Captain Tom Watson: The Correct View

The Ryder Cup is a little less than two years away, but it’s significance in the game of golf can be measured by all the hoopla generated by the naming of Tom Watson as the U.S. captain for the 2014 matches.

There was all of the initial speculation about who would be chosen, all the notables who would be disappointed again that they hadn’t been, the derision for the PGA selectors, the calls for player committees to be formed so that at least those who were closest to the competition would have their say… 

And finally Thursday arrived and the world of golf was shocked or elated by the selection of Watson. The PGA was vindicated and roundly lauded for thinking outside the box. Halleluiah! We’ve been saved!

Of course, there was some glee that the no-nonsense Watson would whip these young players into shape, teach ’em what for. Hard to know if that was about — except for Azinger’s brilliant stint — jilted lovers who had seen the Cup snatched from their hands too many times or jealousy over the unfettered lives of Tour pros in these modern times.

Unfortunately it left a patina on Watson as some sort of uncompromising, stern, no-nonsense disciplinarian. An unsmiling Huck Finn who would snap those coddled kids into shape.

Problem is, not much of that was true.

John Feinstein, writing at the Golf Channel, does a terrific job of revisiting the job that Watson did with his winning 1993 team. In “Just like 1993, Watson will lead ’14 squad to victory,” Feinstein talks about how, rather than exalting himself as some all-knowing seer, Watson patiently helped the players find their way to what he knew meant the most to them, winning.

He had them gambling with each other during Tuesday practice rounds so that it all meant something and wasn’t just idly whacking it around. He sought out the advice of great coaches and shared their thoughts with them. He was very clear without being strident about his vision of what needed to be done to win. Very different than the initial stern images flying around the Internet.

It’s worth the read, not only for Feinstein’s fine investigation and writing, but to carry the correct sense of Watson in our minds as all these many months between us and Scotland slowly tick by.

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