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Friday, December 14, 2012

Forget "Grease" -- "Scotland" Is The Word

So Tom Watson got the 2014 US Ryder Cup captain's gig. One thing that became very obvious in all the coverage on Thursday was that the location -- Scotland -- was the overriding factor in this decision.

True, Tom Watson was the last US captain to win an "away game" and his 10-4-1 Ryder Cup record certainly played a part.

But so did his popularity over in Scotland. Clearly it's hoped that his status over there -- he was described at one point as" the most popular Yank since Bobby Jones" -- will help overcome some of the home crowd advantage. (Lee Trevino suggested that Tom's presence may also encourage more Americans to travel to Scotland, which would help even more.)

Tom's knowledge of how to play overseas -- which I believe is a huge factor in the American team's trouble in "away games" -- is also expected to help. He won 4 of his 5 Opens in Scotland, you know. And all that ability to play in less-than-ideal weather -- Scottish weather, of course -- is knowledge he can pass on to his players.

I found it most interesting that the PGA started thinking about Tom as the 2014 captain all the way back in October-November 2010, and that they started talking to Tom about 13 months ago or so. Davis Love was apparently aware of it during his captainship. Which means the media completely missed the boat on this one, as Tom was never discussed as a possibility. It also means that the PGA let all that talk go on without giving any indication that things were going to be done differently this time.

Frank Nobilo noted that this was something of a coup for the PGA, as the Euro team could have trouble finding somebody with enough stature to compete -- publicity-wise, that is -- with Watson, and that may have given the US team a headstart on it all.

Personally, I think it was a smart move just from the standpoint of getting a legend to head the team. Tom is both contemporary with the young players, who seek him out for advice and practice rounds, and yet separate enough to engender a certain level of respect that younger captains might not get, no matter how popular they are.

But in the end, the guys still have to hit the shots... and Tom Watson, captain or not, can't do that for them. I'll be interested to see how he manages to overcome that little problem.

After all, it's been lack of execution that killed US hopes in the past and it'll be execution that finally gets it done... IF it finally gets done.

And that's still one very big IF.

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