Captain's Blog: 'We're inching closer and closer'
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 10th 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
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- This week I'm at Harbor Shores for the Senior PGA Championship. This tournament is played at a facility that's not just a golf facility -- it's a renovation of a blighted area. It has a lot deeper meaning than just a golf course.
What it's done for the community and what it's intended to do for the community is to create lives, new lives for people. I sincerely hope it's successful, that it does create a new sense of community here.
What it took to build the golf course was a huge commitment and it said, "We're going to help this community out."
I hope it bears its fruit for the future.
I wasn't able to play here during the Senior PGA of 2012 a couple of years ago because of an injury, so I'm really looking forward to this week. This Jack Nicklaus design is about the most challenging course I can remember.
We're inching closer and closer to the Ryder Cup now, but there's still a long way to go.
There are a lot of points left out there and the face of this team can change dramatically between now and the PGA Championship the final Ryder Cup points tournament. There are just a lot of points in the last couple tournaments. The PGA's winner's purse is $1.8 million. That's 3,600 points for the winner of the PGA.
Obviously if a U.S. player wins this, he's probably going to make it onto the team. But there are just a lot of points left out there. I really haven't spent too much time speculating, because it is what it's going to be.
The main thing I am doing now is to observe the players and to get to personally know them.
For instance, I had a chance to play with Jimmy Walker at the Masters in a practice round, Patrick Reed in a practice round at the Heritage, I've had a chance to sit down with Bubba -- there are three players right now who are high up on the list.
I've talked with Andy North. He's met with some of the players already. We have created dialogues and the dialogues will continue.
We'll have a really good chance at the Memorial Tournament coming up next week. I'll be going up there and spending a couple days up there, Tuesday and Wednesday, we're doing the most difficult logistical job we have to do -- making sure the clothing fits properly.
We've invited 25 of the players, potential players who are going to be on the Ryder Cup, the Top 25 on the list, to come in and get fitted for their Ryder Cup clothes. You've got all shapes and sizes and it never fails, when you get over there to the Ryder Cup, you're going to get guys that say, "This doesn't fit," and, "This doesn't feel right." You're going to have that problem so be prepared for it. We are. We'll get it right.
More importantly though, this next week Andy North, my Vice Captain, and I will have a chance to meet with some of the potential Ryder Cup players again, the players who are inching higher and higher up on the list. I haven't really sat down with Matt Kuchar or Dustin Johnson yet. I'll look them up next week and have a conversation.
It's just the process of trying to get to know some of these players before the event happens so they get to know me. They get to know a little bit of who I am and what I bring to the table for them. It's just commonsense to create the dialogue.
A while back I made a comment about how I wished we could do away with Captain's picks. I still wish that were the case -- simply play your way onto the team via the point system we have now.
By 1979 when the Europeans were added to the U.K. Ryder Cup team, the U.S. had accumulated a record of 23 wins, three losses and one tie. Because of the continuing mismatch between our teams, Jack Nicklaus and the Earl of Darby agreed that the U.K. team should include the best continental players as well, which meant the up and coming star, Seve Ballesteros, would be on the team.
The Europeans also asked if they could have a couple of at-large picks as well and we agreed; all to make the competition more equal. But after they started winning the Cup, we asked in 1989 for some picks as well. We started with two and then it progressed to four and I believe strongly that's just too many picks. A player should be able to qualify for the team on his play and having just eight spots is not enough when there are 12 places on the team.
Actually, this year I was thinking about going back to two picks as I had as Captain in 1993, but I compromised and went with three, but still think that all 12 ought to qualify on the basis of their performance. This flies into the face of our team's poor record of late, I know.
One last story about this:
In 1985, playing under the "no pick" system at the final point-getting event, The PGA Championship at Cherry Hills, I was on the "bubble" of making or not making the team based on points. And it came down to the very last hole in the final round. I knew I had to make par to make the team. A bogey and I failed.
I hit the perfect drive up the right side, a solid cut shot up the right edge of the severe right-to-left side sloped fairway, but the ball took the slope and ran left all the way down into the left shortcut collar and settled in a divot. I had an uphill shot and had to make par. I mishit it -- hit it thin from the divot, knocked it over the green and ended up missing a 15-footer for the Ryder Cup team. Talk about disappointment. I was really bummed out. Luck had played a part on that last hole but I didn't blame the bad lie, I just didn't get the job done.
And that's the way I believe the players trying to make the Ryder Cup team ought to have it now -- play for the 12th and final spot on the team. You earn that spot by your performance.
Follow 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson on Twitter, @TomWatsonPGA.