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Captain of US Presidents Cup Team on Team and Opponents; Phil Mickelson Only Man to Play in All Presidents Cup Tournaments; Captain of Only Winning International Presidents Cup Team Peter Thomson; Australian Golfer Jason Day

Aired November 2, 2011 - 06:30:00   ET


FRED COUPLES, US CAPTAIN, PRESIDENTS CUP 2011: Hi, I'm Fred Couples. I'm about to take my US team to Australia for the Presidents Cup. Welcome to LIVING GOLF.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST: On this month's LIVING GOLF, the United States captain on his team and his opponents.


COUPLES: But I know that Greg, he's very confident, and he's got a great team.


O'DONOGHUE: The only man to play in every single Presidents Cup.


PHIL MICKELSON, PLAYED IN EVERY PRESIDENTS CUP: We got spanked pretty good that week in 98 at Royal Melbourne.


O'DONOGHUE: The only international captain to ever lead his side to victory takes us back to the scene of that triumph, this year's venue, Royal Melbourne.


PETER THOMSON, INTERNATIONAL CAPTAIN, PRESIDENTS CUP 1998: Well, for me it was, I suppose, the greatest sporting time of my life.


O'DONOGHUE: And the remarkable story of Australia's Jason Day.


JASON DAY, AUSTRALIA'S NUMBER ONE GOLFER: My dad passed away and my sister ran away from home for three years. The whole family kind of broke up.


O'DONOGHUE: Six victories, one tie, and just one defeat. The United States' record in the Presidents Cup is impressive. But this year, there's a sense that things could turn out a little differently.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): For a start, that sole defeat came at Royal Melbourne, this year's venue. Both of this year's captains, Greg Norman and Fred Couples were playing then.

COUPLES: I'd like to say a lot of their players were playing in the Sunshine tour and they were really ready. And I'd like to say we were ready, too, because it's a huge event. But -- they just were way better.

They were holing out shots. They were beating our best teams. We never got any momentum. And by, really, Saturday, it was over. Sunday, we just -- we played the singles matches just to shake hands on whatever hole you ended up on.

O'DONOGHUE: The Americans will be taking on the best players from the rest of the world, excluding Europe. And while the US team is more highly ranked, many of the internationals have had great years.

Five Australians, three South Africans, three South Koreans, and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan have made the team. Of those, Adam Scott and Jason Day are both in the world top ten, and Charl Schwartzel won the Masters.

GREG NORMAL, INTERNATIONAL CAPTAIN, PRESIDENTS CUP 2011: I printed out the performances of each player and the top 15 are on my potential list, the top 15 on the US list, and then we include the Europeans and the European Ryder Cup team, and it was victory, second, and third the top tens.

We dominated -- not dominated -- we were ahead of every category. And I said to the guys, I said, "Guys, look what you do. You carry the global game on your shoulders, and you do such a fantastic job." I said, "I'm not the one who believes in -- on paper you're the strongest team. But on paper, you are the strongest team."

CHARL SCHWARTZE, INTERNATIONAL TEAM, PRESIDENTS CUP 2011: He gave us the stats and we sort of beat the Americans in all the stats. On paper, we should win.

COUPLES: I think we're evenly matched. I think, is it an advantage to be at Royal Melbourne fort he international team? Of course it is. But once we get there, our guys will be ready to play.

In this thing, if you're down a couple two or three points the first day, it's such an uphill battle. So, we'll be ready to play, and then it's just a matter of a putt here or a great shot there.

But I know that Greg, he's very confident, and he's got a great team. I am confident, but if there's one thing that's going to be tough, it's playing in Australia.

O'DONOGHUE: When Couples captained the Americans to victory at Harding Park in the last Presidents Cup, Tiger Woods won all of his matches. For this year's tournament, he needed and got a captain's pick. Some questioned Fred's wisdom.

COUPLES: There's no way any golfer would leave him off your team. I think he's still competitive, he still can go out at any given time and birdie nine holes in a around. He may hit some horrible shots, but he's trying to improve his whole game.

I thought it was a simple pick. He's been the best player in the world forever, and he's fallen down a little bit, but I just couldn't -- I just couldn't kick him away. He deserves to be on this team.

