Watson going the distance
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Tom Watson has been wearing two hats this week at The Greenbrier Classic even though the actual hat he wears features an equipment rep on the front and The Greenbrier Resort where he is the pro emeritus.
Watson, 63, is going the distance for the second straight year in the $6.3 PGA Tour event. He's also doing some scouting for the USA team he's captain of for the 2014 Ryder Cup team that will play Sept. 23-28, 2014, at Gleneagles in Scotland. He wants to assemble a team that can take down Europe, which currently has the Cup and is 9-4-1 in the pressure-packed biennial competition since 1985.
"It's fun to be out here scouting," said Watson, one of three Champions Tour players who made cut at The Greenbrier Classic. "I'm just like a baseball scout. I'm scouting for talent. Those players should be comprised of two or three qualities that I think are essential qualities of being a player that you would want on your Ryder Cup team.
"The first one is guts, heart, how they play in the wind, how do they play in bad weather, can they make that 5-footer every time when they have to, guys that can hold the lead. Those are the types of guys you want on your Ryder Cup team."
Watson shot 2-over-par 72 on Saturday and is 1-under for the tournament on the Old White TPC course.
At a news conference prior to the Greenbrier Classic, Watson announced that ESPN golf analyst Andy North will serve as his assistant captain. North is a two-time U.S. Open champion and represented the U.S. in the 1985 Ryder Cup at The Belfry in England. He went 0-3. All the years in the ESPN booth has given North the chance to evaluate players.
"I think what he brings to the table as far as helping me out is extraordinary," Watson said. "He knows what it takes to close the deal and that's what we need on the Ryder Cup team. We need players who can close the deal."
History says Watson is the ideal pick at this time for U.S. captain. The Americans last won a Ryder Cup in Europe in 1993 at The Belfry and Watson was the captain. The Americans trailed 8.5-7.5 going into singles on Sunday. They prevailed 7.5-4.5 to secure a 15-13 win.
"Well, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve," Watson said. "I don't necessarily need to talk about them right now. I had a couple of tricks up my sleeve in '93 that maybe one of them worked. You never know. There you try to figure out your team, try to figure out who's playing well, who's not playing well. You're not going to have the luxury of everybody, 12 players playing at A level. We know that.
"The thing is that as a stage manager, you're going to go out there and say to these players, 'I know you can do it, just dig deep and get it done.'"
Nine members of the 40th U.S. Ryder Cup team will be determined following the PGA Championship, Aug. 7-10, at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. Watson will announce three captain's picks in September 2014. Paul McGinley of Ireland is captain for the European team.
Watson and North have 16 months to put the team together. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar are some of the players fans anticipate being on the U.S. squad. The question then becomes who are the up-and-comers and the sleepers.
Watson will play in more PGA Tour events, plus find time to compete on the Champions Tour. When he's on that tour, he'll be watching television to see how the would-be team members are faring. On the range, Watson sneaks looks at fellow competitors in addition to working on his game.
"I watch how they swing, their fundamentals, their grip, how they set up, how they hit the ball," Watson said. "I'm watching these players, how they're finishing, how they're doing on TV when the chips are down and the pressure's high. You see a lot by looking in the player's eyes, I think. You can tell a lot about a player. I'll be watching their eyes a lot."
One player making an impression on Watson is Billy Horschel. The former University of Florida standout is fifth in FedExCup points, No. 6 on the money list with more than $3 million and tied with Bill Haas for Top 10 finishes with seven in 17 starts. He started 2013 ranked No. 318. He finished tied for fourth in the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
"With the exception of those pants he wore at the U.S. Open, he's impressive," Watson said. "He's had seven Top 10 and he's won. He's a strong kid, looks like he has very good fundamentals. Again, he hasn't been on the Ryder Cup team, but who knows what's going to happen in the next 16 months.
"I hope we have some young blood on this team. Players that will not only play in 2014 but will continue to play on Ryder Cup teams in '16 and '18 and '20. Those are the types of players you want. You want to give these players some experience. ... throw them into the fire and see how they react to it."
In the end, Watson wants the best 12 players to jet to the Ryder Cup site, play up to or above their potential and have a spot for Samuel Ryder's gold chalice on that jet when they return home.
"This is a process and it doesn't happen overnight," Watson said. "It's starting to form right now and I'm certainly happy to have Andy be on my side and in my ear helping me make the decisions that will bring this cup back home from Europe this time. It's been way too long.
"We've lost seven out of the last nine Ryder Cups and I don't like that. And I know the players don't like that. It's time to change the tide."
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