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What We Learned: Watson named Ryder Cup captain

Tom Watson
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Each week, offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from recent tournaments and news developments. This week, our writers weigh in with their thoughts on Tom Watson being named the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain, a worthy candidate being passed over for the job, some special family bonding on display this week at the PNC Father/Son Challenge and new pro Jordan Spieth.

Tom Watson really knows how to keep a secret. At this time last week, the 63-year-old told reporters in Australia, referring to the U.S. Ryder Cup captaincy: “It would be a great honor if I got tapped on the shoulder.” Turns out, Watson had gotten much more than a tap on the shoulder. The PGA had reached out to Watson about 13 months ago – in other words, long before Larry Nelson became the sympathetic favorite to land the gig, before the Americans collapsed at Medinah to lose the Ryder Cup for the seventh time in the last nine editions. PGA president Ted Bishop himself had cobbled together an 85-page document, explaining why off-the-radar Watson was the best man for the job, while the rest of the golf media focused on David Toms, Nelson or maybe even Fred Couples. That’s one heck of a secret. – Ryan Lavner

There are a lot of important events on the annual golf calendar. Maybe too many. You’ve got the four major championships, of course. Then there are the WGC tournaments. FedEx Cup playoffs. Race to Dubai. National opens. Jack’s event. Arnie’s event. Traditionally prestigious tourneys in Australia. Growing tourneys in Asia. Ask any competitor in the PNC Father/Son Challenge, though, and you’ll understand that in its first year back after a three-year hiatus, this one also ranks pretty high on the pecking order for obvious reasons. And it meant even more this week. Not to trivialize the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., that took place Friday by mentioning it in the same breath as a late-season golf tournament, but it made an impact on those in the field, each of whom wore a black ribbon to remember the victims, which included 20 children. With thoughts of Sandy Hook Elementary School weighing down many minds on the course, there’s no doubt that the hugs between fathers and sons (or daughters or grandsons) were a little tighter and the eyes a little moister. It can be argued that there are more important events on the schedule, but perhaps none meant as much to those who competed. Especially this week. Jason Sobel

Larry Nelson may never be named the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, an oversight that defies explanation, but he remains one of the classiest players in the game. Even after his 12-footer at the 18th hole on Sunday at the PNC Father/Son Challenge bounced off the back of the cup and refused to drop, leaving Nelson and his son Josh a stroke behind champions Davis and Dru Love, the 65-year-old took the high road when asked to sum up his week.

“It was a tough week, especially earlier with the Ryder Cup captain’s news, but we knew it was going to be a good week either way,” he said. “To me it was a very positive week.”

Even without a victory or the Ryder Cup nod, Nelson’s cup remains half full. Rex Hoggard

Who knows when it’s the right time to turn pro? Tiger Woods? He timed it perfectly. Patrick Cantlay? Not so much.

Which brings us to 19-year-old Texas sophomore Jordan Spieth, who on Friday decided to turn professional after a decorated amateur career that included two U.S. Junior Amateur titles, a national championship and six made cuts in eight starts on the PGA Tour.

I’ll never forget meeting Spieth as a 16-year-old with the American Junior Golf Association. Spieth was remarkably confident, hitting skyscraper approach shots, deft chips and long putts. Even back then, he had an all-around game.

But what I found most impressive was how he spoke of his younger sister, Ellie, a special-needs child. Spieth seemed to take more pride in his ability to care for her than in any golf shot he has ever hit. I walked away impressed.

Whether he plays well immediately or struggles for years, Spieth’s maturity and life experience will serve him well in the grown-up world of professional golf. – Damon Hack