The PGA Championship

An Interview With Hal Sutton

August 13, 2003

Julius Mason: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have with us Hal Sutton, captain of the 35th Ryder Cup Team.

Welcome to Rochester. Some opening comments and we'll go to Q&A.

Hal Sutton: It's awful humid outside. I had to go in 45 minutes ago so I could get somewhat dry. Man, it's no more humid in Louisiana than it is here right now.

The golf course is in great shape. There's a lot of rough out there. It's playing more like 8,000 yards than it is 7,000. That's as general as I can be, Julius.

Q: How happy are you about Bernhard Langer being named as your counterpart for the Ryder Cup?

Hal Sutton: I was extremely pleased to see Bernhard chosen as a captain. He's a great competitor. He's a gentleman. The "gentle" part of gentleman is correct for him. He's really a nice person, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun working with him over the next year.

He's beaten me a couple of times in those singles matches, so maybe I can get back at him a little bit.

Q: Besides being in good form, what must a player possess in your mind to succeed as a member of a Hal Sutton-led Ryder Cup team?

Hal Sutton: Well, I think this time next year, you're going to be looking at the Top-10 players and seeing how we can complement those ten players, and see what we are missing that we don't have and what we might be able to obtain with the 11th and 12th pick.

One of the things that I've continually said that I wanted to drive home is, is that it is the players' honor for them to play on the team, rather than the country's honor to have the player on the team. And I think if we can carry that into the matches, that we are going to be a lot better prepared to come out of there victorious.

Q: Bernhard said some very nice things about you this morning. How important is it that the relationship between the two captains sets the tone for the match?

Hal Sutton: I think it's really important. Bernhard and I have been friends for a long time. You know, we are both on the Hogan staff and we have done commercials together, we have done testing together. We're from the same era, we're close to the same age, so we've been around each other and played a lot of competitive golf against each other for a long time.

And we do, we get along really well, and I'm looking forward to spending next year with him, and I think it will set a nice tone for the matches, the fact that he and I are friends.

Q: As a follow-up to that, The Belfry matches brought it back to what it should be about following Brookline. Now we are back in America, the spotlight is going to be on American fans and the way -- however you might want to say it -- the American team conducts itself. How aware are you of that and your teams' and your spectators' responsibilities?

Hal Sutton: I'm aware of that. I think it's a responsibility that we all have to bear at all times, not just the American players, but the European players. We were aware of it when we were at The Belfry this year, and they will be aware of it over here as well, as I will remind our players to always be aware of that.

But I also want to add that it is a spirited competition. Everybody wants to win and it was evident this last year at The Belfry, because the European players were excited about winning. They were tackling one another and things like that. And I don't think there's a whole lot wrong with that because everybody wants to win so bad.

Now, I think everybody needs to keep that intact and let's check ourselves and make sure that we don't get out of hand.

I don't want to put everybody in a straightjacket either, by the same token. I was part of the team at The Belfry and I wanted to make sure that I made every step just right, you know, and sometimes there wasn't room for me to be myself in that.

So there is a fine line as to how we do that, and my word is that I'm going to do the best as a captain, that I keep everybody in check. I hope and I feel totally comfortable that the PGA of America is going to do everything to do that from a fan perspective.

I think we are going to have a great match at Oakland Hills. It's going to be a respectful match. It will be -- everybody will have the will to win. The European players will come over here and they will want to beat us and we'll be over here and we'll want to beat them. That's what it will be.

Q: I put this question to Bernhard earlier and now I'll put it to you. How would you like your captaincy to be remembered?

Hal Sutton: That's a good question. I'd like to be remembered as a captain that handled himself in a respectful way, was always aware of the question that I was just asked, how important that was, and I was making steps to further the process that was started at The Belfry; and at the same time, led a -- I don't want to use the word "spirited" -- but a team that was with heart, to a challenging match, hopefully victorious. But who knows?

Q: Did you notice any differences about the characteristic of the '99 team and the 2002 team at The Belfry?

Hal Sutton: Yeah, I mean, because we were so aware that we wanted to be in check, if you will, the American players felt a little bit restrained. I'm not sure that was necessarily a bad thing.

