As the Ryder Cup grows ever greater in importance and scale America’s oldest captain, Tom Watson, threw out a radical appeal to return to the ancient practice of selecting teams without captain’s picks.
Watson, who was speaking at Gleneagles to mark the 12 month countdown to the 2014 tournament, has scaled down the number of selections available to the American captain from four to three but believes the move did not go far enough. “If you really look at it, the purist form of Ryder Cup would be no picks, no captain's picks, 12 players who qualify,” he said.
“That's the way I qualified my first two Ryder Cups, or maybe three. Maybe that's the way it should go back to. I reduced my picks this year from four to three and was thinking actually two, because I wanted the players who are playing to get on The Ryder Cup Team, to have that as a goal. If they got there, then they have earned something very, very special. And maybe we should go back to no picks.”
His European counterpart Paul McGinley demurred, as he might with a smaller field of elite golfers at his disposal. If he is to continue the trend of European success, he is best served by the luxury of choosing players coming late in to form rather than accommodating those with sufficient points but whose mojo has fled.
Though he sank the winning putt, Martin Kaymer was a golfer without confidence at Medinah having qualified in the tenth automatic slot. Had Ian Poulter not been certain of a captain’s pick he would have added an extra event to meet the automatic criteria and bounced Kaymer out of the team. That would have been it for the German. No historic climax for him.
The world rankings are once again filling up with American players, and not only at the top of the pyramid. The emergence this year on the PGA Tour of Jordan Speith, who finished second at the Tour Championship last week, and Harris English, both of whom contested the Walker Cup as amateurs just two years ago, is a measure of the depth in American golf.
Europe must hope her heavyweight contributors, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell return to the level of consistency that made them a fixture in the world’s top ten. Of that group only McIlroy remains at no.6, one behind Justin Rose and two adrift of Henrik Stenson. Six of the remaining seven are American.
For the sake of an easier life, both captains retreated from the idea that they might be favourites and predicted another close duel. “The margin between the two teams is so slight,” said McGinley. “Lady Luck has shone on us at the right times in the last two Ryder Cups. There has been some wonderful play and great heart from our team at the right moments, but we have been on the right side of Lady Luck. I think it's going to be a very closely fought contest. In boxing terms, a heavyweight contest, toe-to-toe from start to finish.”