The US team press conference was a fraught affair for captain Tom Watson with Phil Mickelson indirectly throwing him under the team bus by lamenting the loss of the Paul Azinger pod system that proved so successful at Valhalla in 2008. Here's the full transcript. But first, this tweet from Hunter Mahan.
2014 RYDER CUP
Sunday, September 28
STEVE TODD: I'm joined by the American Team. Tom, if I could ask you to start off, you must be very proud of the efforts, even though it wasn't quite the right result for you.
TOM WATSON: It's a real disappointment to my players and to me. We came over with expectations higher than the results. I have to give credit to the European Team. They were spot on. They took us down in the alternate shots. It was really -- that's where the matches really turned in the alternate shots. You look at how many under they were, and we were actually collectively over par in all our matches in the alternate shots in the wind, especially the first day. It was a tough, tough day, AND that's where we lost it. I couldn't be prouder of my players. My players gave it everything they possibly had. I know that this disappointment will last a long time for them, as it will for me. But we can learn from it. Our team wasn't up to winning this week as far as The European Team was. They played better golf than we did, and the bottom line is that the results spoke of that. Again, the disappointment is going to sit for a long time. But the one thing about disappointment, I know throughout my career, individually, the disappointment of losing always spurred me on to do something better. And that's what I hope this brings on to my team.
Q. You've been on so many Ryder Cup teams and Presidents Cup teams, and yet you guys seem to handle that alternate-shot quite well in The Presidents Cup, and they seem to maybe have your number more in The Ryder Cup. Can you think of like a reason for that?
JIM FURYK: I don't. I would I guess have to hear the stats on that. I always thought for The Ryder Cups that I've played in that we've always done better in the foursomes than The European Team. Maybe I'm incorrect in saying that by your question -- that's not true?
Q. This week --
JIM FURYK: Right. I'm sorry. I thought your question was going back. No, I don't have an answer for you this week. I really felt -- and some of the folks that talked to me after my match on 18, I really thought we had a team here that set up well for foursomes. I thought there was a lot of guys you could plug in and it was a difficult decision for the captains. I have no answer to why we lost 7-1. That ultimately was the difference, and it was too much for us to overcome. Other than to say that they played better than we did and they whipped us.
Q. As painful a statistic as it is, eight defeats in ten for America and Europe have a strangle hold in this event, what can you do to find a formula to get back into the contest?
TOM WATSON: Well, the obvious answer is that our team has to play better. That's the obvious answer, and they do. I think they recognise that fact; that somehow, collectively, 12 players have to play better.
Q. You said you had a pit in your stomach watching The Ryder Cup at Medinah. What's the difference between the feeling you had then and the feeling that you have today?
TOM WATSON: Not a damn thing.
Q. Does it make a difference being here --
TOM WATSON: It's the same. It hurts.
Q. Most of your comments, probably rightly so, referenced the players and how they played, but I'm curious what role you felt the captains played this week, and maybe what you thought of the job that Paul McGinley did.
TOM WATSON: Well, as I said yesterday and the day before and the day before that, I tried to make the best decisions based on information that my vice captains and I discussed on who to play with whom, and make those decisions that would give us the best opportunity to win. And it didn't turn out that way. You all can criticize my decisions on who I played with whom, but I tell you, you have 12 players, all of whom could play with the other players, as Jim said. But you have to sit four. The difficult thing is to sit four. That's the toughest job that the captain has to do. You know, I may have made a mistake in playing some players when they were tired; as a captain, if I second- guessed myself, I think that's the thing I would second-guess myself the most, in playing players that got a little bit tired. But overall, I think my vice captains and I made the correct decisions for the most part, and that's -- I come away with that. But again, it doesn't -- it doesn't soothe the hurt. The hurt's there.
Q. You came in as rookies and really had a great week. What will you say to the other young players on the American Tour --
TOM WATSON: Don't forget Jimmy Walker. He's a rookie here, too -- he ain't young, though, that's right (laughter).
Q. What would you say to the other young players who haven't yet played, American players who haven't yet played, what will you be telling them when you go back to the States?
PATRICK REED: I mean, just play the game. I mean, that's what they told us since we got here is just, you know, play golf, play it how you know how to play it and just enjoy the game. I felt like I did that really well this week and I feel like Jordan did that really well this week, and also Jimmy, and that's why we played pretty well.
TOM WATSON: Collectively they scored eight and a half points for our team.
