GB&I Team Press Conference (Friday)


By The R&A
September 9, 2011

THE MODERATOR: What's the mood like in the team room?

MICHAEL STEWART:  The team has been absolutely superb this week.  I think Nigel got here ‑‑  when we can get the hours, I think in April or June or something like that, so all of the guys ‑‑ we came from those, so the team has been absolutely great and the boys are getting on really well.

THE MODERATOR:  You've had a big year, how do you think the experience is going to help your play this week?

TOM LEWIS:  It's good.  Match play is a bit of a different game.  The players are playing well this week, so we are looking forward to just getting ready today.  And hopefully if I go out on top and get a few points on the board then with Mikey, then it will build some confidence throughout the team, and that's our job this week.  And if we play for ourselves, then we'll do great, and if we support the team and we have won, then it will be a victory at the end of the week.

Q.  You mentioned it's been a long week, how difficult is it to keep it so the guys don't get up too early and lose all of their energy for the weekend?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Well, we have been, as I mentioned yesterday, we have been to Kingsbarns and Carnoustie, and we are trying to build the team spirit and make them aware that peaking on Monday and Tuesday, isn't the right thing.

But, we are trying to get them to focus on being competitive throughout the week, and then at the same time, trying to have it fairly relaxed.  Whether it's too long, a week, only time will tell, but I think the boys all agree, and they have enjoyed being part of the Walker Cup experience.

You know, there's nothing like it in amateur golf, and having an exciting week and an enjoyable week with a group of people that you are going to make lifelong friendships with, is all part of the Walker Cup experience.

Q.  It sounds as though Tom and Michael are going out first, if that's the case, what did you see in them as a pairing together?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  If that is the case (laughter) then they would be a very good pairing.  Mikey is very competitive and so is Tom, and if they do go first, they will lead from the front and they will show what we plan to do this week.  I'm not laying all my cards on the table, because they might be playing fourth.

Q.  I would like to you answer this last, please.  Tom and Michael, would you each answer this separately.  How do you not feel daunted by the American side? 

TOM LEWIS:  Sorry, explain that again?

Q.  How do you not feel daunted by the Americans and their impressive‑looking team.  

TOM LEWIS:  Obviously they are always going to be strong.  Their country is 50 times the size of ours and they are always going to be strong players.

Fortunately for me, Mikey has been over at university over there.  So he knows some of the players personally.  And I played against them at the U.S. Amateur this year, and they are really nice guys, and they are really good players.

So we just have got to respect them as players and play our game, and you know, if we can play our best, then welcome away with a win.  If we don't, it's just going to be a struggle but I know the team are playing well this week, so hopefully we can come away with a few wins and see what happens at the end of Sunday.

MICHAEL STEWART:  I think we have got a great‑looking team.  I think we have got a great‑looking team.  Just the selectors know what they are doing; they have got a really strong team this week.  Obviously the Americans, they go out with however many guys in the Top‑10 in the World Rankings.

But we are at home this week, so we are going to have a lot of support.  So when we start holing putts, it will hopefully feed through the rest of the team, and so we are just looking forward to the challenge.  We are not going to be daunted by it.

NIGEL EDWARDS:  These players are great players in their own right.  The World Rankings are not necessarily the best reflection of what is happening, because the majority of our players finished playing in September and then start playing up with the Spanish and the Portuguese the following February or March.

And if you give anyone in any World Rankings, whether it's badminton, tennis or anything, six months head start, then you know, you're going to be a little bit further back.  It's only natural, unless you win absolutely every single tournament.  Jack Nicklaus never did that.

You know, we have got a great team, if they play their games this week and look after themselves and don't worry about anybody else, we will do just fine.

Q.  You come across as a confident young man.  Is that the way you want it to be, the spotlight shining directly on you, and would you want the big American name?  

TOM LEWIS:  Yeah, I obviously I did well over the year and I feel confident coming into this week.  I'm playing well.  So there's no real excuses why I can't, you know, perform with some of the top boys from America.

And it would be really nice to play them, but, you know, I'm just happy to play any games, and if the team wins, then I don't mind sitting out four, but obviously I want to play all four.  It would be lovely to go out top, but you know, whatever the team's best order is, then I'm happy with that.  It would be nice to play some of the top boys but they are all great players.

So I'm just going to be happy to play.

