GLENEAGLES, Scotland – U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson returned to Gleneagles on Saturday to take a look at the course that in just over two months will host the 40th Ryder Cup.
Watson hadn’t been back to the PGA Centenary Course since the Ryder Cup year-out celebration last September and wanted to see what European Captain Paul McGinley had done over that time.
“What I wanted to do is to play the golf course myself,” Watson said. “I had the opportunity to play with Keegan Bradley, which was very instructive about how the golf course should be played and can be played and effectively played.”
Watson believes that after seeing Bradley play, a long and predominately high-ball hitter will have a distinct advantage at Gleneagles.
“I think it favors our team in the sense that our team, we’ve got some guys that can really launch it and hit it high,” Watson said thinking about how his team is shaping up. “It’s hard to compare right now because you don’t know who’s on the teams, but with people like Jimmy Walker, Bubba, Dustin Johnson – people that hit the ball really, really high and long, boy, this course, I think, really favors that type of ball striker.”
The setup that Watson saw will pretty much be what his team will see in September, according to McGinley.
“I can obviously say, hand on heart, I haven’t tricked it up,” McGinley said in Aberdeen last week. “There’s nothing funky about it. There’s nothing tricky about it. There’s a bit more rough than we had at Medinah, and it’s pretty much in line in terms of where we are with European Tour setups over the years, whether it be Wales or whether it be Ireland, The K Club in ’06, or in general a European Tour setup here.”
With two majors and a WGC event left before nine of the 12 players will be determined on the USA team, Watson also potential picks who could take advantage of the course where scoring will be low.
“It’s going to be an exciting golf course for the Ryder Cup because there will be a lot of birdies made, given easy conditions,” Watson said. “We don’t know what the conditions will be. It could really blow hard here – and of course whenever the wind blows it changes, obviously, the difficulties.”
Watson’s talk about his picks and while they won’t be made until after Labor Day, two of the three seem moot points with both Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods on the outside looking in.
If Watson is forced to take both as picks he effectively is down to one pick to shape his team.
“I’ll pick Tiger if he’s healthy and playing well,” Watson said. “The caveat to that is that, will he be able to be playing in any of the tournaments in the FedExCup prior to the Ryder Cup? If he doesn’t make enough FedExCup points then he won’t be eligible to play those tournaments, so now that’s the caveat and the dilemma that I’ll have to face, whether I pick somebody as good as Tiger who possibly won’t be playing competitive golf for a month before the Ryder Cup.”
It seems clear that, short of Woods saying he just can’t go, that Watson will pick the fellow Stanford Cardinal to be on the team.
In regards to Mickelson, according to Watson, he has an inside track to being picked as well for other reasons.
“He’s a really good motivator, and he can play and he can hit shots,” Watson said. “He has the type of spirit that you want on your Ryder Cup team.”
Watson will learn a little more Sunday when he plays with Jim Furyk and sees how an average-length hitter will dissect the course.
“It will give me a better understanding of what a shorter hitter will do on the golf course,” Watson said of Furyk. “But also I want to see how Jim figures out from his eye what type of shots he plays.”