In the aftermath of the actual golf played at the Ryder Cup, there’s been quite a lot of drama that’s unfolded, to say the least. First, there was the best reality TV I’ve seen in a while — which was Phil Mickelson’s critique of Captain Tom Watson in the post-match team press conference at Gleneagles. Then, six days removed from that, an ESPN.com report was published describing the ugly tension in the team meeting the night prior to the Sunday’s singles matches — it detailed Watson criticizing players, failing to take any culpability and scoffing at a gift from the players.
Following that report, Watson issued an open letter, taking “complete and full” blame for his lack of communication and even defended Mickelson’s very public attack of him. Here’s the letter in full:
In response to all of the recent discussion about our Ryder Cup loss, I would like to make a few comments.
First, I take complete and full responsibility for my communication, and I regret that my words may have made the players feel that I didn’t appreciate their commitment and dedication to winning the Ryder Cup.My intentions throughout my term as Captain were both to inspire and to be honest.
Secondly, the guys gave everything.They played their hearts out.I was proud to get to know each and every one of them. I know they are all going to win tournaments, be on future Ryder Cup teams and have wonderful careers.
Our team certainly showed guts when it took it to the other team early in Sunday’s singles matches. We were indeed tied with them as the scoreboard turned wonderfully “red.” Our players started fast as I had asked them to in my comments the night before. I asked them to really concentrate on holes 2-5, as the Europeans had won too many early battles on these particular holes. But in the end, the facts are that the other team played better. My hat’s off and congratulations to them.
As for Phil’s comments, I completely understand his reaction in the moment. Earlier this week I had an open and candid conversation with him and it ended with a better understanding of each other’s perspectives. Phil’s heart and intentions for our Team’s success have always been in the right place. Phil is a great player, has great passion and I admire what he’s done for golf.
The bottom line is this. I was their Captain. In hindsight whatever mistakes that were made were mine. And I take complete and full responsibility for them. I want to say again to the players, their families, the PGA and our country how proud and honored I was to captain this talented group of golfers, and how privileged I was to spend the past two years working this labor of my love for the Ryder Cup.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Now it couldn’t have been easy for Watson, known to be hard-headed and stubborn, to write the above (or dictate them to someone or simply sign off on it). But the good news for the U.S. Ryder Cup team is that it appears change is coming to the selection process for captains.
Even PGA of American President Ted Bishop, who single-handedly chose Watson to lead the American team in 2014, is covering his behind — and nearly throwing the captain under the bus. In a recent radio interview with BBC’s Five Live, Bishop refused to be overly critical of Mickelson, and in fact, defended him.
“He did what he did with a purpose whether you agree with it or not,” Bishop said.
“He’s passionate about the Ryder Cup and he feels that there needs to be some changes going forward and I think Phil would undoubtedly say that, if what he said on Sunday night helps propagate some of those changes, then he probably would be okay with it.
“From a United States standpoint, just really blowing the model up and starting completely over and trying to get some people involved who, as Phil said, are invested in the process.
“We need to have the input of players. Players need to feel good about where we’re going with this.”
And just as we thought, change is on its way!
“With every step of the way there’s an opportunity for good things to happen,” said Bishop
“The PGA of America is in a pretty deep analysis right now about trying to really change our Ryder Cup model going forward and if this precipitates some changes that’s probably a good thing.
“The first thing we’re probably going to do is assemble a task force that’s comprised of some former Ryder Cup captains, some current Ryder Cup players along with a handful of PGA of America officials.
“I think we’re going to take a complete review of everything concerning the Ryder Cup beginning with the way we pick a captain.
“Secondly would be the way that we pick the players that are going to be on that team.
“I think that we’re at a point where we need to really analyse a lot of different things.
“Not that we’re necessarily trying to mimic or copy what Ryder Cup Europe is doing but they certainly have developed a formula of success.
“There’s some consistencies that they utilise from Ryder Cup to Ryder Cup that have paid off for them so we can certainly, probably, steal a page from their book.”