But I think there is a way to have free will and still do it the right way. That will be my challenge, is to allow a person to be himself. You know, I think everybody's under the impression that Tiger Woods pumping his fist over here is something different than pumping his fist over in Europe. Tiger Woods is used to doing this, and if Tiger Woods does this (pumping fist) is that going to stir the crowd? I'm hoping that everybody understands that that's Tiger Woods; he's not trying to stir the crowd up.

Does that make any sense to anybody?

Q: More like a Hal Sutton move?

Hal Sutton: I taught him how to do that. He was learning when he was ten, you know. (Laughter.)

Q: There's this feeling that you guys might have felt restrained over at The Belfry; is there any kind of recognition that you guys as a team were over the top at Brookline, and what is your definition of "out of hand" or "over the top"?

Hal Sutton: We've hashed this out a thousand different times. Somebody might have defined it as over the top. I would have defined it as an uncontrollable urge to express enthusiasm. It was history being made and, you know, I was there; I was on the back of the 17th green myself. It was a lot of the moment, it was a lot of where we were. But I haven't had that happen. It could be a good thing in the future because we could have all learned a lesson from it.

Q: When you look at this sweep of European Ryder Cup teams down the years that you've played and been involved with, how have they changed? What do they do? What do the people from Europe do better now than they did at the start of the time when you were involved?

Hal Sutton: Well, I think the game of golf has evolved a lot over the last 20 years. I think it's grown in popularity. One of the things that's happened is they included all of Europe during that time and they got a lot more talent involved in terms of when they included all of Europe.

The game is changing so fast, I don't even know if I can answer that question correctly. The game has grown in popularity. The Ryder Cup itself has grown in popularity. Europe has done a great job of -- they use more imagination. Their players use more imagination than our players have. Our game, because of the nature of the golf courses we play in the United States, is played in the air a lot.

In Europe, they play with the ball on the ground a lot. We haven't fared as well in that type of situation. I don't know if I answered that correctly.

Q: Many past Ryder Cup captains have been a little bit past their playing prime when they were captains. You just played in the last two Ryder Cups. How do you take that experience and transfer it to your work as captain?

Hal Sutton: Well, it's recent in my mind what we did in the last two Ryder Cups. I remember vividly some of the things that I would like to do a little differently, not to say that we didn't do them right then, but just add my touch to it, if you will.

You know, I still want to play well. I think part of being a good captain is being current, walking down the fairways on Sunday afternoons with the players that are going to be playing for you. Not commentating with them, but making a putt occasionally while they are trying to make one.

Q: We saw in '99 how your leadership and your intensity can lead a team. From now until the final putt drops at Oakland Hills, how is that going to help the U.S.?

Hal Sutton: We'll never know the answer to that. Because I'm out here and I play a lot and I'm around the players a lot, I'm talking to them. I mean, I had a conversation with Tiger last night and said that I wanted to sit down next week with him for five or ten minutes and talk to him about a few things.

I think the fact that I'm out here a lot and I see them a lot and we're playing together a lot, that's going to make a difference. You know, in today's world, I don't know how much difference a captain can really make. All of these guys are so prepared to play each week. They have their own way of doing things and I don't know that I can implement anything that would stir that at all.

I'm in the elementary stages of doing this and how I'm really going to affect it, I really don't know yet.

Q: Do you find yourself sneaking a peek at the Ryder Cup standings now? I know I asked you that in May and you said you had no idea, but it's a year and four days away from you having to make your pick.

Hal Sutton: Julius sends me e-mails all the time with the standings on them, and he was nice enough to set them right here in front of me before the interview.

And I am very well aware of who is in the top and would is playing well at the time. I mean, you know, like two weeks ago I was paired with Chris DiMarco and his name is up there pretty high. I'm aware that he's up there and I'm watching what he's doing. It was kind of fun, he and I both shot 64 the same day. That was fun.

Q: Have you started formulating a plan on how you'll go about making those very important selections that a captain can one, be widely acclaimed for, or two, highly criticized for?

Hal Sutton: I have not formulated a plan. I think it would be way too early for me to even hint about what I might do.

I think we need to look at the strengths and the weaknesses of the team and make a selection based on that.

I can't imagine that you've got ten of the best players in the world and you'd have any weaknesses.

Q: It was suggested a couple years ago, I think, that the Ryder Cup, one of the players said that the Ryder Cup players should be compensated. Would you give us your opinion on that one way or the other?

