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Experience will be Watson's strength

12/17/2012 - Golf Tom Watson

Tom Watson won't earn a single point at the 2014 Ryder Cup, but the announcement Thursday that he'll captain the U.S. squad will make waves all the way to Scotland, host of the next edition of the biennial matches. Can the eight-time major winner help turn the tide for an American side that lost six of the past seven Ryder Cups?

Watson is also the last U.S. captain to lead Team USA to victory on foreign soil back in 1993 at the Belfry. What impact might he have? Our experts tackle those topics and more in a special edition of Ryder Cup Four-Ball.


1. What will be Watson's greatest strength and weakness in leading the U.S.?

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: While Watson touts his street cred as a former Ryder Cup player as proof of his ability to connect with the younger players, his sometimes high-and-mighty tone could hurt his ability to be an effective leader. And yet his bona fides as a great player is a weapon that he could use to inspire his team.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: His greatest strength could also be his greatest weakness: Watson is his own man. He'll make the decisions on his own, and if it is perceived that recent captains sought too much input from their assistants and the players, then this is a good thing. But it should also be noted in the past three Ryder Cups, the U.S. has a comfortable victory (2008) and two very close, excruciating losses in which it would be difficult to blame the captain. It's not like U.S. captains have blundered away the Ryder Cup.

Andy North, two-time U.S. Open winner and ESPN golf analyst: I don't think there are any weaknesses. From a strength standpoint, he's one of the ultimate competitors that I've ever been around. Can't stand to lose. Always been a hard worker. I think he'll get and have a ton of respect in the room. Overall, it's a very strong pick. I think he'll be a really good captain. The fact that the event is in Scotland will make his pick even more important.

Scott Van Pelt, "SportsCenter" anchor and host of ESPN Radio's "SVP & Russillo": With him as a team member, the U.S. has never lost in Ryder Cup play, so his wealth of experience as a player and a captain, I think, are significant. People know who Watson represents. He represents one of the greatest champions the game has ever known. He's a guy, as I say, that's never been on the wrong side when they do the anthems at the closing ceremony. So I think that's it. His wealth of winning experience.


2. What kind of a captain will Watson be at the 2014 Ryder Cup?

Farrell Evans: Watson imagines himself as a stage manager in the theater of the Ryder Cup. So he will do a fine job reminding the players of the importance of the matches, and keeping them focused on the task at hand of regaining the cup for the American side. After a week with Watson, the players will be better students of the traditions and elegance of championship golf.

Bob Harig: Watson said he doesn't need to change much from the way he did things in 1993, which suggests coming to his own conclusions and making the tough calls on his own. It was interesting to hear him say he might change the number of captain's picks (it's currently four), but regardless, what Watson brings is a ton of respect from his players, especially the younger ones who might very well enjoy being around and learning from one of the game's legends.

Andy North: First of all, he will be a very positive captain. He's such a competitor and that will rub off on everybody around him. I think he will create an environment for the players to play well. This is about the players. He will be the first to tell you that. It's not about the captain, it's about the players.

Scott Van Pelt: He's older -- he's in his 60s. Normally it's someone in his mid-40s who's been a player. In the case of Watson, he's far enough removed from his peer group that he won't have any issues dealing with hurt feelings. It's not like he's got buddies on the team. I mean, these guys look at him with reverence. So it feels more like teacher-student than it does peer group. That's first and foremost.

And again I think the strength of him is the messages he'll call upon. He's a stoic guy. But I think they all know he was still in the arena a couple of years ago, he could have beaten them all. So I think there's such respect for his capabilities that whatever his message is, it's going to be well-received.


3. How high up on Tom Watson's to-do list should be smoothing over any issues with Tiger Woods?

Farrell Evans: All Watson can do is try to treat Tiger fairly and respectfully. As a man of deep convictions, Watson can't take back what he said about Tiger. But if he's smart, he will try to play some practice rounds with Tiger at the Masters and the Open Championship to smooth out some of the rough patches.

Bob Harig: It appears as though it already was at the top of his list. Watson did his best to smooth over the issues at his introductory news conference, saying what occurred between them "is water under the bridge" and that he very much wants Woods on his team. And then he went all Freddie Couples and suggested that if Woods doesn't make it on his own, he'd be at the top of his list for a captain's pick.

Andy North: These are two grown men who are both very competitive and both want to win. I don't think there will be any problems at all. I would suspect that he would reach out to players, but the statement that I heard Tiger released this morning was as positive as positive could be. I would think that Tiger would love to play for Tom, because he's as competitive as Tiger. He's one of the few people that you can say that about.

Scott Van Pelt: You want the best player you've got to be engaged. Tiger will never forget anything anybody says about him. So there's no forgetting about it. He's going to remember it forever. Tiger will be a good soldier and Watson won't spend five minutes on it.


4. Who should the Europeans put up to match Watson as captain?

Farrell Evans: The European team doesn't need a fix-it man. It just needs a guy with energy and Ryder Cup appearances. Miguel Angel Jimenez has Watson's street cred and late success. He was vice-captain to Jose Maria Olazabal at Medinah and compiled a 4-8-3 record in four Cup appearances. The 49-year-old Spaniard, who won his 19th European Tour title in November, has two years to sharpen his English.

Bob Harig: It shouldn't matter, but it appears that Darren Clarke will get even stronger consideration for the role at Gleneagles. It is between him and Paul McGinley, and while both are considered deserving candidates -- and McGinley had long been the front-runner for 2014 -- Clarke's overall appeal and popularity are likely to win out.

Andy North: I don't even know who they're thinking about. You look at the list of guys. They've gone through Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam. Who would be the next one? Darren Clarke, maybe? Clarke is a guy you might look at. Would they go back to somebody? Would they name a Scot? You could probably write a lot about who they could pick. There isn't a front-runner in my mind.

Scott Van Pelt: It's in Scotland, so if there were a Scot that jumped out ... Sandy Lyle's a Scot, but it will never be him, given his issues with a number of people there. If you go just by who's in line age-wise, it might be time for a guy like Miguel Angel Jimenez. A guy who's served as a vice-captain, a guy who's played, a guy who won recently, one of the oldest winners on the European Tour.

More often than not it feels like who's turn is it, who's in line. Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal -- those were the stalwarts of that group. And Jimenez has been a stalwart of late, and he's the right age.