Tom Watson taps Raymond Floyd as Ryder Cup vice captain
By Stephanie Wei under Ryder Cup
Captain Old Dudes?
U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Tom Watson doesn’t mess around, nor does he necessarily make decisions based on the opinions of others. Heading into Tuesday’s press conference at Riviera, the site of this week’s Northern Trust Open, some surmised Watson would name Fred Couples, who has captained the past three winning Presidents Cup teams, as one of his vice captains.

Instead, the 65-year-old leader of the Americans went another direction and named 71-year-old, four-time major champion Raymond Floyd as his second vice-captain. Last summer, Watson announced 64-year-old, two-time major champion Andy North as one of his assistants. 

“What Raymond brings here is his experience now and respect of the players,” said Watson on Tuesday in his presser. “When these players look at Raymond, this he know he’s been there and they know he’s been successful.  They know he wants to win.  I don’t really need anything else.  We don’t need anything else.  We need those players to understand that we are there to support them.  We have their back.  Whatever they need, we’ll bring it to them it.

“And all we expect‑‑ as I said, I’m the stage manager.  We are the stage managers.  We set the stage for these players to go compete.  They have to go out and they have to act.  Raymond couldn’t be‑‑ in my opinion, he couldn’t be a better person from the standpoint of the respect of the players because he’s been there.  He’ll have stories to share and he’ll have an understanding of what the pressure is like.  He’ll be able to relate to the players if they have‑‑ and be there for them.  He’ll be able to see how nervous they get and talk to them from the standpoint of, this is‑‑ this is how I did it.  Maybe you can do the same thing.”

Floyd played on eight Ryder Cup teams, earning a 12-16-3 record, and he captained the 1989 team that tied with Europe. He was also part of the last victorious American team in 2008, when he was an assistant to captain Paul Azinger at Valhalla.

“I’m flattered obviously, and it’s going to be a thrill for me to have his back, and I think it will be a lot of fun,” said Floyd via the telephone.

“…We don’t hit a shot.  So all our responsibilities are to see that these guys are comfortable, they are happy with the surroundings, and we try to be an uplifting spirit, if you would, and if there are any questions, they have to be comfortable to come to us, and I think that’s what we bring to the party and we’ve all been there and hopefully they will respect that and they will respond.”

The last American team to win the Ryder Cup on foreign soil dates all the way back to 1993, which was captained by Watson. (Jordan Spieth, who is a likely candidate to make the squad, was born that year.) This year’s matches, of course, will be held at Gleneagles in Scotland.

The trio is a departure from recent years when the Americans have been managed by captains that were closer to being the contemporaries to the players on the team. However, as we know, the U.S. has struggled in the biennial matches against Europe, losing the last five out of six Ryder Cups.

Fred Couples suggested Watson wasn’t as close to the players and seemed unsure if he would be in touch enough with his team.

“Whereas I can’t change and be serious and kinda strict and stern, Tom Watson is more of a serious student of everybody,” he told The Scotsman’s Martin Dempster. “I think he’s going to think he knows most of the players, but it’s going to be hard because I don’t know how many he really, really knows. But he’s got a few months to go to tournaments and I’m sure he will have a few dinners and meet the guys, get to know them and figure out what to do.”

Are these captains too out of touch with the current players to lead them to success?

“Are you too old to be a Ryder Cup Captain,” said Watson, repeating a question he’s been asked more than once. “And the way I answer that, and I believe this with all my heart, is that these players know Raymond, Andy and myself.  We’ve been there.  We know what the Ryder Cup pressure is all about.  We’ve played under the pressure.  We’ve been captains; Raymond and I have been captains.  We know what’s going on.

“And to have that respect and the trust from the players that we know what’s going on, that can help them.  So the age difference, actually it’s kind of like a professor.  You go to learn from a professor.  He’s been there, he knows he has the experience, he has the knowledge; the experience and the knowledge, and that’s what we bring as captains and vice captains to The Ryder Cup.”

Will a more stringent, yet respected group of leaders in the American team room be the recipe to turn the tide and bring the Cup back to the U.S.? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure: The blueprints as of late haven’t resulted in consistent success for whatever reasons.

As Sheryl Crow once crooned, “A change would do you good.”