- Associated Press - Thursday, December 13, 2012

Remember this before saluting PGA of America officials for going “outside the box” when they selected Tom Watson as the next Ryder Cup captain.

They’re the ones who built the box in the first place.

With due respect to Larry Nelson, who has more reason than ever to believe he will never be a captain, and David Toms, who looked to be the best option inside the box, it’s tough to argue against Watson as the perfect pick for the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland.

This is not so much a risk as a break from tradition. If there’s a complaint, it might be what took the PGA of America so long.


“I was waiting about 20 years to get the call,” Watson said.

It came at the right time. The 2014 matches will be played in Scotland, which treats Watson as one of its own. That’s where he won four of his five British Open titles, and he embraced everything about the home of golf. And even as the captain of the enemy team, Watson has a short history of playing well before a crowd that wanted the other guys to win _ the “Duel in the Sun” against Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977, and his chip-in on the 17th at Pebble Beach that denied Nicklaus a record fifth U.S. Open.

Once the PGA of America finally got out of its box, Watson was the logical choice.

For too many years, there was a feeling that a Ryder Cup captain had to be a major champion in his late 40s _ old enough that he probably wouldn’t qualify for the team, young enough to still be playing on the PGA Tour so that he would have a pulse on the players, their skills and their personalities.

Watson will be 65 when the 2014 matches are played in Scotland, making him the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history.

Is he still in touch with today’s game?

One answer came Sunday in Sydney when Watson had the lowest score of the final round (69) in the Australian Open. He offered an even stronger answer Thursday in the Empire State Building without even being asked.

“The idea of being captain for a team of youngsters will be questioned,” Watson said. “I deflect that very simply by saying we play the same game. I play against these kids at the Masters. I play against them at the British Open, the Greenbrier Classic. We play the same game, and they understand that. I understand that.”

The other question about the selection was his relationship with Tiger Woods, which shouldn’t be a factor and won’t be.

In the months after Woods was caught having extramarital affairs, Watson didn’t mince words when he said it was time for Woods to show a little more humility and “clean up his act.” Privately, Watson had been on Woods for his language on the golf course, even before Woods‘ personal life came undone.

Woods might hold grudges over little things, but he tends to take the high road on weightier matters. It was not surprising to see him issue a statement, just minutes after Watson was introduced on the “Today” show, to congratulate Watson and say that “I think he’s a really good choice.”

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