Watson won't hit a single shot
While discussing his second go as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Tom Watson relayed a story that related to issues, perceived or otherwise, in the world of golf. The bottom-line answer: play better. "And it's essentially the same thing," Watson said, as it pertains to the Ryder Cup. "The Europeans have outplayed us." Simple as that, really.
Watson is expected to make a great Ryder Cup captain. His passion for the game, his revered status in Scotland, his stature as a Hall of Famer are all factors in his return engagement -- 21 years after the last American victory on European soil.
But will he make a difference? Not likely. Watson won't hit a shot, and he can't will putts into the hole. He can't play defense against the inevitable onslaught of European birdies, and he can't make the wind blow or lay down on a whim.
Yes, he can provide inspiration and leadership. But he can't stop a 35-foot Justin Rose birdie putt from turning the tide against Phil Mickelson. He is helpless if Jim Furyk bogeys the final two holes to lose by 1 to Sergio Garcia. He has no magic wand to turn the fortunes of Steve Stricker's suddenly cold putter.
Consider the last two Ryder Cups, both 14½-13½ defeats for the Americans. Two years ago in Wales, Graeme McDowell holed an earth-shattering 15-footer on the 16th hole, or perhaps the Americans would have staged a huge final-day comeback. And that's Corey Pavin's fault?
This year, Davis Love III felt the heat for allowing Mickelson and Keegan Bradley to dictate a pre-planned Saturday afternoon break, despite their strong play in going 3-0. Never mind that the U.S. led 10-6 and couldn't win 4½ points out of 12 on Sunday. And that was Love's fault?
Take it back to 2008, the last American victory. Nick Faldo is viewed as an utter failure as European captain, unable to get his foot out of his mouth during the opening ceremony. Did that have anything to do with his top players Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington all having a bad week?
A Ryder Cup captain is handed most of his team, with nothing he can do about it. He makes the pairings, but 20 of the 28 points are still decided with a golfer playing his own ball. It is three days of golf, not a season.
Golf remains the most individual of games. It is a player, alone in his thoughts, trying to get the ball in the fairway, on the green, in the hole. Watson was one of the best ever at doing that.
But as captain? The best he can do is say "Play better."
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
Watson's wisdom will help U.S.
Tom Watson will not hit a shot at the Ryder Cup matches in 2014 in Gleneagles, Scotland. He might not even talk much to one of his best players, Tiger Woods. At age 65 by the start of the matches, Watson could be too old to jell with players who were not even born when he was in his prime.
Watson's stoic pose and genteel country club manners might seem stiff for the generation of crowd pleasers like Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley. But Tom Watson, the eight-time major champion with 39 career PGA Tour wins, will be a forceful symbolic presence in his second stint as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain.
He is a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt, particularly the 26th president's "Man in the Arena" speech that he gave at the Sorbonne, in Paris in 1910. Come 2014, Watson might quote these lines from Roosevelt's speech to his team.
"Self-restraint, self-mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution -- these are the qualities which mark a masterful people."
A Kansas City, Mo., native, Watson is a frontier man in the spirit of a bold speaker like Roosevelt, who charged San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders in 1898.
Few players would have had the nerve, as Watson did in 2010, to publicly call out Woods for supposedly not always respecting the game.
I didn't like him piling on Tiger. I'm sure there will be things that he will say over the next two years that will demonstrate his sometimes high and mighty tone, but his candor is refreshing.
Watson is likely to differ greatly from his predecessor, Davis Love III, who was never really comfortable being the leader of his friends from the tour.
More distant and courtly, Watson won't try to be one of the boys. He is a serious, right-leaning Clint Eastwood type with a vast canon of stories and anecdotes to draw upon from his 40-plus years as a golf pro.
His wisdom and self-assurance will bring a calm over his players that will help them stay upright and focused through the momentum swings that come with the Ryder Cup.
While Watson won't always say the right thing or make the right choices, we'll respect the courage and convictions of his decisions.
And the U.S. Ryder Cup team will be better because of him.
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.