GB&I Pre-Walker Cup Press Conference


By USGA
September 6, 2013

THE MODERATOR:  We are pleased to be joined by the team from Great Britain and Ireland today, the captain Nigel Edwards as well as players Matthew Fitzpatrick, Garrick Porteous and Rhys Pugh.  Welcome to you all.  Nigel, let's begin with you.  What's the mood like today in the team room?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  The boys are great.  They've been getting on with the job, plenty of putting on the greens and plenty of chipping, so they're very buoyant.  They're looking forward to the challenge, and looks as if the weather is set for it to make it a good contest this weekend.  So they're in a good place.

THE MODERATOR:  Before we open up to questions, Matthew on the end there, you've had quite a summer, silver medalist at the Open, U.S. Amateur champion, McCormack medal winner.  How much of your success over the last few months prepares you for Walker Cup competition?

MATTHEW FITZPATRICK:  I think all of the achievements I've managed to complete have prepared me really well.  I think the biggest thing that I'll get out of those is just playing in front of a big crowd.  It's really nerve‑wracking playing in front of a crowd.  So having that experience in the past definitely helps.

THE MODERATOR:  Questions for the GB & I team?

Q.  Nigel, most important question of the day, how is your dad?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  He's stable.  He's okay.  So hopefully he's on the mend and the consultant yesterday ‑‑ not yesterday ‑‑ Wednesday, gave some positive news.  So yeah, that's really all.  He's in a tough place, but he wanted us to come out here and be part of the Walker Cup and let's go forward.

Q.  This is for all the players.  Whenever we talk to the pros, we just assume ‑‑ the pros from Great Britain.  We assume you must play a lot of links golf, and they say, no, we don't really.  How much links golf do you play?

RHYS PUGH:  Most of the tournaments we play on links courses, but I'm in the States in college, so I get a good mix.

GARRICK PORTEOUS:  Yeah, I mean most ‑‑ I mean we have our circuit back home through the summer, and the majority, you know, are on links courses.  You got St. Andrews Links; you got the British and the British tournaments.  So we play on links courses.  So it sets us up pretty good for this week.

MATT FITZPATRICK:  Yeah, the summer over in the UK, I think the normal tournaments you play about three out of the whole season maybe that aren't links depending on where a couple are drawn to be played.  The majority of the amateur game is played on links, definitely in the UK, and obviously it's a lot different over here.

Q.  What is it going to do for you this weekend?

MATT FITZPATRICK:  It helps a lot, yeah.  Obviously a lot ‑‑ maybe gives us a little bit of an advantage.  But I mean the course is the same for everyone.  So it's maybe a little bit more experience.  But yeah, it's going to be a tough test.  And the greens are certainly similar to links courses at home.

Q.  Just to the players.  I don't want to embarrass Nigel, but how important was it to have him back?

GARRICK PORTEOUS:  I think it's massive.  I mean he's part of this team.  I mean he's got so much motivation that brings to the team.  You know, he's got so much, you know, knowledge of playing in previous Walker Cups.  He's a great guy to have around.  Yeah, you know.  Wouldn't be the same without him.

MATT FITZPATRICK:  That's definitely one thing I would say about Nigel, just so motivating and sort of gets you feeling ready to play straightaway, and I'm pretty sure all of us are raring to go.

RHYS PUGH:  Exactly what the other boys have said.  His intensity and motivation and passion.  Yeah.  (Laughs).

Q.  I have two questions on totally different topics and I apologize because they're stark different ones, but Nigel, how close were you to perhaps not being able to be here for the weekend?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I don't know how long is a piece of string really.  I mean, you know, it was a tough decision.  That's why I went home.  You know, my dad was delighted that I went home to see him, but at the same time he's over the moon that myself and my family came back out.

Yes, there's every time you think about it, you know, have you made the right decision or have you made the wrong decision.  But at the end of the day, you know, I was saying to somebody earlier today certainly what my dad wants me and my family to do and the players out here.  You know, this is a big deal for the players, and he's supporting them 100 percent, let me tell you.

But yeah, it's a tough decision, and I guess until you're personally in that position, you know, there's a myriad of things that go through your mind.  And I couldn't answer it for you.  I couldn't answer it for anyone else in the room, but I felt as if I've answered it for myself.  I've asked ‑‑ myself and my wife asked some pretty searching questions of ourselves and of a consultant.  Not to put him on the spot, but he was brilliant, and he said that my dad had responded well to the first course of dialysis.  My friends have been in there, and he's looking well.  And you know, I think it's prospering, just like anyone else really.

