The last time the U.S. team won in Europe was in 1993, which just happens to be when Watson served as captain for the first time. That drought gave the PGA of America good reason to break from recent precedent in selecting its leader for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
“It’s about time to start winning again for our team,” Watson said Thursday at a news conference at the Empire State Building. “That’s the attitude that I hope that my players have.”
The Americans have lost seven of the last nine Ryder Cups and have not won away from home since Watson was the captain at The Belfry in England. They are coming off a staggering loss this year at Medinah, where Europe strung together a remarkable rally from a 10-6 deficit going into the final day to win by one point.
Watson is the first repeat U.S. captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, when the Ryder Cup was played on his home course of Muirfield Village in Ohio. Watson becomes the seventh American to get more than one shot.
His selection received an immediate endorsement from Tiger Woods. The Stanford alums have never been particularly close, and Watson has criticized Woods for not showing respect for the game with his demeanor on the course.
“I think he’s a really good choice,” Woods said in a statement. “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.”
Watson went out of his way Thursday to praise Woods as “the best player maybe in the history of the game.”
“My relationship with Tiger is fine,” he said. “Whatever has been said before is water under the bridge. No issues.”
Watson breaks the PGA of America’s prototype in a big way. The eight-time major champion will be 65 when the Ryder Cup is played in Scotland. Sam Snead was 57 when he was captain in 1969, and the oldest European captain was John Jacobs (56) in 1981.
“I deflect that very simply by saying: `We play the same game,’” he said. “I play against these kids at the Masters. I play against them at the British Open.”
He does hope to play more PGA Tour events in the next two years to spend more time around his future team.