Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani and Hall of Fame golfer Raymond Floyd discuss the game, the upcoming Ryder Cup, and how the links on the East End rival the best in the world.
The words “resolute,” “steadfast,” and “determined,” hardly do justice to describe Hall of Fame golfer Raymond Floyd and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani individually. Put them together, and there aren’t enough adjectives to capture their iconic yet vastly different professional accomplishments. Floyd’s PGA career spanned five decades with 22 wins including four Major Championships. Giuliani tackled New York City crime and ultimately united a nation in the aftermath of September 11. Both men are formidable: Floyd known for his icy, blue-eyed stare as he fiercely battled competitors on the golf course, and Giuliani’s will compelled the city to regain its strength following our darkest moment in history.
And yet the game of golf is common turf for the two men. Both will venture to Gleneagles in Scotland for the 2014 Ryder Cup, September 23-28. Floyd, 72, who retired from playing professionally in 2010, was appointed vice captain of the 2014 US Ryder Cup team by Captain Tom Watson; and Giuliani, chairman and CEO of Giuliani Partners LLC, will attend as strategic advisor to the PGA of America, a role that allows him to combine his passion for golf with the mission and work of the PGA. Both have homes out East and enjoy the many fine courses here, and both men credit the women in their lives for success and enjoyment of the game.
Hall of Fame golfer Raymond Floyd (LEFT) and former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani at Floyd’s home in Southampton.
ANN LIGUORI: Raymond, you’ve done so much in the Ryder Cup world. You’ve played on eight Ryder Cup teams, captained the 1989 US team, and in 1993, you returned as a player at the age of 51, earning three points for the US. Raymond Floyd: It’s such a difficult team to make. This year, you have nine players make the team off of sheer merit, and we get three captain’s picks. It’s a unique format that happens every other year, and everybody is trying to make this team. It’s so special to represent your country. It’s the ultimate! And it brings guys together; there are relationships and bonds and camaraderie that are melded at Ryder Cup that bonds friendships forever. We’re individual performers. We don’t affect anyone by what we shoot. But you go into Ryder Cup, and you’re playing not only with 11 other players, but you’ve got your country on your shoulders. That’s huge! It’s every player’s goal to make Ryder Cup teams.
Tiger Woods called US Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson to tell him not to consider him for one of the three captain’s picks due to his ailing back. It must have been a relief that Tiger initiated that call.
RF: Yes, we had expected that. You definitely want a “healthy” Tiger on the team. You’ve got to be able to play 36 holes for two straight days. As Watson has said, Tiger will be honest; he knows we are playing for our country, and if he’s not healthy, he will say he’s not healthy like he did in 2008. [Tiger did not play in the 2008 Ryder Cup Competition at Valhalla due to a knee injury.]
Floyd hits a shot during the delayed second round of the Senior PGA Championship in 2004 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
How did you react when Tom Watson asked you to be a vice captain for this upcoming Ryder Cup?
RF: When Tom called me to ask me, it floored me. I was not prepared! Of course, I said yes, and here I am in the middle of it.
You are only one of two players to win PGA Tour events in four different decades. With 22 PGA Tour wins, four Majors, all these Ryder Cups, what do you think has been the key to your longevity?
RF: I had great support. Maria, my wife, was very special. She supported my golf. She was my partner.
Rudy Giuliani plays during the Els for Autism Pro Am at The PGA National Golf Club in 2014.
Looking back on your career and all of your accolades, would you say your Masters win was the best golf you ever played?
RF: I have two Majors that really stand out: [In 1976] I won the Masters by 8 strokes so I played very, very well, and the PGA Championship in Tulsa [in 1982], where I shot 63 in the opening round and won by three strokes. To overwhelm the field was very special.
Rudy, when you were mayor of New York City, you helped lower the crime rate and had to be so tough handling so many issues. How does that “tough” personality translate to golf, where being mellow and relaxed is really the key. Rudy Giuliani: Yes, crime was down 58 percent and murder was down 65 percent [when I was mayor]. It wasn’t just toughness [that did it], it was strategy, and golf has a lot of strategy.
After winning the US Open at Shinnecock in 1986, Floyd proudly holds his trophy.
What do you bring from your career to the game of golf?
RG: Golf helps me in so many ways. First of all, it’s my relaxation. [My wife] Judith and I play a lot for that reason. Sometimes you can’t get everything off your mind; it intrudes in to your game. Most of the time, you can get all of the things you’re pondering, the decisions you’re making off your mind. You can just concentrate on hitting that ball, making a good score, winning a bet, just having fun. Sometimes just looking at the beautiful scenery puts everything in perspective.
Tell us about Giuliani Partners being a strategic advisor for the PGA of America and your suggestions to the association about growing the game.
RG: We have to make it simpler and easier. Let’s shorten the course and make playing 12 holes instead of 18 holes the norm. I’ve played tennis for 20 years, and I’ve never played five sets like the pros do; I’ll play three sets with my pals. So why play 18 holes [in golf]? That’s what pros do to win tournaments.
At the US Open at Shinnecock Hills in 1986, Raymond Floyd celebrates putting the winner.
Raymond, what do you like about spending time in the Hamptons?
RF: We came in 1986 when I won the US Open at Shinnecock, and we fell in love with it. We came back in ’95, and decided we’d summer out here, so we bought the land and built the house.
And the East End is really golf paradise in the US.
RF: Oh absolutely! You can name courses that people don’t think about like Westhampton Country Club or Southampton Golf Club, both designed by Seth Raynor. Everyone knows Shinnecock and National, but think about Atlantic, Friar’s Head, Sebonack, and Maidstone. You’ve got such special golf out here. And the weather’s so good. The summer out East is a micro-climate. It’s 90 degrees in the city, and it will be 81 or 82 out here. It’s very special in the summertime.
If you could pick a favorite course, what would it be?
RF: The best tournament golf course in the world is Shinnecock. I don’t think any world-class player takes Shinnecock out of their top three.
Giuliani admits his wife, Judith, is a better golfer than he.
Rudy, I hear that Raymond was ribbing you that Judith is a better golfer than you.
RG: I’m not in the least bit upset about that! She is two strokes better quite legitimately. I take great credit for this because I’m her teacher. I learned golf when I was about 57; baseball was my sport. I had to unlearn a lot of things from my baseball swing. I got all these books and videos, and I’d make little drawings and little lessons.
Raymond, how’s your game these days?
RF: I’m carrying a two or three handicap. I don’t even know what it is. I turn in all my scores. When I start playing more than I have, I can get down to a scratch. The thing that I’ve done for a lot of years is be able to shoot my age. In fact, last year on my birthday I shot 70 at Shinnecock on my 71st, so when I turn 72 in September, my goal will be to try to shoot my age again.
Photography by Andrew Eccles; Grooming by Casey Geren for ABTP.com; photography by david cannon/getty images (shinnecock, trophy); andy lyons/getty images (valhalla); andrew eccles (judith); photo by mike ehrmann/getty images (giuliani).