Tom Watson said he has wanted to be a Ryder Cup captain again for a long time. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Tom Watson sees himself a "stage manager" as he looks forward to the 2014 Ryder Cup.
The U.S. captain has already been to Gleneagles to check out the facility that will host the biennial competition next fall. He even asked his hosts there for a few pin sheets from the Johnnie Walker Championship played annually on the Jack Nicklaus design. The conversation didn't exactly go well.
"I looked at them with a smile and said, 'You've not going to give them to us?," Watson said with a smile. "They said, 'No, we're not."
Of course, Watson fully expects to get the pin sheets and anything else he needs in advance of the competition. That conversation was just "kind of friendly repartee back and forth," he said. And Watson is looking forward to the day when he gets his team together in Scotland and goes from setting the stage for those "actors" to making decisions to help the team win.
When Watson first captained the U.S. team in 1993 at The Belfry, he didn't mince words with the members of his team. "If I don't play you, it's for a reason," he recalls telling them. But it didn't take long for his strategy to backfire.
"Payne Stewart and Paul Azinger, they were just shooting lights out in practice rounds, making ten birdies and things like that,' Watson said. "They got beat; they got whacked 6 and 5 in the first match. Now, what do you do?"
A three-hour fog delay admittedly racheted up the pressure and contributed to the defeat. But Watson, who remembers how wide-eyed the two were when they finally teed off and decided to split the team up, learned a valuable lesson that day.
"Like Roy Williams said, the basketball coach, if I want to get some advice on how to coach a team, especially on an away game, he said, Tom, I make a game plan for every team we play against, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that and do that, and then he said, invariably, five minutes into the game, I'm coaching by the seat of my pants and the game plan is out the window," Watson said.
"That's kind of the way it has to happen. You make the best decisions that you can make at the time you're trying to make the decisions and that's what you try to do."
Watson's 1993 team went on to beat the Europeans 15-13. But the Americans have only won twice in the next nine matches -- and famously lost a four-point lead in Singles last year. Hence, the call to the World Golf Hall of Famer.
"I hate losing," Watson said. "This last Ryder Cup, losing after a four-point lead, it tears you up. It tears me up inside. I had a vacuum; I lived with a vacuum for three or four days after watching the defeat.
"I still feel like I have a little ownership in that, because I played on the team. I understand what the players are going through. And it doesn't sit well with me. We have lost seven out of the last nine Ryder Cups, and my advice to anybody who is going to be on this team is that I hate to lose, and I hope you hate to lose more than I hate to lose. We're going to go out there with a purpose."
When PGA of America president Ted Bishop called to offer the captainship to Watson, he asked for a couple of days to think about it.
"And I called him back, and I said I'd be honored to, I'd love to do it again," Watson said. "In fact, what I didn't say was that I had been waiting for that call for the last 20 years, because I'd always wanted to be a Ryder Cup Captain again."
Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell have played a lot of golf together the past few years.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
EAST LOTHIAN, Scotland -- Sure, there will be plenty of people following their favorites like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson at the 2013 Open Championship this week.
With the Scottish avowed love of the game and overwhelming sense of its history, you've got to think the first- and second-round draw of Sir Nick Faldo (yes, the tee sheet has the official designation), Tom Watson and Fred Couples will attract quite a crowd, as well.
Granted, Faldo, who turns 56 on Thursday, now makes his living sitting in the booth at the 18th and commentating on the competition. But two of his three Open titles came at Muirfield in 1987 and 1992 so he shouldn't have trouble finding a comfort zone.
Watson, who is now 63, has won the Claret Jug five times, and one of those came in 1980 at Muirfield. The 53-year-old Couples never won a British Open but he made this year's field when he won the 2012 Senior British Open at Turnberry.
The threesome tees off at 4 a.m. ET (9 a.m. local time) on Thursday and 9:01 a.m. ET (2:01 p.m. local). For the record, the first group leaves the tee at 1:32 a.m. ET (6:32 a.m. local) and the last goes off at 11:13 a.m. ET (4:13 p.m. local).
