Depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you reside, the 2012 Ryder Cup was either the greatest result in the history of the competition, or one of the most disappointing failures of the modern era.
While European golf was on a high after the “Miracle at Medinah”, the USPGA licked its wounds at yet another defeat to Europe, meaning the once mighty US team have now lost seven out of the last nine Ryder Cup contests.
With attention now turning to Gleneagles in 2014, the PGA of America President Ted Bishop pondered the man he needed at the helm to try and wrestle that small gold cup back from Europe on European soil.
And if you need to pick someone to do the task, then why not pick someone with experience of doing just that.
In 1993, Tom Watson was the last United States captain to lead his team to victory on European soil. At the famous Belfry course in the heart of England, Watson’s team, which included 2012 captain Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Mark Calcavecchia and Corey Pavin, defeated Europe 15-13 after a hugely competitive three days of competition.
The selection of Watson for captain certainly breaks the recent tradition of the USPGA, who have tended to pick experienced 40-something players who are still active on the main tour as skippers.
In 2014, Watson will be 65 years of age when the competition kicks off. He will be, by eight years, the oldest ever United States captain and indeed the oldest captain in the history of the competition.
Yet he has shown in recent years that age is no barrier for him in terms of competitive spirit. He may play fewer events these days, but when Watson is on form, the magic remains in the hands.
He almost won an incredible sixth Claret Jug in 2009 when a single putt on the final hole at Turnberry robbed him of outright victory, Watson then went on to lose the play off to Stewart Cink.
Yet it is for his leadership skills and experience that Watson has been appointed and the news of his succession to the role has already been praised.
Tiger Woods stated that “I think he’s a really good choice.”
“Tom knows what it takes to win and that’s our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States team.”
The new captain has already indicated that he intends to play a few more events over the next two years to be alongside his potential team members a bit more and he also divulged that he’d been desperate for another chance to captain the team.
“Boy, I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time,” he said impishly in an interview after the announcement.
Another positive factor for the American team and the Ryder Cup in general is Watson’s affability. To many Scottish fans, Watson is one of their own, his reputation sealed thanks to some outstanding performances in British Open Championships down the years.
Also, his reputation within the game as a gentleman will certainly help dampen the somewhat misguided fervent jingoism that does tend to follow the Ryder Cup in the modern era.
It remains to be seen who Watson will line up against, but it is an unenviable task for the European captain. Watson remains one of the true living legends of the game and his very presence on the American team will give them a huge boost ahead of what will be a testing tournament.
One wonders if this appointment, as good as it seems for America, may well have an impact on who the European team select as their new captain for the competition in 2014.
Time will tell for Europe, but for America, the appointment of Watson was elementary.
Images by Ryder Cup Facebook page