Q. What has it meant to you and how hard will you be trying to get back on to the team for Hazeltine?
PATRICK REED: This is the best event I've ever played in my life. Just to get to know these guys and to be out here means a lot to me. I definitely want to be back and I'll definitely be trying even harder just to come back.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, this was an unreal experience on and off the course. We all had a great time together with our partners, with our captains, with the assistant captains, with each other. We felt like we were representing our country well on and off the course. And yeah, Patrick and I, to answer your question, we made a great team this week, and we weren't sure how that was going to work, and Captain put his trust in us. We went out there and we were able to get the job done in the morning matches. I think -- I don't know what to tell future young players, other than talk about how incredible this experience is on and off the course and that you need to work your butt to make this team, because to have the likes of Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, who have been on I think nine and ten, respectively, as well as rookies that are coming out and playing well, you kind of get the whole experience. Our team's young. Our team's very, very strong and I think that if we played them again the next three days, that we would come out on top. Come Hazeltine, we'll be ready to go.
Q. Anyone that was on the team at Valhalla, can you put your finger on what worked in 2008 and what hasn't worked since?
PHIL MICKELSON: There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process. He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, who -- when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod. In my case, we had Ray Floyd, and we hung out together and we were all invested in each other's play. We were invested in picking Hunter that week; Anthony Kim and myself and Justin were in a pod, and we were involved on having Hunter be our guy to fill our pod. So we were invested in the process. And the other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us, you know, how we were going to go about doing this. How we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well, we had a real game plan. Those two things helped us bring out our best golf. And I think that, you know, we all do the best that we can and we're all trying our hardest, and I'm just looking back at what gave us the most success. Because we use that same process in The Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.
Q. That felt like a pretty brutal destruction of the leadership that's gone on this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I'm sorry you're taking it that way. I'm just talking about what Paul Azinger did to help us play our best. It's certainly -- I don't understand why you would take it that way. You asked me what I thought we should do going toward to bring our best golf out and I go back to when we played our best golf and try to replicate that formula.
Q. That didn't happen this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Uh (pausing) no. No, nobody here was in any decision. So, no.
Q. Another one for you. You've been a rookie, broken in a lot of rookies and the play of these three rookies; is this an indication that experience is overrated, or are they just unique in being able to handle the situation?
PHIL MICKELSON: They are awesome. They are awesome.
ZACH JOHNSON: (Nodding in agreement).
PHIL MICKELSON: In my 20 years of playing these team events, this is one of the best group of 12 players, quality golfers, quality people, and it's really been a pleasure to be with them and be a part of this team with them. The youthful energy that Jordan Spieth brought this week, that Patrick Reed brought, they are the ones that kept us in it. Now, I'm not a mathematician; had they given us eight and a half points, we would have won The Ryder Cup. But the 3 1/2 points they did give us was exceptional, and they kept us in it and they are just brilliant players.
Q. Can you tell us what you think of what Phil said about Paul Azinger?
TOM WATSON: I had a different philosophy as far as being a captain of this team. You know, it takes 12 players to win. It's not pods. It's 12 players. And I felt -- I based my decisions on -- yes, I did talk to the players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions as to whom to pair with. I had a different philosophy than Paul. I decided not to go that way. But I did have most of them play in the practise rounds together who played most of the time in the matches. I think that was the proper thing to do. Yes, I did mix-and-match a little bit from there, but again, you have to go with the evolution of the playing of the match and see who is playing the best and who to play with whom, and that's what I did.
Q. Do you think that Phil was being disloyal, because it sounded like that?
TOM WATSON: Not at all. He has a difference of opinion. That's okay. My management philosophy is different than his.
Q. You seem to know the strategy for winning The Ryder Cup. Are you willing to be --
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, no, no -- I've been on eight losing teams -- no (laughter). I'm only reflecting on the one time in the last 15 years that we've won and what allowed us to do that, make no mistake.
Q. So does that mean you're not willing to do it in the future?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, that's way off in the future. Look, I intend to keep making this team as a player, and I intend to do my best to get on the Hazeltine team; again, for 20 years, not requiring a pick, I'm going to make that team on my own and I'm going to play my heart out to win only my third Ryder Cup victory (chuckling) to make my record an astounding 18 per cent or whatever (laughter). Again, I'm not a mathematician, I don't know. Win or lose, these are some of the best and most memorable weeks of my career. Yeah, it sucks losing, but the experience of spending time with these guys and spending time here in Scotland and the emotions that this event brings out in us, I cherish those forever.
Q. Can I ask you about what happened on the first tee this morning when you got a bit of stick or a bit of abuse from the crowd, and then you gave some back when you made the putt on 7? And also, your performances this week have been reminiscent of Ian Poulter, carrying the team with you; do you see yourself as a Poulter figure for the United States going forward?
