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PGA Tour Confidential: Would Tom Watson make a good U.S. Ryder Cup Captain?

Photo: Mark Nolan / Getty Images

The last time the U.S. won the Ryder Cup in Europe was in 1993 ... and Tom Watson was the captain.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

CAPTAIN WATSON
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm sure he wasn't lobbying for the job and was just answering a reporter's question, but Tom Watson said he'd captain the 2014 Ryder Cup team if asked. Would you ask him to captain this squad? And if not, who would be your choice? I don't have a problem with Watson getting an encore after his winning turn as captain in '93. What do you say?

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Sorry, Tom's time has passed. I'm going with Fred Couples. He has a great track record in the Presidents Cup, but this is an entirely different animal. I want to see how Fred handles the heat.

Van Sickle: I like that call, Mark. Why not Fred? I think he's earned it. And if not Fred, I'd still like to see Paul Azinger get a return engagement. His change to four captain's picks was crucial for the U.S.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Fred made his Ryder Cup bed when he took the Presidents Cup captaincy again.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: It's a pity that once a person or course aligns with one alphabet soup organization, the others seem to exclude that person or course from future consideration.

Van Sickle: Exactly. What's the difference?

Morfit: I agree that Couples would be interesting to watch in that role. If nothing else, it would highlight the contrast between the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup.

Godich: Other than winning on foreign soil, what does Zinger have left to prove? If he doesn't win, won't he tarnish what he did in 2008?

Van Sickle: Nah. The blame almost always falls on the players, as it usually should.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I still think the captain counts for a lot.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: It would be very odd, and considering the PGA of America's slavish selection formula for captains, not likely to happen. Although a Watson captaincy would be a fun trip down memory lane, I'm not sure Watson has the patience to devote two years of his life to the job. Plus, we saw during the Hal Sutton captaincy what can happen when an old-timer is put in a position of authority.

Van Sickle: Sure, odds are against ol' Tom. But who would you name as captain?

Herre: Fred is less elegant than Davis Love in many ways, but of the same mold and era. He would be an excellent choice. But again, being captain is a big commitment, and Fred has commitment issues.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: I'm biased as a KC guy, so hell yes. I couldn't believe it when Watson said he hadn't even been to a Ryder Cup since '93. He's one of the game's living legends and universally respected. Let's get him back in the Ryder Cup mix.

Van Sickle: Watson would go over well as a captain in Scotland, too, where's he's still revered.

Hanger: In Scotland, Watson might be match-worthy!

Bamberger: I talked to Ted Bishop, the new PGA president, the other day about the new captain. He noted that the U.S. hasn't won a road game since 1993, when Watson was running the show! He also said it was time to think outside the box (that was in response to my nomination of Woods for next year). Could it be Watson? I'd be shocked. I truly think he'd struggle to relate to today's young players. But it would be so interesting if he got it, and he might come home with some hardware, and that's the goal, right?

Morfit: I actually think the PGA's goal is not necessarily to win. The fact that Zinger didn't captain in 2010 proves it.

Bamberger: Davis told me that was the first thing they told him to do: win the thing.

Herre: Disagree, Cam. The PGA wants to win. Problem is the PGA is risk-averse in many ways. That shows in their hidebound procession of Ryder Cup captains. I think Zinger's game-changing proposals/demands probably shook them up, maybe to the point where they are comfortable with the status quo for a while.

Van Sickle: Well, none of that explains Corey Pavin.

Bamberger: All these things fall under the category of, "Seemed like a good idea at the time."

Morfit: I think the PGA would like to win, but is winning as important to the PGA as it is to the players, fans and media? No.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I agree that Watson's the wrong move, but I do think the U.S. should think outside the box to break its losing streak. I'd like to see Phil as a playing captain in 2014.

Van Sickle: That's assuming he can qualify for the team, Jeff?

Morfit: Phil would be a fun choice as captain, but I don't know that he would be a playing captain. Watching him sign autographs long after Team USA's hard loss at Medinah, I got the feeling he knew it could be his last hurrah.

