Tom Watson defends 'oldest captaincy' controversy in Ryder Cup

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 11:46pm
AFP

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Tom Watson yesterday defended his “oldest-ever” USA Ryder Cup captaincy controversy at celebrations at Gleneagles to mark a “Year to Go” to the next Ryder Cup in 2014.

Watson at 64 is the oldest to be appointed a Ryder Cup captain on either the USA or European teams since Sam Snead who at 57 captained the United States to a draw at Royal Birkdale in 1969 to retain the trophy.

Watson, who first captained a USA Team in 1993, has brushed off claims that he is too old.

The Kansas-born eight-time major winner said: “The way I’ve answered that question is that age is not an issue at all because the players that will be on … my team; our team, they know that I’ve been a player on the Ryder Cup.

“They know I’ve been a captain of the Ryder Cup. And they know that I know that they know, and that’s all that matters.”

At Gleneagles Watson called on the tournament organisers to do away with the practice of “wild card” picks for future Ryder Cups.

While Watson has taken the step to reduce from four to three his “wild card” picks he surprised PGA of America president, Ted Bishop, who travelled to Scotland with Watson, in calling for abandoning the notion of “wild card” picks altogether.

“If you really look at it, the purist form of Ryder Cup would be no picks, no captain’s picks, 12 players who qualify,” said Watson.

“That’s the way I qualified my first two Ryder Cups, I think it was, or maybe three. All three of them, you had 12 players and no picks. Maybe that’s the way it should go back to.

“I reduced my picks this year from four to three, and was thinking actually two, because I wanted the players who are playing, to get on the Ryder Cup Team, to have that as a goal. If they got there, then they have earned something very, very special. And maybe we should go back to no picks.”

European captain Paul McGinley, who also will have three “wild card’ picks, reacted to Watson’s call saying: “There is a different dynamic on the European side when we have so many players playing on the PGA Tour. So let’s defer that one, thank you.”

And while Watson will be seeking to end European dominance with Europe having won seven of the last nine encounters, he also intends to use as a motivator Europe’s “come-from-behind’” miracle at Medinah in a goal to return the Ryder Cup to the US for the first time since 2008.

“The European Team has been absolutely sensational and I have to say, even though it left a pit in my stomach, just a hole in my stomach after our defeat this last September at Medinah,” said Watson

“I have to say that if you look at it objectively, that Ryder Cup was sensational, sensational theatre. It really was something to see.

“I’m not saying that it didn’t affect our players. I know for a fact that our players through my conversations with our captalast year, Davis Love, he said our players were absolutely depressed over the fact that they last and it kept with them for a while.

“Actually, I hope that that feeling remains for some of those players who will be on my team and our team coming up next year and be able to use that as a motivator.

“I don’t think there’s going to be much motivation necessary, but maybe just a word or two about, we don’t want this to happen again, will maybe carry them over the hump, and they may make a few more putts when they need to.”