Watson a telling choice

3:18 PM, Dec 13, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The PGA of America's decision to name Tom Watson the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain has been branded by many as an act of desperation; and hey, who could blame them? Bucking tradition and handing the reins over to a 60-plus-year-old Champions Tour competitor does seem a bit drastic, no?

For decades American captainship has gone to a 40-ish former major winner who is still active on the PGA Tour. Watson, on the other hand, will be 65 when the biennial showdown hits Gleneagles (Scotland) in September 2014, making him the oldest U.S. captain ever -- by eight years.

As for activity, Watson appeared in just three PGA Tour events this past season, compared to six on the Champions Tour.

But hey, desperate times call for...yeah, you know the rest.

Let's face it: U.S. Ryder Cup performances have left something to be desired in recent years; namely confidence and pride.

Including their historic collapse at Medinah in September, the Americans have lost seven of the past nine Ryder Cups and four straight on foreign soil.

New PGA of America President Ted Bishop certainly appears desperate to reverse the trend.

With Watson, he is getting not only the oldest U.S. captain in Ryder Cup history, but also its most rusty, as the 21-year span between the veteran's two captain stints mark the longest ever.

Still, maybe it is time to do something drastic.

Watson's previous turn as captain came in 1993, when he guided the Americans to a 15-13 victory at the Belfry in England. The U.S. hasn't won on foreign soil since.

Additionally, the man is a well-documented legend in Scotland, where he captured four of his five Claret Jugs at the Open Championship.

The level of reverence for Watson in Scotland isn't likely to deflect the vitriol aimed at the other Americans -- as some are speculating -- but the players should be able to take solace in their captain's unique pedigree: they will be represented and guided by a pro who not only adapted his game to play in Scotland, but did so to spectacular success.

Ironically, Watson's hard-headed competitiveness, which drove him to succeed in Scotland, is now being viewed by some as a detriment. The worry is that the younger players, confident in their own abilities and accomplishments, won't respond to their captain's old-school, no-nonsense approach.

This theory has been applied to virtually every professional team-oriented sport at one point or another. Sometimes it holds water and sometimes it doesn't - look at hard-headed Tom Coughlin's success with the New York Giants.

Here, it barely seems to apply.

For starters, Watson will have little hand in choosing the team: the first eight players are determined by a point system and the four captain's picks are typically taken from the next four spots on the points list.

Additionally, pairings for the event are usually decided by the players and their preferences. There is an argument that Watson could hold some seniority and sway here, but at the end of the day, the golfers will need to go out and outperform the competition, regardless of pairings or order.

Another prevalent argument against Watson is the Tiger Woods factor. How will Tiger feel about playing for Watson, who publicly criticized the former's on- course etiquette some years back?

For his part, Woods released a statement of support on Thursday:

"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."

Of course, public statements have to be taken with a grain of salt.

The Woods dynamic remains an uncertainty, as does the prospect for U.S. success at Gleneagles in 2014. The Watson choice may appear desperate; it may seem risky, but it just may be the change the Americans need.

The Sports Network

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