Hanger: I love the idea of a playing captain some day, but I think the U.S. needs someone more ornery than Phil at the helm. Tiger!

Van Sickle: Well, I love the thought of Phil being able to tell Tiger what to do.

Dusek: I think a Tom Watson pick would be very interesting, and I have no doubt that he'd command the respect of all the players. But choosing someone like Tom, Arnie or Jack doesn't mean the American team would have an advantage. As we saw at Medinah, Ryder Cups are won and lost with the putter, not the captain.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I'd like to see Watson get another shot just because it would be fascinating. But I agree about Couples. No reason why the PGA of America shouldn't give him the nod. Guys clearly love playing for him.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Tom Watson would be a great captain in 2016. The current system of choosing a captain not that far removed from his playing days means that the captain is one of the boys and too deferential to his players. What do you think Watson would say if a red-hot Mickelson told him he wanted to sit out the afternoon? Also, he would have no problem sitting a poor-playing Tiger.

Godich: Does the U.S. win at Medinah if Fred is calling the shots?

Ritter: Well, if you believe Ian Poulter, the U.S. would've won if the U.S. captain had set the pins on 17 and 18 on the left instead of the right.

Van Sickle: Great question, Mark. For starters, what four players would Fred have picked? Same as Davis? I doubt it.

Godich: And would Fred have sent Keegan Bradley back out for Saturday afternoon play and sat a struggling Steve Stricker?

Morfit: Davis did a lot right the first two days.

Godich: Except for the issue of resting the red-hot Bradley. He had a chance to totally obliterate the Euros.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Would Tom Watson be a good choice for the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain?

SENIOR AND THE 50+ CROWD
Van Sickle: Peter Senior, a broomstick-wielding 53-year-old, won the Aussie Open, one of the world's great golf tournaments. Can Senior win a major championship? Can any over-50 player win a major? And if so, who's most likely to do it?

Herre: Yes, a 50-year-old can win a major. Floyd, Singh and Watson have shown that. Peter Senior? Probably not. Good win, though.

Reiterman: Senior? No. But, yes, a 50+ player will win a major. Guys are in much better shape, so it's only a matter of time. Wouldn't be surprised if the first player to do it is Tiger.

Morfit: The most likely scenario: a former Open champ like Tom Lehman has a dream week, like Watson at Turnberry.

Hanger: I definitely think a 50+ player can win a major, primarily because the equipment is such an equalizer nowadays. The old guys might want to hustle while the long putters are still legal, though. That said, I'm not rushing out to bet on any of the 50-year-olds I see on the Champions Tour stats pages.

Van Sickle: Good point. It's got to be a 50-something who can still putt. And it's got to be a course that favors precision over distance, like Merion or Muirfield this year. Muirfield with four days of wind would be a great chance for Senior or Langer or someone similar.

Walker: Four days of wind at Muirfield ... is that Colin Montgomerie's music?

Herre: I'll go with the Duf to be the first over-50 major winner. I'm on the record as saying he reminds me of the late-blooming Floyd. Plus, I predict he'll have at least one other major win before he does it post-50.

Godich: I could see Vijay stealing a major.

Van Sickle: I still wouldn't rule out Bernhard Langer, but he'd better do it before the anchoring ban in 2016.

Godich: I'll throw another name out there: Ernie Els, at the 2020 British Open.

Dusek: Peter Senior is tough to envision, but a 50-year-old could certainly win a major. Kenny Perry was almost 49 when he just missed at the 2009 Masters. Davis Love could contend at the right venue, and maybe Miguel Angel Jimenez, who won again last month.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will a 50-something win a major? Who's most likely to pull it off?

THE HEAVY STUFF
Van Sickle: The Aussie Open had a weather delay, and the final round was played in high wind. It's such great fun to watch these guys battle adverse conditions. What were the worst conditions you ever played in, or reported in? I know the 2002 British Open at Muirfield, when the storm came up around Tiger's tee time, was brutal. It was so cold my pen wouldn't write when I was trying to talk to - yes - Duffy Waldorf.

