BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – The worst part of Ryder Cup captaincy, in Tom Watson’s humble opinion, takes place next week. After that necessary evil has been completed, Watson can work on his game before he gets to that point in the calendar when the U.S. Ryder Cup team points race reaches the finish line.
“We’ll be going to the Memorial Tournament next week,” Watson, in his second stint as U.S. captain, said on Wednesday, the eve of the start to the 75th Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores.
“We’re doing the worst thing you have to do as Ryder Cup captain – try to get everybody fitted with their clothes. That’s the biggest headache there is. So we’ve invited 25 players, potential players, to come in and get fitted for Ryder Cup clothes. You’ve got all shapes and bodies and different things, and it never fails that when you get over there, you’re going to get guys that say, ‘This doesn’t fit,’ and ‘This doesn’t feel right.’ So that’s the biggest headache.”
At this year’s Masters and the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C., the following week, Watson had a chance to play practice rounds with Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed, two players who might be on his team at Gleneagles in Scotland.
“You have a chance to meet with some of the young players, some of the players who are high up on the list,” Watson said. “It’s just the process of trying to get to know some of these players before the event happens, so they get to know me. They get to know a little bit of what I am and what I bring to the table.”
Watson hasn’t been at Harbor Shores since he was part of a four-player skins game in 2010 that was the highlight of the facility’s grand opening. He withdrew prior to the 2012 Senior PGA at Harbor Shores because of injury.
“I guess the best definition of the golf course is that the greens are complicated,” said Watson of the Jack Nicklaus design that was created from an environmental and industrial wasteland. “There’s all kind of different slopes, knobs, all kinds of different things, which makes them play very small. . . . It’s going to take some imaginative putting because you’ll be on the wrong side of those humps and knobs. You’re going to have to have some great feel and you’d better be able to read greens because you can have some very weird putts out there.”
Watson is shooting for a third Senior PGA title – he won 10 years apart, in 2001 and ’11 – and he’s in a stretch of playing eight times in 13 weeks, including five times in PGA Tour events.
“I played well last week,” Watson said of his tie for sixth at the Regions Tradition – his best showing in four Champions Tour starts. “I played pretty well in the pro-am yesterday . . . and I’m driving the ball well, hitting some good iron shots. It makes me smile every now and then.”