Ted Bishop of the PGA of America made it official Thursday morning on the Today show, naming Tom Watson as the captain of the American team for the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland. Watson's candidacy gained steam in recent weeks, and reporting on Tuesday from Tim Rosaforte revealed that the golf legend would indeed get the nod as the next captain.
Watson was on hand in New York for the announcement, and while it's still almost two years away, he seemed ready to go right now. "I was waiting for about 20 years to get the call. I loved it the first time. It's a great honor to be able to do it again and this time we need 14.5 points." The American side will need to get that extra half-point at Gleneagles in 2014 in order to take the cup away from the European side.
Naming Watson as the next captain is a significant change of course. It is relatively strange to call for a repeat captain and an older golfer who is not a contemporary of the 12 team members. There will be plenty of discussion about his "aura" and gravitas, and his ability to be an authoritative leader and not defer to any player, including Tiger Woods.
Watson captained the last American team to win on European soil, a 1993 win at The Belfry in Scotland. He's probably the most revered American player overseas, where he dominated the British Open and won five times. He never lost as a player in the Ryder Cup, with Europe retaining the cup on a tie in one instance. There's certainly some irony in the PGA dramatically changing the trend by going to a retread captain, but Watson will undoubtedly set a different tone in 2014, when he will be 65 years old.
Larry Nelson, another older veteran who was 9-3-1 in the Ryder Cup, was passed over yet again. It is likely the door was closed on his chances at captaining a Ryder Cup team. Nelson was a candidate though, and was reportedly offered the job in the 90s before a change of management at the PGA of America switched things up and named Tom Kite as the captain for the 1997 Ryder Cup in Spain. Nelson was miffed at being passed over yet again, and took to Twitter earlier in the week to make it clear that the PGA had not contacted him.
David Toms was another candidate, and the early frontrunner before the PGA decided to change course and tab Watson. Toms will still have several opportunities to be a captain again, with 2016 at Hazeltine a distinct possibility.
The USA has dropped seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, including the dramatic meltdown at Medinah this past September. The captain selection process on the American side is fairly murky, with no real designated committee (as they have in Europe) assigned to determining a candidate. Regardless of how they got there, it's now Watson who will have the tough task of stopping the European dominance.