O'DONOGHUE: Tiger will playing against an international team that for the first time ever boasts four players from Asia, three of them from South Korea.

KYUNG-TAE KIM, WORLD NUMBER 21 (through translator): It's a match among the best golfers in the US and the world, so national pride is at stake. I think it's going to be very exciting, and I'm honored to be part of it.

ERNIE ELS, PLAYED IN 6 PRESIDENTS CUP TOURNAMENTS: The real boom in golf is in Asia, now, and the more Asian players we have on our side, the better for television ratings and for the tournament going ahead in the future.

And I think Korea's obviously a definite destination for the Presidents Cup to go to. I think that's the obvious next choice.

O'DONOGHUE: Throughout the history of the Presidents Cup, only one player has been ever present, Phil Mickelson. And as someone who's spending a lot of time in Asia these days, he also sees the development of the game and the growth of the Presidents Cup as inextricably linked.

MICKELSON: As we have gotten better players internationally, players like YE Yang winning the PGA, or a player like Ryo Ishikawa, a great young player from Japan that we talked about, as well as Louis Oosthuizen from South Africa.

As we get players like this, and Charl Schwartzel from now winning the Masters, that will help to promote the Presidents Cup and make it a bigger and better event over the years, and I think it's been the players -- the international players, the good young players that has -- that will help drive that event.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): People say that the future lies in Asia. Do you think that, with the growth the the sport in that region, that that will grow the Presidents Cup because of their involvement in the event and thus very soon it could rival the Ryder Cup in terms of importance and focus?

MICKELSON: It very well could in another couple of decades when players from Asia start to win Majors or win big events consistently. I think it's a ways away.

It doesn't have the history, yet, of the Ryder Cup. It doesn't have the camaraderie that Europe brings to the table. It's more difficult, I think, to unite players from Japan and Asia with South Africa, with Australia, than it is the continent of Europe.

BUTCH HAMON, PHIL MICKELSON'S COACH: I think for the Presidents Cup to take off the way we want it to, the Americans can't continue to win.

If you go back to the old days and look at the Ryder Cup, how the American team won all the time, it kind of lost its flavor and luster. So, I think it's very important for the international team to win this thing.

O'DONOGHUE: Now, the Presidents Cup ha been played at Royal Melbourne before back in 1998.

MICKELSON: We got spanked pretty good that week in 98 at Royal Melbourne, and I think we're looking forward to getting back and playing that event there and trying to redeem ourselves.

It'll be difficult for us to fly across into that time zone and try to compete, but I think that -- I think that we have the players to do it now.



O'DONOGHUE: Still to come, one of the greatest golf courses in the world in the company of one of the greatest ever Australian players.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. So, Fred Couples, Royal Melbourne. What about it?

COUPLES: Shane, it's going to be one great week of golf on one of my favorite courses.


ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Before Fred and his American team start competing at Royal Melbourne, we thought we'd fly over there to take a look and speak to an Australian golfing legend who knows the course better than most.

To take full advantage of this helicopter ride, let's pick up an expert on the local area, the general manager at Victoria Golf Club, Peter Stackpole.


THOMAS: Are people surprised when they see the quality of the courses around here?

PETER STACKPOLE, GENERAL MANAGER, VICTORIA GOLF CLUB: I think -- as time goes, people find them more remarkable. People like Tom Doak have praised these courses. Tom Doak recently said it's a shame the Australian course aren't closer to the US.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, we're coming into land.

THOMAS: We've made the short trip to Royal Melbourne, the jewel in the crown of the Sandbelt courses. I'm here to meet a man that knows what it's like to captain a winning International side in the Presidents Cup here, Peter Thomson.

THOMSON: All right. Welcome.

THOMAS: Thank you, Peter. Nice to meet you.

TEXT: The Open Champion, 1954

The Open Champion, 1955

The Open Champion, 1956

The Open Champion, 1958

The Open Champion, 1965

The International Captain, 1996

The International Captain, 1998

The International Captain, 2000


THOMSON: Well, to me, it was, I suppose, the greatest sporting time of my life, that I could mix with these young people, a generation younger than me.


THOMSON: They were all good players, and I think underrated.


