‘Sleeping with the enemy’ and lying Fred Couples? BEST lines from Ryder Cup Day 4
Editor’s note: The Ryder Cup, after last being played two years ago, is now just one day away. But that’s also 24 hours. And 1,440 minutes. The point being, the biennial matches are as close as a par-3 — but yet feel as far away as a brutally long par-5. The second hand can seem stuck until Friday.
And then there are the press conferences. They, too, can mostly drag. After all, there are only so many ways to slice a golf ball, double-pun intended.
But there are tasty morsels.
So, starting Monday, as a means to get us to the moment when balls are in the air, we’ll offer a highlight or two. They might be technical. They might be insightful. They might be emotional.
They might be technically insightful, emotionally said.
They might include quotes about “sleeping with the enemy,” Fred Couples, “gladiators,” like Thursday’s.
(And if you’re interested in highlights from day three, please click here. And if you’re interested in highlights from day two, please click here. And if you’re interested in a highlight from day one, please click here.)
Day four at Marco Simone was pairings day. At the opening ceremony, we learned who’s playing whom, and afterward, the captains and players were asked about the matchups. The proceedings were shorter today — the captains’ press conferences lasted just a half-hour combined — but we read every word, including when:
Luke Donald was asked about ‘sleeping with the enemy’
Here was the exchange:
“Sorry to hit you with this on the eve of the tournament, but following exhaustive investigations, it’s come to our attention you’ve got an American wife. And the phrase ‘sleeping with the enemy’ comes to mind. So I just wonder how tricky is it going to be this week for you? I wonder if you talk in your sleep.”
“Not tricky at all,” Donald said. “My wife’s parents were born in Greece. She has a lot of strong European roots, and my number one fan. There’s quite a few guys on our team that have U.S. wives. It’s really not a problem. They are 100 percent behind us.”
“She wants Europe to win?”
Zach Johnson was questioned about a data service, then he had questions
Johnson and Donald spent much of their sessions going over the whys and hows of their opening-session picks. Did they look at current form? Yes. Did they look at friendships? Yes. Did they look at cohesiveness? Yes. Did they look at data? Yes. Would they preview future sessions? No. In short, little was revealed concerning team strategy, unsurprisingly so.
But we did learn that Johnson had never heard of one service. Here is this exchange, started by a reporter:
“Just on the idea of navigating the analytical models, when you come to a situation where the Twenty First Group put out some of their data today and they said that J.T. [Justin Thomas] and Thomas [the reporter likely meant Jordan Spieth] wouldn’t rank in the top 100 most optimal partnerships, in terms of navigating the objective and subjective, would that be a non-negotiable for you, or how much of a factor would that be?”
“I’m sorry,” Johnson said. “Can you slow that one down? I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be rude.”
“The Twenty First Group …”
“The Twenty First Group?” Johnson asked.
“… put out some of their data today.”
“Twenty First Group,” Johnson said.
“Yeah. It’s a statistical — it’s a data company. They used to do data for Team Europe previously.”
“I am so confused right now. The Twenty First Group, what does that mean?” Johnson asked.
“It’s just a data, analytical company.”
“Oh, it’s an entity,” Johnson said.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Johnson said. “Now I’m with you. The Twenty First Group.”
“So one of the pieces of information they put out today was that when [Spieth and Thomas play together, they wouldn’t rank in the top 100 most optimal partnerships.”
“They would or would not?” Johnson asked.
“Hmmph,” Johnson said.
“So I was wondering how much of that would have been an inference in your decision?”
“Well, they’re not part of my consulting equation, so I don’t have a comment other than more power to the Twenty First Group because I don’t have any idea how they go about figuring out their work,” Johnson said.
“I’m sure they’re highly qualified and a lot smarter than me and probably listen a lot better than me because that’s evident too. I don’t know.”
