WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Here is something that could get the Greenbrier Classic galleries rocking this weekend: Tom Watson possibly shooting his age.
Oh, it could happen, as Watson is now 64 years old. He has pulled it off on the Champions Tour, firing a second-round 63 March 15 at the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach, Calif.
“I thought that was really cool, too,” Watson said.
He broke into a story about the final holes. Bear in mind he teed off on No. 10, finishing on the ninth.
“My caddie, Neil Oxman, is a great baseball fan and I am, too. He’s a Phillies fan. I’m a Royals fan,” Watson said. “I make a 25-footer for par on No. 6. Now I’m 5 under par; it’s par 71.
“I remember coming off the seventh green, and I made a 12-footer that broke about this much [arms stretched], downhill, left-to-right putt, center cut. And if I parred the last two holes, then I knew I’d shoot my age.
“I was walking off the green and looked at Neil, and he said, ‘Don’t say anything!’ It’s just like a pitcher with a no-no going. You go to the end of the bench and you don’t say anything.”
He had a long two-putt on the eighth and hit his approach on the par-4 ninth to 20 feet, and then buried the putt for his 63.
Should Watson shoot his age, he would become the youngest man to do so on the PGA Tour. Sam Snead pulled the feat in 1979, firing a 67 to match his age in the second round, then beating it with a 66 in the final round. Snead was The Greenbrier’s first pro emeritus.
“We old guys can play,” Watson said. “You know that saying that these guys can play, these guys are good? Yeah, us old guys are good, too, at times.
“We’re like old broken-down horses, though. We can’t compete with the thoroughbreds.”
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Watson is the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, one which has lost to Europe two straight times. Whether he is involved or not, he is emotionally invested.
How much? Take the 2012 Ryder Cup, when the Americans slid into a final-day defeat.
“If I compare it to what I did in 2009 in the British Open [when he lost in a playoff], the pit in my stomach was gone after 24 hours,” Watson said. “The pit in my stomach after watching the Ryder Cup loss two years ago stuck with me for a number of days.”
The top nine in the U.S. scoring system receive automatic bids to the team, with Watson and vice captains Andy North and Raymond Floyd selecting three.
With the scoring ending at the PGA Championship in August, Watson figures the top six are safely in: Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Speith and Jim Furyk. Rickie Fowler is seventh, Jason Dufner eighth and Patrick Reed ninth.
Tenth place is Phil Mickelson, which presents an interesting dilemma. Tiger Woods presents another one, since he is still recovering from injury and well out of the automatic-bid running. Would Watson give both a captain’s pick, when he releases those Sept. 2?
If Woods is healthy, he’s in. “Who wouldn’t pick him?” Watson asked.
But here is another factor: What if Woods misses the FedExCup playoffs? With all that down time, he is 208th in the race for 125 spots.
Missing out altogether would give Woods an unwanted four-tournament hiatus before the Ryder Cup, and Watson will have to consider that.
“He’ll be considered less of a pick then if he didn’t have a track record going into the Ryder Cup, of course,” Watson said. “He’d be the first to tell you, ‘I haven’t been playing.’ ”
Reach Doug Smock at 304-444-1083, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.