SPECULATION is mounting that 63-year-old Tom Watson will be named today to lead America’s Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014.
If true, the five-time Open champion would become their oldest-ever captain. Sam Snead was 57 when he did the job in 1969.
David Toms had been thought of as the likeliest man to take over from Davis Love, who was in charge in Chicago in September when the US suffered a crushing one-point defeat by Great Britain and Northern Ireland after leading 10-4 earlier in the contest.
PGA of America president Ted Bishop fuelled the speculation about Watson by saying yesterday: “I’m looking forward to Thursday because I think we’ve done something a little bit different.
“The role of the PGA of America in naming a Ryder Cup captain should not be to name somebody to reward them for their previous playing experiences. We need to look for captains that are going to put our team in the best position to win it. We’re tired of losing. And whether it’s him [Watson] or it’s somebody else, that’s what our mission is.”
The US have lost five of the past six matches and their only success on European soil in the past 31 years came in 1993 – with Watson in charge.
“We look forward to sharing the news of the 2014 Ryder Cup captain on Thursday,” PGA spokesman Julius Mason said when asked for comment. The PGA of America spares no expense or amount of glitz when it comes to the Ryder Cup, and that much hasn’t changed. Instead of a standard news conference, it will introduce its next captain today during a segment on the Today show on NBC, the broadcast partner at the Ryder Cup. Later, it will have a news conference in the Empire State Building.
Watson, an eight-time major champion, is revered in Scotland where he won four of his five Open titles.
He will be 65 when the Ryder Cup is played at Gleneagles and has not played a full US PGA Tour schedule in 14 years.
However, he is still capable of showing younger players a thing or two as one of the cleanest ball-strikers in history.
Only three years ago Watson stood eight feet away from capturing the British Open at Turnberry at the age of 59.
Watson has not been to a Ryder Cup since he last was captain in 1993 at The Belfry and his relationship with Tiger Woods is much like how the weather can be in Scotland in the autumn – cold and damp. After Woods fell from grace following a sex scandal in 2008, Watson said: “I feel that he has not carried the same stature as the other great players. I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that the people before him have shown.”
He would be the first repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987 on his home course of Muirfield Village.
The PGA risks some fallout. By taking a veteran of Watson’s age would be to overlook Larry Nelson for the second time. Nelson is a three-time major champion – twice at the US PGA Championship – who did not take up golf seriously until he returned from the Vietnam War. He had a 9-3-1 record in the Ryder Cup and won all five of his matches in 1979, beating Seve Ballesteros in four of those matches. At least two former captains lobbied the PGA on behalf of Nelson, who was in line to be a captain in the 1990s.