USA Team Press Conference (Friday)


By The R&A
September 9, 2011

THE MODERATOR:  Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.  I've got with me U.S. Team captain, Jim Holtgrieve and I have Harris English and Russell Henley.  If I can just get starred, Jim, you were saying at the start of the week you wanted some real Scottish weather.  You've got some.  Are you hoping it hangs around for the weekend?

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  I'm not so sure the guys like the coldness today.  I think that's probably the coldest we've been so far this week.  Obviously the moisture is something that I think we ‑‑ I think helps to get used to and hit different golf shots.  Obviously we hear the forecast is for wind.  I have to be honest with you, since I have not played in wind and rain over in Scotland, I hope that we don't have both.  I just hope we have wind or the slight rain.

It's up to the team.  I think they are ready and they are the ones that have been playing in it and fighting it, so it's kind of up to them.

THE MODERATOR:  Harris, less than 24 hours to go, what do you do between now and tee‑off tomorrow morning?

HARRIS ENGLISH:  Just relax a little bit.  We've been going pretty hard the last couple of days.  I feel like we have been pretty prepared.  We just have to relax and kind of get ready for tomorrow and get rested up and get ready for battle.

THE MODERATOR:  And Russell, how has the week gone, do you feel as Harris, do you feel ready to go?

RUSSELL HENLEY:  Feel ready to go.  We have played golf every day.  Got a little rest yesterday afternoon, and after you've seen the course six, seven times, and pretty much every time the weather has been different, the wind has been different and while we've been out there it's changed on us.

So I feel like we have experienced pretty much, I don't know, about everything with the weather in Scotland.  But I think everybody is feeling pretty good.

Q.  Have you ever experienced playing golf this cold and this windy before?  

HARRIS ENGLISH:  I played college golf over four years and we played on the same college team and you had tournaments where you had pretty cold weather and some wind and rain at times.  It's just different coming here.  Like Russ said, the weather changes so much, and one time can be sunny and hot and five minutes later it could be rainy and cold.

I mean, it's just different.  That's really the only difference I see in this and playing in America.  It's definitely fun.  It's a challenge and I think we are looking forward to it.

Q.  You guys both played in some big tournaments over the past year, past two years, can you kind of compare now that you're on the eve of this event, to the U.S. Open or some of the bigger tournaments you guys have played in?  

RUSSELL HENLEY:  I don't know if this one compares.  When it comes to the U.S. Opens I've played in, I just have to worry about going out there and fighting for me, and it's almost like I've got nothing to lose playing as an amateur.

This week, fighting for a lot more than just me.  And I think that adds a little bit of pressure and ‑‑ but it's a pressure I'm looking forward to and I feel like I'm ready for it.

I think there's a little more urgency, sense of urgency for this one.

Q.  We hear that Donald Trump is in town today.  Will you get involved him involved in your team talk at any point?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  I keep hearing the rumour.  I heard somebody say they saw him last night at a restaurant.  I hear that he may come by and talk to us come or maybe this evening, so has not been confirmed one way or the other yet.

I think the guys would probably like to meet him, and I'm sure that Mr. Trump would give us words of encouragement, particularly on what this weekend is all about, not only here, but also in New York.  So I think it would be pretty special.

Q.  People say that on paper this team looks really, really special, really strong.  Does that add extra pressure going into the match on you guys?  

HARRIS ENGLISH:  I don't think so.  I mean, we are playing as a team and this is a ten‑man team.  I don't think our individual accolades really mean anything.  I mean, coming to Scotland, kind of a different territory, and we are really bonding really great over the last couple of days and we are just playing as a team.

I don't think the match, that we have the upper hand at all.  We are coming to Scotland.  GB&I has a great team and we are playing match play, and really anything can happen.  Just going to go out there and give it our best and try to play a good match.