Q.  And again, I apologize because of the contrast, but I have another question for you, and it's along the lines of links golf.  For your team here specifically, how beneficial is it to be on a course like this as opposed to another American‑style course in terms of perhaps this group's chances of winning?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Well, if you'd asked me last summer when back in Britain we'd had a lot of rain, I suppose it would have been more comparable.

You know, when you look at Muirfield and how Muirfield played when these lads, all three of them played in the Open championship and then the various other championships that they've played this summer, the Links trophy at St. Andrews.  That never plays this soft.  Muirfield never played this soft.

So it is different.  There's no getting away from it.  It's called National Golf Links, but you know, the greens will be firm.  The greens will be fast here.  But it's not like you look at the first at Muirfield, the way they're playing it in the Open, you know, you could land it 40 yards short and the ball run all the way down next to the hole.  You're not doing that here.

So it is different.  But like I said to one of the guys from the USGA earlier, these lads are used to playing so many different conditions now and Garrick's probably got more air miles on British Airways I think this year.  He started off in Australia six weeks, then Spain, then England, and then European Nations Cup, then the British events Royal Stroke Play, Scottish Stroke Play right through the summer.  He's playing in different conditions all the time.  Likewise the other lads are as well.  So they are more global players than I think most people realize.

I guess it was a bit like the times when Seve, Woosie, Faldo, et cetera, came over to the States and started performing.  I mean it's great to have our lads going to the U.S. Amateur and not only challenging for honors, but winning, you know, the medallist and winning the championship.  So they are good at adapting to different conditions.

Q.  Nigel, the overall record in this event is decidedly in the U. S.'s favor, but in the last 12 it's 6‑6.  What do you attribute the narrowing of the gap to that you've seen the past decade or so?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I think there's a number of factors involved.  You know, certainly players coming to college in the States is broadening the horizons.  They're growing up a lot quicker.  Their parents are not there to do everything for them.  So they've got to learn, they've gotta grow up.  Their experience, their home unions, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are giving players great opportunities to play all over the world, supporting the players, putting tremendous programs together, government investment in those programs.

So GB & I has invested an awful lot of money in the development of the coaching structure, the development structure, the talent pathway, talent I.D. programs, whatever you want to call them right from sort of 12 years of age.  I mean I can remember presenting Rhys with the Welsh Boys Under 13s championship quite a few years ago now.  (Laughs).

But you know, the other lads have come through those systems.  So ‑‑ and they grow up competing against each other and then they see others from a number of years back going to the United States and benefiting from the college program, getting an education while getting a life experience and a golfing experience.  I mean that's fantastic for them and they're embracing it and taking it forward and running with the ball as it were.

Q.  This is for any of you guys.  Are you using club caddies this week or do you have ‑‑ who's on your bags?

MATT FITZPATRICK:  Yeah, we've all got club caddies have just been assigned by I guess the USGA.

Q.  And how much have you leaned on them for local knowledge, course insight, and once competition begins, do you try to wean yourself from them or are you going to lean on them right to the end?

RHYS PUGH:  Yeah, my caddie is great.  Definitely use him as much as I can, because obviously he's walked around the course thousands of times.  So yeah.

GARRICK PORTEOUS:  Yeah.  I would say the same thing.  I mean, you know, we've got the lines off the tees now.  It's just areas, you know, with the different ‑‑ you got millions of pin positions out there, and you know, find the areas you can attack, some of the areas you can defend.

Q.  18 holes or ballpark.

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I think coming here they've been mixing it up.  They haven't been going out round and round and round.  They've been playing different stretches to fit themselves.  I mean obviously Tuesday the weather didn't cooperate, so that dictated that we were here Wednesday instead of going off to Shinnecock, because you know, a storm could blow through any time and it could have come through yesterday and today, and then we'd have had no rounds here.  So we've been boxing clever on that, to be honest.

