Captain's Blog: 'Play well and I'll give you a look'
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 12th 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
The team is now set with our nine players. We've had some difficulties with injuries, which has been unprecedented, I think, with the number of people hurt, or in Tiger's case where he had to withdraw his name for consideration.
That is certainly of some concern, but it is what it is. We'll play with the players we've got. Those guys will be healthy and able to go five rounds if asked.
I've been asked if I was surprised at all by Tiger's announcement this week. I wasn't surprised at all at how he handled the situation. I would have made the same decision. It was the right thing to do. If you know you can't help the team, you need to speak up and that's what he did.
Speaking of injuries, it hasn't been limited to our players -- our new Vice Captain, Steve Stricker, is also battling through a hip injury. It's been a problem for a while now and I think it's the reason he's had a hard time stringing four rounds together this year until last week. He played great at Valhalla and tied for seventh.
Steve actually called me on Thursday night. He asked if I was considering him for a Captain's Pick. I said, "Absolutely, I am." Steve said that's all he needed to hear and will be planning his schedule accordingly over these next couple of weeks. He's going to play and see if he can make it as a Captain's Pick. That's where Steve is at right now. I told him he's amongst a group I'm looking at if he's playing well. Either way, he'll be with us at Gleneagles. He's very well respected by his peers and obviously, a great player.
I'd also like to talk a little about Phil Mickelson. I spoke with Phil a couple of times and I'm delighted to have him on the team -- he played his way in with that runner-up finish on Sunday. I know it meant a lot to him to play his way on to his 10th consecutive U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Phil brings so much to the table. It's not just his talent, but his enthusiasm and experience can only help our rookies -- guys like Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker. We all saw how he was with Keegan Bradley in 2012 at Medinah. They'll be looking to veteran players who have this kind of experience. It's so much different than the week-in, week-out individual efforts. It's a different kind of pressure.
The captains can help to that end too. We've all had experience in the Ryder Cup and we'll be able to guide the players from a variety of angles.
Rickie Fowler is on the team and he's had a great year in the majors with top-5 finishes in each of them. I'm sure he would have wanted to win at least one of them. He was disappointed after the PGA Championship and felt like he left one on the table. I like that attitude and I think it will serve him well in the years to come.
The guy that got the better of Rickie twice this year -- Rory McIlroy -- what a summer it's been for him. He's played wonderful golf. It goes to show you that the people who questioned his ability last year through poor play, they need to look at it long term. The lull he had will strengthen his mindset helping him understand that this game doesn't come easy. Enjoy the moment for all it's worth.
As for my own game, I didn't play great either round at Valhalla. That wasn't very stellar play -- I was over par in both rounds and missed the cut by two shots.
I had a good final round at Hoylake in the Open Championship with that 4-under 68. It was tied for 15th as far as score was concerned that day. I'm 64 years old -- almost 65. I'll be 65 when we head over to Gleneagles. But it's still enjoyable to be able to compete every now and then against the kids. I know there will be fewer of these days left in my career, but when I do get in there it's very enjoyable.
Lastly, I'm looking forward to these next few weeks as we approach Sept. 2, the day I'll fill out the team with the three Captain's Picks. I've laid down the gauntlet for those who want to be on the team: Play well and I'll give you a look. Don't play well and I won't.
Follow 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson on Twitter, @TomWatsonPGA.