Insider: Watson likes confidence of young winners
April 09, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson is expected to have a wealth of young talent on his team. (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Tom Watson knows how difficult it can be to win that first PGA TOUR title.
It took Watson, one of golf’s greats, three years before he finally posted a breakthrough victory at the 1974 Western Open.
Forty years later, things are different. The rookies are wiser, if not older, and more accomplished. Today, the young golfers – like Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Harris English and a lot of others – expect to win, and win immediately.
That’s OK with Watson, a two-time Masters champion who will tee it up this week for the 41st time at Augusta National Golf Club. At 64, Watson is the oldest player in the field. He won the Green Jacket in 1977 and 1981.
“When you win, you have that aura that you're at the top of your game and it's hard for anybody to beat you,” Watson said recently. “That's a good place to be. As we all know, the game can turn on you and it will turn on you and you'll go through the low spells.”
Reed, during and after his victory at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, said he considered himself among the five best players in golf. On some levels, it was an outrageous claim for a 23-year-old.
“What Patrick said, I can understand him saying that, but after 14 events and winning three of them, I guess maybe he has a little bit of street cred,” Watson said. “After winning my first event, I said I hope my goal was to be the best golfer in the world. After winning three out of the first 14, you've got to give the guy a little bit of credit.”
This week’s Masters has taken on a decidedly youthful appearance. There are 24 rookies in the field of 97.
While experience has always been a key component at Augusta National there are so many fine young players in golf today – from all over the globe – that a victory by one of the youngsters wouldn’t come as a surprise. Watson will experience the youth uprising again in the fall as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“It seems like over the last four, five years we've seen the younger players start to come out and blossom very early,” Watson said. “Up until that time for a stretch there it took a while for the younger players to get there.
“We go through cycles in the game. You look at Jack when he came out on the TOUR, I forget how many months it took him to win his first tournament. And oh, by the way, it was a playoff with Arnold Palmer to win the U.S. Open.
“You have Rory McIlroy coming out and he's a very young guy … You look at Patrick Reed, a 23-year-old kid. These kids are coming out, they're polished. They've played a lot of competitive golf and they're polished.
“Just like Tiger when he came out competitively, there was no more polished amateur in the history of the game than Tiger. He had played and won everything more than once, three times the National Junior Championship, three times the National Amateur Champion. When he came out he was polished, he was ready to go and understood competition. That was a winner. These kids are coming out that way. Doesn't surprise me, put it that way.”
Watson is ready to field a young American side at the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, Scotland.
“I've been planting seeds in their head, not them in mine,” he said. “I've been looking at the kids and saying, ‘Get playing better, get playing better, get on my Ryder Cup team.’ Give them something to think about.”
For any young player in professional golf today, if the advice is coming from Watson, it’s definitely worth thinking about.