Q&A with McNulty, Johnstone
June 24, 2015
By Kenneth Quillinan, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- June 24, 2015
- Mark McNulty is one of International Captain Nick Price's assistants for The Presidents Cup. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
The Zimbabwean trio of Captain Nick Price and assistants Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone (along with the addition of K.J. Choi as vice captain) will once again attempt to wrestle The Presidents Cup trophy from the U.S. Team this October. The three of them grew up playing golf together and have enjoyed a friendship that has lasted 50 years. They bring a vast amount of match-play experience and knowledge to the International Team, and this year they are more determined than ever to come out on the winning side. In a recent interview, McNulty and Johnstone shared their thoughts about this year’s event.
What excites you most about having The Presidents Cup in Asia and, more precisely, Korea this year? Ever visited before?
MM: Well, The Presidents Cup has not been in Asia, so with Asia producing so many great golfers, now it's very deserving. Obviously, with K.J. being the vice captain, his leadership on the U.S. tour has brought many other good young players here, and their play made Korea a great choice. Yes, I have played at Songdo before, the Champions Tour events a few years ago.
TJ: Taking The Presidents Cup around the world is great for the game as it popularizes it to a wider audience, although the Korean ladies are doing a great job promoting the game there at the moment. I have never been to Korea, but I am really looking forward to visiting there in October. From an International Team point of view, it will be great to hopefully have the majority of the support in Korea. The Memorial was a fantastic experience, but throughout the week my ears were ringing with the sound of ‘’USA, USA, USA…’’
What do you think needs to be done to beat the U.S. Team this time around?
MM: A slightly different format would help a lot. There is at present quite a large difference in rankings, if you go one on one. But – and I say a big but – that did not affect Europe for many Ryder Cups. In essence, we need to play better and get momentum for the Internationals.
TJ: The short answer is simple – to play better than them. It doesn’t matter if you are the world number 1 or 800, team spirit plays a huge role in match play and it is down to us to ensure that spirits remain high throughout the week. I do agree 100 percent with Nick regarding a format change and believe it will be the right move for future events to become more competitive.
Do you believe that getting all the players together for a bonding session prior to the competition is important? K.J. Choi suggested a session in a karaoke room to find out who the best singer is...what would you sing if asked to?
MM: Many of the Internationals know each other very well, and Nick does ask that the guys start having practice rounds at various events around the world. There was never the slightest bit of bonding issues in Ohio, and I am sure we will all gel straight away.
TJ: I can envisage a karaoke session with the whole team on Sunday night singing, ‘We are the Champions!’
What's it like teaming up together along with Nick Price again? Now with K.J. on board, are you brushing up on your Korean?
MM: Helping Nick out is only a pleasure. The three of us have known each other for 50 years. From junior golf and then playing at least eight Dunhill Cups, the friendship bond is as strong as ever. Having K.J. on board is a big deal for us. What with the possibility of having a couple of Korean players on board too, that will help the crowd to get strongly behind the International Team.
TJ: To echo what Mark said, the three of us have known each for so long, it is just fantastic that we can team up again for such a wonderful event. I stayed with Nick and his mother during my very first golf tournament away from home at the age of 12, and we have been great friends ever since. As for K.J., I am looking forward to getting to know him better in the coming months. It was a great move by Nick to recruit K.J., who is a true professional and will bring a lot to the team as vice captain and, potentially, as a player too.
If you could add one European country to the International Team, which one would you pick?
MM: I would say England right now with old and new talent to pick from: Rose, Poulter, Westwood, Donaldson, Willet, Fleetwood, etc.
TJ: I think I would pick France. They have a wealth of fantastic, determined young players at the moment such as Dubuisson, Stal, Wattel, etc. It would be nice to have Rory and McDowell as honorary players too, though!
Are the preparations so far for this year’s competition any different to 2013?
MM: Nick is well on top of preps. He is very meticulous and has all bases very well covered.
TJ: Nick has put his heart and soul into this year’s competition and has not played as much this year, to focus more on the team. He has covered every angle that needs to be covered, and we will be hoping that his dedication to the team pays off in October!
Would you like to captain the team one day?
