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From The Archive

Dialogue with Payne Stewart

Continued (page 2 of 6)

I can't tell you my individual record (8-7-1, including 2-2 in singles). It's a team event. Which was more difficult to take, the loss at Muirfield Village in '87 or the tie at the Belfry in '89? Muirfield was not nice. And (captain) Jack Nicklaus let us know about it when we finished. We had a little meeting before the dinner we had to go to that night and Jack just wore us out. He told us, "You guys just don't know how to win. How many matches were we leading going into 18 and didn't win them? Look at you, Payne Stewart. You make all this money on tour, but how many tournaments have you won? Why don't you win more?" He said, "You guys need to learn how to win or you're going to continue getting beaten in this thing."

There wasn't any sugarcoating on it. I'll tell you, that speech was good for me.

Two years later, at the Belfry, you were among the American players splashing their tee shots in the water on 18. It was brutal to watch.
It was mental. And I made it a point, the next time we went to the Belfry in '93, of never getting to that hole. And none of my matches went to that hole.

You've played for four captains: Nicklaus in '87, Raymond Floyd in '89, Dave Stockton in '91 and Tom Watson in '93. Which captain was best?
Dave Stockton. Because he was very hands-on and he cared about everything. He was a rah-rah captain. He knew all the players real well and made everyone feel very comfortable. We were very unified as a team under Dave.

Payne Stewart

What are you looking for in Ben Crenshaw, this year's U.S. captain?
I hope that Ben and his assistants (Bill Rogers and Bruce Lietzke) understand the importance of motivation. They must make the team pull together and give it their all. This thing is for the game of golf, yeah, but trust me, the Europeans don't have that mentality. They come over and want to whip us. And they don't care about the betterment of the game of golf. I think a lot of our players might have become too complacent about, "It's made the game of golf better." We're past that stuff, in my opinion, and I hope Crenshaw and his co-captains understand that.

Having said that, the War on the Shore thing at Kiawah in '91 was too strong. It's a pride-check thing, sure. But in the end it's still a game of golf, and if at the end of the day you can't shake hands with your opponents and still be friends, then you've missed the point.

Would you like to be the captain someday?
I would love to.

Would you be a good one?
I don't know. For sure I would be a very emotional captain. A very hands-on captain. For example, I wouldn't hesitate to sit somebody down if he wasn't performing, even if he was the No. 1 player in the world. I've been sat down before. In '93, when Watson was captain, Paul Azinger and I got beat in our morning match and I got sat down. I went to the practice tee, worked out my problem, and I was ready to go the next day. These guys who keep on playing but aren't winning, you've got to sit them down and let them figure it out and perform a little gut-check on themselves.

Did we get out-captained in Spain?
Watching on TV, it was like Seve was with every group. I very rarely saw Tom Kite around. I've talked to Tom about it. I don't think Michael Jordan needed to be on the captain's cart with Kite; he needed to be walking in the gallery, supporting them from outside the ropes. Now, if Tom wanted to have Michael Jordan or George Bush come into the team room and give a motivational speech or talk to the team, fine.

Any other reason the U.S. hasn't won one of these things lately?
All I can say is that they seem to want it more than we do. I kept hearing these excuses: "Well, they knew the greens; we didn't." But Tom Kite invited players to come over and play practice rounds, so that doesn't wash. I went over before the British Open and played Valderrama thinking that I might make the team, might be a captain's pick. I made the effort to go over there. So don't use that excuse that they knew the greens better. We just got out-played.

In your four Ryder Cups, who has been your best partner?
Raymond Floyd. The man knows how to control situations. He was experienced. He didn't let me get overly excited; he kept me in check. It allowed me to free myself up, and I played really well with him. I had played that [Floyd] role with Mark Calcavecchia as my partner in '91, and we did very well together.

Would you like to have had that putt that Bernhard Langer had for a tie on the last green in '91?
I would like to tell you yes, but I'm glad I didn't have it. I wouldn't have wished that on anybody. But I will tell you who would have liked to have been in that position: Jack Nicklaus.

You beat Mark James, this year's European team captain, in singles back in '93. What kind of guy is he?
He's a pretty funny guy. He's got that British dry sense of humor. But he's a very intense competitor. He'll be a good captain for them.

Years ago you quit smoking and chewing tobacco. You still clean?
Well, I was off of it for almost three years. I used the patch, and it worked. It killed the craving. Then I started back. I was at a buddy's house and we were laid back, drinking some rum and having a good time, listening to Jimmy Buffett. Then he broke out some Cuban cigars. So I smoke a Cuban cigar, and man, was that good. So the next night I had another one. That just started the process again. Then I would have an occasional cigarette and then I started back dipping. I started dipping last year. My family has asked me again to stop, and I'm trying my best to do that.

You had commented that the withdrawal symptoms made it difficult to play your best golf.
Yeah. People who have never had an addiction don't understand how hard it can be. I got real irritable and real testy at times. If your family or whoever is around and doesn't understand what's going on, they're saying, "Man, what is eating your lunch?" Well, it's the withdrawal. It's tough.

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July 28, 2014

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