Here are other groups PGATOUR.COM is watching in the first two rounds. Use the comments section below and let us know your favorites.
Bubba Watson, Nicolas Colsaerts and Dustin Johnson (2:44 a.m. ET Thursday and 8:45 a.m. ET Thursday): These are the big hitters. Colsaerts leads the TOUR with an average of 306.6 yards while Johnson is fourth at 304.9 and Watson fifth at 304.1. Keeping it out of the fescue rough will be key.
Justin Rose, Ernie Els and Brandt Snedeker (4:11 a.m. ET Thursday and 9:12 a.m. ET Friday): Els, who won the first of his two British Opens at Muirfield in 2002, will be the elder statesman in this group. The defending champion is joined by the U.S. Open champion in Rose and Snedeker, who tied for third last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Phil Mickelson (4:44 a.m. ET on Thursday and 9:45 a.m. ET on Friday): Mickelson was at his best on Sunday when he won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open with a brilliant chip to a foot on the first playoff hole. McIlroy is looking for his first win of the season on either side of the Atlantic while Matsuyama, the 21-year-old who has already won three times on the Japan Tour is playing in his first Open.
Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel and Sergio Garcia (9:01 a.m. ET on Thursday and 4 a.m. ET on Friday): Westwood and Garcia would have to be placed at the top of the best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major category. Westwood has 15 top-10s, including 10 in his last 20 starts, while Garcia has 18, including a tie for eighth at Muirfield in 2002. Schwartzel made his major breakthrough in 2011 at Augusta National.
Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald (9:12 a.m. ET on Thursday and 4:11 a.m. ET on Friday): Adam Scott, who squandered a four-stroke lead on the final four holes at last year's Open Championship, likely would have had a much different return to the Open Championship had he not made this year's Masters his first major title. Donald and Kuchar won't be the odds-on favorites but their ball-striking skills can't be overlooked.
Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen (9:45 a.m. ET on Thursday and 4:44 a.m. ET on Friday): Woods played a practice round at Muirfield with Jason Day and Dustin Johnson on Sunday. He says the left elbow strain is healed and he's ready to go. McDowell is fresh off a win at the Alstom Open de France, his third win in his last seven starts worldwide -- a stretch that also includes four missed cuts. Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 British Open, is currently 138th in FedExCup points.
Kenny Perry (l) and Tom Watson are in the hunt at The Greenbrier Classic.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- After Tom Watson finished off a solid, if not spectacular round of 68 on Thursday at The Old White TPC, a reporter had asked
what the 63-year-old needed to do to make the cut.
"Well, how about winning the tournament?" Watson countered with that Huck Finn-grin of his.
Indeed. Watson, who shot 69 on Friday, not only made the cut but he's just five strokes out of the lead now with 36 holes remaining. The man who followed Sam Snead as pro emeritus at The Greenbrier is one of three Champions Tour players in the hunt, too.
Kenny Perry, who won the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship on Sunday, is only three strokes back after Friday's 67 moved him to 5 under. And Neal Lancaster, who turned 50 last September and has conditional status on the Champions Tour, is 4 under after a 71 on Friday.
Should Watson go on to win on Sunday, he would eclipse The Greenbrier's last pro emeritus, Sam Snead, as the oldest champ in PGA TOUR history. Snead was 52 years, 10 months, and 8 days old when he won his eighth Greater Greensboro Open title in 1965.
Even a top-10 finish would propel Watson past Snead, who was 63 years, 3 months and 4 days old when he tied for eighth at the 1975 B.C. Open. Watson will be 63 years, 10 months and 3 days old on Sunday but Snead still has him beat after making the cut at the 1979 Westchester Classic at the age of 67.
Watson's ball-striking was at its best on Friday as he hit all but two fairways and greens. Those 33 putts, though, including a trio of three-putts, left a lot to be desired, although the 24-footer he drained on the ninth hole, his fourth birdie of the day, sent Watson home happy.
