Bonus quotable information on a variety of short subjects came from the press conference for the World Champions Cup at Constellation Furyk & Friends courtesy of Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, and Darren Clarke.
The Ryder Cup and Hats!
Tournament Chairman Peter Jacobsen asked Jim Furyk if he was going to require his U.S. World Champions Cup team to wear hats.
“Absolutely not. Team USA is about comfort,” Furyk insisted. He said he wore one to protect his head, as he does not have much in the way of hair anymore. ( Not insulting, just accurate.)
“Pat, he’s got a big noggin, we have a hard time getting him in a hat. He hasn’t worn one for three or four years in the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup,” Furyk revealed. “If he’s going to birdie 16, 17 and 18, he can wear whatever he wants, I’ll say that.”
“Hat Gate” is what Els called it. He said, he too, had a problem finding hats to fit.
“I think Patrick, the cap just doesn’t fit, OK? I’ve had the same back in the day when I played Presidents Cup. I didn’t wear a hat because my — look at my head, you know what I mean?” Els added.
Els happens to be 6-foot-3, at least. He’s a large guy with an appropriately sized head.
Next Ryder Cup Captain?
There was some decent speculation on the next Ryder Cup captains for each side.
“I think, if the rumors are to be believed, it’s going to be maybe Tiger for the U.S.,” Clarke suggested. “If that happens, Bethpage is going to be a rowdy place to say the least for the Europeans to step into. I played a major there. But it’s going to be another unbelievable Ryder Cup.”
He thought Luke Donald as a repeat captain for Europe would be a good choice.
“If Luke gets the opportunity and he’s asked, it’s probably going to him,” Clarke added.
Team Disharmony at The Ryder Cup?
Now onto the apparent online stories about there being some sort of discord in the US Team, Furyk did his best to quell that rumor.
“Absolutely not the case,” he insisted. “I was in that team room each and every day and night. Those 12 guys really bonded, really got along well. I know they’re disappointed that we didn’t bring the cup back to the United States, but I can say and I’ll stand by it, those 12 guys really got along well and supported each other.”
Money, Money, Mon-ey
Els clarified the money situation. It’s a similar situation for both the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup.
“We’ll do it for absolutely nothing. We are getting money,” he noted. “We’re getting money to donate to our respective charities, which is a wonderful gesture from the tournament.”
He said it was about pride, about teammates, and the history of the events as well as those who had made the event what it is.
Then he cited people like Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance, Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer, Clarke, and others who turned the Ryder Cup into a real contest. Els and his International cohorts have been working hard to get the Presidents Cup to the same level, and they are getting closer with each playing.
Ole Ole Ole Ole!
Speaking of Seve. Els and Clarke have played against Seve Ballesteros in tournaments. They know what a tough competitor he was.
“I was fortunate to play with Seve a lot of times,” Clarke said. “You know, my first win on the European Tour was in 1993, a place called Knokke-le-Zoute in Belgium at the Dunhill tournament.”
He was paired with Seve in the final round. According to Clarke, Seve was moving his white shoes that he always wore on Sunday. He was coughing. He rattled his tees in his pocket.
On the 17th hole, second shots, Clarke was about 10 yards behind Seve’s ball. Seve walked all the way up to the green to look at it and all the way back to the ball. He walked in the middle of the fairway so Clarke couldn’t hit, even though it was his turn.
“Seve did everything he possibly could within the laws of the game to try and win,” Clarke remembered. “And it was brilliant to play with him, he was a genius. He had everything. He had the touch, he had the personality, he had everything. It taught me back then that that’s what was ahead of me playing professional golf.”
Els remembered the clothes.
“What a dresser. I mean, those events he won at The Open Championship with the navy blue sweater and the white shirt with the white FootJoy shoes. I mean, just iconic,” he said.
Els was just starting out when Seve’s game was on the decline. Els noted that Seve had developed back problems. He remembers playing him in the German Masters.
“I was leading by many shots, and I had a poor final day, ended up in a playoff with Jose (Maria Olazabal) and Seve, and Seve won the playoff,” Els recalled. “I was more excited for Seve winning again because he hadn’t won, and he knew he was struggling.”
The next week was the World Match Play at Wentworth. Els played Seve in the semi-final.
“I’m playing my absolute hero. It’s like you guys playing Arnold Palmer or Jack or somebody, or Tiger, and I was playing Seve. I mean, we had an epic match,” he noted. “I believe I made — out of the eight par 3s, I birdied seven of them. Think about it, seven of the eight par 3s, and I only won two of those holes. So, he made five 2s on the par 3s.”
He finally overcame Seve on the 35th hole by chipping to gimme distance. Seve gave him the putt.
“He would play you to death, but then he’ll, you know, he’ll show respect. Just loved the guy. He was one of the best,” Els concluded.