Tom Watson waited patiently for a phone call from The PGA of America, and it finally came last year.
Watson had guided the United States’ Ryder Cup team to victory over the European squad as captain in 1993 at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England, and he was interested in doing the job again.
Finally, the call came from PGA president Ted Bishop, asking if Watson would be interested in the position for the 2014 matches in Gleneagles, Scotland.
Watson certainly was, and was introduced during an appearance Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show and at a news conference in New York.
“He called me over a year ago to start the process of thinking about being the captain,” Watson said. “I said, ‘Boy, I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time.’
“Indeed, it’s an honor to be the captain again for the team. ... I really wanted the challenge to do it again. This responsibility is a challenge, but I’ve been there before and I welcome it.”
Watson will be 65 when the biannual event is played Sept. 26-28, 2014, but he believes that he will be able to relate to the young players who will be on his team since he still plays against them each year at the Masters, British Open and Greenbrier Classic. Watson would consider playing in a couple more PGA Tour events to help him get to know the younger guys even better.
“The idea of being captain for a team of youngsters will be questioned,” Watson said. “Why is Watson, being the old guy, being the captain? I deflect that very simply by saying: ‘We play the same game’.”
Bishop justified Watson’s selection based upon his success in Scotland, where he won four of his five British Open titles, and the fact that he still plays at a high level against younger players. Watson made the cut last week at the Australian Open, and he tied for 28th place after closing with a 69 — the lowest final-round score of any of the 69 players who made the cut.
“The other key thing is just how revered this gentleman is in Scotland,” Bishop said. “He’s got a tremendous understanding of the culture, the country and its people. We also know about the unique weather challenges that Scotland will probably present, and I think we will agree that he is recognized as one of the top players under challenging conditions, and we certainly hope that that’s going to translate to our team, as well.”
Watson said he won’t change his approach much from how he handled things in 1993. One thing he will do is help his team members handle the pressure of representing their country.
“The pressure is incredibly strong,” Watson said. “I believe the pressure in playing in The Ryder Cup and being a captain is as great or greater than playing for yourself in any major championship.
“So trying to help them deal with that pressure — do the things that diffuse it — that’s my responsibility, if I can help in any way.”
Watson said he hopes to next year visit the course that will be used to prepare.
“I’ll play the course and see the facility before we go there in 2014,” Watson said. “I hope that some of the players will do that, too.”