The United States last won a Ryder Cup contested in Europe in 1993, when Davis Love III clinched the deciding point at the Belfry in England. That day, nearly two decades ago, also marks the last time the U.S. side retained the Cup. In the biennial competitions since, Europe has a remarkable seven wins. The United States has won twice.
So Thursday morning, the PGA of America, which organizes the competition on the American side, reached to the past in an attempt to secure success in the future by naming Tom Watson as the U.S. captain for 2014. Watson, the first two-time American captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1983 and ’87, was named for two reasons: because he last served as captain in 1993 at the Belfry, a victorious effort; and because he has such enormous standing in Scotland, where the 2014 matches will be contested at Gleneagles.
“Quite frankly, I know I speak for a lot of people when I say we are just really tired of losing the Ryder Cup,” said Ted Bishop, the president of the PGA of America, at a news conference Thursday in New York. “And the decision to name this gentleman as our next captain, a lot of that was just about our weariness of what’s happened in the past few Ryder Cups and we certainly hope that trend can change.”
Bishop’s feelings are raw. The Americans’ loss in September at Medinah was epic and painful. Under Love, their captain, they built a 10-4 with just two matches remaining on Saturday, yet suffered a colossal 141 / 2-131 / 2 defeat. Love’s choice of Jim Furyk, one of his contemporaries on the PGA Tour, as a captain’s pick came back to haunt him when Furyk lost his singles match to Spain’s Sergio Garcia.
Whatever Love’s motivations, Watson, at 63 the oldest U.S. Ryder Cup captain, won’t be questioned about cronyism. He is long removed from being a PGA Tour regular, and though he nearly won the 2009 British Open at Turnberry at age 59, he will be more legend than contemporary to his charges.
“The idea of being captain for a team of youngsters will be questioned,” Watson said. “Why is Watson, being the old guy, the captain? I deflect that very simply by saying: We play the same game.”
The pick got the endorsement of Tiger Woods, a player whom Watson has criticized for dishonoring the game with his demeanor on the course and actions off it.
“I think he’s a really good choice,” Woods said in a statement. “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, for his part, called Woods “the best player maybe in the history of the game,” and said he would welcome him on the team. “My relationship with Tiger is fine,” he said.