Hal Sutton: My opinion of that is that we get paid an awful lot of money every other week of the year, and we can go play for pride one week of the year. That's my opinion.

Q: I asked Bernhard the same question: How much will a change in the format of the European selection process, how much better does that make them?

Hal Sutton: I think it was a needed change for them. I'm surprised that the European Tour maybe allowed that, but anyway, I think it's going to open the right for their players to play over here more and still be able to make the Ryder Cup team. They have worried about that in the past, so I think it is a good thing for them. I think it will make them a better team. If that's your question, I think it will make them a better team, I'm sad to report.

Q: You talked earlier about a message to the players in regards to behavior and all that, what message would you have for the folks in Detroit about how they should behave and the sort of things you would expect them to be doing?

Hal Sutton: I would remind everybody, whether it was in Detroit or anywhere else, that this is a game of gentleman; that we are out there trying to play. We want to try to have a competitive, challenging match, but at the same time, you want to be respectful of everybody. And to do whatever was necessary to do that, to be respectful. I think if we all do that, then we're going to have a great match.

Q: With regards to Tiger, from what I can gather in the past, he has not been a very vocal -- what you would call a vocal leader amongst the team, like you've been, and people say, well, it's just not in his personality to be that way, just because he's No. 1 in the world. By next year, it's his third Ryder Cup, he's 28 or 29. As the captain, will you try to encourage him and challenge him to be more of the vocal leader in the locker room, in the hotel? And also, as a second part, you had mentioned when you got to the captaincy about challenging him to equate Jack Nicklaus' record in the Ryder Cup and how will you go about that, and those two things working together; what do you think about that?

Hal Sutton: Tiger has not been very vocal. He's just tried to play his game. I don't think there's a player that will make that team alongside them that doesn't have the utmost respect for his abilities. I think if he had something to share with the team, everybody would listen intently.

So, yes, the answer to that question is yes, I will try to impress upon him to share things, and he's the first guy that I want to talk to and I'm going to chat with him next week. So there you go.

Q: The European PGA had a very successful policy, last time; it was limiting alcohol intake. Would you recommend PGA of America do the same thing for Oakland Hills?

Hal Sutton: I think that was one of the questions that I asked of the officers that came in when they asked me to protect the captaincy. I said I felt like that went very well and I would hope -- in fact, I'm even asking that I want to make sure y'all are going to do this because I think it's important that this continue. And they have assured me that they are going to and they have lived up to everything they said they are going to, and I'm sure they will here, too.

You know, I look for a great match. I mean, I'm not at all worried. I was told in media training not to do this, but I'm going to do this. I'm going to back up to your question.

I'm not at all worried about what happened in '99. We all learned from that. We are past it, we are moving forward and we will continue the process what was started in 2002 at The Belfry. We are going to have a great, challenging, competitive match. And I'm sure that Bernhard and I will converse about that constantly and we will see to it that that's the way the matches are played.

Q: If you don't mind shifting gears to 2003, is there some gratification, satisfaction, that there's so many 40-somethings having an impact and having a say in who wins tournament after tournament?

Hal Sutton: I absolutely. I was in Hartford, and watching Peter win Hartford, it was a special place in my heart for the 40-year-olds that are winning. It makes us all feel good with that happens.

Q: Just a further one about your meeting with Tiger, is it that you just don't know yet how much he cares about the Ryder Cup; are you curious to be sure that he cares as much as you and lots of other people do?

Hal Sutton: No. I don't have any doubt about how much Tiger cares. This man cares every time he puts that peg in the ground. I mean, if there's a person in the world that doubts how much Tiger Woods cares, then he doesn't understand the game very much, he doesn't have a feel for the game. The man does not like to lose. (Laughs). So I don't have any doubt in the world about how Tiger Woods feels.

Q: What's it going to be like to possibly have a guy from your hometown, David Toms -- I believe he's sixth in the standings right now -- but he's likely to be on the team. He doesn't have a personality like you, a fiery personality, but what does David Toms bring to a Ryder Cup team?

Hal Sutton: David Toms played his heart out in the last Ryder Cup, 2002. He's a great player. He's a quiet leader, and he would be anybody's dream as an addition to the team.

So he is sixth in standings right now, and I'm sure he will add points to that pretty much every week that he plays.

Julius Mason: Thank you very much, Mr. Sutton.

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