I was exempt [to play full-time on Tour] this year. I could have played. I love golf and I love American golf, but I needed to get away. I felt like if I stayed somebody was going to ask me the wrong question on a day that I was angry.
I didn't want to talk to anybody after I was the [2004 Ryder Cup] captain because…there was no evidence [to support that the loss wasn't my fault]. It would have come out like, "He's just [crazy]." It has nothing to with Hal Sutton. If guys are playing good you can pair them any way you want to. I don't think there are any 50 decisions at the captain's level that are going to change that.
I don't agree with a lot that Johnny Miller says, but I totally agreed with his closing comments at the 2006 Ryder Cup when he said that the state of American golf has never been where it is right now. We need to start junior programs that are caring, loving, inviting — not controlling. We're messing up even at that level. The evidence of that, no offense, is that we don't have any players in their 20s who stand out.
There were only three guys from that 1999 Ryder Cup team [the last to beat the Europeans] who were on this last one: Furyk, Mickelson, Woods. I don't know how we found it at Brookline. I felt like I couldn't wait to get to the golf course. My record was 3-1-1. Even the match we got beat was close, against [Jose Maria] Olazabal and [Miguel Angel] Jimenez. [Sutton and Jeff Maggert lost 2 & 1.] It's hard to reach down and give your best on command.
In the old days you could have Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Gary Player, all on the range, and you could be 300 yards from them and know which was which. Today, if you can't read their names on their bags, they all look alike. They're so caught up in mechanics. Well, golf has always been a game of feel. All of the sudden it's almost like it's not a game of feel.
When you start trying to make money [on Tour], you start trying to save shots, and one of the ways to save shots is to never three-putt. You do that by lagging it a foot from the hole all the time. That's what loses Ryder Cups. [2004 Ryder Cup assistants] Jackie Burke and Steve Jones and I preached it all week, "Get on the accelerator! Get on the accelerator! Get on the accelerator! Forget you got a brake! Go!" Did it look like they even knew where the accelerator was?
Architects are caught up in wanting to build the next hardest course, which is, by the way, built for the greatest players in the world and might drive everybody else out of the game. If the game takes too long to play, then we don't have anyone starting to learn.
I spent 180 days designing this course [at Boot Ranch, in Fredericksburg, Texas] because I was so disgruntled with where architects were taking the game. Everything I did was probably bass-ackward from what other people would do. There's an open side to every green where you have to learn to chip the ball. There are as many holes that go left to right as right to left. No one person or shot has an advantage. If you play here you've got to learn all the shots. That's exactly what we're missing in the game today.
The Champions Tour sent me a birthday card this year when I turned 48, so they know I exist. I thought it was comical. If I'm out somebody will always say, "Be the right club today!" [the line Sutton said on the 18th hole Sunday of the 2000 Players]. That's kind of their way of saying hi.
All about Hal
Birthplace: Shreveport, La.
Lives: Shreveport, La.
Turned pro: 1981
Family: Wife Ashley; daughters Samantha, Sara and Sadie; son Holt
Career highlights: Named GOLF Magazine's College Player of the Year in 1980 while at Centenary College of Louisiana. Career earnings of $15,267,685 and 14 Tour wins, including the 1983 PGA Championship, 1998 Tour Championship and 2000 Players Championship. Played on the 1985, '87, '99 and '02 Ryder Cup teams (7-5-4 record). Captained the losing 2004 team.