Just after my previous blog it was coincidental that I played with Fred (Couples) and Jay (Haas) at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship in Pittsburgh at the end of June. The three of us have been competitive throughout our careers and we have remained good friends. Being out on the Champions Tour for the past six years, I had lost touch with the younger players on the PGA TOUR, but fortunately being named captain has allowed me to spend more time out there getting to know the younger guys. I got to spend about 15 minutes with Hideki (Matsuyama) at Firestone during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational recently. I hadn’t met him but I’ve watched him the last few months with great interest. He’s had a meteoric rise up the Official World Golf Rankings and has probably secured his berth on the International Team.
Returning to Firestone, where I did a press conference, was quite a treat. The place has such wonderful memories for me and it launched my career here in the United States. Someone reminded me when I got there that it was 30 years ago when I won there. I had to do a double-take when I walked through the locker room and saw a couple of pictures of a younger me.
The Open Championship at Muirfield was a pleasure to watch. It was satisfying to see Adam (Scott) in the mix again and I’m very pleased with the progress being made by Hideki, who is going to be a star of the future in my opinion. Angel (Cabrera) was in contention again at a major championship and those are the performances I’m looking for. As I’ve said before, I’m always looking for guys who perform their best at the highest level. I’m a little concerned about Louis (Oosthuizen), who withdrew from The Open because of an injury. I spoke with him the week after The Open and his plan is to not play again until the week before The Presidents Cup. I will know that week if he is fit enough to play. .
It’s an interesting time coming up for the players because the point values increase significantly. We’ve got so many points available with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs happening in the next few weeks. The players ranked 8th through to about 15th on my team standings are going to be doing a lot of jockeying for position over the next four or five weeks.
The International Team is shaping up well but the biggest concern amongst the co-captains and our more experienced players is creating some team spirit and getting the guys together before the event starts. As a result, the more established players will play more frequent practice rounds with some of the younger players and spend a little more time with them, maybe have dinner or lunch with them, so when we get to Muirfield Village everyone will feel more comfortable with each other. Camaraderie and the spirit of a team can always overcome a lot of things. I wish I could show the guys the feeling I had of being on a winning team. When we won in Australia (in 1998), the 11 teammates I had, they were like my brothers. We had a phenomenal week of emotional ups and downs. If I could put that feeling in a bottle and show the guys what that is like, we would have their attention.
As far as my picks go, there are so many things to think about, but my co-captains Tony (Johnstone), Mark (McNulty) and Shigeki (Maruyama) and I will weigh up how much experience we have on the team when the points are finalized and if we are short on experience, we might include a player with more experience. We will look at who the ‘hot’ players are and may look at players who have had success at Muirfield Village in the past.
Until next time……
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