Tom Watson buries Tiger Woods hatchet on first day as Ryder Cup captain
The first name in Tom Watson's Ryder Cup dream team is Tiger Woods. Watson used his unveiling today as America's captain for the 2014 Cup in Gleneagles to end their estrangement after criticism he made of Woods following the sex scandal that led to the breakdown of the player's marriage.
Woods was first with the olive branches, tweeting his support of Watson's appointment. "Tom knows what it takes to win and that is our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States team," Woods said.
Watson responded in kind. "He's the best player maybe in the history of the game. And if he's not on the team for any unforeseen reason [via automatic qualification], and I'm sure he will be, you can bet that he's going to be No 1 on my pick list. My relationship with Tiger is fine. Whatever has been said before is water under the bridge. No issues."
The Empire State Building in New York City glowed red white and blue in celebration of Watson's elevation to the role 19 years after he captained America to their last win on European soil at The Belfry. It was Watson himself who flicked the ceremonial switch. As the sun rose over the city, Watson was on the streets with an outside broadcast unit doing the breakfast TV run. Good morning New York!
That's showbusiness, and a million miles from the more traditional tone set by "the game of golf" as Americans so like to call it. Watson, formerly a venerable 63-year-old easing towards the fireside chair on the Champions Tour, is spun into a caped crusader ready to rescue the trophy at Gleneagles. If only it were that easy.
After seven defeats in nine contests, the Americans are investing heavily in the relationship Watson enjoys with Scotland, where he won four Open Championships. The idea of choosing a relative contemporary has suddenly been discredited, forgetting that America lost only by a point in Wales and Chicago.
For now America believe they have stolen a march on Europe, who will decide next month which of the principal candidates, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinlay and Thomas Bjorn, will square off against Watson. Today America's oldest captain had the field to himself: "The bottom line is to win. I will do it in style and the grace with which we play the game. We're tired of losing."
The European reaction was led by Colin Montgomerie, who captained Europe to victory at Celtic Manor in 2010. "It will be a task to take on the likes of Tom Watson who is very well-respected and loved here in Scotland. There will be a lot of pressure [on Watson], but he can handle that."
Rory McIlroy volunteered via Twitter his support for McGinlay to take on Watson. "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!" In the interests of diplomacy, McIlroy called for Clarke to take over in the United States in 2016.
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