Q.  The focus will fall on Tom just because of what he did at The Open.  Are you at all tempted to sort of hide him in the lineup and not put him out first?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Is he playing first?

Q.  Say he was.  By the time we appear in the morning, we're going to have a have the draw.  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Tom will play wherever I feel he will contribute best to the team.  And I know he will perform very well, and he's not frightened of anyone.

Q.  Have you addressed your observations about the World Rankings to the R&A, and if so, is anybody going to do anything about them, if you think they don't reflect fairly what is going on around the world?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I'm constantly giving them a battering (laughing).  No, it's very difficult, isn't it, because you know, amateur golf, different players are playing different tournaments all around the world with so many different tournaments that have to be on the world and the golf rankings, and it's not like you've got the tours ‑‑ they have got professional tours.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure whether the Official World Golf Ranking is absolutely spot‑on anyway.  We have had various Order of Merits over the years in amateur golf and professional golf and you wonder what the rankings are.

So, in terms of getting them absolutely spot on, I think it's very difficult.  I suspect that there are meetings with the R&A and the USGA, with the people that ‑‑ and they will look at it.  I mean, it's only a couple of years old.  I'm sure that in time, it will even itself out and become a very fair system for everybody.

That's not saying that it's not fair, because if you keep winning, then you'll be at the top.

Q.  Could I just pass that on to the players?  Tom, do you feel you're where you should be?  And same to you, Michael.  

MICHAEL STEWART:  I think the only thing that the World Rankings meant to me this year was for tour school, if you are in the top three or Top‑10, you get through.  But it's hard to comment.  Like Nigel said, the Americans play pretty much year round in college, so it's hard to know exactly where you should be.

But the ranking is just a number thing.  In amateur golf, when you turn pro, then you should be looking about where you are.

TOM LEWIS:  My focus is the same.  Getting through to the second stage of Tour School would have been excellent for me.  Unfortunately, I missed that by one spot.  I felt like I made second stage, but the top Americans got into Tour School and I missed out by a spot.  Obviously I'm disappointed, but I have to play better if I want to do that.

The World Rankings are fair, and everyone is in the same boat, so I finished eighth, and if I finished seventh, I go to the second stage.  I just needed to play better throughout the year and unfortunately I didn't do that.  I just have to do what I can and just keep my head down and do what I can control.

Q.  Do you believe you're at your best as a frontrunner or an anchor man, Michael?  

MICHAEL STEWART:  Wherever Nigel puts me will be my best position.  I've spent the last few years playing up top for my country of Scotland.  No matter where Nigel puts me, I'll be happy to play.

With the home crowd here this week, they will be spurring me on no matter where I play.

Q.  You seem to be of two minds after The Open to turn pro straightaway or wait for this event.  Is there any one thing or person that persuaded to you stay?  

TOM LEWIS:  No, not at all.  I went over, I thought about it, definitely, because I was playing well.  But then I only had one good round, and that's not where I should have finished.  From leading off to one round and finishing 30th isn't good enough, so obviously it shows that I need to improve in certain areas.  And it wasn't like I got nervous.  I was actually really happy with my first round and hopefully I was trying to win.  But, unfortunately I didn't do that, and I had a long think about it and certain things benefitted me by turning and certain things benefitted me to stay an amateur.

But Walker Cup was my main goal as an amateur and it would have been silly to have turned when it felt like I made that team back in July.  I'm happy I stayed.  I had a struggle a couple of weeks after The Open, so I'm pleased I stayed, because if I turned pro, then I would have made a big mistake.  I'm just happy to be here and that's where the focus is going to be this week.

Q.  Nigel said that Tom is not frightened of anyone.  Is it fair to say that you are in the same boat when you step on that tee?  

MICHAEL STEWART:  Obviously it was a bit hit, my match with Tom at the British Amateur this year, and there was a lot of folk that kind of almost wrote me off.  But I'm in the exact same boat as Tom.  Nobody, especially at home, in these conditions, there's nobody in the world that I'd rather be playing with.

Q.  By all accounts, there's mention of a hurricane this weekend, is that something that pleases you, because you know our Britains' liking of the weather.  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Well, this year, feels like we have been playing in a hurricane all summer.  Certainly from the Lytham Trophy, where it was really brutal at Lytham.  Every week has been the same.

