Watson a different choice, but a good one

I talked to a caller today who said he had read my column today in The Desert Sun about how Tom Watson’s appointment as Ryder Cup captain marks a decided change for the PGA of America about how to pick a captain. And the caller wanted to know where I liked the pick of Watson or not, because he kind of got the idea from the column that I wasn’t crazy about the pick.

So I assured him that indeed I was happy to see Watson get the job. And I’m pretty convinced that the things that Watson will bring to the Ryder Cup will help the Americans in trying to get the Cup back after losses in 2010 and 2012, with the 2012 loss being particularly tough to take because of the wild European comeback on the final day.

Tom Watson will be Ryder Cup captain for the U.S. team in 2014 (AP photo)

The truth is I’ve never been crazy about the way the PGA has selected Ryder Cup captains. For instance, if Paul Azinger was such a good captain in 2008, why not invited him back for 2010? Certainly Azinger might decide not to devote another two years of his life to the Ryder Cup, but he at least deserved a second look. But the PGA has basically gone away from the idea of a captain being a captain for more than one time. Until the move to Watson this year, that is.

And I never liked the idea that the captaincy kind of moved from one person to another like some kind of right. If you get to a certain age, and you have a major title to her playing credit, you get to be the Ryder Cup captain.

Oddly enough, the European team went for years by never following the PGA of America’s policies. They had two captains for ever, it seemed. Tony Jacklyn and Bernard Gallacher were the captains for every European team from 1983 to 1995. Since then, Europe has had eight captains for eight matches.

So since I never liked either of those ideas, I like the idea of Watson coming back as captain. What I have never been convinced of is that a captain is what makes the difference in winning or losing a Cup. Captain’s can lose a Cup, no question. But is the best captain the captain who gets out of the way and let’s his horses run? Some captain’s Seve Ballesteros comes to mind, do a great job of motivating a team. But even a motivated player has to go out and hit the golf shots himself.

I think Watson will set a good, focused and competitive tone for the U.S. team, and I’m not sure that has been true in the last decade or so. Maybe Azinger did it in 2008, and that produced a U.S. win.

So yes, I like the Watson appointment. I’m just fascinated by the change in thinking at the PGA.