"I did make one good one on the last hole," the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain said. "I changed my stroke and that gives me some confidence about maybe what I did with that stroke is maybe what I need to do because I was struggling on the greens today."
The 52-year-old Perry, who won 14 times on the PGA TOUR, was quite pleased with his performance over the first 36 holes. After all, he's hit all but eight fairways and nine greens in regulation while using just 57 putts.
"I’m going to need a lot of good rounds this weekend to catch them," Perry said. "But I played nicely, hit the ball good, lot of greens, lot of fairways, made some nice puts. I won on a Seth Raynor golf course last week, so I'm playing another one this week, so a lot of good memories, lot of good vibes, enjoy being out here."
Perry, who is playing in his third PGA TOUR event this year, is enjoying his busman's holiday, of sorts. He said he and his wife Sandy are like the grandparents" on the PGA TOUR this week.
"This is definitely not a permanent thing, it's just neat to show up every once in a while and just stay in touch and just say hi to everybody," Perry said.
Not that he's counting himself out.
"My game's still good enough to compete out here," Perry said. "I don't know if I would win like on a regular basis like I could in the past, but I still feel like I hit it far enough, I still putt well enough, so to me that gives me a lot of confidence and it makes it fun when I do come out here and compete because I still think I can compete with them.
"But it's an amazing game, they hit it so much further than I do now. I used to be one of the longer guys and now I'm just an average hitter out here. ... It's fun, we aggravate each other, we just have a great time, it's good being back."
Tom Watson was officially named captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team on Thursday.
It will be the second time in Watson’s career that he has led the U.S. team. The last came in 1993 at The Belfry, site of the Americans’ last victory on foreign soil. Since then, the U.S. has lost seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, including this year when Europe matched the largest final-day comeback in the history of the matches.
Watson played in four Ryder Cups, compiling a stellar 9-3-1 mark that helped the U.S. win three of those and tie in a fourth. Five of his eight career majors have also come at the British Open, and he has won the Senior British Open three times.
The 2014 matches will be played at Gleneagles in Scotland.
"It gives him instant credibility," Brandt Snedeker said of Watson . "They'll treat him as one of their own. It'll be an interesting dynamic."
Snedeker also said Watson is “one of the best competitors of all time" and that he will bring “fire and that unwillingness to lose and that mental strength that's defined his career."
What do you think of Watson as captain? How do you think he will fare? Discuss below.
Tom Watson unveiled a plaque Tuesday on the 18th fairway of Turnberry’s Ailsa Course to commemorate the 178-yard 7-iron approach to two feet which sealed his victory in 1977 Open Championship. The Senior British Open begins Thursday at Turnberry, where Watson also famously lost a playoff to Stewart Cink in 2009. For more coverage of the major championship on the Champions Tour this week, click here .
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- How does it feel for Tom Watson to make the cut at The Greenbrier Classic?
“Well, I’m one out of two,” he said.
That’s more than Phil Mickelson could say, who missed the cut here for the second straight year. Tiger Woods was sent packing, too.
The 62-year-old Watson? He looked young again a year after missing the cut here.
Watson birdied three of his first five holes Friday on his way to a 68. He enters the weekend 2 under and seven shots off the lead.
The last time Watson made the cut in a regular PGA TOUR event was at the 2007 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he tied for 19th. He also made the cut at last year’s British Open, where he tied for 22nd two years after nearly becoming golf’s oldest major champion.
Now he’s hoping to become the TOUR’s oldest winner at the former home of the man he’s trying to surpass, the late Sam Snead.
Watson isn’t looking to be just a ceremonial figure, either.
“I'm not here to enjoy the weekend,” Watson said. “I'm here to compete and play my best and see if I can do better than 68 the last two rounds.”
Watson won five British Opens in his Hall-of-Fame career and just as familiarity with links golf helped him across the pond, his knowledge of The Old White TPC seems to be paying off, too.
