Watson's few words served him well in 1993

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2014, 9:14 pm

If past performance is any indication, the dozen U.S. Ryder Cup players who board the chartered flight for Scotland on Sunday should not expect an impassioned speech from their captain.

No pleas for unselfish play or jingoistic fervor.

This captain, based on his last turn at the American helm 21 years ago, is far too subtle for that.

If the ’93 Ryder Cup is the ultimate litmus test, and the benchmark for an American side trying to win an away game for the first time since those 30th matches, 65-year-old Tom Watson doesn’t give speeches or hold pep rallies.

Instead, the Hall of Famer communicates a powerful message with an economy of words.


Photos: Ryder Cups 1979-2012


“To me he was so inspiring because he was Tom Watson and he was a legend and he would say cool stuff," recalled Davis Love III, who was a rookie on the ’93 team. "I remember being in the lounge of the Concorde and him saying, ‘Guys, we’re going on a big adventure. This is going to be one of the greatest trips of your life.' It was great.”

In the two decades that have passed since Watson led an American team into the Ryder Cup fray, much has changed. Leaderboards, purses, golf swings have all evolved, to say nothing of the motivations of the modern PGA Tour player.

But the key connection to that ’93 team will be Watson, and much like his ageless swing, Captain Tom’s message will remain unchanged.

“He told us early in the week, ‘We know we’re doing well when we silence the crowd,’” said John Cook, who was also a rookie on that U.S. team.

It was a common theme throughout the week and, many contend, the impetus behind America’s Sunday rally at The Belfry in England.

After falling behind on Day 1, 4 1/2 to 3 1/2, the U.S. lost Saturday’s foursome session (3-1) and was in danger of splitting the afternoon fourball frame until Cook and Chip Beck stunned the crowd with a 2-up victory over European anchors Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie to cut the American deficit to one point.

To put it in modern context, it was the U.S. side’s Ian Poulter moment. And it was during that crucial afternoon when Watson may have been at his understated and obvious best when he approached Cook before his match.

“Tom in his way came up to each of us and said, ‘We want this point. We need this point. We’re not just sending you out,’” Cook said of the fateful fourball swing match. “I looked at him and was like, ‘Really?’ Monty and Faldo had walked through everyone to that point.”

Sensing the momentum had turned, Watson didn’t offer any pearls of wisdom during the team dinner Saturday night. Instead he let a few players talk to the team, including the idiosyncratic Beck.

“Chip gets up and says, ‘The will to win will overcome any mechanical breakdown.’ That’s Chip Beck. It’s just Chip,” Cook laughed. “We all bounded. We became a unit and we were so proud. At that moment I knew we were a solid unit.”

The veteran captain backloaded his lineup for Sunday singles, and slowly the gambit paid off as American flags began to dominate the scoreboard and the partisan crowd grew quieter with each passing point.

The late Payne Stewart started the rally with his 3-and-2 victory over Mark James, but it was Jim Gallagher Jr.’s stunning defeat of European icon Seve Ballesteros, 3 and 2, that likely sealed the victory for the United States.

“I beat Seve; that would be like someone beating Rory [McIlroy] now,” Gallagher said. “I remember making the turn and everything changed and everyone was so much quieter. I guess my match started the ball rolling in our favor. Once you see the American flags up, it gets you fired up.”

Love would also add a late point for the U.S. side on Sunday, solidifying the importance of the rookies on the ’93 team.

While Watson may have been understated in the team room, he was very much a hands-on captain. During the team’s last practice round at The Belfry, he gathered his squad and talked about the importance of winning the 18th hole and told them not to leave the tee on that Thursday until they knew exactly how they were going to play the par 5.

He also stressed the importance of conserving energy and limiting distractions, a common theme among the current crop of Ryder Cup players.

“Paul Azinger had brought a Jenga game and we’d be in there late at night, like midnight, and someone would pull the thing and it would crash down and Tom would walk in and be like, ‘What are you doing? You got to go to bed. You have to practice. You have to fix your backswing,’” Love laughed. “It was like having your dad on your trip. It was great.”

Whether Watson can rekindle that spirit for an American team that has won just two of the last nine matches and lost by an average of 3 1/2 points in the last four Ryder Cups played overseas remains to be seen.

There are some who doubt Watson, 65, has the ability to connect with the next generation of American stars, particularly without the presence of Tiger Woods, who will miss his second Ryder Cup in seven years because of injury.

But for those who last played for Watson, and who hold the distinction of being the last American team to win a Ryder Cup on foreign soil, the captain’s cachet transcends generations.

“The coolest thing is we were in the front of the plane and Tom stood there and said, ‘They may have invented the game but we perfected it.’ That stayed with me the entire week,” Gallagher said. “He knew when to say the right things. Those words, some 20-something years later, still ring in my head.”

The dozen players who board this year’s charter on Sunday in Atlanta may be surprised to find out that their captain has little to say, but when he does talk, the message will be powerful and on point.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry