Ryder Cup: Tom Watson and Paul McGinley Both Play It Safe with Picks

Kathy BissellCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2014

Tom Watson announced his Ryder Cup team picks.
Tom Watson announced his Ryder Cup team picks.Noam Galai/Getty Images

Tom Watson and Paul McGinley both picked two veterans and one hot player as their wild cards for the Ryder Cup. Watson and McGinley are both charged with winning the matches for country or continent, leading to the need to play it safe and solid.   

"I can tell you that all the players that I talked to, every one of them without a doubt had one thing to say about the Ryder Cup: They want to go back, and they want to make amends for what happened at Medinah two years ago," Watson said.

"From the beginning, from our standpoint, our team has that one focus. The Europeans played great in the last round in 2012, and that was a hard, hard loss for the American players, and it still sticks with a lot of them."

"I'm very excited about the team that we have in place as you can see on the board. I mean, that's a real, real quality team that we have in Europe," McGinley said after making his choices. "The picks were always going to be difficult." 

Unfortunately only one side can be victorious. That meant when it came time to select their final three, neither went for a lesser-known golfer because neither wants to extend a written invitation for a loss.

McGinley selected Ryder Cup veterans Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter (despite his injured wrist) and relative newcomer Stephen Gallacher.

While Gallacher is not known to many in the U.S., he is a recognized talent in Europe. Importantly, he's been playing well lately, was the next man on the European Ryder Cup points list and he's from Scotland where the Ryder Cup will be held. Gallacher is a political trifecta for McGinley.  

"I've sort of not touched my phone or anything like that, but I know it's just about to go off the wall with friends. I don't reallymy head is in a bit of a daze just now so I'm sure after all, I'll be in demand for tickets, 100 percent." Gallacher said after the announcement.

Watson also went with veterans, and two of his are past major champs: Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley.

Hunter Mahan, with his victory at The Barclays, was perhaps a last-minute, "pick-me" effort to get noticed by the U.S. captain, and it worked. Mahan said he's looking for retribution for 2010.

Hunter Mahan won first FedEx Playoff event.
Hunter Mahan won first FedEx Playoff event.Adam Hunger/Associated Press/Associated Press

"I think redemption is going to be a strong word amongst all the players," Hunter Mahan said. "Europe has flat‑out kicked our butts over the last 10 or 15 years, and that's just the way it is." He said they would be ready. "We are all going to be mentally prepared for the challenge, because we have a great challenge ahead of us."

Mahan's Ryder Cup experience, so far, is not a happy one. He lost to Graeme McDowell in what became the deciding match in 2010. However, Mahan can point to his victory at the Accenture Match Play for improved match-play toughness. Watson already told him he was playing five matches.

Let's look at the veteran picks and some facts behind the choices.  

Westwood is 18-13-6 in eight outings, six of which were victorious. He is now fourth for Europe in the number of Ryder Cups played, behind only Nick Faldo, Christy O'Connor Sr. and Bernhard Langer. He is fourth in matches played with 37. Importantly, he is fifth in points won with 21 and fifth in matches won at 18, and that's since 1927. If you are a captain, how do you not pick him?

"The Ryder Cup has always been a massive thing in my career," Westwood said. "It was a long day yesterday, and obviously when Paul rang, I breathed a sigh of relief." He noted that because he has shifted his focus to the PGA Tour, he knew he might have to rely on a being a pick, depending on how his season unfolded.

After 2012 and the historic comeback at Medinah, Poulter may not ever need to do anything to get onto a Ryder cup team. Regardless, he has a great wining percentage of 12-3-0.

While he is not yet in record territory in points earned, he has been credited for spearheading the "Miracle at Medinah" to vault Europe to a 14.5- to 13.5-point victory. Poulter is like the Italian seasoning in the pizza sauce. You just cannot get the right flavor for the event without him.

"I'm very, very proud to be a pick, and I just can't wait to get there. Ryder Cup means a lot to me, and I guarantee I'll be ready to perform to my best," Poulter said.

Watson's experienced guys have known the heat of golf battles and have come away victorious. Watson needs that kind of gut-it-out, golf know-how.

Simpson produced a U.S. Open victory at the Olympic Club when others were falling away and could not keep shots in the fairway or on the greens.

Webb Simpson was selected by Tom Watson for the Ryder Cup.
Webb Simpson was selected by Tom Watson for the Ryder Cup.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

"I remember Keegan, and I were laughing on Tuesday at Medinah," Simpson said. "We had never really understood what the Ryder Cup was all about until that morning. It was a practice round and felt like Sunday at a major, and that was kind of where our eyes were opened to the magnitude of the Ryder Cup."

Bradley won his PGA title in overtime, a playoff with Jason Dufner on a big golf course: Atlanta Athletic Club.

Keegan Bradley was selected by Tom Watson for the Ryder Cup.
Keegan Bradley was selected by Tom Watson for the Ryder Cup.Phil Long/Associated Press/Associated Press

"I'm not going to hide any emotion," Bradley explained in advance. "I think the Ryder Cup is a time to let the emotion come out of you. We are so often trying to fight and hold down, and I think the Ryder Cup is a great example of when you can just let it go. Sometimes that can make you play great golf."

Neither Simpson nor Bradley have the credentials of a Westwood or Poulter in Ryder Cup, but they are about a decade younger. That means the 36-hole days won't take the toll on them that it will on the European picks.

Do you wish perhaps Watson had gone with Chris Kirk or Russell Henley? Or that McGinley had chosen "The Second Most Interesting Man in the World," Miguel Angel Jimenez?

Sure, you might wish that, but this victory or loss is on the shoulders of the captains. While they might not admit it, the pressure to succeed is enormous. If there were analytics, crystal balls or Ouija boards that would provide better information, they would use them.

Regardless of who you might have liked to have seen as picks, it is hard to argue with the captains' choices.

Because of what each of them has done in Ryder Cup, both Watson and McGinley are entrusted to make safe, secure, solid picks.

In case you are not up to speed on Paul McGinley, he made his own kind of history in 2002 when he holed out a putt to win the Ryder Cup on the 18th hole at The Belfry. Unfortunately, the match was against Jim Furyk. Interestingly, Furyk went on to win the U.S. Open the next season.  

Tom Watson is 10-4-1 in four Ryder Cup appearances as a player. He has won three of the four majors and the British Open an amazing five times. He was already Ryder Cup captain in 1993, when his team won 15-13. The U.S. is counting on his Watson mojo for victory.

Only three U.S. players have captained more than two Ryder Cup teams: Walter Hagen, six (1927, '29, '31, '33, '35 and '37) ; Ben Hogan, three (1947, '49 and '67); Sam Snead, three (1951, '59 and '69). Jack Burke Jr., Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have also captained twice.


Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour, R&A or PGA of America.