Tom Watson may not have initially been viewed as the favorite to land the Ryder Cup captaincy, but his impending appointment might be just what the U.S. team needs to win on foreign soil for the first time in more than two decades.
“I’m really surprised about it, truthfully, but I think it’s OK,” 2008 captain Paul Azinger told Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” on Wednesday.
“I believe that there’s a philosophy the PGA of America has had in a place for a while that hasn’t really worked, that a contemporary needs to be out there, someone under the age of 50 who is with the players. Had we been winning Ryder Cups all along that would have been a great philosophy. But Watson is a good choice at this time.”
For the past few months – heck, even until about midday Tuesday – the belief was that David Toms was the logical choice to succeed Davis Love III. For one thing, Toms fit the mold of a prototypical Ryder Cup captain: a player between the ages of 45-50 who was still active on Tour, and knew the players, but was not so competitive as to challenge for a spot on the team. There also had been a groundswell of support for Larry Nelson, the 65-year-old three-time major winner who had been snubbed for the gig in the mid-1990s.
On Sunday, though, Watson made a seemingly innocuous remark to reporters in Sydney that he would accept the Ryder Cup captaincy if he were “tapped on the shoulder.”
Two days later, it was reported by multiple media outlets that he will be named the next Ryder Cup captain during Thursday’s “Today Show,” which would make him the first repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987.
In a text message to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, Webb Simpson said: “I think he would be amazing. Such an amazing player and person and he demands respect just by the kind of player he’s been. He’s like a quiet lion. It would be an honor to play for him.”
The PGA may be deviating from the norm in choosing Watson, but not without reason. Watson, who will be 65 when the matches are played, last captained the Americans in 1993 at The Belfry, also the last time the U.S. won a road Ryder Cup. An eight-time major champion, Watson won four of his five Open Championship titles in Scotland, and the 2014 cup will be played at Gleneagles in Perthshire. He’s revered in those parts.
“Tom was just one of those guys who just believes and believes and believes,” said Lanny Wadkins, who played for Watson at the 1993 Ryder Cup. “He doesn’t go out there to have fun. He goes out there to kick butt and get the job done. That’s really what the PGA of America, in my estimation, is thinking that needs to happen.”
As Brandt Snedeker told Golf Channel: “I’m surprised. I knew (PGA president) Ted Bishop was thinking outside the box. But I’m excited. Tom is a good friend of mine, he’s one of the best players to ever play the game, and he’s going to instantly gain a lot of respect and instantly sway the home-field advantage for us in Scotland because of his success over there. It’s going to be a different feeling for us to have a guy who a lot of us young guys have grown up watching on TV and not spending a lot of time around him to be our captain.”