The PGA of America will announce the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain this Thursday on NBC's 'Today' show. There are a handful of candidates, but no favorites. Who should be the U.S. captain in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in.
By RYAN LAVNER
If only Tom Watson had made his recruiting pitch earlier.
On Sunday, the 63-year-old said that he would like to become the captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team. Two days later, the PGA of America announced that the captain would be revealed this week.
Had Watson expressed himself earlier – in, say, August, like Larry Nelson – he likely would have increased his chances of landing the gig. Nonetheless, Watson said all the right things when asked about the opening.
“That would be cool,” he said.
“It would be a great honor,” he said.
And it would also be a proper tribute to one of the greatest players in the sport’s long history. Watson is an eight-time major champion. He won five Open Championships, four of which were held in Scotland, which conveniently enough is where the 2014 Ryder Cup will be contested (Gleneagles).
I know, I know. Watson hasn’t been a captain since 1993, but that just happens to be last time the Americans won a road Ryder Cup, at The Belfry. The man commands respect. He is a passionate leader. He is an eloquent speaker. He could devote himself fully to the task and represent the PGA with the class and dignity and grace.
And aren’t those characteristics precisely what the PGA desires?
By JASON SOBEL
This is a tough question, because I think the PGA of America needs to ask WHAT it wants before it can answer WHO it wants.
In the past, the Ryder Cup captaincy has been treated much like a pee-wee league tee ball game, with every player getting a turn to bat – well, every great player, that is (with the notable exception of men such as Larry Nelson and Hale Irwin). If the committee is going to continue in that direction, then the next obvious choice to step up to the plate is David Toms, a former PGA Championship winner who fits the mold and owns all the prerequisites for the job.
Even though the U.S. has lost five of the last six editions of the competition, I’m not one who thinks the sky is caving in just yet. In fact, I thought Davis Love III did a terrific job this past year, save for his pin positions on Medinah’s final two holes – though even that is the ultimate in Monday morning quarterbacking.
That said, if the PGA is insistent on getting back to its winning ways as opposed to giving everybody an opportunity, then the right man to lead them is the only one to win this century: Paul Azinger.
By forming a pod system and inspiring his players four years ago, Azinger was everything you could want in a leader. Now that his playing days are all but over, he has ample time to devote to the role, which in this scenario should last longer than 2014. That’s right – if the PGA really wants to break the mold and start a new trend, then its next captain shouldn’t serve just a two-year term, but it should be a long-term job much like national team coaches in other sports.
If that’s the direction they aim to go – and it certainly would break tradition – then Azinger would be the right man to hold the position for another decade.
By RANDALL MELL
Fred Couples won’t be the next American Ryder Cup captain, and he will probably never get the job. That will rank as an injustice almost equal to Larry Nelson being passed over.
Couples won’t get the job for silly political reasons. He won’t get the job as punishment for taking the job as U.S. Presidents Cup captain first. He won’t get the job because the PGA of America (Ryder Cup) and the PGA Tour (Presidents Cup) are rivals in the search for captains.
That’s a shame, and it’s just wrong, because Couples deserves the captaincy. Couples has all the credentials you want in a Ryder Cup captain. Plus, unlike everyone else who gets the job, he actually has winning experience as an American captain in international team events. He's a rare commodity in the American game today. He takes home team cups.
Couples has won 15 PGA Tour events, a major championship (Masters, 1992) and 18 Champions Tour events, two of them majors. He played on five American Ryder Cup teams with a 7-9-4 record. His qualifications go beyond that. His infectious swagger and ability to rally a cause as a team leader is clear in what he has done leading the Americans as captain to a pair of Presidents Cup titles.
By REX HOGGARD
It has always been a curious point of contention that every other year pundits inevitably refer to the Ryder Cup as a battle and each team’s captain as a commander, yet the U.S. side has blatantly ignored the one potential captain who has led men on a real battlefield.
For those of us who read tea leaves for a living, 65-year-old Larry Nelson’s turn at the captain’s chair seemed to have sailed in 1995 when Lanny Wadkins received the call, but as the American team’s stunning Sunday collapse this year at Medinah proved it’s time to shake things up and Nelson – who served as an infantry A-team leader in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive – would certainly qualify as an outside-the-box pick.
Whether Nelson’s leadership would be the tonic to wrest the U.S. team off of its 2-for-9 victory schneid in the biennial event remains to be seen, but what is not up for debate are his credentials.
The three-time major winner – including two PGA Championship tilts – has a 9-3-1 record in three matches and he has remained competitive on the Champions Tour when most players his age have turned their attention to golf course design or grandchildren.
The leadership of recent U.S. captains – Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, et al – isn’t up for debate. Nor is Nelson’s ability to lead. The rest is up to the PGA of America.
By WILL GRAY
Well-liked and respected. Consistent player who often lets his game do the talking. Owner of a PGA Championship title among multiple Tour victories, and likely to still be relevant inside the ropes when the next Ryder Cup rolls around.
Sound familiar? It should. The description fits 2012 captain Davis Love III, and despite the Miracle at Medinah it should next apply to David Toms.
While Love took much of the fall for Sunday’s collapse, let’s not forget that while up 10-6 after two days, the world was triumphantly singing his praises. Is a single day of golf gone awry reason enough to scrap a selection process that yielded what, up until then, appeared to be an excellent captain? No.
Though rarely as bold or outlandish as some of his counterparts, Toms would bring a gritty, competitive streak to the matches in Scotland. At age 47 in 2014, he is still likely to be playing full-time on the PGA Tour – perhaps even contending, as evidenced by his T-4 finish at this year’s U.S. Open. Unlike the other options discussed here, Toms will have the next two years to form bonds and build relationships with prospective team members while playing alongside them on a weekly basis.
The delineation this past September between success and failure was razor-thin. And while the shortcomings of this year’s squad are well-documented, they can be learned from – and improved upon – without totally going back to the drawing board.