Ryder Cup veteran Des Smyth has called on the European Tour to kick “politics” out of bounds when it comes to selecting a Ryder Cup captain.
The 59-year old believes that while the PGA of America’s appointment the 63-year old Tom Watson smacks of desperation, their selection process is far better than the European model where “vested interests” have turned what should be an honour into a competition.
Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley are currently embroiled in a boardroom battle for votes from members of the Tournament Players Committee, which meets in Abu Dhabi in January to select the man to lead Europe against Watson’s USA at Gleneagles in 2014.
And Smyth is disappointed the process has become tainted in Europe, insisting: “I’m disappointed that there is a competition for the Ryder Cup captaincy in Europe.
“That’s why I like the American system. They like somebody, find out if they are interested and that’s it. There is no competition.
“We are going to have to change our system because there is a lot of politics going on.
“We are going to have to take the Tournament Players Committee out because there are vested interests involved and that is not the way it was supposed to be.
“They have to take it up to board level where they nominate the captain and that’s it.
“What I am hearing is that there are management companies involved, players backing up players, because they are going to back them next time.
“It’s not the way I would envisage the process going and the Tour need to do something so that it is kept on the moral high ground.”
Smyth is a huge fan of eight-time major winner Watson but admits he was taken aback the decision to select him to return at Gleneagles, 21 years after leading the USA to its last away win.
“I was surprised to tell you the truth,” said Smyth, who faced Watson and Jack Nicklaus in Ryder Cup competition and lost out to the Kansas legend for major glory in both The Open and the Senior British Open.
“Tom was captain before a long time ago and there are lots of guys who’ve played in the Ryder Cup who I feel it was their time. It’s a peculiar decision.
“I do think they are getting a bit desperate and I am a big fan of Tom Watson’s. He’d be in my top six of all time but he is out of the loop a bit.
“I am happy for Tom don’t get me wrong, but what was wrong with Fred Couples? He has won two Presidents Cups for them.
“What’s wrong with David Toms? He’s been a great Ryder Cup player and it was his time. Larry Nelson must be feeling bad because they’ve overlooked Larry in times gone by and he’s a terrific guy.”
Smyth may be naive in believing that the PGA of America’s system is any less political than Europe’s or indeed in believing that the British-centric European Tour Board of Directors will not be open to political wheeling and dealing.
As for the battle for the 2014 European captaincy, it is significant that Rory McIlroy felt the need to reiterate his desire to see Paul McGinley get the job.
With the debate about combating Watson’s star power with another star in full flow in Europe, McGinley needs all the allies he can get.
None come bigger than the world No 1 who plainly likes McGinley and was impressed by the way he handled himself as Seve Trophy captain and a European vice-captain at Celtic Manor and Medinah.
On twitter he said:
Congrats to Tom Watson, 2014 US Ryder Cup captain. I would love to see Paul McGinley go up against him as European Captain at Gleneagles!
Within the hour he felt the need to confirm that he wants to see his former ISM stablemate Darren Clarke appointed for 2016:
For the record, I think Darren Clarke would make a great captain in the US so would like to see him do it in 2016. Both guys deserve a go
Then it was back to talking about what’s really interesting - his preparations to move to Nike clubs in January and his chats with Jack Nicklaus.
Great morning of testing followed by an impromptu lunch with @jacknicklaus. Always fascinated with what he has to say! Now gym time!