Captain's Blog: Setting the stage to win
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 seventh 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
First off, I should note that Andy North -- one of my Vice Captains -- is on the ground in Tucson this week for the Accenture Match Play Championship. He's been there the last three days meeting and talking with a number of players.
Andy and I have been in communication regularly and I've been getting his observations about what he's seen and we've also talked a lot about the various players that we'll be looking at over the course of the year.
This Match Play Championship is unique for a couple of reasons. It's the only event on the schedule where the players play match rather than stroke play -- the format of the Ryder Cup.
Part of this process of being Captain is delegating responsibility. With Andy there, he's able to not only see potential players for the U.S. team, but also Europe. I've been watching players through TV and I had brief encounters at the Northern Trust Open this past week when I was there to announce Raymond Floyd as a Vice Captain.
I spoke to a couple of players there. Again, this is part of the process -- getting to know and observe the players. That's our job right now. It's nothing too involved at this point. It's just opening lines of communication, saying hello and maybe having a conversation about the Ryder Cup. I also asked how they're playing, what they think of the course -- just normal conversation. I'm getting to know many of the players, especially the younger guys. That's part of the job I have.
I was picked by the PGA of America to be Ryder Cup Captain for two reasons: 1. I was the last Ryder Cup Captain to win on foreign soil and 2. I have a pretty good record in Scotland. They looked at those two qualities. My goal as Captain is to set the best stage possible in order to win back the Ryder Cup. That's why Andy and Raymond are my Vice Captains. They are on exactly the same page as I am. Both bring to the stage a fierce competitive spirit that I know will be a big part of the relationship we're able to build with the players. Might there be a third Vice Captain? Honestly, I don't know yet. I haven't decided one way or the other.
In non-Ryder Cup news, I was in Hawaii a few weeks back. I went on a pretty technical hike through the Waipi'o Valley. It's located on the Hamakua Coast on the northeast shore of the Big Island of Hawaii and it's the largest and most southern of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains.
The purpose of this hike was to reach and swim under the 1,000-foot waterfall at the end of the valley, which was one of the most enlivening things I have ever done. During the hike, I slipped on a jump and dislocated the pinkie finger on my right hand. I pulled and released it back in place, surprisingly with no pain at all. It swelled up and got a little sore but I was hitting balls in a week with no problem.
I've been spending some time watching the Winter Olympics. I really enjoy the alpine skiing -- Giant Slalom and Downhill in particular, but my favorite event to watch is the Snowboard Cross. I have to laugh at the hell-bent-for-leather way they compete. I wish I were a few years younger and not concerned about injuring myself because of my career.
Lastly, being a big fan of baseball and the Kansas City Royals, I'm excited that Spring Training is here. I'm going to Spring Training again this year in Surprise, Ariz., to see the Royals on my way out to the Toshiba Classic in California.
I'm interested in seeing a young pitcher the Royals have named Yordano Ventura. He was invited to Spring Training last year and got called up to the Royals in September. Ned Yost, the Royals manager, said that an umpire came up to him after one of Ventura's outings and asked, "Who is this guy?" He's been known to get his fastball up around 102-103 mph. He's also got a big hook that he can control. He could be the pitcher of the future for the Royals and might even start this year. He's a player to watch and one I'm looking forward to seeing.
I hope the Royals can improve on their 86-76 season last year as the playoffs are but a distant memory. Go blue.
Follow 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson on Twitter, @TomWatsonPGA.