Captain's Blog: Year-out Celebration
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 fifth 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
I've just returned home from the Year-Out Celebration at Gleneagles in Scotland earlier this week. It was extensive in a lot of different ways. We were able to focus the talk on the upcoming Ryder Cup -- a promotional tour, really -- and we also spent some time talking to the press about tactics and more. It's become part of the process for any captain and that was welcome.
It's also understood that both Paul and I are there to create a winning situation for our respective team. We're going to do that. We'll be friendly competitors along the way, but strong in our will to win.
You know, Paul referenced the fight metaphor more than once about the matches, "Once the bell rings, we'll go to our different corners." It's going to be a fight. A single point decided the last two Ryder Cups and Europe came out on top both times.
In 2012, they truly made it happen. I looked this up and on Sunday in those singles matches at Medinah -- trailing 10-6 to start the day -- Europe was a collective 25-under par and our side was 8 under. They really accelerated on the last day to overtake us. It basically came down to one putt. If it didn't go in, we win. It did go in and they won. It made those matches so exciting for everyone. Even though we lost, it will go down in the memory of all the people who watched as one of the best Ryder Cup Matches in history.
Back to the Year-Out Celebration. We kept busy over the course of the two days and there were a lot of enjoyable moments. My highlight was visiting with the children. On Monday, we met kids from a program called ClubGolf, which Scotland initiated in the early 2000s. The program targeted 9-year-old kids, offering free lessons to get them in involved in the game.
When we arrived at Gleneagles on Monday afternoon, Paul and I played four holes with 16 girls and boys who went through the program. We had a closest-to-the-pin contest and things like that. We were able to see up close the progress the kids are making thanks to the program. That was cool.
On the second day, we paid a visit to the Auchterarder School, where the curriculum is designed around a Ryder Cup theme. Lessons get more specific and more complex as the children get older, but they use the basis of what goes on at a Ryder Cup for the curriculum – including a 3D printer printing out a plastic model of a driver head, as well as how the Ryder Cup clothes are designed, merchandising, setting up catering, etc. I thought it was a wonderful program to get kids on a practical basis of what happens at a Ryder Cup and it might help them in their lives.
One item from our captains press conference on Tuesday that seems to have made the news is when I said, "Having no picks is the purist form of the Ryder Cup." I truly believe it is the purist form. That’s the way it was when I played. I came from an era where there were no captain's picks. People have to understand that. The picks system was instituted for what was then the UK team. Even then, the U.S. went several years without having captain's picks.
I believe, however, that there's honor and a competitive goal to make the Ryder Cup team outright for the American players. In the purist sense, I'll say it again; there should be no picks. It should be the top 12 in points who make the team, but in reality the picks system will remain in place.
The Year-Out was a great celebration, but it feels like the Ryder Cup is still too far away. The team hasn't formulated yet. That said if you look at the points as they stand now -- with points received only for the four majors in 2013 -- the team looks a lot like it did in 2012. In fact, nine of the top 10 on the current list were all on the 2012 team.
All of that will start to change with the Frys.com tournament and the other five events at the end of the year that are now a part of the 2014 schedule. By June next year we should have a good understanding of guys that will be on the team and guys that will be on the bubble.
The Presidents Cup is next week and I'll be watching from afar, but my vice captain Andy North will be there the whole week and will be watching the matches closely. He'll be right there feeding me the details as he can. He's followed all these guys as an ESPN on-course commentator. He can see and sense how they feel when the pressure’s on. He adds great perspective.
It will be fun to watch Jordan Spieth too. What a wonderful story he is. He's the type of player I've talked about wanting to have on the team -- he's passionate and he excels when the pressure is on.
I hope he plays well in the Presidents Cup. There are young players, like Jordan, who add a welcome dimension to the Ryder Cup. You want them to play well and experience that added pressure that comes in a team event. It can only help if he qualifies for the Ryder Cup.
Follow 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson on Twitter, @TomWatsonPGA.