PATRICK REED: On No. 1, it was a lot of fun. Of course they're going to heckle me, and, yeah, I missed a putt I probably could make on one foot left-handed the day before, and so they gave me a hard time about that. The putt was this far (indicating inches). On 7, we were in the match. Henrik and I were having a great time when we were out there all day. We played some great golf and he's a good friend of mine. Yeah, I got the crowd fired up on both sides and it was a lot of fun, the crowd loved it. They were heckling me all day, yet we were being respectful on both sides. It was a lot of fun. At the end of the day, though, it really was tough at the end of the day to see --
TOM WATSON: He's the one who should be practising his putting (smiling).
PATRICK REED: Yeah, for sure. My one role, when I came in here, I thought that I could really fire up the team and get them going just because, you know, I'm a fiery kind of guy. At the end of the day, you know, just wasn't enough and we didn't get the job done.
Q. Do you still consider the philosophy you came here with a winning philosophy?
TOM WATSON: Yes, absolutely.
Q. And secondly, have you read Paul Azinger's book, and if so, why did you discount it in regards to using it this week?
TOM WATSON: I didn't discount it. I just had a different philosophy right off the bat, Alex. I felt that the assessment of the players was paramount from the standpoint of my vice captains and me and see who is going to play with whom. My two jobs are to make the captain's picks and then put the team together. Those are my two most important jobs. I felt that the -- again, that was -- whether I did the best possible job of putting the teams together, that's up to you people to debate. But the other thing is, I used the experience and the thoughts of my vice captains a lot, and the players to some extent, to make sure that I felt we had the very best teams out there possible. Listen, the Europeans kicked our butt. The bottom line is they kicked our butts. They were better players this week. I mean, we had a chance today. We started off, got everything in the red, almost everything in the red. Then they turned it on us, and that's what champions are made of. They get down and come back and win. They kicked our butts, and that's the bottom line.
Q. You talk about the template there. Just curious to know, did you speak in advance with Tom about that, your preference for that template? Was this a conversation that you had in advance of coming over?
PHIL MICKELSON: What template are you talking about?
Q. Getting people involved, the pod system, and getting people involved in the process.
PHIL MICKELSON: No.
Q. Every two years the two captains come in and say the hardest part of their job is benching people. Four years ago with all the problems at Celtic Manor, we had everybody playing in every format. Would you like to see that as part of the game? Seems to have 12 of the best players in the world and each time having four sitting in each session.
TOM WATSON: Yes, I would. I would like to see the change in that format. Then everybody knows they are going to go 36 holes and then everybody knows that they have to be in shape to play. That's one of the important decisions that I may have missed is playing, say, Jimmy Walker for four straight rounds, two 36-hole matches. And if that wasn't up to my decision, then every player wouldn't understand that.
Q. You've listened to the back and forth between Phil and Tom, and as the other veteran, I was curious for your opinion.
JIM FURYK: Gee, thanks (laughter). Just sitting over here minding my own business (laughter).
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think the premise of your question is very well stated. I don't think that this has been back and forth.
JIM FURYK: I think that I have a lot of respect for both gentlemen. I've known Phil my entire life. Since I was 16, I've competed against him. He's one of my dearest friends on the PGA TOUR. And I have a lot of respect for our captain. I know he put his heart and soul in it for two years. He worked his ass off to try to provide what he thought would be the best opportunity for us. I don't think it's wise for either one of us to be pitted in the middle of that. I respect both of those gentlemen. I would suggest that you direct the questions that way rather than to put one -- I know what we are all trying to do. We all come here and we are trying to win a Ryder Cup together, trying to pull together as 12, as one unit. We've fallen short quite a bit, and it's -- you know, five of you have already asked me tonight what's the winning formula and what's the difference year-in, year-out. If I could put my finger on it, I would have changed this shit a long time ago but we haven't and we are going to keep searching.
Q. What were your thoughts when you found out you were going out for the fourth straight time Saturday afternoon?
JIMMY WALKER: Rickie and I were right in the heat of that good battle, and you know, we went from 2-down to 1-up, and we asked -- we were asked and told that we were going to go out and play, and we said, yeah. As competitors and athletes, Rickie and I were pumped. We were feeling good and we wanted to go play. Tom said we're in, and so that's how it went down. We were excited to go and it just didn't pan out for us in the afternoon.
Q. For Tom and Phil and Keegan, just regarding the two of the guys sitting yesterday, they are 4-1 together as a team, did you take that into consideration, talking about Phil and Keegan, 4-1 as a team dating back to 2012. I know they both played on Friday, but can you go into your decision there?
TOM WATSON: The elements when you look at putting teams together, you also have to consider the golf course. I watched them play, and they struggled some. They struggled some in the afternoon match in the foursome, and they had a hard time hitting the fairways. This golf course, if you don't hit the fairways in alternate-shot, you've got to depend on your partner to put the ball in play. And I didn't -- it got a little bit better as the match went on, but that concerns me. I put some players in there I thought could put the ball in the fairway maybe a little bit better. My mistake may have been I should have played them in the best-ball rather than alternate-shot because they could play off each other and depend on each other, ham-and-egg it some. That's what happened in some of the early matches with the Europeans. Stenson and Rose, one of those guys hit the ball -- didn't get the ball in the fairway very much. The other guy would come through and that's what you have to do in fourball. But in alternate-shot, it's different. So that's kind of why I made the decision.