”The golf course is a little long for me in places, but today I played most of those holes pretty well,” said Watson, who has been the pro emeritus here since 2005. “All in all I was very happy with the round.”
And why shouldn’t he be?
This is Watson’s 603rd career start on TOUR. He’s made the cut 496 times with his latest coming where Snead once called home.
Snead was the oldest player ever to win on TOUR, capturing the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open at 52 years, 10 months and 8 days.
Watson is 10 years older than that, so he didn’t mind waiting out a 90-minute weather delay in the middle of his round Friday.
“It actually helped me, gave me a chance to get my legs back a little bit, relax a little bit,” Watson said. “Plus I had a chance to eat good Greenbrier food out here. They spoil you here.”
Now Watson hopes he can return the favor.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Tom Watson is the pro emeritus here at The Greenbrier, where earlier in the week he said he had a few tricks up his sleeve.
“Makes you feel old, emeritus,” Watson said.
He hardly looked it Thursday.
Watson shot 70 in the opening round of The Greenbrier Classic, where he had two birdies and two pars on the 7,200-yard course. Not bad for a 62-year-old.
And not bad considering he’d hurt his hand recently.
“It took a while to recover,” he said. “It's in good shape now and I'm getting my legs right now. I'm playing hit and miss: Miss and hit, hit and miss, hit and hit, miss and miss.”
He didn’t miss much in the opening round, at least with his driver or his irons.
Watson hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 greens in regulation.
“I don't treat this tournament any different than any other tournament I play in,” Watson said. “I'm here to compete the best that I can compete. This course doesn't favor my game because of its length, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I might be able to get around some of the long holes and make it up on some of the shorter holes.”
He did just fine on the longer holes, parring the difficult second, 11th and 13th holes. He added birdies on the par-4 seventh and the par-5 17th, too.
If there was a downside to Watson’s day, it was the fact that he was done in by the one club that’s always plagued him throughout his Hall-of-Fame career: The putter. Watson took 33 putts.
Still, he outplayed some pretty notable players, including Tiger Woods, who shot 1 over.
Prior to the 2012 Greenbrier Classic, Tom Watson meets with the media and talks about The Greenbrier.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Tom Watson knows a little something about history.
He won 39 times on the PGA TOUR, including eight major championships, and another 14 times on the Champions Tour.
Given that resume, there are few players who can assess the careers of Tiger Woods an the late Sam Snead better than the man who’s played with and against both.
Woods has 14 career major championships, which puts him four shy of Jack NIcklaus’ record. Woods also has 74 career wins on the PGA TOUR, second all-time to Snead’s 82.
So which is the more impressive record?
“They're two separate animals,” Watson said. "The importance you put on the majors make that record probably the most important record, but the way I look at it, how many times have you won and have you won majors.”
Woods has won three times this season. None of those were majors, however. His last victory in a major came at the 2008 U.S. Open.
The last time Woods won at Bay Hill, Muirfield Village and Congressional in the same year, 2009, he went on to record six victories that season. Again, however, none at a major championship.
“It's how many tournaments you win,” Watson said. “Look at the majors, the last nine majors won by first-timers. Golf goes through cycles. You had the dominance of Woods for all these years, the resurgence of Woods now. When I look back at somebody's record, I'll say, first of all, how many tournaments did they win. That's number one. Did they win more than 20 tournaments? Then I'll say how many majors did they win, did they win more than three or four majors? Then that puts them up in the great category.”
Woods, of course, has done both, and if he keeps playing the way he has this season, he might surpass both records, too.
Note: All times Eastern
Tuesday, July 3
11:30 a.m. -- Scott Stallings
Noon -- Jimmy Walker
12:30 p.m. -- Billy Hurley III
1 p.m. -- Tiger Woods
2 p.m. -- Tom Watson
Wednesday, July 4
After pro-am -- Phil Mickelson