Captain's Blog: Focusing in on the PGA Championship
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 fourth 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
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- I’m here at Oak Hill Country Club this week for the 95th PGA Championship. It's one of the toughest courses we play. I've read other players' comments about the golf course. They say the same thing: It's one of the toughest courses we ever play in a major championship.
This course has held the U.S. Open, the PGA, the Senior PGA and the U.S. Amateur, The Ryder Cup, and the Senior Open. Only 13 players have ended up under par after 72 holes in all of those events, so that shows you how tough this golf course is.
I’m not thinking all that much about the Ryder Cup this week since I’m trying to focus on my own game, but I had a chance to play with Billy Horschel and Nick Watney. I've watched a bunch of them hit it on the practice tee today. I spent about 45 minutes to an hour just kind of watching how the practice tee operated. Watched the players get their lessons from their coaches, or just hit balls themselves. Just kind of taking it in.
In terms of Ryder Cup business, it’s been an exciting few weeks. While I was over in Europe for the Open Championship and the Senior British Open, I was able to head over to Gleneagles with my vice captain Andy North to take a look at the Centenary Course.
They have a lot of drainage going on there, drainage help right now. They put 5,000 tons of sand and they are going to put another 5,000 tons of sand on the golf course to help it drain.
The weather there is going to be cold. The highs are in the mid 50s on average. Of course, you can get that rare heat week there, or you can have a not so rare cold week there, too, where temperatures could be down in the 30s or maybe the upper 20s and with some frost. At that time of the year, it can get cold there.
We had some people take us around the golf course and we asked for the pin sheets that have been used for the Johnnie Walker Championship and I looked at them with a smile, and said, "You're not going to give it to us?"
They said, "No, we're not."
That's no big deal. Kind of friendly repartee back and forth. The way it's going to be conducted is straight up tournament golf. I've been assured that the golf course will be set up not with any particular bias in mind for whatever bias that might be. It's going to be set up by the European Tour and I've been assured that that's going to happen. That's the right way to do it.
You don't want the captains themselves to determine how the golf course is going to play or the flag positions. Let's just go out and play the golf course the way we see it, and that's the way it was presented to me and that's the way it's going to be.
Regarding the Open Championship, I was duly impressed with Phil Mickelson. I watched the whole thing unveil.
With Phil, you never know what you're going to get; you're always expecting maybe a bad shot here, and how is he going to recover from that bad shot. But as I told him yesterday morning when I saw him here early, and told his caddie, Bones, I emailed him a couple of weeks ago, I said, "He showed what he's made of."
I'll tell you another thing that showed what he's made of -- he prepared for the tournament properly. He went over and he played links golf. He played The Scottish Open on a true links golf course and he got the feel for playing links golf. He's done it before; he has not won before, but I contend that that always helped me in the past when I had the opportunity to do that, to go over and get used to playing links golf before you play a links golf course. We don't play links golf but once a year, and how are you going to adjust only playing two practice rounds on a links golf course? You have to go over there and play more than that and get used to those conditions, and he's done that.
It was great to watch.
Back to this week and the PGA Championship. We’re looking forward to all the Ryder Cup stuff that’s coming up. We’ll have the year-out celebration next month at Gleneagles. But, for this week, I'm not thinking about the Ryder Cup very much to be honest. I'm thinking about my performance in this week's tournament.
I practiced today; I practiced yesterday. I'm trying to get to a point where I feel comfortable with my golf swing, as I always do. I'm driving the ball well, putting the ball well. My iron game is pretty sketchy, and that concerns me. But I went and worked on it today and hit it a little bit more consistently. That's why I'm here. I'm here to play in the PGA Championship, not as the Ryder Cup captain, but as a player.
Follow 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson on Twitter, @TomWatsonPGA.