Watson officially introduced as '14 Ryder Cup captain

By Ryan LavnerDecember 13, 2012, 1:30 pm

The PGA of America is turning back the clock in hopes of reversing the Americans’ recent Ryder Cup fortunes.

Nineteen years after he last led the team to victory on foreign soil, Tom Watson was officially introduced as the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain Thursday in New York City.

“I was waiting for about 20 years to get the call,” he said. “I loved it the first time. It’s a great honor to be able to do it again.”

Ryder Cup: Articles, videos and photos

Watson, who becomes the Americans’ first repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, will be 65 when the matches begin at Gleneagles, making him the oldest captain ever on the U.S. side by eight years. The span between his two stints as captain – 21 years – is also the longest ever. A fixture on the Champions Tour, Watson still makes a few cameos each year alongside today’s players, and in 2009, at age 59, was 8 feet away from capturing the Open Championship at Turnberry.

If nothing else, Watson may help neutralize Europe’s home-course advantage. Having won four of his five Open Championships in Scotland, he is revered in those parts and figures to be an even bigger attraction at Gleneagles than either candidate on the European side, whether it’s 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke or Paul McGinley.

Asked about what message his appointment might send to his European counterparts, Watson replied, “That we’re going to pull out all the stops to beat you guys. The bottom line is to win. That’s the most important thing. We’re tired of losing.”

Watson was first contacted by the PGA about the 2014 candidacy long before the Americans’ stunning collapse at Medinah. He said Thursday that Bishop initially reached out about 13 months ago. “I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time,” Watson told him.

Bishop was so determined to have Watson return as captain, he produced an 85-page document detailing the reasons why the eight-time major champion should get the gig at Gleneagles.

“The PGA of America has an obligation to pick and find a captain that we feel will put our team in the best position to win,” Bishop said. “I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we’re just really tired of losing the Ryder Cup.”

Watson’s appointment signals a stark departure from the norm for the PGA, which for the past 30 years has used the same criteria to select its Ryder Cup captains: a 40-something former major champion who is still active on the PGA Tour.

David Toms, the 2001 PGA champion, seemed to fit that mold and was the only candidate to formally reach out to the PGA expressing an interest in the opening. Recently, there had been a groundswell of support for three-time major winner Larry Nelson, twice snubbed for the Ryder Cup captaincy in the mid-1990s. Though a longshot to captain the team, he said he received thousands of tweets and messages from fans who hoped the 65-year-old would finally get his chance.

Instead, Bishop said he is “breaking the mold” with the selection process.

That might be a good thing for the U.S. side.

The Americans have lost seven of the past nine Ryder Cups, including a stunning meltdown this past year at Medinah in which they surrendered a 10-6 lead entering the final day.

Said Watson, “It’s my challenge to maybe set the stage with a little extra inspiration along with some Watson luck.”

Tiger Woods, a member of only one winning Ryder Cup team (1999) in seven tries, also applauded the decision, saying in a statement, “I think he’s a really good choice. Tom knows what it takes to win, and that’s our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States team.”

The two Stanford alumni have had a frosty relationship in recent years, stemming from the unraveling of Woods’ personal life in late 2009. A few months later, Watson opined that the 14-time major champion should “show more humility to the game” and “clean up” his on-course language and behavior.

When asked about their relationship now, Watson replied, “My relationship with Tiger is fine. Whatever was said before is water under the bridge. No issues.”

Watson said that he hoped Woods would make the team on points, but added, “If he’s not on the team, you can bet that he’s going to be No. 1 on our pick list.”

The number of captain’s picks Watson will have at his disposal remains to be seen, however. Despite having very competitive matches in the past three Ryder Cups, Watson said he would consider having only two wild-card selections in 2014 after seeing how Hunter Mahan’s late-season swoon cost him a spot on this year’s team.

“I want to have the team be positioned to have the best players on the team to win the matches,” Watson said. “On the other side, I want to have the players who fought all year to qualify all year to have the advantage of being on that team.”

In his first captaincy, in 1993 at The Belfry in England, Watson’s no-nonsense approach as leader helped guide the Americans to a 15-13 victory.

They haven’t won on foreign soil since.

Lanny Wadkins, who played for Watson on that ’93 team, said Wednesday: “He doesn’t go out there to have fun. He goes out there to kick butt and get the job done.”

Getty Images

Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.

Getty Images

Hahn: 'My fault for not expecting the worst from fans'

By Grill Room TeamMarch 24, 2018, 8:35 pm

Fan behavior has made headlines all year long on the PGA Tour, and the topic of conversation doesn't look like it’s going away anytime soon.

The latest example came on Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies March Play, when James Hahn took to Twitter to complain that a fan deliberately yelled in his backswing on the 15th hole during his match with Jason Dufner, which he lost 3 and 2.

“Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going,” he tweeted. “My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.”

The two-time PGA Tour winner followed up his original tweet, clarifying that he can expect bad behavior from all golf fans while still loving and respecting them.

He also pointed out a major difference in comparing golf to other sports, saying some PGA Tour players go to far greater lengths than the typical NFL star to engage with fans on a daily basis.

The incident comes on the heels of several recent player run-ins with fans, including Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Sergio Garcia earlier this week at Austin Country Club.

On Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that inappropriate fan behavior related to alcohol sales is something his staff is monitoring.

Getty Images

Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Elite Eight

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 8:25 pm

Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

Match 105: Bubba Watson (35) def. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28), 5 and 3. This was a tight match until Aphibarnrat’s short game failed him on the back nine, with a chunked chip at the 10th, a clumsy pitch at the 12th and a heavy heavy pitch at the 13th helping Watson win four consecutive holes. Watson played his way into the semifinals of this event for the second time in his career. He ended up fourth in 2011. Watson will meet the Justin Thomas in the semifinals.

Match 106: Justin Thomas (2) def. Kyle Stanley (45), 2 and 1. Thomas moved into position to win more than the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship. He moved into position to take the world No. 1 ranking from Dustin Johnson. All that stands between Thomas and the top ranking now is Bubba Watson. If Thomas beats Watson in the semifinals, he is assured of going to No. 1. Thomas started slowly against Stanley, missing a 3-footer for par to lose the second hole. It marked the first time Thomas trailed in a match all week. All square making the turn, Thomas won the 10th, 11th and 12th holes and then held off Stanley the rest of the way. Thomas will meet Bubba Watson in the semifinals.

Match 107: Alex Noren (13) def. Cameron Smith (46), 4 and 2. With birdies at three of the first six holes, Noren took an early 3-up lead. Noren, however, made it more interesting than he would have liked the rest of the way. Noren lost the seventh hole with a three-putt bogey and lost the eighth failing to get up and down for par. Smith, though, never pressed Noren after getting that opening. He failed to make a birdie the entire round. Noren, who has won six European Tour events since the summer of 2015, has been knocking on the door to his first PGA Tour title this year. He lost the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff in January and finished third at the Honda Classic last month. Noren will meet Kisner in the semifinals.

Match 108: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Ian Poulter (58), 8 and 6. Poulter gift wrapped Kisner an early 2-up lead, and Kisner pounced after that. Poulter, who was on such a torrid run until meeting Kisner, three-putted to lose the third hole with a bogey and then pulled his tee shot deep in a hazard to lose the fourth hole. Kisner birdied the fifth and sixth holes to race to a 4-up lead. Poulter had no answers. After making eight birdies in the morning Round of 16 , Poulter didn’t make a birdie against Kisner, who will face Noren in the semifinals.

Getty Images

Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.

Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.

“On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”