MM: This is an interesting question, but as I get older, I would say no. The age difference, I think, played a big role in Tom Watson's defeat as captain in last year’s Ryder Cup. Tongue in cheek, of course…
TJ: No, I think I might be a bit too volatile as a captain. I absolutely love being a captain’s assistant to Nick, where my role is to fire up the players, but also to try and keep their spirits up with some witty banter. I suppose I am like the team jester at times!
What makes The Presidents Cup so special, and what is your best memory of the competition to date?
MM: Playing in a team is the special part. We don't get to do that very often, so being in a team or part of a team is special. Apart from the play, the different Presidents’ participation in the event has been great, and they have given the event oomph, if you know what I mean.
TJ: The whole week as captain’s assistant at Muirfield Village was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I’m hoping for the same again in October.
Tony, you are a Twitter addict and are always good for friendly banter on there. What do you love so much about it? And Mark, any reason why you do not use SNS?
MM: SNS is really not my thing. I get most of my social network info from my wife's Facebook page, and it's mainly to catch up on family and friends’ pictures.
TJ: Well, I just think it is great for enjoying a laugh, having discussions and having direct contact with the players. If I can make people smile with my tweets, well, that’s what life is all about to me!
If you could caddie for any golfer from any generation, who would it be and why?
MM: If I did caddie for Rory, I'd have a real problem giving him the right club, as he hits his irons so far! But that would be a heck of a lot of fun to do.
TJ: It would have to be Seve. I just loved him beyond measure. I had the pleasure of both watching him and playing with him, and his short game was simply majestic. He could do things around the green that no other human being could dream of. And obviously it would be great to see him again!
Mark, how much fun is it playing on the Champions Tour?
MM: It has been great fun. It's far more relaxed than the regular TOUR. The guys don't have to prove anything, as they have earned their stripes, and it's just as competitive, but a lot so much more camaraderie.
Tony, your commentary skills are top-notch week in, week out on the European Tour. How much do you enjoy this role, and have you any plans to go back playing competitively in the near future?
TJ: Commentating is something that I absolutely love. To be able to continue working for the game that has been a part of my whole life is fantastic. As for playing the game, I think I have lost the fire to compete and am tired of being sore, so I am only playing three tournaments this year due to ongoing injuries. I will probably just play a couple of tournaments next year just for fun.
With all of the funds raised from The Presidents Cup being donated to various charities, who do you hope to help out?
MM: It has been awesome donating funds to well worthy causes, from Hospice to National Sea Rescue, to my Junior Foundation. These funds are so special, and it’s wonderful to see the reward these places get from the funds.
TJ: My donations were spread out over seven charities in Zimbabwe and across Africa. The work they do focuses on curing cataracts, that crippling eye disease. As well as this, I am very passionate for wildlife, so the other donations were made to animal welfare charities.
What's your opinion on the state of the game at the moment? It seems everywhere you look there is an emerging young player from all parts of the world.
MM: The state of the game is in great hands now. We have a lot of great young players in Europe and the States and the Asian youngsters are just showing themselves more and more as well.
TJ: The depth of young talent worldwide is fantastic at the moment. With Rory, Jordan and so many others emerging, it is great for the game. The one thing I do slightly worry about is the equipment used these days. The game is becoming more and more about length, and I believe that current golfers (who are just as talented as any of the golfers I used to play against) are not tested to the fullest on a weekly basis.
Looking at your opposing captains and captain’s assistants – Jay Haas, Fred Couples, Davis Love III – great names in golf. What's your opinion on them and their overall contribution to the game?
MM: They have all given the game so much of themselves. It's really hard to single out one, but Jay comes from a great golfing family, and it will be great to have his son on the U.S. Team as well again.
TJ: The three of them are great golfers with great personalities and absolute gentlemen. I got to know Jay Haas before 2013 Presidents Cup, as we played prior to the competition in a Champions Tour event at Pebble Beach. He is a true gent, and my wife really enjoyed the company of his other half, which always helps!
Mark, what message do you have for the Korean fans who are contemplating attending the tournament? And Tony, for the U.S. Team that will arrive full of confidence?
MM: I'd like to say, get ready for ultimate excitement with the world’s best golfers coming to your country. Come out and support K.J. and Nick Price along with hopefully two or three of your fellow Korean players on the International Team.
TJ: Two things: Firstly, let’s have a great contest that is played in the same spirit of previous competitions. Secondly, don’t get too used to the feeling of holding that cup, because we would like it this year, please!