US 2014 Ryder Cup captain Watson wants Tiger on team
NEW YORK (AFP) –
Eight-time major golf champion Tom Watson, named on Thursday to be captain of the 2014 US Ryder Cup squad by the PGA of America, said that he sees Tiger Woods being on that team.
Citing the 14-time major champion’s hunger for victory, Watson said a healthy Woods would be a certainty on the 12-man US lineup by virtue of a captain’s selection even if he is unable to qualify on points.
“I want him on my team,” Watson said. “Tiger is maybe the best player in history. If he’s not on the team, he’s going to be number one in my picks.”
Watson, who at 63 is the oldest captain in US Ryder Cup history, had been critical of Woods in the aftermath of his infamous sex scandal.
But Watson said he admires Woods for his determination to win and Woods was among the first to applaud Watson’s appointment.
“I would like to congratulate Tom Watson on his selection as Ryder Cup captain,” Woods said in a statement. “I think he’s a really good choice. Tom knows what it takes to win and that’s our ultimate goal.
“I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States team.”
Watson, a five-time British Open champion, was selected in hopes of ending an American slump in the biennial golf showdown. Europeans have won five of the past six Ryder Cup matches, including at Medinah near Chicago last September.
“It’s going to be a great journey. I hope that we will change the tide,” Watson said.
The prior US Ryder Cup captain age mark belonged to Sam Snead, who was 57 when he guided the Americans in 1969.
Watson called the tension of the Ryder Cup as huge as any golf event.
“The pressure is incredibly strong,” he said. “The pressure of playing in the Ryder Cup is greater or as great as in any event. My job is to help them deal with that pressure.
“I’ve lived for that pressure and lived underneath that pressure all my career.”
Watson will be 65 when the next Ryder Cup is contested in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland. Having won his first major title in Scotland at Carnoustie in 1975 and taken four major crowns on Scottish soil, Watson said he knew he wouldn’t have the crowd in 2014.
“They are going to be cheering against me,” he said.
Watson first served as the US captain in 1993, the last time a US squad won a Ryder Cup on European soil.
“I really wanted the challenge to do it again,” Watson said. “I was waiting for about 20 years to get the call.
“I loved it the first time. It’s just a great honor to be able to do it again.
“This time we need 14 1/2 points.”
Watson becomes the first repeat US Ryder Cup captain since 1987, when Jack Nicklaus guided the Americans at his Muirfield Village home course but the Americans suffered their first defeat on US soil.
Brandt Snedeker, like Woods a member of this year’s losing squad, backed Watson as well.
“Obviously they were looking outside the box, given our recent failures,” Snedeker said in a posting on the tour website.
“They wanted to get a guy who has had success and commands respect. I think that’s why they went this way: to get the US to rally around him as a way to rejuvenate the American side.
“Tom is one of the best competitors of all time. He’s going to bring that fire and unwillingness to lose and mental strength that has defined his career.”
Saying he hoped to bring the “Watson luck” to the US side, Watson said his role was inspirational and informational more than motivational.
“They don’t need to be motivated. My job is to maybe inspire a little bit,” Watson said. “The most important thing is to be there to help them out.”
Among the lessons Watson cited was arriving early to allow bodies time to adjust to time changes before tinkering with stroke mechanics.
PGA of America president Ted Bishop said there was no problem selecting Watson despite him not having played full-time on the PGA circuit in 14 years.
“We’re just tired of losing Ryder Cups,” Bishop said, explaining that Watson’s appointment was in large part due to that “weariness”.
Watson, who won 39 PGA titles – the last at the 1998 Colonial, had no worries about age differences, citing contact with several top players and his playing in a few events alongside many of today’s stars, including the Masters and British Open.
“I deflect that very simply by saying we play the same game,” Watson said.