Captain's Blog: 'Bubba's our first lock'
Leading up to the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson will periodically check in with PGA.com to talk about the various things going on in his life on the course, off the course and in his Ryder Cup preparations. This is the ninth installment of Watson's, 'Captain's Blog,' as told to PGA.com's T.J. Auclair.
By Tom Watson
2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain
After both a good, but disappointing (my poor play) week at Augusta National for the Masters, I'm off to Hilton Head Island, S.C., this week for the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town. I haven't played there in a number of years, but I'm really looking forward to the week as it gives me another chance to see a number of Ryder Cup prospects for the second week in a row plus the chance to play one of my all-time favorite golf courses.
After arriving Sunday afternoon I tuned in for the entire final round on TV Sunday, and I liked what I saw from Bubba Watson, especially that low cut shot on the par-5 15th that he intentionally hit through the trees and over the water. I don't know if I would have recommended he take that risk as a Captain in his situation being three shots ahead, but what do I know is that he pulled it off -- what a gutsy shot!
It was an all around impressive win for Bubba and he's our first lock for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He is an unusual player in that he curves every shot, left to right or right to left, and that makes him very interesting to watch. He wants to block out one side or the other and he can do it big time. I like somebody who can control the ball that way. Golfers take note: if you can block out one side or the other in every shot you play, you will eliminate a lot of risk as you play.
I was also very impressed by the play of Jordan Spieth. He had his opportunities and made some mistakes, but I thought that up and down he made for bogey on the par-3 12th showed true grit. Another yard further with his tee shot there and he would have been just fine. Instead, the ball hit the bank like it has for so many others before Jordan through the years, and it rolled back down the steep embankment into Rae's Creek. Instead of getting down on himself, Jordan pulled it together and got up and down after the penalty drop to keep himself in the tournament.
Last week also marked the 10th anniversary of my longtime caddie and good friend Bruce Edwards's death to ALS -- Lou Gehrig's disease. My caddie Neil Oxman and I paid tribute to Bruce on the 13th tee at Augusta National last Friday the same way we have for the last several years -- by leaving an egg salad sandwich on the bench by the 13th tee and writing "Bruce" on it. Our hearts go out to Bruce's dad as Bruce's mom left us earlier this year.
You see, Bruce always carried an egg salad sandwich (I think is still costs only a buck fifty) in the bag at the Masters and waited until the par-5 13th tee to eat it, because there is always a wait there as the players in the group ahead are waiting on the players on the green to go for it. He would sit on the bench and have his sandwich. So Neil or I leave the sandwich on the bench in Bruce's memory. The 13th tee is probably the most memorable tee in all of tournament golf for us players as it is so far from the crowds and the noise across Rae's Creek at the 12th tee – it’s the tee's silence in the middle of one's storm of emotions that makes it stand out like no other.
Early in the week, I played a practice round with Jimmy Walker. He's another player whose game is very impressive. This was his first time playing in the Masters and I was taken by how well he thought out his shots. He understood the types of shots you have to hit into the greens even though it was just his first time -- very observant. I also played nine holes with Patrick Reed on Monday. He's a fine young player and could very easily make our team.
Even with the Masters behind us now, I think it's still too early to get very excited about the final standings. Bubba will be on the team and it looks like Jimmy will be there too. Other than that it's too early to tell. What happens now is we have three more majors and each offers double points. Each double-point major tournament – U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship -- means someone will get around 3,600-3,800 points -- if it's an American winner, that is. It'll take 4,600 points or so, according to PGA President Ted Bishop -- our stats guru -- to make the top 9 in the points list. If you win one of those majors, you're 1,000 points away. That's probably pretty doable. Bubba had already been pretty high up in the Ryder Cup standings. This victory pushed him well over the top. But a win in any of these other three majors should be enough to make it easily for many of the other players in the top 20 at this time.
In the way of Ryder Cup news, Hilary and I have almost all of the clothing picked out. Ralph Lauren Polo is producing the clothing for the fittings and we'll be asking a number of players and their caddies at the Memorial Tournament to try on the clothes there. I have double duty this year, as I am a member of The Memorial's Captain's Club, an advisory board to Jack Nicklaus, which meets annually at The Memorial.
Aside from that, I intend to go to Gleneagles the week before the Open Championship at Hoylake in July. I'm going to invite some of the potential Ryder Cup players, anyone who would like to come the week before, and make arrangements for them to stay at the hotel and play the Centenary Course. Every look will make the course more familiar to the player. It’s simple logic.
Follow 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson on Twitter, @TomWatsonPGA.