Tom Lehman, 59, captain of the Ryder Cup team from the United States, talks about selecting players, leading a team and breaking a 25-year-old losing streak abroad. This conversation has been condensed and edited.
What is it like to be a Ryder Cup captain?
It is a huge honor because it is the people you look up to and have respect in the golf world who ask you to do it. It is something that you do not always put on your list of goals, thinking that one day you want to be a Ryder Cup captain. It just happens. There are very few guys who can do it. It's special. There is a lot of responsibility and pressure. But you will never forget it.
What was difficult or challenging to be a captain?
No one is ever willing to do it, really. None of us is a coach, we are players. The difficult part was making your choices. I only had two, now they have four, which is easier because there are only a few that are pretty obvious. It was the hardest to make those two choices for me, because the players sometimes do not always separate from each other, and I had to go with instinct and intuition.
Do players take you to join the team?
Yes, and it is difficult to call the other boys to tell them that you have not chosen them. That was the hardest because it is your friends, people you know and respect. You always get lobbied. Some boys will approach you about how much they want, other guys will let their clubs talk, and they will be picked if they are the right person. Some boys who are not picked, take it in the right way and thank you for being considered. Others call you an acorn and get angry. That is the difficult part. You do not want to make a bad choice and hurt the team by choosing the wrong man.
Which balance and alchemy fits in with those decisions?
There is more to it than shooting; it is not as easy as who gets the furthest. The point is whether a player is a real team man or an individual. You have to know who fits the team best. You have to create an atmosphere in which the boys can relax and play their best golf. You have to understand the boys in the team and what motivates them.
What kind of players work best?
You have to pay attention to that and every man find sweet spot and kind of press on their buttons. You have to buy the team, no doubt possible. Everyone needs each other. They can not do it themselves. Everyone has to do his job, stay on his job and just be you. It is a simple matter. You must come into the process. You can not have boys who love themselves. That is cancer for every team, whether it is basketball, football, baseball or golf. Those boys do not last long. You want guys who do everything they can for their teammates and make sure they feel confident and comfortable and inspire them. Good teams do that. They create a collective trust that grows and spreads and consumes. Then the team is fantastic.
What about couples?
More often it concerns who you do not want to play with. Some people just know that they do not gel and connect. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed are both emotional, energetic guys. They create something that is almost unstoppable. But then there is Jordan's friend Justin Thomas. Maybe they should be paired and Patrick Reed plays with Tiger Woods, someone who really admires Patrick. Patrick's fire inspires people. Playing with Tiger, who is already a fiery guest, is a great combination. Splitting Spieth and Reed can create two teams that are just as good instead of just one. These are all things that a captain goes through.
Jim Furyk is captain this year. What goes through his mind?
I am sure he has spoken with some coaches whom he respects a lot, such as Bill Cowher of the Pittsburgh Steelers, to get his perspective on things. He tries to find out what he has to do to create that atmosphere and to play as a team. Jim is very process-driven. He's not so worried about the result, he's about execution, & # 39; Let's just do it. & # 39; It takes the pressure away, and that is the way to deal with it.
He is very lucky to have a great team. If I am Jim Furyk, I will have super confidence. Jim is a smart guy and must be very proud of the way he has done things and his message about being in the moment and doing your thing and following the process. There is nothing that he can personally do to make it confused. Not that he would. But at this stage of the game these guys are already in the neighborhood and they know what guys can do well with each other and have a lot of experience. He is going to put the right partnerships on the golf course and then it is out of his hands. Now it's showtime – a step aside and let it go.
The US has not won on foreign soil since 1993. Could this year's team break through that slump?
Playing in Europe is a difficult and rugged environment. It is not for the faint of heart. But our team has so much courage, chutzpah and swagger. They are confident and talented. They have all intangible assets. If the Europeans win, it will be a stroke. Even though we are on their home ground.
What should they do to win?
These boys play golf individually; they have their own methodical process. When they play in a team, they start to think too much and they get out of their process. They have applied their individual game to the team. My advice is to just play your game. If you do all the little things well, take care of details and do not make mistakes, they will leave winners.
Some critics say that Ryder Cup galleries can become over-zealous. Is that a problem?
The things I heard at the British Open in 1996 were much worse than most things I hear at the Ryder Cup. I do not have much sympathy for someone who complains. You are a professional; to deal with. Use it. Do not sweat it. The more personal you make it, the more it would make me angry and dismiss me.
You hear some stupid and annoying things. When they start talking about your wife, take it in, let it spin, and spit it out with little birds and eagles. If you want to be personal, let's do it. I'll take it here on your guy. I can or can not beat him, but I will swing.