The United States Ryder Cup team took an early lead in the morning session, but gave that lead back and more in the afternoon to fall behind Europe. The US is now a +270 underdog to win the Cup. Coach Tom Watson spoke about the day after the final match conclude.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Just start us off with your assessment of the day and we’ll go into some questions.
Watson: It started off looking pretty good, and then we didn’t perform in the afternoon, and it’s very disappointing. The players themselves are disappointed. I know the question is going to be asked about Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, whether I should have played them in the afternoon, and I thought at the time it was the best decision not to play them. There were a variety of reasons, but I won’t go into those. It was a decision that my vice captains and I made. That was a decision that we felt very strongly for. I can tell you one comical thing, though. When I told Patrick that he wasn’t going to play in the afternoon, it was comical at the time, not so comical now maybe but it was comical at the time. I said, “How does that make you feel?” He said, “Well, I’m all right with it.” He said, “Well, really, Captain, I’m not all right with it.” I said, “That’s the way I want you to be.” You can’t play everybody. You’re going to be second guessed, and obviously you’re going to second guess me on that decision right there. Webb Simpson and Bubba, they had a bad day. They really did. We all have bad days. And I told them, I said, that’s just one match. That’s one match out of the five, and of course we are going to be playing Bubba tomorrow in the first match, and we’re going to go with that. He’s going to play with Matt Kuchar in the first match, and so we’ll get them off to start again and see if he can play a little bit better. He’s ready to go. Phil and Keegan, they struggled this afternoon. They missed a lot of putts. Had a lot of short putts today and they kind of blew themselves out of it with not staying in it with the putts they had to make. That’s the game. There are ebbs and flows. We had an early ebb, we had a better flow in the morning and it all kind of ebbed in the afternoon. Culminated with that Watson-esque put that Rory McIlroy made at 17, hit the back of the hole, popped up and went in. Sometimes that’s the way I used to putt. I kind of lag it up there a little bit more nowadays. Can’t make those 5- or 6-footers coming back. Those are the things that I’m sure you’d like to ask me about. But I’m disappointed with the results. But I can tell you I’m not disappointed with the attitude of the team. Yes, they are disappointed, but I told them in the locker room, I said, It’s 5-3. That’s two matches. You win two matches, you’re back to even; you win four, you’re up by two. That’s the way this Ryder Cup works, and that’s the reality of it. I have to say, I’m good with it.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: I think you may have answered everything, Tom, in advance, but we’ll try and take some questions.
Question: Colin Montgomerie and Butch Harmon both questioned putting Mickelson and Bradley out in the afternoon, feeling that Phil was too tired and they wondered why Spieth and obviously Reed weren’t out. I don’t know if you’re willing to —
Watson: I answered that one.
Question: Kind of.
Watson: There are certain personal things, you look at teams — you don’t go into details and talk to the press about, bottom line. Keegan and Phil, I had to give them a shot there. They have done well in alternate-shot, and I had to give them a go.
Question: When Bubba was in here earlier, he said he thought he played well today. You seemed to question that. Can you elaborate that?
Watson: Well, he played better than Webb did today, bottom line. It takes two in fourball. It takes two in alternate-shot obviously. But in fourball, you can ham-and-egg it a little bit if one guy is not playing so well. That’s not to say Webb is not going to play well. But I’m just — Bubba is going back out and he’s one of our studs.
Question: In making pairings, how do you balance the kind of gut, artistic feel for making these pairings, versus the kind of cold, calculated, these are my best players, my highest-ranked players?
Watson: Well, you use the statistics that we have, how the players are playing on the golf course, first — not first, but part of it. But you have other gut — not gut reactions, but you have past performances, experiences that the players have had, and again, how are they playing. I’m constantly asking my vice captains out there, okay, give me an update, give me an update how they are playing. Are they making putts or are they not making putts; are they hitting the ball in the fairway; are they hitting good iron shots. That’s part of the process right now. It’s really in the now, right now, right now. We didn’t make the putts and we didn’t hit the shots in this afternoon. You know, again, we’re 5-3. 5-3 is — yeah, we’re behind, but the pairings that are made for tomorrow morning I think are strong pairings, as strong as we can put out there and we’ll see what happens.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: On that note, Captain Watson, we actually have the pairings. If I can give you a copy and maybe I can announce them while you digest them. So match one, going for Europe, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson versus Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. Match two, Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood versus Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan. Match three, Thomas Björn, Martin Kaymer versus Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. Match four, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter versus Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler. Your initial thoughts on those?
Watson: Well, my initial thoughts is I like what I see. I really like what I see.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: That’s as good a thought as any.
