GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Tom Watson’s first move as United States captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup was reducing the number of wild-card picks from four to three.
If he had his own way, he’d have none.
“If you really look at it, the purist form of Ryder Cup would be no picks, no captain’s picks, 12 players who qualify,” Watson said. “That’s the way I qualified ... you had 12 players and no picks. Maybe that’s the way it should go back to.”
If that had been the case at Medinah last year, Europe probably wouldn’t have returned home with the trophy. Ian Poulter – one of two wild-card selections – helped Europe rally from 10-5 down.
No wonder Paul McGinley reaffirmed Europe’s commitment to two wild cards as the rival captains chatted at an often-jovial news conference at Gleneagles on Tuesday. They were celebrating the “Year To Go” mark for the 2014 tournament at the Scottish course.
Europe is looking to win the biennial competition for the eighth time in the last 10 meetings. McGinley thinks the difference between the teams will be “so slight and so small,” just like in Medinah when Jose Maria Olazabal’s visiting team prevailed 14½-13½.
“At the risk of repeating myself, I really see this as, again, boxing parlance, two heavyweights going toe-to-toe, 15 rounds,” McGinley said. “I know we are on home soil, but I know it’s going to be a very formidable package that Tom is going to pose to us, and I know ... that’s what makes it so enthralling.”
For the U.S. to break Europe’s recent stranglehold, Watson needs 14-time major winner Tiger Woods to transfer his winning form on the PGA Tour to the Ryder Cup.
The top-ranked player has struggled to produce his best golf in the team competition, winning the Ryder Cup just once – in 1999 – since his debut in ’97. He only won half a point at Medinah and tied Raymond Floyd for most losses in foursomes (8).
However, Watson considers Woods pivotal for the team next year.
“Tiger has a sense about him, and in talking to Davis (Love III), he was very much a leader at Medinah,” Watson said. “We need him to be a leader. There’s not a question about that.
“I don’t care who you are, if you don’t look up to Tiger Woods, what he’s accomplished in his career and say, ‘I want to play like Tiger Woods,’ you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Qualifying for the Ryder Cup began a month ago in Europe. American qualifying will start Oct. 10 with the Frys.com Open in San Martin, Calif.
Watson will return to the U.S. where he will look at samples of the team uniform for the Ryder Cup before monitoring player performance at the Presidents Cup in Ohio next month.
McGinley will compete in the Dunhill Links Championship at nearby St. Andrews.