of history. Is that something you've thought of?
NICK PRICE: You know, I've always enjoyed being an underdog going in. I think the favorites have more pressure on them, no doubt about it. But I go back to this point of the morale and the camaraderie and momentum in a team. When you have that, the sky's the limit. And that is what every day I'm going to ‑‑ during the practice rounds I'm going to try and say to the guys: Come on, we've got to get the camaraderie, we've got to get the momentum going. And when that happens, I don't care if it's a No. 80 player in the world playing against the No. 1 player in the world; I'd take momentum any time over that.
You see phenomenal things in team golf. You've seen it in the Ryder Cup, you've seen it in the Presidents Cup, guys lift their games and do things extraordinarily well in really unpredictable circumstances, holing bunker shots, holing iron shots and holing long putts under incredible pressure. And that's what makes it so exciting to be a part of it.
There's nothing quite ‑‑ I just wish I could in some form or fashion on the Monday or the Tuesday of the week of the Presidents Cup just be able to show the guys the feeling and explain to them the feeling of what it's like to be on a winning team because when we won in Australia, those 11 teammates I had, those were like my brothers. We had had such a phenomenal week and huge ups and downs and huge emotional swings that week.
If you could just capsule it and put that in a capsule and show the guys what it's like, we'd have their attention. But I think Ernie and Adam, when we met in Columbus, Ohio, at Jack's tournament, they were great in talking about the previous experiences, and a lot of the young guys were just ‑‑ their eyes were like saucers and really soaking it all in. It's an exciting time, I think.
Q. It's a fine line between the competition being a friendly competition and fiery. I'm just curious whether you thought that the tie, the Presidents Cup tie, how did that affect the perception of the Presidents Cup? Do you think it was a good or bad thing the way that went? And moving forward, apparently if it's a tie, you share the Cup. Thoughts?
NICK PRICE: It's different, but I didn't think it was fair for Tiger or Ernie to have to go into those extra holes, and especially in the dark. But for the way that situation was, the only thing that would have been better is if they'd started the next day and then got a result.
You know, they have a tie in the Ryder Cup, and I'm a firm believer that if you don't beat the other team, you retain the Cup. So that's something that ‑‑ sharing the Cup is all nice and diplomatic, but to me we're all going there to win the Cup. That's what I told my team: We're not there to beat the Americans, we're there to win the Cup. There's a big difference. It's not a question of going out there and not liking that guy and kicking his butt or whatever. That's not what it's about. Really it's about the competition and winning the Cup. If you lose that focus, I think you get distracted and you get off the main purpose of what we're trying to do there, which is to win the Cup.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Captain Nick Price, thank you very much.