I'll stop the rot, vows America's Ryder Cup captain Watson… and Tiger will be my No 1
00:06 GMT, 14 December 2012
It all ended in tears the last time an iconic figure made it as far as the 80th floor of the Empire State Building and roared out a warning.
Nearly 80 years on from the movie King Kong, Tom Watson will hope his message to Europe’s Ryder Cup team from the same New York landmark doesn’t end with him shot down in flames.
‘I hope that by appointing me as America’s Ryder Cup captain we’re telling the Europeans we are pulling out all the stops to beat you guys,’ he said. ‘We’re saying that winning is the most important thing and we want to do it in style. I always say that early in my career I learned to win by hating to lose — and it is about time we stopped losing.’
Bullish: New USA Ryder Cup captain was in bullish mood in his inaugural press conference saying his team would 'pull out all the stops to beat you guys'
Skipper: Watson posed for photographers on the observation deck of the Empire State Building…
…but still had time to act the tourist and take a picture of his own
And with that proclamation ringing in the ears it was time to light the most famous building in Manhattan in the obligatory red, white and blue. As befits the grace of the man himself, there was nothing garish about Watson’s appearance, save for the slightly unnerving lack of grey hairs on the 63-year-old’s head.
Speaking of icons, the news of Watson’s appointment had hardly been made official than Tiger Woods was sending his congratulations and saying what an honour it would be to play for him at Gleneagles in 2014. Two years ago, he and Watson had a major falling-out after the latter had gone public with some scathing criticism of Tiger’s behaviour. Now Watson is keen to emphasise it is ‘all water under the bridge’. He added: ‘I hope he is on my team and if for some unforeseen reason he isn’t, he’s going to be my number one pick. He’s perhaps the best player in the history of the game and brings a stature to the team.’
Struggle: Tom Watson stated that Tiger Woods (above) will be the first name on his team, but the former World Number 1 has an appalling record in the tournament
Given Tiger’s appalling Ryder Cup record, for a moment I thought he said statue.
In keeping with the startling nature of this extraordinary appointment, Watson revealed he was first approached 13 months ago. ‘It was a phone call that I had waited a really long time to receive,’ said the five-time Open champion, who was a winning captain at The Belfry in 1993.
‘I really wanted the challenge again. Here we are, just off Broadway and that’s appropriate because I look upon being captain as like a stage manager, getting everything ready so the actors, or in this case, the players, can go out and perform.’
Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe’s retiring Ryder Cup captain, said Watson was just the man to deal with some of the huge egos in the American team. As the fall-out from Medinah continues, others have pointed the finger at Olazabal’s counterpart, Davis Love. Trust Watson to cut through the bluster. What he will bring to the job is an enormous presence, and that shouldn’t be underestimated.
But let’s not forget that Love lost at Medinah by the narrowest of margins. Watson was quick to seize on the hope that he gets that elusive quality that deserted his predecessor. ‘What I need is a little bit of luck,’ he said.
It was fascinating listening to his brilliant analysis of that miracle in Chicago. How Ian Poulter’s five successive birdies on Saturday night brought a ‘cloud on to the horizon’; how Europe’s wonderful start on Sunday saw the cloud turn into a storm. ‘ US Ryder Cup player): ‘I
think he would be amazing. Such a remarkable player and person and he
demands respect just by the kind of player he has been. He’s like a
quiet lion. It would be an honour to play for him.’
BRANDT SNEDEKER (2012 US Ryder Cup player):
‘I am surprised but excited. Tom is a good friend of mine, one of the
best players to ever play the game who is instantly going to gain a lot
of respect and sway the homefield advantage for us in Scotland because
of his success over there.’
PAUL AZINGER (2008 US Ryder Cup captain): ‘Truthfully,
I am really surprised but I think it’s OK. There’s a philosophy of
picking contemporary players under the age of 50 that hasn’t really
worked. That would have been a great philosophy had we been winning, but
we haven’t, which makes Watson a good choice at this time.’
LANNY WADKINS (played under Watson in 1993):
‘Tom is just one of those guys who always believes. He doesn’t go out
there to have fun. He goes out there to kick butt and get the job done.
That’s really what the PGA of America, in my opinion, are thinking what
needs to happen.'