Why Tom Watson as Ryder Cup Captain Gives US Instant Advantage
It's unusual for the conservative PGA of America to think outside the box, but they dared to be different by choosing 63-year-old Tom Watson as the next Ryder Cup captain, according to Golf Digest's Tim Rosaforte:
My reporting has Tom Watson as next Ryder Cup captain. PGA wants to shake it up. TW captained winning team in '93. Won't lead by committee.— Tim Rosaforte (@TimRosaforte) December 11, 2012
You may think choosing an older, veteran player like Watson would seem like the safe move. In the past, however, the PGA has preferred a younger captain, often in their mid-40s, who has a competitive relationship with the players. Think Davis Love III, who captained the 2012 team.
The favorite for 2014 was David Toms, who fit the bill without question. However, circumstances drastically changed after the Miracle at Medinah this past October.
The Americans were dealt a punishing blow in the wake of an unimaginable comeback by the Europeans. They were able to overcame a historic eight-point deficit.
That tidal wave of a loss may have been the best thing for the future of the U.S. squad.
Watson instantly changes the tide for the Americans, who haven't won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil since the last time he captained the Americans in 1993 at the Belfry (he's the first repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in '83 and '87).
His luminous record includes winning five British Opens at five different venues, four of which came in Scotland. That is where the 2014 Ryder Cup will take place (Gleneagles Golf Club in Perthshire).
Watson is beloved by the Scots, and he understands this setting. That comfort in the rainy, windy conditions native to Scotland will be beneficial to the dozen American players competing.
There's no question that Watson—who's considered one of the greatest golfers of all time—will be revered by his American squad due to his longevity and record.
This year's U.S. Open winner, Webb Simpson, is on board with the decision for Watson as captain, telling Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis in a text message:
I think he would be amazing. Such an amazing player and person and he demands respect just by the kind of player he’s been. He’s like a quiet lion. It would be an honor to play for him.
It was only a few years ago in 2009 at Turnberry where Watson, who was all of 59 at the time, competed in a playoff with Stewart Cink for yet another Open Championship title.
It had been 22 years since Watson's last major victory, and although he would fall to Cink, his sheer competitive edge and ability at that age—not to mention in those brutally tough conditions—only elevated his already iconic status across the golf world.
The need to finish strong is something Watson will hopefully stress.
This year's team got pummeled by the Europeans on Sunday at the Ryder Cup. Though many hypotheses linger about why the Americans lost—blaming poor play of individual players like Tiger Woods or decisions by the American captain Davis Love III—the one answer that stands apart from the rest is that they buckled under the pressure.
Watson knows how to handle pressure like a closer coming into the ninth inning.
The eight-time major championship winner competed against and beat some of golf's all-time greats, ranging from the "Golden Bear" Jack Nicklaus to Gary Player, Johnny Miller and Lee Trevino.
Watson is renown as one of the most consistent and complete players in golf history. His personal Ryder Cup record is a solid 10-4-1, winning in three of the four Cups he competed in.
Previously as captain, Watson was an inspiring figure, according to Lanny Wadkins, who played for Watson on the winning 1993 team:
Tom was just one of those guys who just believes and believes and believes. He doesn’t go out there to have fun. He goes out there to kick butt and get the job done. That’s really what the PGA of America, in my estimation, is thinking that needs to happen.
Of course, Watson won't be the one hitting any shots in 2014, but he will be immersed in the experience with his players and has the potential to be integral in their success.
As golf expert Tim Rosaforte explained in a recent Golf Digest piece, "Watson has never been afraid of shaking it up, speaking his mind, or making a call."
Watson's no-nonsense and candid demeanor will breathe life into this currently downtrodden American team.
Was Tom Watson the right choice for Ryder Cup captain in 2014?
With Watson at the helm, the Americans still face a tough test in 2014. The European squad will be led by current World No. 1-ranked player Rory McIlroy, who will be just 25 and potentially an even more accomplished and intimidating figure when the Ryder Cup is played at Gleneagles.
You can expect European stalwarts like Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter to return with the momentum of consecutive Ryder Cup victories ('10 and '12).
When you add the home-field advantage for the Europeans, this measures up to a pretty daunting task for Watson and his crew.
But choosing Watson sends a message as loud and clear as a Scottish foghorn—the Americans are coming, and they are led by a champion.
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