Q.  I wanted to ask more or less the same question of Jim, and that is how do you manage a team that appears to have an advantage and how do you manage the expectations?  Show us your skill at captaincy in dealing with that situation.  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  I don't know if I have that skill.  I think Harris just said it very accurately; for me, they have all received ‑‑ they have all won medals and trophies in their careers.  Obviously these two gentlemen have been very successful this year.  But they are here as a team and I think that's why they are on this team.  And that's how the other eight are approaching this week, as well.  So that makes I think my job a lot easier.

We have talked together as a team.  I've talked to some as individuals.  But all of us are on the same page, which is really special.

I've got to hand in our pairings here shortly, and the only change that I had some pairings prepared before Tuesday that made a slight change on Tuesday, and ever since then, we are all in agreement, we are all on the same page, and we are all focussed and as Harris said, we are all‑square on the first tee.  It's all match play.  Everything is even.  So the guys are ready.

  

            Q.  You touched on it yesterday, but obviously Sunday will be a very emotional day for all concerned with the team.  Are you concerned that perhaps that emotion may effect the golf on Sunday?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  It's probably not going to effect our guys' playing.  I think if anything, they will play harder.  But it's not going to effect their focus and their commitment and the way they manage their games out there.  I'm convinced they are so mature about that, that that's the way they will continue.  And whatever happens, will happen, and we will ‑‑ when the matches are over, we will obviously recognise what took place ten years ago.

As I said earlier, I have a special letter that I'm going to read to the team on Sunday morning.  It's a very special letter.  But, hey, these young men, they are just very talented golfers, and they know what they are doing and they are playing for their country and they know GB&I is playing for their country and they are playing the greatest amateur competition that there is.  I think that they are really focused.

Q.  For both the players, just maybe talk about your adjustments that you've made this week from playing the Amateur and playing obviously a lot at home, mostly there, to the links type of golf that you play here, whether it be shots or your thinking or your strategy.  

RUSSELL HENLEY:  I think the difference is when the wind picks up as hard as it's probably going to tomorrow and the next day, you have to really focus on where you want the ball to end up.  Versus a lot of times playing some courses in the U.S., I feel like you can just be aggressive to tucked pins and be on any side of the hole and just kind of still be able to get it up‑and‑down or whatever.

But we played it the other day, and the wind picked up, it was going really hard, and it really mattered which side of the hole you're on, where you left the ball.  And I think the biggest part about it every here is obviously you have to hit the ball low, high, hit it both ways.

But this is course management.  On each shot you have to think a lot more about what you have to do on that shot and how to execute it versus just, okay, this is 130, no wind, I'm just going to swing a 9, which is 125, I've got to land it 130 because it's downwind.  There's a lot more that goes into it.

So I would say just a lot more thinking versus back over in the U.S.

HARRIS ENGLISH:  Definitely, we don't play courses this firm normally in the U.S.  It's different, like Russ was saying.  Yeah, you get a yardage to the pin but you might have to land it 30 or 40 yards short of the pin.  It's just different and we got used to it playing a couple of courses the past couple of days, and it's been good to get used to it.

But that's the main difference I feel like, just seeing the ball roll out and bounce.  We don't see that back in the United States very much.

Q.  Harris, I think I'm right in saying that you've entered The European Tour Qualifying School; is that right?  

HARRIS ENGLISH:  I haven't.

Q.  I withdraw the question then.  (Laughter)  Jim, you had said that you made some changes on Tuesday in regards to the pairings you're putting out for tomorrow.  You cannot tell us who you changed, but can you give us the criteria, what was the reason for the change?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  Wind.  Wind.  I'm not going to tell you who, or the change I've made.  But the reason I made it is because of wind.

Q.  W‑i‑n‑d? 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  W‑i‑n‑d.

Q.  Where do you expect Nigel will put Tom Lewis out?  Do you have an idea where tomorrow Lewis might be or are you worried about that? 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  You know, ladies and gentlemen, when this process became more dedicated, starting on January 1 this year, I started ‑‑ it's amazing what you can do with the Internet.  You have this Google alert with Walker Cup and so I started following all of the GB&I candidates for the team, and once the team was selected I started putting all of these stats and all of these things together to try to see maybe how we try to put it up together and what ‑‑ how I would pair somebody against somebody.