Q. If I could ask Keegan and Phil, you guys, based on -- you know how well they fed off each other in 2012, how much did it hurt to sit out, particularly the foursomes, but for the entire day yesterday, and how do you feel about that situation?
PHIL MICKELSON: Go ahead, Keegan, I've probably said enough (laughter).
KEEGAN BRADLEY: The big excitement for me coming into Ryder Cup was playing with Phil. We talked about it months and months beforehand. We were bummed. It was a bummer. We want to go help the team, but the captain has to really -- he put out great players. It's not like you call up my uncles to come play (laughter), you get the best players in the world to back you up. But it was tough, it really was. I wanted to be out there with Phil. Probably my best golf memories are alongside my partner, Phil, in these team competitions, whether it's here or The Presidents Cup. So not going out and playing was tough, but you know, we went out and we wanted to root on the team and we wanted them to win.
Q. The Scottish golfing public have a great affinity with you, having won obviously the Scottish Open and the Open at Muirfield last year. What was it like today going around with Stephen? Give us your thoughts on how he handled his first Ryder Cup experience in singles.
PHIL MICKELSON: I've had a chance to get to know Stephen for awhile now and he's just a class act. He's just a quality guy. What I was really pleasantly surprised with was even though I knew there was going to be a huge home bias from the Scottish crowd, the people here were terrific. They just were very courteous, respectful of everybody. Obviously they were more boisterous in their applause for Stephen, that's great. But I was really pleasantly surprised with how well and with how much respect they treated myself, as well, also.
Q. Slightly harsher one, I feel the time is appropriate. I would ask firstly what you made of the atmosphere on the first tee, and secondly whether your knowledge of British culture extends to knowing who Bianca is.
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm aware from the 2010 Ryder Cup. They originally started some of the chants there on the first tee, and just going on with it, the first tee is awesome. It's a great atmosphere. It's a great stage. You just have to get up there and embrace it. I know Bubba does. He gets them going every once in awhile. You know, just talking about the whole Ryder Cup, it's the best week of the year. I mean, even though it's only every two years, it's a week you want to be a part of it, and I hope that I can be part of a winning team soon and see how much more fun it is.
Q. For all the questions you get about what the Americans don't do right, have you ever in the aftermath of some of these losses looked at Europe and tried to figure out what they do do right, outside of the obvious?
JIM FURYK: Have I ever tried to look at it?
Q. In the weeks or so after a Ryder Cup, have you ever looked at Europe and tried to figure out what it is that makes them so successful?
JIM FURYK: The hardest part now, because you're so focused on your own match on the singles day, I don't know who -- I was trying to put together who won our matches and who halved their matches today and who are the guys that came out -- I know Jimmy played really well, sitting right next to me. But when I finished, I couldn't tell you where everyone was. I probably won't spend a lot of time next week going over to figure out how the matches went or how the pairings went. I think if I've ever looked at anything, I've looked to see how they have paired some of their players together, because it was the first time, maybe nine years ago, or nine Ryder Cups ago, I looked at pairing guys together by their styles of their play but they seemed to match up personalities real well here. Luke Donald and Sergio García, you've got one guy that barely has a pulse and the other guy, Sergio, who is jumping around and having fun all day, and together they bring each other even. But past that, I haven't really studied the other side or the other team. I've really always kept my focus, just like in golf; my focus is on my game and myself, and this week it's on my team and what we're doing.
Q. For Jim, I know Phil was asked, but as the second-elder statesman of the team, would you ever in the future consider being a Ryder Cup Captain?
JIM FURYK: I would -- when the time is right, I would love to do that some day. It would be an honour.
Q. You said before that you wanted another shot at Ian. Well, you got it today. Could you just talk about what that was like with the atmosphere and everything that was on the line?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I was excited to get that pairing last night. I didn't really know much about how he was playing this week. So I figured I'd have to go out and play well. But, you know, one of the funny things of this Ryder Cup, the way they do it and they have always done it is once one team wins, you keep playing. And so once Europe clinched it, my desire to beat him faded a little bit because, you know, essentially it didn't really matter. But you know, we all know he's a great competitor and as competitors ourselves, we want to play against the best guys. Didn't really seem like they had many weak players this week, so I think everybody was playing well. So yeah, he won the last hole, so we halved the match. But he's gotten me the first two times we played.
STEVE TODD: Team USA, thank you for your time. Safe journey home.