Johnson was asked whether Fred Couples was lying
Notably, the American duo of Spieth and Thomas were not among the Friday morning groupings, though apparently vice-captain Fred Couples had said at one point that they would be, along with the other three team sessions.
To that end, in the press conference, a reporter asked Johnson this:
“Zach, lighthearted question, but Fred Couples famously said that Cameron Young would definitely be on your team, and he said this week that J.T. and Jordan would play all four sessions. Are you just using him to spread disinformation?”
The question drew this response:
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t believe everything Fred says,” Johnson said, laughing.
Donald was asked about Wyndham Clark’s thought on his team
A day earlier, Clark noted that he had not played since the Tour Championship last month, which was a contrast to a more active schedule from most of the European side — and Clark wondered whether “they might be maybe a little mentally fatigued as this week goes on.”
A reporter wondered about the comment.
“Yesterday Wyndham Clark was claiming that recent lack of action for the American players would give them more energy, and Europe could well be dying on the hill Sunday because your players have played a lot more recently. Does he have a point that you could well be fatigued come the last day, or just how much energy and how pumped are you and your team?”
Donald did not take the bait. He answered calmly.
“We’ve talked about this for months, about this being a tiring week, a big week on a golf course that’s quite hilly,” Donald said. “The weather, perfect every day, but it’s warm, and that saps your energy as well. That’s certainly a thing I’ll be thinking about.
“Am I going to play a lot of people five times? Probably not. We’ll have to see how the few sessions go on early, but certainly the thinking and the preparation and the planning for making sure that on Sunday hopefully you have 12 guys that are ready to go because there is 12 points on Sunday. We know that.
“The first two sessions are important, but you still have a lot of points to play on Sunday, and you want people fresh enough. I would say my guys are sharp and ready. They’ve been in competition quite a lot, and sometimes that can be a big benefit as well.”
Johnson went in-depth about dealing with negativity
Every so often, you can leave a press conference with a tip. Consider this exchange, started by a reporter:
“Zach, 20-plus years playing this game, there’s a lot of negativity, a lot of negative thoughts over shots over anything, except Webb Simpson, I think. As a captain in quiet moments, have you battled any type of such negative thoughts?”
“Can you elaborate on that?” Johnson asked. “I guess I don’t understand.”
“Nervousness, thinking what could go wrong, worried about things like that as you get ready for a tournament, for a round, or whatever, any type of negativity that you battle as a golfer?”
“Yeah, again, I’m human,” Johnson said. “It’s natural to have negative thoughts. Certainly I’ve had them. At the same time, I think I’ve got the mentality of being able to understand those things in a pretty quick and efficient manner, and I can flip a negative thought, negative premise, notion into a positive pretty quick.
“The way I — dumb example is you play golf, and man, you shot 71. Could have been 68. Why wasn’t it 68? Well, it’s because of this. Well, now I know what I’ve got to work on, and that’s a positive. I’ve figured out what allowed me to shoot that number.
“When it comes to things like this, I’ve learned so much in my vice-captainships, from my current vice-captains who were captains before me, and I know — I mean, I’m at peace with whatever comes my way. Again, I can’t stress that enough. I’ve learned a lot. I know I’m going to make mistakes, but when it comes down to it … everything is very thorough.
“We know it’s not a perfect science. There comes a point when you’ve just got to let your thoroughbreds run, and I think we’re at that point, but I’m confident in the approach we’ve had up to this point.”
One last quote
We’ll end things this way. It’s fitting, only because everyone is so close to the Roman Colosseum.
Donald was asked this:
“Luke, are your 12 players your gladiators, and are they ready for the fight?”
“I would say they’re very fearless,” Donald said. “They’re extremely good golfers. We’ve had a great few days together. The atmosphere in the team room is fantastic. Everyone is in good spirits. They’re motivated. There’s a lot of good energy. Everyone feels like they’re playing well. So I’m very excited.”
One more day to go.
Editor’s note: To watch the press conferences of the captains, please click here.