Tom Watson will head to Europe in 2014 to captain the American Ryder Cup team for the second time. The announcement became official Thursday morning on the Today show, and Watson fielded questions in a subsequent press conference at the Empire State Building. The main topics focused on his relationship with Tiger Woods, and the process that led to Watson earning the nod -- which seemed to be a recent development. But apparently, it had been in the works for some time.
Most immediate questions honed in on Watson's relationship with Tiger Woods, who he's sharply criticized in the past for on-course behavior. Watson stated that his relationship with Woods is fine, and that he's almost a lock to be on the team, whether it's through automatically qualifying or as a captain's choice:
I hope Tiger, first of all, is on my team. He's the best player maybe in the history of the game. He brings a stature to the team that is unlike any other player on the team. And if he's not on the team for any unforeseen reason -- and I'm sure he will be -- you can bet that he will be No. 1 on my pick list. My relationship with Tiger is fine. Whatever has been said before is water under the bridge, no issues.
Watson was pressed on his relationship with Woods in an interview with Golf Channel, and he said he stood by his comments from the past but that both parties have moved on.
In conjunction with his relationship with Woods, there were questions about how well Watson will be able to relate to what will likely be a team loaded with talented players in their 20s. He set that aside right away in his opening remarks:
"This responsibility is a challenge but I've been there before and I welcome it. The idea of being captain for a team of youngsters will be questioned. You know, 'Why Watson, being the old guy?' I deflect that very simply by saying we play the same game. I play against these kids at the Masters, I play against them at the Open Championship, at the Greenbrier Classic. We play the same game. They understand that, I understand that, and it's my challenge to set the stage with a little extra inspiration for them."
Perhaps the biggest news item on Thursday was the revelation that the PGA of America contacted the golf legend over a year ago. Ted Bishop held up an 85-page document that was presented to his fellow PGA board members, hailing Watson as the top candidate for the job.
It was clear that this move had been in the works for some time. Watson's name, however, didn't emerge publicly until recent weeks, and he acknowledged the possibility would be "cool" while playing in Australia last week. Today, he said the decision was made "about a month ago." That comes as a surprise, and while many in the golf world held out hope for veteran Larry Nelson, it appears the job was Watson's to lose for more than a year.