And then when I got here, I threw it all out the window.  It's all in the trash can.  Because I can't worry about what Captain Edwards does, and I'm focussed on my guys and how they feel and how they feel about their games, and basically, how they feel about the golf course.

You know, somebody said, "Are you going to go out and coach these young men?"

Are you kidding me?  The talent that these guys have?  I'm just there to kind of be a support, role model, tell them about my experiences playing Walker Cup.  But these gentlemen know everything they need to do to win this match, and whoever Captain Edwards puts up against us or whoever I put up against Captain Edwards, I'm sure there's going to be some great matches out there.

And it will be interesting to see how Captain Edward thinks in regard to my thinking of how we put strength, how are we go down the line in regards to the first versus last.  So I just think there's going to be some tremendous matches.

  

Q.  Has it been hard this week to control your emotions and energy?  Five days of buildup for the event, not getting to peak too early ‑‑  how do you do that so that you're ready for the weekend?  

HARRIS ENGLISH:  Definitely have to conserve our energy.  We played 36 the first day and it was Monday, we came over here and played 36 just to get used to the course.

Other than that, just kind of getting a feel for it.  You have to save your energy because the next two days are going to be pretty grueling and it's going to be mentally tough out here.  But I mean, that's what I've been trying to do.

Like this afternoon we are just going to hang out in the team room and maybe watch a movie, just relax, kind of take the weight off our shoulders and relax and get ready for tomorrow.

Q.  You said a couple of minutes ago that the Walker Cup was the best event there is.  Can you explain why you think it is the best?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  Because it's the founding of team play.  Obviously The Ryder Cup came out of the Walker Cup.  Walker Cup was born first.  It was born for the right reason, to bring friendship and build relationships between two continents after World War I.

Amateur golf, to me, is the purest form.  I made a mistake one time turning professional.  I got my amateur status back, just in case.  And I made a mistake because I went to play only for money and forgot about having fun.

To get a second chance to come back to amateur golf, I'm very blessed and very honoured about that.  But I just ‑‑ amateur golf, particularly over here, I mean, are you kidding?  The relationships we can build, and you talk to the people, the spectators out on the golf course today, to be able to do that.

I just think that the Walker Cup Team is what pure amateur golf is all about, and what we as humans ‑‑ I'll get too melancholy, I don't know if I answered that properly but I think I got most of it for you.

Q.  Earlier, Captain Edwards was in here and he was bemoaning the fact that he thought the Amateur rankings were not reflective of the talent level of his players because they don't take into consideration the full year, basically, because they don't play the full year.  Do you feel like the rankings as they are reflective of the talent level of the players or do you think they should be adjusted?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  Did he answer that question?

Q.  Yes.  (Laughter). 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  The ranking system, I do not know that much about.  I see what the numbers are.  I see what the rankings are.  Those rankings, I've started ‑‑ and I have it all.  I threw those in the trash, too.

What I thought I could bring to the process was for me to go out and watch these players play in tournaments and see their eyes and see how they react and how they manage themselves on a golf course in various situations.

And that's the only thing that I use myself when I went to watch these ‑‑ I watched probably eight amateur events this year, to watch and to analyse in my mind and take notes to see not only their ability to play golf but their ability to represent the United States.

To put numbers to players, I am very happy that we ‑‑ that the USGA and the R&A decided on the Walker Cup teams, do not use the same system that the Ryder Cup uses.  I don't like that at all, because I just think you have situations where maybe you don't get the right players to represent the country.

So, with that being said, do the rankings have to be adjusted some way?  I don't know.  You probably have to ask people who are much smarter than I am about that.  I just know what I see when I watch players play.

Q.  Just to follow up, since you did see all of these players, you know what the numbers are, do you think what you saw is reflected? 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  The answer to that is, yes.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks a lot.