Bamberger: Caddying in the '85 Open at Sandwich, my guy, Jamie Howell, was paired with Maurice Bembridge, who covered about 220 yards with a solid drive and a nutted 3-wood into a five-club wind. A caddie said, The breeze is up.

Morfit: I played Nairn in deplorable weather, even for Scotland. As far as working, I made the mistake of following the last group Friday at St. Andrews in 2010 and got caught way out there at the turn when it started to rain.

Van Sickle: John Garrity and I played his beloved Carne Golf Links in Ireland, and it was blowing close to 60. It was difficult to walk because the bag I was carrying acted as a sail downwind and an anchor into the wind. It was blowing so hard, I could almost lean forward and the wind would keep me from falling.

Godich: At Richardson High back in 1975, the golf team had a tournament in Waxahachie, Texas. It was also Senior Skip Day at RHS. It was raining when we left for the tournament, and we played about two holes before the monsoon hit. They pulled us off the course, then sent us back out once or twice. They refused to call the thing off. We waited around all afternoon. None of our teachers believed we were really playing golf. Even my sweet mother was dubious!

Van Sickle: The '96 Scottish Open at Carnoustie, which I covered, was played in a gale. I don't think it was coincidence that it was won by the shortest guy in the field, Ian Woosnam. Tiger played as an am and missed the cut. He made a joke about the weather and the bottle of scotch all the players got, saying something about how he was going to dive into it after those nasty conditions.

Dusek: During the first round of the 2008 Open Championship at Birkdale, it rained sideways and made the rafters inside the media center moan. Sandy Lyle quit and walked off the course. It wasn't a whole lot better when I was walking with Rory and Rickie in 2011 at Royal St. George's. Even the ducks were saying, "Dude, I'm soaked!"

Walker: For rainfall amount and duration, I'm not sure the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor can be topped. Even the rainsuits malfunctioned.

Morfit: Mud. Never seen more of it, except at the U.S. Open at Bethpage. Celtic smelled worse though.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What's the worst weather you've ever seen or experienced on the golf course?

CADDIE FISTICUFFS
Van Sickle: Before the first round of the Aussie Open, two caddies got into a brawl near the practice green. What's more shocking, that a fight broke out at a golf tournament or that this hasn't happened more often? Should these caddies be suspended? If not, what's suitable punishment?

Morfit: To the octagon with them. For charity!

Godich: I don't see how they aren't suspended. Maybe there's a sponsorship with Everlast or some other boxing company.

Dusek: The caddies don't work for the Tour, so I don't think they should be suspended. Seriously, conduct unbecoming a caddie? If half the rumors about caddies are to be believed, a pillow fight on the range wouldn't even count as a misdemeanor.

Bamberger: It happens often, I think, but doesn't get in the paper. It does get on the Internet.

Van Sickle: What's the closest thing you've seen to a fight on a golf course, be it a tournament or a recreational round?

Hanger: I once got in a fight when I was a 9-holer in junior golf at Blue Hills C.C. in KC. Tumbled into a bunker in the scuffle. No parents were alerted, nor suspensions given.

Herre: When I lived in Denver, I played a number of times with a guy who carried a handgun in his bag. He'd say, "You never know." I'd think, "I know nothing about you."

Van Sickle: I bet you gave him a lot of short putts!

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: How should these caddies be punished?

WORKING AROUND THE BAN
Van Sickle: I thought it was interesting to see Davis Love using a belly-length putter in the Franklin Templeton Shootout over the weekend. He didn't anchor it, so the way he used it will still be legal when the ban takes effect. Maybe the end of anchored putting won't be as traumatic as some of us initially believed. Your thoughts?

Bamberger: It won't be because long putters, though popular, were by no means an integral part of the game. They were fringe-y, almost like chippers.

Godich: Kuchar is O.K. anchoring it against his left arm, though? Which makes absolutely no sense.

Dusek: He is, and Odyssey has even released a new line of putters that are designed for forearm anchoring.

Walker: Anchoring against the arm doesn't create a fulcrum for the stroke. Kuchar is still making a traditional swing with the putter.

Godich: But it does create an anchor or a stabilizer? Got it.

