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Watson reduces Ryder Cup captain's picks by one

Tom Watson
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For the past three Ryder Cups, when the U.S. team has consisted of eight automatic spots and four captain’s picks, the Americans have won convincingly (Valhalla), lost in the final match (Celtic Manor) and surrendered the largest lead ever on home soil (Medinah). In other words, the matches have been close.

Well, Tom Watson is shaking things up.

In his first major decision as U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Watson announced Wednesday that he will tweak the selection process for the 2014 matches at Gleneagles. Now, there will be nine automatic spots via the points list, not eight, and three captain’s selections. 

If nine automatic spots had been available last year, Hunter Mahan, a two-time winner in 2012, would have made the team on points. Instead, he was passed over for a captain’s pick because of current form.

“There’s not a lot of method to my madness,” Watson said. “I truly think the players themselves ought to have another shot of getting on the team with merit.” 

There will be no adjustment to the points system, which begins at this year’s Masters. (All four majors this year award single points.) Beginning at the season-opening Open in October, regular PGA Tour events will receive single points, except for the majors, which will award double. The tournaments opposite the majors and WGC events will award half points. 

Before altering the selection process, Watson said that he spoke with Paul Azinger, the 2008 Ryder Cup captain who devised the current format of eight automatic picks and four captain’s picks. Watson said Azinger was “100 percent” behind the change.

In related news, Watson has not made a decision regarding any of the potential assistant captains, but has been “mulling over” a list of about 10 players.

Responding to criticism that he may be too “out of touch” to captain the U.S. team in 2014, Watson, 63, said that he’s been paying close attention to this year’s PGA Tour season.

“I know these players to a certain degree, but I’ll get much more familiar with them in the next 18 months,” he said.