Watson to get good look at Spieth this week
April 16, 2014
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson will be grouped with young phenom Jordan Spieth this week. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Tom Watson remembers the first time he came to Harbour Town. It was 1971 and he tried to Monday qualify for the event before missing out by a stroke.
It was also 22 years before Jordan Spieth was even born.
The two crossed paths there Wednesday outside the interview room, where they’ll be paired together (along with Davis Love III) for the first two rounds of the RBC Heritage.
For Spieth, this week is an opportunity to move past the sting of losing the Masters, where he seemed poised to become the tournament’s youngest winner until three bogeys in a five-hole stretch in the middle of his final round led to a runner-up finish to Bubba Watson.
“I tried to stay away from talking golf and kind of stay away from the tournament,” said Spieth when asked how he spent Sunday night. “I just wanted to hang out with (family and friends) and just kind of soak in the week.”
By Wednesday, it seemed his biggest pain was that inflicted by a shank from one of his pro-am partner’s that struck Spieth in the back of his left leg. A couple of Advil and a few swings later, he was fine.
Spieth has done everything else in his career quickly and that appears to include moving on.
He played ping-pong and pool Sunday night and slept in the next morning -- something he admittedly had trouble doing the night before when he had a share of the lead going into the final round at Augusta National.
“I like the way he’s played the game,” Tom Watson said. “He's got a passion and, I have to laugh, sometimes he gets up there and he hits a bad shot, and (it’s) ‘That's real close,’ when it’s about 40 yards off the line. That's exactly what I would say … just muttering to yourself.
“He makes me relive some of the memories that I had when I was his age playing the game out here.”
Perhaps he can bounce back the way Watson did, too.
The first time Watson contended in a major championship was at the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Food. Leading by one over Hale Irwin going into the final round, Watson bogeyed the fourth, fifth and eighth holes on his way to a 79.
Irwin went on to win by two over Forrest Fezler, while Watson finished fifth.
Afterward, Byron Nelson, who was broadcasting the event, approached Watson in the locker room with some words of encouragement. Nelson told Watson he liked his aggressiveness.
Two weeks later, Watson won his first PGA TOUR event, coming from six back in the final round to capture the Western Open.
“He's done very well,” Watson said of Spieth, who will almost certainly be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team that Watson will captain this fall at Gleneagles. “He's very mature and he has a good sense of who he is and I like that about him.”
Spieth is excited to be playing with Watson (and Love, an assistant captain), too.
Though it happened more than a dozen years before he was born, the 20-year-old easily recalls his favorite Watson moment -- one of the most famous shots in golf, when Watson chipped-in for birdie on the par-3 17th at Pebble beach in the final round of the 1982 U.S. Open, where he beat Jack Nicklaus by two strokes in one of the great duels in the history of the game.
He also vividly remembers how agonizingly close Watson came to winning the Open Championship four years ago at Turnberry before falling to Stewart Cink in a playoff.
“Jordan is smart,” Love said of Spieth with respect to spending time with the Ryder Cup Captain. “Jordan has already laid his groundwork. He's making sure he knows who Tom Watson is, and Tom Watson knows who he is.”
For his part, Spieth is looking forward to picking both their brains. Given their experiences of having won and lost majors, it’s a worthwhile exercise.
“Any time you get a chance to play with those kinds of guys, it really is a humbling experience for me,” Spieth said. “and one that hopefully I can talk to both of them about different things, whether it's the Masters from last week and them in major championships and how they handled certain things after, or whether it's just about the round and going forward.”
So far, Spieth has done a good job of the latter all by himself.