Golf Tidbits: Watson skewing too old with assistants?

02/12/2014 10:21 AM

02/12/2014 10:21 AM

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The trip down memory lane continues for Tom Watson and the PGA of America. They are trying to recreate something that happened 21 years ago.

Is there any other explanation to Watson adding Andy North and Raymond Floyd as his two assistant captains for this year's Ryder Cup?

North was a shoe-in to be an assistant captain. He and Watson are long-time friends and teammates at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.

But Floyd? Well, he was a captain's pick on the 1993 U.S. Ryder Cup team. How is that significant? Watson was the captain of that squad, and it was also the last U.S. team to win the Ryder Cup on foreign soil.

Floyd racked up a 3-1 record that week, winning twice when paired with the late Payne Stewart before taking down Jose Maria Olazabal in their singles match.

Olazabal was part of the vaunted Spanish Armada as he teamed with Seve Ballesteros for one of the toughest European Ryder Cup pairings of all time. They went 2-2 that week. They were 2-1 against Tom Kite and Davis Love III before losing in four-ball action Saturday afternoon to Floyd and Stewart.

Floyd's singles win over Olazabal was the icing on the cake as Love's win that day over Constantino Rocca gave the Americans enough points to retain the cup.

Back to the here and now, the three U.S. team leaders will average 67 years old at the time of the 2014 Ryder Cup. North will be the youngster of the group at 64 when the matches are played.

Watson will be 65 and Floyd 72. Maybe Watson picked Floyd because they were born on the same day? I'm not making that up. Whatever the reason North and Floyd were chosen, one thing is for sure, the captains will have the respect of the team members.

They have combined for 13 appearances in the Ryder Cup, but like many of today's American stars, their record left a little to be desired. The captains were 22-23-4 in their playing days at the Ryder Cup. Floyd captained the 1989 team, which Watson played on when the Cup was tied, and Watson captained the winning team in '93.

The biggest question I have with these three is how will they relate to the team members? If Steve Stricker makes the team, he will be 47 at the time. All three captains could be his father.

Jordan Spieth will turn 21 in July. Floyd could be his grandfather.

Watson has played enough PGA Tour events, mainly majors, the last few years, that he still has a good feeling about several of the players that could be on his team.

North knows many of those same players from his time as an on-course television reporter.

Floyd? I'm sure he knows some of the guys, but he was already on the Champions Tour when Spieth was born. Not sure if they'll have much in common.

"The age difference, actually it's kind of like a professor. You go to learn from a professor," Watson said. "He's been there, he knows he has the experience, he has the knowledge; the experience and the knowledge, and that's what we bring as captains and vice captains to The Ryder Cup."

Watson seems to be the kind of guy who will force this to work, whether both sides want it to or not. North and Floyd will do anything for their friend. And the players?

They're going to bust their backsides regardless of the captain. Will they feel more disappointed in themselves for losing a match with Watson as the captain instead of say, David Toms? Maybe, but they'd never admit to it.

Toms may have made sense as an assistant, because he could be in line to captain the team in the future. Toms, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson, in no particular order, are likely to be the captain of the next U.S. Ryder Cup team or two.

All three would tell you that they'd rather try to play their way onto this year's team, though.

In the end, that is all these three venerable leaders want. Players who will play hard to make the team, and play hard for their team once they get to Gleneagles.

WALKER DOES IT AGAIN

Jimmy Walker has kept his PGA Tour card every year since 2009 by finishing inside the top 125 on the money list, or FedExCup points list. The first two years he did so, Walker finished 125th and 103rd.

He barely kept his tour card. Had he failed to keep his card any of those years, he would have headed back to the Web.com Tour. One perk on that tour is that if you win three times in one season, you immediately gain your PGA Tour card for the remainder of that season and the next year as well.

Walker has started the 2013-14 wrap-around season playing with a sense of desperation. It seems he was trying to play his way back to the big leagues.

In reality, he is playing with a sense of urgency to prove that he is one of the best golfers in the world. After the third event of the 2013 season, Walker dipped to 118th in the world rankings.

Four top-10 finishes in his next nine starts moved him inside the top 70. He briefly slid back to 73rd, but his runner-up finish at The Greenbrier Classic bumped him 12 spots to 61.

Walker dropped back to 68th twice before his break-through win last fall at the Frys.com Open. That win moved him to 45th, and his victory last weekend at Pebble Beach vaulted Walker to No. 24.

He's risen nearly 100 spots in 14 months. Some would say he's gone from journeyman to world-class golfer in those same 14 months. With three titles since October, Walker is the hottest player in golf.

Tom Watson pointed out that Walker still hasn't "clinched" a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but it would be a huge upset if Walker doesn't make the team.

The hard-working, low-key Walker would fit perfectly on Watson's Ryder Cup team. Give Walker a chance, and he'll give you his best 18 holes.

What else can you ask for from a Ryder Cup teammate?

MINI-TIDBITS

- Cheyenne Woods is no longer just Tiger Woods' niece. She is a winner on the Ladies European Tour, and one of the 200 best players in the women's world rankings. Imagine the uproar if she were to win her first major before Tiger wins his next one?

- You could have a fun debate about which family is currently the first-family of golf. Is it Tiger and Cheyenne Woods? Kevin and Craig Stadler? Bill and Jay Haas? Lexi and Nicholas Thompson? There are several other choices, too, so debate away.

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