Morfit: It will be weird for the guy who watches tape to see if the putter grip actually touches the belly. I think it'll be traumatic for young guys like Webb Simpson, although for some reason I see Keegan adapting well.

Van Sickle: I agree with you, Cam, that enforcing the new rule could be a bit of a bother. Is it anchored or just really, really close? Before, when it was a matter of whether the club itself was legal, it was easy. Either it was on the list of conforming clubs or it wasn't.

Dusek: It's way too early to know how this is going to affect the pros. For all we know, the PGA Tour may adopt the rules for the 2014 season. The players will adapt when they are forced to adapt. Most will be fine, but I'm sure there will be a handful of guys who slowly slide into oblivion. Or the Web.com Tour, which is kind of the same thing.

Herre: Yes, the anchoring kerfuffle simply nibbled around the edges. I'm interested in trying some of the alternative methods that surfaced before and after the ruling. I bet we'll see many innovative strokes on Tour next year.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will the ban on anchored putting have a big impact, or will pros simply find a way to work around it during the next three years?

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR
Van Sickle: Give me your nominee for Golf's Biggest Disappointment of 2012. The U.S. Ryder Cup team, after holding a 10-6 lead on Saturday night, has got to be a nominee. Hunter Mahan, who missed the Ryder Cup despite two early wins, might be a nominee, too. Who else you got?

Hanger: The U.S. Ryder Cuppers, in a landslide. Not even close. Second would be no major for Tiger despite having a generally good season.

Godich: Tiger's teasing us at Olympic. And Lytham. And Kiawah.

Morfit: Tiger. Majors. Weekends.

Herre: I hoped that Rickie Fowler would elevate his game.

Morfit: Hey, at least the guy finally won. It would have been interesting to see how he'd have done as a captain's pick.

Van Sickle: You guys are so Tiger-centric. Can't believe nobody said Bradley Dredge.

Dusek: My nomination goes to the USGA and the R&A for planning to ban anchored putting methods even though there is not a single piece of evidence that they improve performance.

Van Sickle: Thanks, Dave. Preaching to the choir here.

Bamberger: I didn't play enough. New year's resolution: more golf.

Van Sickle: Funny, I thought you played more than you should have.

Bamberger: No, but all my playing partners - here's looking at you, Gary - think that.

Walker: Adam Scott's last four holes at the British Open. It was hard to watch; I can't imagine how he felt.

Ritter: These are all great picks, but when I.K. Kim missed that 14-inch putt to win the Kraft Nabisco, it was probably the worst I felt watching a golf broadcast all year.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What was the biggest disappointment of 2012?

HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR
Bamberger: How about a last word on Golf's Biggest Highlight of 2012? I enjoyed Ernie's Open win and Bubba's sensational Masters shot, but Phil's closing 64 at Pebble Beach to beat Tiger, and others, was right up there. Tiger's closing 62 that came up short against Rory at the Honda was pretty cool, too.

Herre: I don't think I've ever seen a shot as mind-blowing and physics-defying as Bubba Watson's wedge from the pines during the Masters playoff. How can a WEDGE shot be curved that much with the modern ball? Unbelievable.

Walker: It was a great year. All those moments were fantastic, but I'll remember the last three matches on Saturday afternoon at the Ryder Cup. It was the most competitive and exciting golf I've ever watched.

Hanger: That was definitely a highlight of the viewing season, and a comeback that will inspire the Euros for years to come. But I can't have my disappointment and highlight be the same, right? So I'll go with Rory's end-of-season run, winning the PGA in a walk and then two consecutive playoff events. Wow.

Godich: I'd go with the last 60 to 90 minutes of four-ball on Saturday afternoon at the Ryder Cup. More specifically, the way players from both sides took turns throwing darts at the pin on the par-3 17th.

Dusek: Seeing Phil Mickelson play side-by-side with Tiger Woods at Pebble beach and shoot 64 was just amazing. We knew Rory was going to have a big year, and we suspected Tiger would finally win again, so it filled me with hope for a big Phil run too. Obviously it didn't pan out, but that Sunday in Monterey was unreal.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What was the highlight of the year?

 

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