Golf

Tiger should bury hatchet with Watson

Robert Lusetich recaps the dramatic final day of the Ryder Cup.
Robert Lusetich recaps the dramatic final day of the Ryder Cup.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.

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So, Tiger Woods wants to be a Ryder Cup captain?

"One day that would be fantastic and a huge honor," Woods said during this week’s rich, if meaningless, Turkish match-play tournament.

Despite the protestations of his noisy army of haters — whose pitchforks are already raised in indignation at the thought — Woods would make a good captain.

He knows the game, is far more astute than he’s given credit for being, has the respect of the players and wouldn’t be afraid of making a hard decision, a trait that’s escaped too many American captains.

But a Woods captaincy is at least a decade away.

In the meantime, if he wants to help the US recapture the sport’s most precious little chalice, there’s something he can do.

Bury the hatchet with Tom Watson and use his considerable influence to lobby for Watson as the next American captain.

The PGA of America has already started chewing the fat over the next captain in the wake of the embarrassing capitulation at Medinah.

David Toms is the warm favorite; he fits the mold, a well-liked player who’s won a major and will soon be knocking on the door of the Champions Tour.

There’s nothing bad I can say about DT, other than he has an unhealthy obsession with all things LSU Tigers.

But he’s just not the right man for the job.

I CAN'T LOOK

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He’d be another Davis Love III; too nice a guy to be the leader the US needs at Gleneagles in 2014.

There’s merit in the philosophy of appointing a contemporary as captain. But there’s also a fatal flaw to such an approach.

And that flaw was exposed at Medinah, where Love allowed his team’s veterans — his friends and peers for most of his career — to influence decisions; it became captaincy-by-committee.

Love admitted he’d be second-guessing himself over the stunning loss, but the truth is that one decision he made on the Ryder Cup Saturday opened the door for Europe’s historic comeback.

Instead of sending the hot team of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley back out in the afternoon, he acquiesced to Mickelson’s desire to sit out the fourth session.

“When we got to 10 (in the morning), I went to Davis and I said, ‘Listen, you're seeing our best; you cannot put us in the afternoon, because we emotionally and mentally are not prepared for it,' ” said Mickelson.

“I know you're going to get pressure, because we're playing so good. But we have other guys that are dying to get out there, and we have mentally put everything into this match; we won't have anything later.”

Yardbarker

TIGER'S TANTRUM

Tiger Woods' second round at Augusta was captured perfectly when he kicked his club in anger on the 16th hole.

The two only played 12 holes of alternate shot. How tired could they have been?

And even if Mickelson, at 42, was spent, Bradley’s a 25-year-old adrenaline junkie. Why not send him out in four-ball with another partner; say, Woods?

Had the US won an 11th point in the fourth session, the Europeans couldn’t even have dreamt of a comeback.

After seven losses in nine matches, it’s surely time to change the way American captains are selected.

The PGA of America can start by going back to the future.

Watson’s not just an eight-time major champion, but the last American captain to have won the Cup on foreign soil.

Be sure, he didn’t conduct too many straw polls in 1993 at The Belfry. Watson’s got a general’s disposition: He told players when and with whom they’d be playing.

And he’s not so ancient that he’s irrelevant to today’s players.

It was just three years ago that he nearly won the British Open at 59, which, to me, would’ve been the greatest story in the history of golf.

And the ace in the hole with Watson is that he’s beloved in Scotland.

The Scots may jeer the US team, but they’ll bite their tongues when it comes to their Wee Tom.

HOT DOGGIN' IT

A fan throws a hot dog at Tiger Woods at the Frys.com Open. Watch the incident.

No American has loved the old links like Watson, who’s won five claret jugs and, it seems, has visited every course in Scotland, always stopping to sign autographs or pose for photographs.

"There is a great Scottish word the Scots sometimes like to use to describe themselves and that word is 'thrawn,' ” says Scottish author and golf writer Lawrence Donegan.

“It means tight-lipped, determined and serious. If you are talking about the love affair Scots have with Tom Watson — and believe me, he is revered over there — I think it comes down to this. They see him as one of their own. He's Scot in all but his nationality."

John Huggan, another Scottish golf writer says Watson “owns a near God-like status in the land that gave golf to the world.”

“We Scots love the way Watson swings the club, the brisk pace of his game and, most of all, the sportsmanship with which he has always played,” he says.

“To us, he embodies all that is good about golf, especially in the way — like (Bobby) Jones and (Jack) Nicklaus before him — he has reacted to adversity.

Tiger Woods

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“Perversely perhaps, how a golfer loses rather than how he wins has always been our ultimate measure of a man.”

Ironic, then, that a golfer’s code of conduct lies at the bottom of the feud between Woods and Watson.

After Woods was embroiled in a tabloid scandal, Watson — a fellow Stanford man — wrote to him, telling Woods what he’d been longing to say for years.

Watson told Woods that when he returned to golf, he needed to “clean up his act.”

"I feel that he has not carried the same stature as the other great players that have come along like Jack [Nicklaus], Byron Nelson, [Ben] Hogan in the sense that there was bad language and club throwing on the golf course," he said.

"You can grant that to somebody, a young person, that has not been out there for a while, but I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that the people before him have shown."

Woods, as is his wont, didn’t appreciate the lecture.

I tried to call Watson a few days ago to talk about all of this, but he respectfully declined. It’s not his style, especially with the Ryder Cup wounds so fresh.

Neither will Tom Watson lobby for the captain’s job at Gleneagles.

But, on his behalf, Tiger Woods can.

And if he did, it would say much about both men.

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus

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