by Jeff Skinner
Tom Watson is one of the living legends of golf. His eight major championships, 39 PGA Tour and 14 Champions Tour wins put him in the most elite of classes. This week Watson went back down under to play in the Australian Open where he earned one of his four international titles when he won the Australian Open in 1984.
Watson still has game, even though he shot himself out of the tournament with a pair of 78’s he still worked his magic in the second round to a 69 which helped him make the cut. And after another ugly 78 in the third round he finessed his way to a 69, the low round of the day in the final round. Watson had to have an advantage over all those youngsters as the five time Open Champion used his superior skills of playing in the wind to finish with a great round.
But Watson wasn’t making news for his play on the course but for his comments off the course. In response to a question about the Ryder Cup he said he would consider taking the job of captain if offered. “It would be cool to be Ryder Cup captain again,” he said after the final round. “I hope so, I hope so. It would be a great honor if I got tapped on the shoulder. I know that ’93 was the last time I’ve been to a Ryder Cup. I’d like to go back as captain. That would be cool.”
Watson has never been shy about his opinions. He was one of the few and first golfers to criticize Tiger Woods and his disdain for the long putter are well documented. But if he was openly throwing his hat in the ring for a Ryder Cup captaincy he made a rare misstep.
If Watson really wanted to captain the Ryder Cup team he is smart enough to work the system from the inside and not in public. I am sure Tom knows who to call at The PGA of America to put his name in nomination, making a few comments to the Australian press isn’t the way. And it surely isn’t the classiest of moves from one of the very classy men in golf. I’ll give Tom a pass on his comments but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any merit in a Tom Watson captaincy.
The last time the American team won on foreign soil? The Belfry in 1993. Their captain? Tom Watson. Is there any American golfer that has a better resume then Tom Watson when it comes to Scottish golf? Five Open Championships and the nearest of misses at Turnberry in 2009 says Watson rules.
Making Watson the Captain at Gleneagles, Scotland in 2014 is probably a bit too outside the box for the PGA of America. But it is about time they started thinking a bit different from their usual pattern. The last time the PGA went “out of the box” so to speak is when a feisty Paul Azinger demanded more control over the team and changed the format to allow the captain four picks instead of two. It worked out well with a victory at Valhalla but then the PGA blew it when Azinger wasn’t asked back.
The PGA of America’s pattern has been to “honor” a player that has had a good career and preferably a PGA Championship win on their resume with a captaincy. Their recent picks have been players young enough to “relate” to the current players but “mature” enough to command respect and with the exception of Azinger it hasn’t worked.
Maybe it is time to think outside the box. Maybe an older, hero of the game would do the trick. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about hurting a friend’s feelings during Ryder Cup week and then teeing it up with him on the PGA Tour the next week.
Maybe Watson would be a good pick, or how about honoring Larry Nelson who won two PGA Championships and a U.S. Open with a chance at the top spot. With all due respect to David Toms and Fred Couples, the popular candidates right now, it is time to shake up the criteria used to select a captain.
Is Watson the right guy? I am not sure, but I wish Watson had answered that question a bit differently. Like maybe he should have said,” There are plenty of us older guys that would love to captain the Ryder Cup. But the PGA of America would have to ask first. After Larry gets a shot they can come ask me.” That would have been the answer a classy Watson should have given.