TOM WATSON’S amazing return as American Ryder Cup captain – he will be 65 at Gleneagles in 2014 and the oldest skipper in history – was not a knee-jerk reaction to their latest defeat.
Watson was contacted more than a year ago and asked if he was interested in trying to repeat his 1993 victory at The Belfry – the last time Europe have lost on home soil.
‘‘Boy, I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time,’’ came the reply from the five-time Open champion to PGA of America president Ted Bishop.
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During a press conference at the Empire State Building in New York yesterday, Watson instantly made it clear he wants Tiger Woods on his side, even though he had harsh words to say in the wake of Woods’ sex scandal in 2009 and the fact that since 1999, the only time the US have triumphed was the one time Woods was not playing.
Watson has not decided yet how many wild cards he wants, but if Woods fails to qualify automatically he can expect to be the number one choice for a pick.
‘‘He’s the best player maybe in history,’’ Watson added.
‘‘Our relationship’s fine and I want him on my team.’’ Woods has already said he hopes to win an eighth cap under the man who deplored his club-throwing and swearing and commented: ‘‘I feel that he has not carried the same stature as the other great players that have come along like Jack [Nicklaus], Byron Nelson, [Ben] Hogan.
‘‘You can grant that to somebody, a young person, that has not been out there for a while, but I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that the people before him have shown.’’ Woods, who did not win a game at Medinah as America suffered their seventh loss in nine matches, said in a statement: ‘‘I’d like to congratulate Tom Watson on his selection as Ryder Cup captain.
‘‘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.’’ Darren Clarke could well be the captain Watson is up against in Scotland – it looks to be between last year’s Open champion and Paul McGinley – and he said after his first round at the Australian PGA Championship, but before the official announcement: ‘‘He is one of the legends of the game and I am sure he would be a fantastic captain, not just to the team but to all aspects of the Ryder Cup.
“The man is a huge name in golf and rightly so.”
Colin Montgomerie, in charge of Europe when they won the last home match at Celtic Manor two years ago and a member of Bernard Gallacher’s side that faced Watson in 1993, called Watson’s appointment “very wise”, but believes there is now a lot of pressure on him.
“What happens if he fails?”
he said. “He has to win now. If he doesn’t succeed at Gleneagles what’s going to happen in 2016?
“There is a lot of pressure on Tom Watson, but he can handle that – I’m sure he can.
I personally wish him well.
“Since his achievement in 2009, how close he came to winning The Open again, he’s even more respected now.
“t will be a task for anybody to take on Tom Watson because he is very well respected, very well liked and loved here in Scotland”
Montgomerie has never ruled himself out of doing the job again, but does not expect to be asked.
“It’s the greatest honour bestowed on any European golfer. I had that honour, but I think it’s a one-hit deal now.
“The days of Tony Jacklin doing it four times and Bernard Gallacher three are in the past now. There are some great candidates within the European Tour.”
Watson sees his role as a stage manager – and hopefully a lucky stage manager.
“I set the stage for them (the players) and they go out and perform their act.
“In two years I hope that we can get it done. I hope we can change the tide.”
Four of his five Open victories came north of the border and he added: “Gleneagles will host the Ryder Cup for only the second time in golf’s birthplace, a place that has been very special to me.
“It is my task to add a sense of calm and organisation to the boiling pot of nerves and emotions the players experience.
I will do all I can possibly do to see the outcome will be the same as in 1993.”