Roy Williams, Tom Watson and the Ryder Cup
In 1993, the Ryder Cup was being played on European soil and Tom Watson had been tapped by the Americans to captain the team charged with defending the Cup and bringing it back home to America. As recounted below, Roy Williams played a small part in the U.S. team's successful effort.
From A Good Walk Spoiled, Days and Nights on the PGA Tour.
By John Feinstein, Little Brown and Co., 1995
"Watson had never coached and didn't know much about coaching. Always a reader, he began studying successful coaches and what they said about motivation, about dealing with players who have failed, about making sure a team is getting along. He also met with Roy Williams, the basketball coach at Kansas University.
"Williams is an avid golfer, a seven-handicapper, and he was more than happy to talk to Watson. A few weeks before the team was scheduled to leave for England, he and Watson met at a golf course halfway between Lawrence and Kansas City. It was late in the afternoon so, instead of playing, Watson and Williams drove a cart to the far end of the range and sat and talked while the sun set and the range emptied.
"Watson had been concerned throughout the summer about the pressure of playing on the road and the advantage the Europeans would have with the backing of their crowd. He remembered how the American team had failed to respond down the stretch on the final day in 1989 and it worried him.
" 'You know it can work both ways,' Williams told him. 'There's always pressure on the home team because they're supposed to win. We always tell our players that there's nothing better than quieting the other team's crowd. I tell them to listen for the silence, because you'll never hear anything sweeter, and to be sure to look up at the end and watch the stands empty out when we're ahead.'
"Watson liked that. He had another question: Do you try to match players who get along or do you throw opposites in together?
" 'Depends,' Williams said. 'But if you've got one guy who is always up and confident and another guy who tends to get down, they might be perfect together.'
"Watson made a note of that too. He had a hundred different playing combination in his head and he was looking for anything that might help his decision. It was almost dark when they finally returned to the clubhouse. Watson felt good as he drove away hearing Williams words in his head. 'Listen for the silence.'
. . . .
"The rest of the morning was a disaster for the Americans. Seemingly spurred by Faldo, the Europeans won three of four matches. The only U.S. victory came from the newly created team of Raymond Floyd and Payne Stewart. By lunchtime, Europe led 7 1/2 to 4 1/2 and it looked like a rout was in the offing.
"Watson had to come up with something for the afternoon. He still hadn't played Cook and Beck, and he knew they were losing their minds waiting. But who should he pair them with? He remembered what Roy Williams had said about putting a confident player with a player who tended to get down on himself. No one was more up or confident than Beck. Cook was much more mercurial. He decided to gamble and put them together.
. . . .
"If Cook and Beck could hang on at 18, the Americans would have a shot at a 3-1 afternoon margin, which would bring them within one.
....'If I were a betting man,' Azinger said,'I'd have bet all I had on us right then. John and Chip just turned the whole thing around.' "
[The U.S. went on to win the Ryder Cup by one point.]
. . . .
"As the Americans celebrated, Love walked up to Tom Watson. 'Can you hear it?' he asked.
'Hear what?" Watson asked.
Love pointed to the rapidly emptying stands. 'The silence,' he said.
Watson grinned. He could hear it. 'That,' he said, 'is as sweet a sound as I think I've ever heard.'"
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