The forecast has been changing and it looks as if the predicted forecast of yesterday is not going to be as strong as they thought it was going to be.

So you know, it will be what it will be.  We are used to playing in the wind and we don't mind a bit of breeze or as the old guys at the club would say, that's not a breeze, that's just a mere vapor.  (Laughter).

Q.  And Nigel, you talked about being at Celtic Manor last year and Colin Montgomerie, can you just give me two things that you learned from being there and watching the way that he led Europe?  And then secondly, he and Scotland did quite well in Wales.  How do you feel about a Welshman doing as well in Scotland almost a year later? 

NIGEL EDWARDS:  What did I learn from Colin Montgomerie?  Well, I thought he looked very relaxed about it.  I suspect he ‑‑ certainly the players, I would have thought, I wasn't in the team room, but gave him the respect of his playing career and of his experiences playing in The Ryder Cup.  And all you have to do is look at his singles record to see what ‑‑ how successful he was in The Ryder Cup.

So he looked very calm and he looked very prepared.  And I know he was prepared, because he had been down there a number of times prior to The Ryder Cup.  I've done what I felt would benefit the team and that's give them what I felt was a great experience and giving them some of my experiences.  And when I was playing in the Walker Cup, many people wouldn't have given me any chance of being successful, but I think I did okay.

I forgot the second part of your question.

Q.  A Welshman in Scotland.  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I've done pretty well in Scotland as a player myself, so there's no reason why I can't be holding that trophy aloft on Sunday night.  And that has been the goal from when we set out at the Celtic Manor some 18 months ago, the focus was on being successful and having a really good group and having a great time and I feel as if we are well on the way to doing that.

Q.  What would give you more satisfaction, holding the trophy on Sunday night or being on three winning teams?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Being on three winning teams?

Q.  Three winning Walker Cup teams.  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Two winning teams.  We lost by a point in Chicago and then lost by a point in County Down.

So being on three winning teams, as a captain and holding the trophy aloft Sunday night would be great.  But if you mean the difference between being a player and a captain, like I said at the dinner last night, they are very different experiences.

As a player, I would like to be out there, but these boys are better than me.  They deserve to be there.  And they will play with a lot of pride and a lot of passion and I'm happy with the team and looking forward to being here.  It would be great to lift that trophy Sunday night.

Q.  There's a lot being of this hurricane that appears to be at the back of us.  Does it draw the question again of scheduling the matches, such as the Walker Cup, and of course given that the Ryder Cup takes place in Gleneagles in 2014, last year after Celtic Manor, there was talk about bringing it forward two or three weeks.  Is that something we need to start looking at again? 

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I don't think the Walker Cup is too late from my point of view.  You know, it's pretty difficult to fit it in earlier in the season.

I guess Ryder Cup has been ‑‑ you guys wrote an awful lot about it last October rather than September.  We are a month away from that sort of date.

You know, we are on a great links golf course, and you know, if there is a hurricane, not that I've heard that there is a hurricane, but you guys are in the know, and that would be unfortunate, of course.

But you can have bad weather as we have done at the Lytham Trophy.  The Home Internationals three weeks ago in County Sligo, where it was torrential rain and blowing a gale.  You know, the 18th on that Friday morning was pretty brutal.  So you can get bad weather in August.  You can get it in May; you can get it in June.  We'll deal with it.

Q.  When you came into the press center after your great round at St. George's, you seemed to have half of Welwyn Garden City with you; are they all here and is your Scottish gran here, as well? 

TOM LEWIS:  Yeah, they are, actually if you look behind you.  And I think coming through the door.  The room actually isn't big enough so you might have to extend the wall.

No, I didn't really notice until after how many people were sitting in the back of the room but I'm sure my Scottish nan will be here at some point.  But obviously I think they are all arriving today for tomorrow morning to support the team, and I'm just going to be focusing on my games and I'm sure I'll see them at certain points of the week.

Q.  What messages have you had? 

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Lots of good luck messages.  I haven't related them to the team yet.  I'm going to safer them and let them enjoy them tonight.  But some very special messages from some very special people.  Richard Dixon, Golfing in Wales?  (Laughter) who else?  My wife.  Yeah, so I want to read them out and make them very special, make a very special moment for these players who deserve to be here, and we'll enjoy the weekend and be inspired by the thoughts of some very successful golfers.

THE MODERATOR:   Thanks a lot.