Watson gives back a captain’s pick for Ryder Cup
Tom Watson is giving back one of his captain’s picks for the
In his first big move since he was appointed U.S. captain last
year, Watson said Wednesday he would take the top nine players off
the Ryder Cup standings and select three players as captain’s
picks. For the last three matches, only eight Americans qualified
for the team and the U.S. captain had four picks.
”Giving our players one more opportunity to earn a spot on
merit, I believe, is the right thing to do,” Watson said.
Paul Azinger was behind a major overhaul of the U.S. points
system when he was captain for the 2008 matches. He based the
standings on PGA Tour earnings instead of points assigned to top-10
finishes, put more emphasis on the current season the Ryder Cup was
held and increased the picks from two to four.
The Americans won the Ryder Cup that year, and while Europe has
won the last two times, the Ryder Cup has come down to one match
late on Sunday afternoon.
The next Ryder Cup is in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland.
Americans can start accruing Ryder Cup points at the Masters
next month. Only earnings from the majors count this year, and
money from all PGA Tour events – with an emphasis on the majors –
will count in the 2013-14 season that starts in October.
If nine players had qualified in recent years, Hunter Mahan
would have made the team in 2012. Mahan was leading the points list
in early April and then hit such a bad stretch of golf that he
finished at No. 9 and was overlooked as a captain’s pick.
Anthony Kim missed three months of the 2010 season and slipped
to No. 9 in the standings. He would have made the team under this
system of three picks.
In 2008, Steve Stricker was No. 9 in the standings, though he
was such an obvious captain’s pick that he was involved in choosing
the other picks for Azinger’s team under the captain’s unique
Azinger said Watson called him to find out his logic behind
wanting four picks in 2008.
”He was considering going to two picks,” Azinger said from his
home in Brandenton, Fla. ”I said, `It doesn’t matter if it’s four
or two.’ In the end, it’s insignificant. The overall overhaul is
still intact. You’re still getting the best Americans. For him to
pick three players is just a preference.”
Watson, who will be 65 when the matches are played in Scotland,
is the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history. He says he already has
started paying attention to PGA Tour players and who might be on
”I’ve watched a lot of golf on Golf Channel and the networks,”
Watson said. ”I know who Russell Henley is. I know Kevin …
Streelman.” Henley (Sony Open) and Streelman (Tampa Bay
Championship) are among five first-time winners on the PGA Tour
”You’re starting to see players really surge right now,” he
said. ”Then you have the old stalwarts like Phil (Mickelson) and
Tiger (Woods). They have got to step up to the plate as well and
lead the team. That’s my job as captain, to get the right frame of
mind for the team as they approach the Ryder Cup and during the
Watson also sent a veiled message to the PGA of America during a
video interview from Kansas City, Mo., that was shown on the Ryder
Cup website. He said the matches played at Gleneagles would give
Europe an advantage because the European Tour has had the Johnnie
Walker Championship on the course the last several years.
The Ryder Cup in America tends to go to courses that had major
championships that players don’t see often. It was at Oakland Hills
in 2004, where players had not been in eight years; at Valhalla in
2008, which previously held a PGA Championship in 2000; and at
Medinah in 2012, which last held a major six years earlier.
Europe won in 2010 at Celtic Manor, where Graeme McDowell had
won the Wales Open that year. McDowell won the clinching point in
the Ryder Cup.
”One thing the Europeans have done – I would do it, too, if I
had the chance – they play the Ryder Cup matches on courses where
they play European tournaments,” Watson said. ”The more familiar
you are with a golf course, the better you’re going to play. That’s
a clear advantage.”
Watson said one reason he nearly won the British Open at age 59
was because no one had seen Turnberry since 1994, and he knew how
to play the course in the various windy conditions.