RBC Heritage

McCombs: Watson did what he set out to do, but likely won't be back

mmccombs@islandpacket.comApril 19, 2014 

Tom Watson tees off on No. 17 during the first round of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing on Thursday at Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island S.C.

JAY KARR — Jay Karr Buy Photo

With two birdies in the second half of Friday's second round of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, Tom Watson had played his way back to 4 over, a score close enough to elicit hope of a weekend on Hilton Head Island with the Ryder Cup captain still involved.

Then came the bogey at No. 6. Then No. 9.

Watson limped to a 2-over-par 73 on this windy, and soon to be rainy, day in what is likely the last time Thomas Sturges Watson graces the Harbour Town Golf Links with his presence in a competitive round of golf.

If that's the case, and the two-time champion doesn't come back -- he hadn't been here since 2001 before playing this time -- golf fans should make no mistake: He accomplished what he set out to do.

In all likelihood he missed the cut, now projected to be 3 over par, three shots better than where Watson sits. But that was never really why he was here, as he admitted on Wednesday.

This was a "fact-finding" mission.

Watson was here to get to know budding superstar Jordan Spieth and find out if others have the makeup to be a captain's selection for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Mission accomplished.

"I saw a mature young man playing golf," Watson said, admitting that the conditions got the best of him and the 20-year-old on Friday morning. Spieth shot a 3-over 74.

"... As he said, we didn't play our best, but it was enjoyable to play with him," Watson said. "And I watched his swing up close to see how he maneuvered the ball and how he chipped the ball and how he putted the ball. I got a good feel for Jordan."

Watson didn't play as much with Patrick Reed, but did manage to get in nine holes with the 24-year-old who sits third in the FedEx Cup standings and is ranked 24th in the world.

"He's lit it up, Watson said. "He's got a solid golf game, solid fundamentals, also."

After his round Friday, Watson conceded Spieth is likely to make the Ryder Cup team, one way or another. But no matter how successful his time on Hilton Head Island had been, Watson still had much to do as the Americans' Ryder Cup captain.

"The Europeans have beaten a tattoo on the Americans and we're tired of it," Watson said, "and it's huge in Europe and big in the United States because we're sick and tired of getting beat."

If Spieth or Reed or both make the U.S. team and the Americans break Europe's hold on the Ryder Cup team, this may turn out to be Watson's biggest Heritage win after all.

Follow sports editor Mike McCombs at twitter.com/IPBGsports.

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