It was the first time that we'd played the United States team outside the US, and I've known from experience that the US players are not always at ease out of America.

THOMAS: What about Royal Melbourne as a golf course? Was that a help to the International team?

THOMSON: I think we can say that's true, safely. The Australians are familiar with it, but this is a course that's unusual in many respects, and it's not easy to get to know it and feel safe and secure on this. They'll jump and bite you here.

This one has a set of very interesting greens, particularly sloping greens. And slopes plus very fast speed is very difficult putting. In fact, it's difficult practicing as well. There will not be in this batch a lot of one-putting done. It'll be defensively two putts most of the time.


THOMAS: What was the atmosphere like?

THOMSON: Well, it was very high excitement, I think. And once we started to pile up points, there was a real buzz. And Norman, of course, was the leader of the team. He was enthusiastic, he whipped up the others that he played with, and he did a great job, actually.

THOMAS: Your rival captains in the years that you were captain of the International team were some famous names, too. Arnold Palmer. What was it like going up against those men? Were they -- had their different characteristics and their own way as rival captains?

THOMSON: Arnold, in his way, is a sort of a swashbuckling daredevil. "Go for it, fellows, come on."

Jack was a bit laid back and, in fact, I think the day before the opening match, Jack was off playing somewhere in Melbourne with his son on some course somewhere, and paid no attention whatsoever to the practice rounds.

And then, the next time when Venturi captained, I could tell that this was a man who'd done his homework, and that's why they crushed us, the Internationals, that year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shigeki Maruyama for a birdie.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And pulling another one!

THOMAS: We've seen what the success of the Ryder Cup has done for Europe. It would be a tremendous boost to Asian golf, particularly, I'd have thought, if Internationals triumph here.

THOMSON: The next time the Presidents Cup is played away from the US it will probably be in Asia, which will boost it enormously.

It's a big thing in golf to beat the United States. This coming match, it's the strongest team, I believe, they've ever had. The match has got to be won by an International team so that they're top dogs, and then they're the ones to choose it. Then it will really have caught up to the Ryder Cup.


O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on LIVING GOLF, the story behind Australia's new star, Jason Day.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. Now, when Jason Day finished second at this year's Masters, it's probably fair to say not many knew that much about him.

But when, two months later, he finished runner up in a Major again, to Rory McIlroy at the US Open, interest in the young Australian really began to grow, and the quiet man from Queensland had some story to tell.


DAY: My dad one day was -- he was going out to throw a bunch of stuff at the rubbish heap, and he was throwing stuff out and he found a three wood at the garbage heap and brought it home. He told me to swing this golf club.

I stood up there and hit this tennis ball to the fence, and my dad turned around to my mum and said, "This guy's going to be a champion one day."

DENING DAY, JASON'S MOTHER: Ever since that day, he would carry that three wood everywhere he goes around the house. And that's how he started with his love affair with the golf club.

J. DAY: My dad passed away and that kind of threw me off, as any normal kid at 12 would do. You start your rebelling, you get in a few fights here and there, you start drinking.

My sister ran away from home for three years, and the whole family kind of broke up. I can't remember my childhood. I think I've blocked it out.

D. DAY: When you're like that and you get separated because of something else that happens to the family, these are very hard.

J. DAY: We didn't have a lot of money. My sisters and my mum sacrificed a lot.

D. DAY: I was aware that he got talent. And I know if I let it pass and not develop, he'll never go anywhere. So I couldn't let it pass. We sent him to the boarding school. I had to sell the house to put him there.

J. DAY: She never gave up on us. You have different choices in your life that you can possibly either go one way or another way, and I was fortunate enough to go in the right direction.

O'DONOGHUE: You did come across one key figure in your life who is still there today.

J. DAY: Yes.

O'DONOGHUE: A very influential man.

J. DAY: His name's Colin Swatton, and he's my coach. He's -- we -- he started coaching me when I was 12, and he's been on the bag since 2006, and yes, he's been my coach for 12 years now.

So, I've never heard of any other stories where he's gone and taken a kid from a young age and taken them through their junior, amateur, and professional life and taken them from one spot, one journey and taken them onto the PGA Tour. It's quite interesting.

O'DONOGHUE: The first signs of rapid improvement or connected with the game and seeing your future, when did that start to crystallize?

