Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The PGA of America's decision to name Tom
Watson the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain has been branded by many as an act of
desperation; and hey, who could blame them? Bucking tradition and handing the
reins over to a 60-plus-year-old Champions Tour competitor does seem a bit
For decades American captainship has gone to a 40-ish former major winner who
is still active on the PGA Tour. Watson, on the other hand, will be 65 when
the biennial showdown hits Gleneagles (Scotland) in September 2014, making him
the oldest U.S. captain ever -- by eight years.
As for activity, Watson appeared in just three PGA Tour events this past
season, compared to six on the Champions Tour.
But hey, desperate times call for...yeah, you know the rest.
Let's face it: U.S. Ryder Cup performances have left something to be desired
in recent years; namely confidence and pride.
Including their historic collapse at Medinah in September, the Americans have
lost seven of the past nine Ryder Cups and four straight on foreign soil.
New PGA of America President Ted Bishop certainly appears desperate to reverse
With Watson, he is getting not only the oldest U.S. captain in Ryder Cup
history, but also its most rusty, as the 21-year span between the veteran's
two captain stints mark the longest ever.
Still, maybe it is time to do something drastic.
Watson's previous turn as captain came in 1993, when he guided the Americans
to a 15-13 victory at the Belfry in England. The U.S. hasn't won on foreign
Additionally, the man is a well-documented legend in Scotland, where he
captured four of his five Claret Jugs at the Open Championship.
The level of reverence for Watson in Scotland isn't likely to deflect the
vitriol aimed at the other Americans -- as some are speculating -- but the
players should be able to take solace in their captain's unique pedigree: they
will be represented and guided by a pro who not only adapted his game to play
in Scotland, but did so to spectacular success.
Ironically, Watson's hard-headed competitiveness, which drove him to succeed
in Scotland, is now being viewed by some as a detriment. The worry is that the
younger players, confident in their own abilities and accomplishments, won't
respond to their captain's old-school, no-nonsense approach.
This theory has been applied to virtually every professional team-oriented
sport at one point or another. Sometimes it holds water and sometimes it
doesn't - look at hard-headed Tom Coughlin's success with the New York Giants.
Here, it barely seems to apply.
For starters, Watson will have little hand in choosing the team: the first
eight players are determined by a point system and the four captain's picks
are typically taken from the next four spots on the points list.
Additionally, pairings for the event are usually decided by the players and
their preferences. There is an argument that Watson could hold some seniority
and sway here, but at the end of the day, the golfers will need to go out and
outperform the competition, regardless of pairings or order.
Another prevalent argument against Watson is the Tiger Woods factor. How will
Tiger feel about playing for Watson, who publicly criticized the former's on-
course etiquette some years back?
For his part, Woods released a statement of support on Thursday:
"I'd like to congratulate Tom Watson on his selection as Ryder Cup captain. I
think he's a really good choice. Tom knows what it takes to win, and that's
our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014
United States Team."
Of course, public statements have to be taken with a grain of salt.
The Woods dynamic remains an uncertainty, as does the prospect for U.S.
success at Gleneagles in 2014. The Watson choice may appear desperate; it may
seem risky, but it just may be the change the Americans need.
The Sports Network