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Tom Watson set for US Ryder Cup captaincy

Tom WatsonThose who have been predicting a slow 2014 Ryder Cup captaicy death for Paul McGinley since Darren Clarke threw his hat into the ring last summer had that told-you-so look on their faces last night.

Tim Rosaforte - a senior writer for Golf World and Golf Digest and “Insider” reporter for Golf Channel/NBC - tweeted the following bombshell that put Tom Watson’s comments on the captaincy in Australia last weekend into stark perspective:

My reporting has Tom Watson as next Ryder Cup captain. PGA wants to shake it up. TW captained winning team in ‘93. Won’t lead by committee.

Take that David Toms and Larry Nelson, the two leading candidates to be named as Davis Love III’s successor by the PGA of America in New York tomorrow.

Writing for Golf Digest later in the evening, Rosaforte explained: 

The one criticism I keep hearing about the United States in Ryder Cup competition is too much deferring by the captain, too much a team by committee. I also keep hearing the PGA of America and its new president Ted Bishop wants to shake things up. So what better way to go back in time than bring back Tom Watson, which my sources say they plan to do.

Having tried just about everything and won just two of the last seven matches, the Americans are right to go out on a limb and bring Watson to Scotland, where is something of a national treasure.

The European Tour, on the other hand, appears to have taken the view when it comes to their biggest cash cow. Having a big name as a figurehead is more likely to put corporate bums on seats than a three-time Ryder Cup winner who also happens to be a proven winner as a captain. If captaincy nous was so important, why pick Ian Woosnam ahead of Des Smyth for the 2006 matches at The K Club.

Darren Clarke’s credentials are impeccable, no doubt. He deserves the honour too. Yet he while he could just as easily take the job in the US in 2016, he believes there is no certainty in the Ryder Cup captaincy game and must strike when the iron is hot. Forget old friends. This is business.

As a major winner he knows he beats McGinley hands down in terms of the PR battle to make the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland a commercial success.

If, as it seems likely, Watson gets the job in Scotland, Clarke will be seen as a “name” capable of stepping out of the shadow of an American golfing giant who will be 65 by the time the matches take place.

Watson, on the other hand, was McGinley’s boyhood hero.

No matter that Watson respects McGinley and sought his advice on how to play Sunningdale in the 2009 Senior Open, just days after losing the Claret Jug to Stewart Cink in that play-off at Turnberry.

We will be quickly reminded that McGinley has won just four events while Watson has won four of his five Opens Championships on Scottish soil.

If he is to become Ryder Cup captain, McGinley needs to pull off a major coup over the coming weeks to turn the situation around.

Speaking to a host of industry insiders over the past two years leaves no doubt in one’s mind that the line of succession for the European Ryder Cup captaincy has been laid down well in advance. McGinley might be popular with many of the players but he is seen by the elders as the man who can mess up the best laid plans.

If a major winner like Clarke were to be moved aside for an admittedly able but less well-known candidate like McGinley, what would that mean for the future prospects of someone like Padraig Harrington or the hopes of Players Committee chairman and 13-time European Tour winner Thomas Bjorn? What would that do to the Dane’s hopes, if he entertains them, of captaining in Paris in 2018?

The matter will be settled by a vote of the Tournament Players Committee in Abu Dhabi in January. And theirin lies another tale.

As things stand, not one member of the winning side from the Miracle at Medinah is on that 15-man committe, which is chaired by Bjorn.

McGinley and Clarke are both members, as is Colin Montgomerie, who has called on all concerned to put management group loyalties aside on voting day.

As Bernie McGuire reported in the Scottish Sunday Mail last month:

…two of Clarke’s ISM management stable mates are committee members – David Howell and Richard Finch – and there are fears they will simply vote for their close associate out of loyalty.

The Sunday Mail, though, has canvassed six members of this year’s winning Ryder Cup side – Luke Donald, Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy, Peter Hanson, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose – and they all want McGinley in charge at Gleneagles.

Monty said: “Both Paul and Darren would be suitable. Let’s hope that when the vote is taken there are those in the room voting for a player and not a fellow management client.

“It should all be about who is the best man for the job.”

Changes to the committee are afoot with Francesco Molinari and Ireland’s Peter Lawrie seeking election while Finch and Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño are seeking re-election. With England’s Barry Lane stepping down, that’s four players chasing just three seats around that committee table.

Whatever happns, if remains to be seen if McGinley can secure enough votes or indeed if it will be a show of hands or a closed ballot.

If Watson’s appointment is confirmed today, Clarke may well feel unassailable.