Captain's Blog: 'The team is taking shape'
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 11th installment of Watson's, 'Captain's Blog,' as told to PGA.com's T.J. Auclair.
I'm at The Greenbrier this week as both its Pro Emeritus and a competitor in the Greenbrier Classic. The beauty of this place in the Allegheny mountains is very special to me as I have visited every year since I was a short-lived member of the 1979 Ryder Cup Team. I withdrew to be home for the birth of my first born, Meg, on the day before the Matches began. I have returned every year since to enjoy one of the finest resorts in the world.
On Tuesday, I was honored to receive an exemption by the R&A to play in the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews. Time goes by fast and it's hard to believe that this year is the last of the five-year exemption I earned as a past champion finishing in the top 10 at Turnberry in 2009. I'm very grateful that the R&A added another year to that exemption and to once again walk across the Swilcan bridge on the final hole of what will probably be my last Open as a competitor.
St. Andrews epitomizes golf. Scotland is the birthplace of golf; the home of golf. When people think of the world's great courses, they think of St. Andrews and Pebble Beach. Standing on the first tee there, looking out at that short par 4 over the burn, you're standing in the exact spot where so many of the greats stood -- Old Tom Morris (longtime "keeper of the greens" at St. Andrews ), Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. You are reliving the history of the game as almost anyone who was anyone in the game has stood on that first tee at St. Andrews.
Switching gears to the Ryder Cup, we're through two major championships now and the team is taking shape. We knew this would happen after the U.S. Open and there's a good chance the players currently occupying the first six spots in the standings will be on the team. Things can certainly change, but they're looking good right now. Things will continue to firm up.
I'm starting to make personal contact with those players -- to get to know them and to understand them so that I can make informed decisions come September, both on and off the course.
To that end, I have personally invited the top 15-20 players or so to join me the week before the Open Championship at Gleneagles so we can all get a look at the Centenary Course. It's going to give me a chance to play the course and get familiar with it as well. Obviously not everyone can make it -- many are either playing in the John Deere Classic, or the Scottish Open, but I have about four or five players that have said they're going to join me.
One player in particular who I've had some time with both here and the Masters is Jimmy Walker. We played a practice round together here at Greenbrier. He's an impressive player, but an even more so an impressive person with an informed and good perspective on things.
As I mentioned in the last blog, I attended the Memorial to help get potential players and caddies fitted for clothes. It's very important to get the guys fitted properly as it's going to be cold over there. They need to be comfortable. Luckily, we have a lot of options for them. They might not all be dressed the same, but I can assure you they will all be in red, white and blue.
I know everyone has been asking about Tiger Woods. I'm glad to see him back and playing. He must be playing without pain, which is a testament to the dedication he puts in to his conditioning. He's primo in this department on Tour and has been for a long time when it comes to athletic conditioning. I've said all along, I want him on the team. He just has to show me that he's healthy and playing well.
Lastly, I just wanted to touch on how much fun it was watching the U.S. in the World Cup. I watched with relish and anguish on Tuesday. Belgium was just too tough. The handwriting was on the wall almost from the very beginning. Our goalkeeper, Tim Howard, was incredible. He had 16 saves, which was more than any other goalie in American World Cup history.
Howard was in a shooting gallery as he made a record 16 saves. But it wasn't good enough unfortunately as something had to give and in overtime that's exactly what happened as Belgium scored two surgical goals.
After Belgium scored that second goal to make it 2-0, I said to myself, "I wonder how the Americans will react now."
Both teams were tired. But to see the Americans score that goal to make it 2-1 and also have a few other chances to tie it in the end showed me true grit.
That's exactly what I'm looking for on this U.S. Ryder Cup team -- never, ever give up the chase. Run out every ground ball.
I played a lot of team sports growing up and in high school and all the coaches ever asked of us is that we give every play our all. As I talk to our players I will ask the same of them, that they give 100 percent on every shot when you're in front or behind. And never get down on yourself when things look bad -- the worm can and will turn.
Follow 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson on Twitter, @TomWatsonPGA.