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Dear Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, The Americans are being themselves in the Presidents Cup and it's been good enough

5 October 2013
Saturday night,
Presidents Cup week
Today’s rain total: .5 inch

Dear Tom,

Greetings from Dublin, Ohio. Your 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland might be over before this 2013 Presidents Cup concludes. Have you been watching this thing? It’s the Yule log burning on Channel 169. It’s a replay of “Groundhog Day.” It’s been endless. That all-day BBC Ryder Cup coverage over there has nothing on what Golf Channel and NBC have been doing here.

Poor Roger. The Course Whisperer, whose been schlepping around this wet Muirfield rough since 1976, is close to running out of ways to describe the gathering of water in various places on the Muirfield Village course. Pools, ponds, streams, rivulets, rivers, creeks. I think he’s saving tidal basins for a Sunday afternoon.

You, of course, won’t have any similar problems, because in Scotland the courses drain so beautifully, built as they are on sand.

Oh, that’s right. Next year’s Ryder Cup is being played in Scotland for the first time since 1973, when it was held at the original Muirfield. That is, your Muirfield, and Phil’s Muirfield, the one outside Edinburgh. Next year’s Ryder Cup is on the Centenary Course at Gleneagles. I know you made a pilgrimage there recently. A lot of us have made it there, to see what the great man -- Nicklaus his own self -- would do in the auld country. It’s beautiful. I’ve never seen such rich soil. I thought I was in Ohio.

Sun Mountain is making a nice comeback here. Personally, I would rather buy my rain gear from a company with a name like We Keep Seattle Dry, but Fred went with Sun Mountain, just like Lisa and Corey Pavin did at that monsoon of a Ryder Cup in Wales in 2010. Those ’10 suits were excellent at getting the players wet and restricting their movement.

What a difference three years makes. The caddies and the players have been living in their Sun Mountain waterproofs for three days now and nobody has uttered a complaint. To use a Sandy Tatum word, they’re effective.

Fred’s team looks ridiculously talented here, but of course he’s had a few things going for him, like a happy Tiger, a happy Phil and Sammy the Squirrel, the good-luck charm. For whatever it’s worth, there’s an excellent website scottishsquirrels.org.uk. (Did you know there are only 121,000 red squirrels left on Scotland today? Somehow, I’m guessing you do.) I like that you want to tone down (and limit) the whole assistant captains thing, and I respect that. But you might consider a roster spot for Davis, aka Nature Boy. Not one American cart has run out of juice on Trip’s watch, and his pockets are deep with beef jerky.

(Apparently, nobody’s eating orange slices at halftime anymore. The buzzword among the kids is “fluids.”)

Fred has a young club here, and the youngest of his Dublin dozen is Jordan Spieth, who, you know, is 20. He knows all about you because this kid knows and respects his elders and their histories: you, Jack, Tiger. Bill Haas. He’s a student of the game and you have to figure he’ll make your roster.

But your squad could look very different, too. Your Johnson might be Dustin, not Zach. Jim Furyk, the ancient mariner, could make it on grit and top-10 finishes alone. Steve Stricker might scale his way off the points list and Billy Horschel has Team USA written all over him. (Could he be too rah-rah? He kind of looked it at Merion.) If Nick Watney goes north and into the top-10, somebody will go south to make room for him, right? You’re going to have some serious talent. So will the Euros.

Nobody is confusing the Ryder Cup for the Presidents Cup, though this would have really been a wonderful golf event had it not been for all the rain. It has been a superb group of players on a Nicklaus course that revealed itself—surprise, surprise -- to be really fun.

If the U.S. is victorious, that will be three straight PC wins for Fred. Freddie Cupcakes, as Lee Trevino used to call him. I know you and Fred could not be more different. Fred is a players’ manager. Joe Torre comes to mind. You are far more analytical.

Who would you be, baseball-wise? I’m thinking Whitey Herzog, when he managed those excellent Kansas City Royals in the George Brett era. You were there. You remember. The Rat mixed and matched and moved those runners 30 yards at a time. Seemed like he used about 20 players a night. Fred wouldn’t like such a messy lineup card. You’d be fine with it, annoyed players and all, if it meant a win.

The genius of Fred may be summarized thusly: Tiger and Kuchar, again and again; Phil and Keegan, again and again. Trot 'em out there. Like the song says, When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Tiger is wet and tired and he’s playing golf for free and yet -- he looks happy. Maybe it’s Lindsey. But you have to think there’s a Fred Factor, too. You know how it goes. Fred’s not asking him to do a thing. When does Fred ask anybody to do anything? It makes people want to do all sorts of things for him. You won’t be afraid to ask. It will be a whole different thing.

Your point, forever, is that you play competitive golf to beat a guy, or guys. That’s why you were such a fierce player, Ryder Cupper, Ryder Cup captain. That’s why your golf was so exciting, and why Ryder Cup golf is so exciting.

For good or for bad, the Presidents Cup just isn’t like that. Maybe you can take part of a page from it, I don’t know.

I know what everybody knows. The U.S. is not winning Presidents Cups and losing Ryder Cups because the European team is so good and the International team is so mediocre. No. The U.S. is winning Presidents Cups because the U.S. players haven’t tried to do anything too special in these events. They’re taking their swings and making their putts. They’re being themselves, and it’s been good enough. Some credit must go to the Cupcakes.

I’d suggest you call Fred, but you know how that goes. Besides, he’s more of text guy. Anyway, I think we all know the answer to that curious golf trivia question: who was the captain of the last American Ryder Cup team to win a road game? Can it really be 20 years ago already? Man, 1993. The years go fast.

My best to your good missus. Good luck with the deer.

 

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