Q.  Nigel, Americans have had President Bush in giving them a pep talk.  Who have you had and have you had any good messages from the pros?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  We've had Nigel Edwards.  (Laughs).  Apparently he's just as powerful.  No, no, no.  Please don't print that.  Yeah, we've had lots of good messages.  Unfortunately my email stopped working.  The password wouldn't work the other day, so I just looked in the locker room and there's 56 emails from there.  Not all from ‑‑ but we're getting lots of messages on Twitter, some players I've played with in the past, Marcus Fraser from Australia, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, Justin Rose, O'Grady from the European Tour.  I'm going to leave somebody out here.  Andrew Coltart, who as many of you would see out regularly at amateur events now, Colin Montgomerie.  I'm going to miss somebody out.  So if ‑‑ that's just a selection.

And there's some very nice messages that have been given to us, and everyone's very supportive.  I mean it's quite extraordinary really how despite this being a GB & I team it catches the imagination of the European players, or European Tour players, continental Europe or even players that all four of us have played matches against, whether it's the St. Andrews trophy, the Bernard trophy, the Jacques Leglise trophy.  These lads have competed against those lads, and it's nice to get all those good wishes?

Q.  Nigel, how do you see yourselves?  Favorites, underdogs or somewhere in between?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Don't really look at that, to be honest.  I know where I am in my mind, and I know where the players are.  And all we've gotta do is be ourselves and do the simple things very well and let things take care of themselves.

You know, two years ago everybody was saying how strong the American team was.  Well, with the population in America it's hard not to have a strong team, isn't it?  But you look at the success of this team, this is a strong team, the GB & I team.

Q.  World‑class basics?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Yeah.  Absolutely.

Q.  Two questions.  One, when the caddies show up the first time for you guys, how do you decide who gets who?

MATT FITZPATRICK:  We were just assigned.  We're given a list of our names and their names and they're just side by side, here you go.

Q.  The odds are out of 10 out of 10 that not everyone is like thrilled with the guy they got after the first match.  I mean do you ‑‑

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Apparently the Americans are not thrilled with theirs.

Q.  Apparently.  Are you trying to start controversy?  So do you have discussions amongst yourselves about maybe changing up?

MATT FITZPATRICK:  No.  I think that's ‑‑ I guess it's sort of not all of them are American.  There's a few ‑‑ I think there's a couple of ‑‑ maybe a couple of Scottish, couple of Irish, a few from New Zealand as well, so I think I guess what I'm trying to say obviously we don't want Americans on our bags.  But (laughs).  You know.

I guess that's where the question is going at.  But no, they're all good guys, and I think everyone's satisfied with their caddy so far.  I've not heard anyone complain anyway, that's for sure.

Q.  First of all, is that the only way you got Scots on the team?  But secondly, your approach, Nigel, this year versus what it was two years ago, has it changed much over the two years?  I mean since you won did you not really think about it or did you make any adjustments?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I've thought about it, yeah.  I've thought about it a hell of a lot.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Royal Aberdeen.  The players keep in touch.  They send good wishes.  And I learned a lot from that experience.

As soon as I went back I wrote notes and comprehensive notes on what we did as a team to prepare and what I did in the run up to prepare, the two years right the way back from Peter Dawson's phone call right through to playing the match at Aberdeen, and I've been doing some other things since then.

But apart from what's happened this week, it's not a lot different.  But you know, the lads have got on with the job, and because I mean I work with a lot of them on a regular basis in my day job with England Golf, and that vision is seeping through the England golf system anyway, so several of them are involved in that.  But I've got a really good relationship with Rhys obviously living about three miles from him, although he's in East Tennessee.  But his home.  And Kevin and Gavin I've known for some time.  So it's easy to build a relationship with them.

I'm out there on a regular basis speaking, not just on the golf course following how they play and watching what they score on the Internet, but having a drink with them and watching them on the practice green, watching them on the practice area.  So you find out a lot about players, about their quirks, mannerisms, what makes them tick and I've learned a lot from that.

Q.  Nigel, what's more important to you this week, is it winning or building relationships?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I'm here to win.

Q.  For the players, being here these last few days, have you enjoyed the history, the notion that this course doesn't open up to tournaments very often, as you know.  Have you enjoyed it?

RHYS PUGH:  Yeah.  Very much so.  I'm kind of a history geek about golf as well, so ‑‑ yeah.  Yeah, it's great.

MATT FITZPATRICK:  For the past few days he's just been quoting golf trivia, so I'm just laughing at the fact that he's correct there.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks very much.

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Thank you all.  Cheers.