I have said it a few times that when I grow up I want to be like Tom Watson, and especially play half as well as he does when I’m in my 60s. That. at the moment, is neither here nor there!
A true gentleman of the game, Tom Watson, will resume Ryder Cup Captaincy duty 21 years on from the Belfry in 1993 when he last held the mantle of US Team Captain. This was also the last time America won on European soil so maybe the PGA of America are hoping with Watson’s appointment it may well help them right that statistic at Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2014.
This is a fairly unusual departure from PGA of America as Tom will become the first Captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987 to captain Team USA twice. Some see this as a desperate attempt from the US Ryder Cup officials to get the Ryder Cup back while others see it as an inspired choice, bringing one of the game’s true greats back into the Ryder Cup fold. The final result in Gleneagles of course will be the only proof as to whether their choice was the correct one or not. I have no doubt Watson will be a fantastic captain for the American team, in terms of the humility with which he operates and how he will uphold the traditions of the game of golf, but he will, of course, be ultimately judged on the whether he takes the Ryder Cup back with him on the flight leaving Scotland on Monday 29th September 2014. It seems when you are a losing Captain you are immediately branded a bad Captain while a winning Captain is a great Captain, very fine margins especially when 1 point has separated the teams on numerous occasions over the past 20 years but that is how Ryder Cup captains are so often judged.
Some critics may point to Watson’s age, 63 now and 65 by the time the 2014 Ryder Cup is played, as being a drawback based on his supposed lack of connection with the current Tour Players but Tom is very active on tour still and could, and probably should, have won the 2010 Open Championship had it not be for a cruel bounce with his approach shot to the 72nd Green that Sunday afternoon, subsequent bogey and play-off to Stewart Cink. Others point to his poor relationship with Tiger Woods (he just can’t stay out of the headlines even when the stories are not about him!) but Watson was quick to pour cold water on the rumours of a rift between them stating Tiger would be his first choice as a Wild Card should be not make the team. Having Woods in the team hasn’t exactly been great for the US, their only victory with him as part of Team USA being in 1999 at Brookline (his missed their 2008 win due to injury) so I don’t think the Europeans would mind if he made the team or was picked….got a little off topic there for a sentence or so!
Tom Watson is extremely well respected and is a good fit as Captain for the American team. I do not think the other candidates really fitted the bill – Fred Couples seems better suited to the more relaxed role of US President’s Cup Captain; Larry Nelson should have been made Captain long before this so really his time had passed and he is not as active anymore on any Tour; David Toms probably has at least 1 more Ryder Cup in him so who’s left?? Bring back Zinger (would be a popular Captain again) or go for somebody with less Ryder Cup experience? The fact is most recent US Ryder Cup teams have a core of the experienced regulars – Tiger, Phil, Jim Furyk and maybe Steve Stricker but their team changes so much from one Match to another with the 2 year gap that a lot of rookies only end up playing 1 Ryder Cup hence there are not that many experienced captaincy candidates when it comes down to it. I think Bubba, Webb and Keegan may be around for a while yet but players like JJ Henry, Vaughn Taylor, Boo Weekley, Anthony Kim and Kenny Perry are examples of guys who had decent Ryder Cup debuts and haven’t played much, or at all, since. When you look at some of the European Ryder Cup Captain possibles it is a much more experienced bunch – Clarke, McGinley, Monty (again?), Bjorn, Lawrie (the Scottish link or maybe too soon?) and even Jimenez (surely a Captain for the future, France 2018?).
I think it will be a fantastic Ryder Cup in Scotland, some say it is Tom Watson’s spiritual golfing home although some folk at Ballybunion Golf Club may disagree, and whoever Europe pick as Captain they will have it all to do to beat Team USA with the 5-time Open Champion at the helm. It is a good appointment whatever happens, Tom Watson will ensure his teams plays with heart and passion and also with the integrity that he has played the game for well into his 60s and, at times, to a much better standard than some of his younger counterparts even to this day. It will be interesting who he will pick as his Assistant Captains as he obviously know the elder statesmen on Tour better, will he picking up to phone to Jack & Arnie for one magnificent last hurrah at the top of the golfing world?? Now that would be something!
Mental note, must check flights and hotel accommodation for September 2014 around Gleneagles!!!