Question: Going back to today’s matches, you described Patrick’s reaction to your decision. Jordan, when he was in here, said he was 100 per cent certain he would play because you had said that the people, the two teams that played well in the morning, would play in the afternoon. Can you clear up the confusion that he clearly was feeling about what you said and what you did?
Watson: Well, I take the blame for that. I assessed that even though they won in the morning, that there maybe was a better team the fourball in the afternoon. Again, I go back to the point where I say it from the beginning, I’m trying to make the best decisions at that time that I possibly can with the best information I have. And again, it’s a collective decision, but the final decision is with me. And that decision not to play them was a hard decision to make. I had some — I had some doubt in making that decision, but my gut feeling said that was the right decision to make. You’re never fully, fully certain when you make the decisions, because you just don’t know how the outcome is going to be. You can’t predict it. But with the information I had at hand, I felt that that was the best decision.
Question: I hope this doesn’t sound like an unfair question, because you can’t hit the shots for the players, but now looking back on Day 1, do you feel, to use a term from a different sport, that you’ve been out-coached?
Watson: We were out-played, I know that. Again, you’ve got 12 players to play and you’re trying to put the best teams together. They got it done this afternoon. I have to give them credit.
Question: Looking ahead to tomorrow, if Saturday at a regular event is considered, quote-unquote, moving day, how do you classify Saturday at The Ryder Cup?
Watson: (Chuckles). Well, again, match three, match four, and we are two points behind. And as I told the players: Those are two matches you’ve got to win more than the other guys to get even. I told them, I said, “I want more than even.” And they are buying into that. They still have — even though they are disappointed, there was the attitude, all right, let’s go get this thing done.
Question: From a motivational standpoint, how does the captain get the flow going?
Watson: Well, I’m going to find out. I’m going to go up to the team room right now where they are all probably sitting down having a quick dinner. They are going to go have an early night. I’ll sit there and speak with them. I’ll take — I’ll take my vice captains with me, but I’ll make a point, the same point I made in the locker room. This is the second quarter of a football game. You’re down, and there’s no bad attitudes here. We’re out there to do a job. You’re going to go out there tomorrow and do that job. You didn’t get it done today, but the game is still on. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Yeah, we’re behind right now. We were up in the morning, but now we’re behind. To me, this is — you know, the ebbs and flows right now; we’re in an ebb. And frankly, that’s where we are.
Question: You kind of answered what I was about to ask, but just after the strong morning performance and then what happened this afternoon, do you expect the players to be a little down, a little dejected? Do you anticipate having to do quite a bit of coaching? Are these, as professionals, guys that can pull themselves out of this slump and go back 100 per cent tomorrow?
Watson: Sure, they are disappointed they didn’t get it done, but they’ve been disappointed before. I keep — these guys are all great players. They can get it done. And again, I believe in them, and they believe in themselves. This is just the second quarter of the ball game.
Question: Going into this afternoon before the morning was over and you had to turn in your pairings, had they changed in your mind, the afternoon pairings, or what you had decided on during the morning?
Watson: Well, they probably changed — probably changed, obviously with Bubba, the afternoon pairings. Thought I would probably play Bubba twice, but it didn’t work out that way. We had some teams we wanted to play in the afternoon in the foursomes we thought are strong teams and they are strong teams.
Question: Can you tell me who you replaced Bubba with?
Watson: Well, no — I mean, it’s just — you know, from the beginning, you had some horses that you looked at, you were going to ride. When they don’t perform, you have to make a decision not to play them, and that’s what I did.
Question: Is that the case here with Mickelson and Bradley?
Watson: Yes, it is, sure. It’s really just common sense I think. They played 36 holes. They are tired. Give them a break in the morning, get their legs back, and there’s a good chance they’ll go in the afternoon in some way, shape or form. They may not go together, but they will go in the afternoon.
Question: Jordan this morning, after his round, said that he and Patrick Reed kind of talked to you — made a case that they should be paired and kind of talked you into that, into pairing them. Had you thought of them before, and was that really true, that they really convinced you to put them out together?
Watson: Well, I don’t think there’s — I don’t remember that conversation to be honest. They were — it really was something we thought about early in this decision, putting teams together. As I said, putting the teams together evolved during — we had certain teams we wanted to think about playing before we got here, but after that, it was watching these players play, how they interacted, what we thought was the best pairings, and it looked more and more that these two guys could really get along and do the job. They certainly did this morning.
Question: Is your plan right now to play all 12 tomorrow?
Watson: I don’t know yet. Don’t know yet. Just depends on how they play tomorrow morning. Just like what I did today. There were some things that happened during the course of the match with players may start to struggle a little bit, and you never know. You never know. So I can’t say that.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: I think we’re all done. Captain Watson, many thanks, as always.