J. DAY: I was around 14 years old. I -- we just freshly moved to Hills after Kooralbyn shut down and it was -- I was reading a book about Tiger Woods and my buddy that I was living with in the dorm, Luke Reardon, he had a book about Tiger Woods.

And in the back of the book -- I read the whole book, and in the back of the book had results of Tiger, what he did at age 13, what he did at age 14, all the way up until he turned professional. A light went off in my head, and I just needed to go and practice.

Hard work doesn't -- it doesn't pay off straight away. Sometimes it may, sometimes it may not. Obviously, when I put -- when I started putting in hard work, it didn't start showing results until six months to a year later.

And when people started seeing that, they wanted to go, OK, well what's Jason doing? And I said, "I'm just practicing hard. I'm working harder than everyone else here."

And people would come out and try and practice with me, they'd wake up at 5:00 in the morning and practice with me, but they'd only last a week.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Jason's first full year as a professional started well. He won in his first nationwide tour event. Three years later, he became the younger ever Australian to win on the PGA Tour.

But the rest of 2010 was marred by illness and a strange loss of form.

J. DAY: I wasn't enjoying myself at the start of the year. I thought I was going to quit the game of golf. And --

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): After winning last year?

J. DAY: Yes. Yes. I was -- like -- I was not enjoying golf. I was not having fun. I was getting out of myself. I just -- I was not enjoying myself at the start of the year. I just -- I don't know. I didn't feel like I was going to finish out the end of the year.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): He could have no idea of the success just around the corner.

J. DAY: Everything that I dreamt about, Augusta and playing it, was 100 times better than what I thought it was going to be. With Tiger shooting five under in the front nine, the crowd was going insane. Charl Schwartzel was behind me on three, holed out on one, as well, holed out on three.

Just six guys, I think, tied for the lead going to the back nine. It was just so exciting. I just knew that if I could birdie the last two holes, that I might have a chance of winning the Masters. And I didn't expect him -- didn't expect Charl to hit the last four holes.

But you know, you kept -- it was the most fun I've ever had in a golf tournament ever, and the crowd was just amazing.

O'DONOGHUE: Jason now lives near Muirfield Village, where he's a member. It's the golf club founded by Jack Nicklaus and is complete with a lobby full of his trophies.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): I suppose this place is just a mecca for golf fans.

J. DAY: Yes.

O'DONOGHUE: I mean, it must be cool enough to be a member here.

J. DAY: Yes, it is, you know? It definitely is. Mr. Nicklaus has done a great job with this place, and obviously when you walk into -- in the front door and you see this on the right, it's pretty special.

Obviously, I do not want to touch any of these trophies before I try and -- before I win one, obviously. But it's -- it's just good motivation for me to come in here and have a look at and dream about one day I could possibly hold one of these trophies, which would be nice.

O'DONOGHUE: Any one of them in particular?

J. DAY: This one.

O'DONOGHUE: Or -- you'll take whichever one --

J. DAY: I'll take whichever one, but this one right here, the Masters.

O'DONOGHUE: And that goes very well with a nice, green jacket, doesn't it?

J. DAY: Yes, it does. Well, the thing is is that no Australian's ever won Augusta. No Australian's won it yet. So, I've always wanted to become the first Australian guy to win the Masters.

O'DONOGHUE: What does it mean to you to go back down home, play in the Australian Open, the Australian PGA, and of course, sandwiched in the middle, the Presidents Cup?

J. DAY: It wasn't on my radar to get on the Presidents Cup team until I started playing -- until I finished second at the Masters. And then everyone started talking to me about the Presidents Cup and I'm just glad that I'm on the team. I'm just -- I'm ready to go out there and finally win won for the International team.

D. DAY: My feelings about him representing the International team is, hey, he did it! He got chosen! He must be doing very well, he must be doing very well for what -- for somebody to -- especially for Greg Norman to say, hey, he's -- he'll do Australia proud. So, we are excited. We are so very excited and so happy.


O'DONOGHUE: Well, that's it for this month's program. Don't forget you can see all our reports online and you can follow what we're up to on Twitter. The very best of luck to both Presidents Cup teams. Thanks for watching, see you soon.