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Greenbrier Classic: Andy North named Ryder assistant captain

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Tom Watson, World Golf Hall of Fame member and the captain of the United States' 2014 Ryder Cup team, named Andy North as his assistant captain for the biannual event Wednesday.

North played on the 1985 Ryder Cup team that lost 16.5-11.5 to Europe. He also won the U.S. Open in 1978 and 1985.

Watson also captained the team in 1993 when the United States won 15-13. The United States has lost seven of the last nine Ryder Cup competitions.

"We'll do whatever we can to get the cup back where it belongs," said North via telephone from his home in Madison, Wisc. "A lot is going to happen in the next 16 months, all you hope in the end is you have a great team of players playing well and have some fun."

The 2014 Ryder Cup matches will be held at Gleneagles Hotel in Perth & Kinross, Scotland.

* * *

NEW ORLEANS Saints Coach Sean Payton said he's anxious to move past the distractions and return to the sidelines after serving a one-season suspension for his role in the franchise's bounty scandal.

Payton is caddy this week for friend Ryan Palmer, who gave his regular caddy the week off and asked Payton to come along.

The Saints had finished 13-3 and won the Super Bowl following the 2009 season, then went 11-5 (2010) and 13-3 (2011) in consecutive regular seasons. On March 2, 2012, the NFL alleged that the Saints implemented a bounty program that rewarded players for deliberately attempting to knock players out of games.

For his alleged role in the scandal, Payton was suspended for the 2012 season, becoming the first head coach in modern NFL history to be suspended for any reason.

"I know our players have looked forward to it," said Payton, whose team finished 7-9 in 2012, missing the playoffs under interim coaches Joe Vitt and Aaron Kromer. "Fortunately for us, we were able to kind of digest and get on with our spring mini-camps and all those things that were open to the media. Prior to last season, we had won 41 games in three years, which led the NFL. It's hard then all of a sudden to have a 7-9 season or a season that you don't make the playoffs."

Palmer tees off at 1:10 p.m. today from the No. 1 tee with Ben Curtis and Greenbrier Pro Emeritus Tom Watson.

* * *

THE ONLY change made to the Old White TPC this year was moving back the No. 18 tee.

Players averaged below par on the par 3 hole the first three years when it was 162 yards. The tee box was moved back 13 yards, making it a 175-yard hole.

"It's going to make a little difference, I think," Bubba Watson said. "I've hit 8-iron, 7-iron there, they're hitting wedges. That contour in the middle of the green really plays with you."

The intermittent rain that has fallen on Greenbrier County this week should make the hole a little easier.

"When the chips down, that contour makes that green play very well small," he said. "Especially if the greens get hard. That's probably not going to be a luxury this week. They're probably going to be a little bit damp, unfortunately, so it's going to play easier."

* * *

STUART APPLEBY has struggled to regain the magic that allowed him to shoot a final-round 59 and win the inaugural Classic in 2010.

Prior to that victory, Appleby had gone 119 starts without a win. Since he became the fifth player in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59, the nine-time tour winner has had 77 starts without a victory and has missed 28 cuts - including the last two Classics.

Radical changes were made to the Old White TPC since his 22-under tied for the second-lowest par score on the PGA Tour that season. The fairways were tightened and six holes were lengthened, extending the distance from 7,020 to 7,274 yards. No. 4 (Racetrack) and No. 5 (Mounds) were lengthened by 31 and 44 yards respectively.

Also, the greens were reseeded and were expected to be - without the steady rain falling on Greenbrier County this week - much faster than they were the first three years.

* * *

THERE IS a generation gap in the 8:30 a.m. group teeing off from No. 10 today.

Texan Jordan Spieth, at just 19 years old, will join 48-year-old Jesper Parnevik and 39-year-old Greg Chalmers in the tournament's first two rounds. Parnevik turned professional in 1986, seven years before Spieth was born and Chalmers turned pro when Spieth was two.

Spieth isn't officially a member of the PGA Tour and won't be eligible for the FedEx Cup unless he wins a Tour event. He earned Special Temporary Member status this season in which he receives unlimited sponsors exemptions into PGA Tour events for the remainder of the season.

However, the teenager - he doesn't turn 20 until July 27 - has earned $1,153,079 this season, his first full year as a professional with one second-place finish and five top 10s.

* * *

BUBBA WATSON said he has a responsibility as a PGA Tour golfer and it extends beyond contributing to charities and playing the game.

"You don't grow up trying to play golf to be famous or to be in the media's eye," said Watson, who was criticized recently for a well-publicized exchange with caddy Ted Scott during the Travelers Championship. "Obviously, people are fans and your fan base grows when you win big tournaments. You just have to learn to deal with it."

Shortly after signing several autographs following Wednesday's Pro-Am, Watson said: "These fans are out here supporting us and we should sign autographs. I try to sign as many autographs as I can."

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.

 


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