Dec
13
2012
Tom Watson tapped 2014 Ryder Cup Captain, Tiger Woods approves (PHEW!)
By Stephanie Wei under Ryder Cup

The New Boss Man

The U.S. Ryder Cup team will have a strong, passionate leader at the head of the table at Gleneagles in Scotland during the 2014 matches. On Thursday morning the PGA of America president Ted Bishop officially named Tom Watson as the next boss of the American squad.

Watson was the captain at the ’93 matches at Belfry, which was the last time the U.S. team won on foreign ground. The Americans have only clinched the Cup twice since then, losing seven of the past nine biennial matches against the Europeans. Yikes.

Who better to break the America’s dismal losing streak in 2014 than the five-time Open Champion Golfer of the Year? I can’t think of one. Not when the venue is in Scotland. It’s important to note that Gleneagles is not a links course, but it doesn’t matter — it’s still Scotland, a magical place filled with remarkable memories for the 63-year-old Watson.

His fervor and knowledge are unmatched when it comes to golf across the pond. He’s beloved by the fans, which I expect will create an interesting dynamic with the home crowd.

Somehow, my last hour’s of work was deleted. You know that awful feeling back in high school and college when that happened? Yeah, it sucks. I have to rewrite this post, but I’m running out the door for an appointment. For now, here’s a link to my musings from Tuesday, and here’s the transcript of today’s press conference, which is worth the read.

Please discuss your thoughts on the announcement and Watson captaining the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

*Update: I’ll do my best to rewrite what I lost earlier, but it’s never the same. /sigh

I’ve already voiced my opinion on why I think Watson is the right man for the job — which you can refer to here -- but there are some things I’d like to add in light of the announcement this morning.

There will be no question who is the boss at Gleneagles and the players will respect his decisions and knowledge — even if they don’t necessarily like or agree with him. The Americans need some tough love from their captain, who is more of an authoritative leader that commands respect over his team instead of pandering to their every request or whim.

I referred to European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s style on Tuesday, particularly his decision to bench Martin Kaymer and Peter Hanson for both matches on Saturday at Medinah. Neither player was exactly happy about it. I mean, Peter Hanson and Ollie almost came to blows! Peter Hanson of all people! The quiet, soft-spoken, non-offensive Swede!

Just four days after the miraculous European victory, Hanson dryly told reporters he was going to leave Ollie off his Christmas Card list. He also revealed the tension in the team room on Saturday night, but at the end, it turned out OK didn’t it? The two”snubbed” players both secured key points late in the line-up in their singles matches, with Kaymer making the winning putt.

It’s naive to believe every player and/or every captain on any team gets along and likes each other, but you don’t have to be BFFs to come together and behave like courteous adults to work for a common goal — i.e. winning the Ryder Cup. And it’s only for a week, whereas in football, soccer, basketball, baseball, etc., you’re stuck with your team/coach for the entire season.

Naturally, earlier in the week, some raised concerns in regard to Watson’s relationship with Tiger Woods. Watson is never one to mince words and that includes his opinions on the 14-time major champion’s conduct on and off the golf course.

Not that it should really matter, but good news! — Tiger issued a statement shortly after Thursday’s announcement, endorsing Watson’s captaincy. (Thank goodness, I know.)

“I’d like to congratulate Tom Watson on his selection as Ryder Cup captain,” said Woods. “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.”

Watson also reassured the press that his relationship with Woods was just fine.

“Well, I hope Tiger, first of all, is on my team,” said Watson during his press conference on Thursday morning. “He’s the best player maybe in the history of the game.  He brings a stature to the team that is unlike any other player on the team.  And if he’s not on the team for any unforeseen reason, and I’m sure he will be, you can bet that he’s going to be No. 1 on my pick list.

“My relationship with Tiger is fine.  Whatever has been said before is water under the bridge, no issues, and, in fact, Ted, you told me today that he Tweeted and he said that he wanted me‑‑ he respected me as being captain because he knows that I want to win.

“Obviously there’s nobody else in the golf world who wanted to win more than Tiger, and he did it for so many years.  He dominated this sport unlike anybody in the history of the sport.  So I want him on my team.”

It doesn’t matter if the players disagree with their captain’s politics or personal views. I’m pretty sure Tiger respects Watson’s golfing accomplishments. Wasn’t it Tiger who stepped aside and waved up Watson on the 18th at St. Andrews in at the ’10 Open, so he could finish the second round before dark? I think so.

Bottom line: If the U.S. players and captain(s) can’t forget about their personal differences for a week, then they have much bigger problems to deal with than the Ryder Cup.

There’s also been questions as to whether Watson is too “out of touch” with the players. First of all, I’m not sure it matters in this case, but if it does, I’m confident he’ll be plenty in tune with his players at Gleneagles in 2014.  The “young” Americans, which will make up at least 3/4 of the 2014 team, hold him in high regard. How can you not? 8 majors, including 5 Open titles, not to mention his 10-4-1 record at the Ryder Cup.

Most important, Watson is fiercely competitive and will bring extra passion and inspire confidence in the team room.

“We’re tired of losing,” he said during his press conference. “I always said that early in my career, I learned to win by hating to lose.  It’s about time to start winning again for our team.  That’s the attitude that I hope that my players have, and it’s time to stop losing.”

Enough said.

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As I previously mentioned, I recommend reading the transcript of the press conference here. The SI Golf Group also convened for an emergency edition of PGA Tour Confidential on the topic, so you can read more of my thoughts there, and more important, those of my esteemed colleagues.

Finally, what do you think of the PGA’s decision to name Watson as the 2014 captain? Is he the right man for the job? Or who would you have liked to be named instead?

(AP Photo)