The appointment of Tom Watson as US Ryder Cup Captain raised many an eyebrow when it was announced that one of the legends of the game would take the helm again having done so for the first time back in 1993 at The Belfry. It does raise the question though is the American Ryder Cup team running out of eligible candidates to captain Team USA in the future.
It may well prove to be a shrewd move, calling on the last Captain to win on European soil to get the cup back but does it point to a significant lack of Ryder Cup experience amongst the American ranks these days? Apart from potential Captaincy candidates like Ryder Cup stalwarts Mickelson, Furyk and possibly Woods, a lot of the American teams over the past half dozen of so playings of one of the most exciting team events in sport have a lot of players that have only 1 or possibly 2 Ryder Cups to their name – JJ Henry, Jim Gallagher Jnr, Brett Wetterich and Vaughn Taylor come to mind (after a lot of thought and some work on Google!!). It is debatable whether Woods would even make a good captain so the list grows even thinner, players like Fred Couples has seemingly distanced himself from the Ryder Cup Captaincy while Hal Sutton, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III and Corey Pavin were honourable choices but ultimately did not get the job done.
If you look at Team Europe you could nearly predict the next line of Captains or at least there would be a credible list to choose from – names like Jimenez (what a popular choice he would be!), Bjorn, Paul Lawrie, Harrington, Westwood come to mind immediately with players like Poulter, Sergio, Donald, Rose and possibly Kaymer to follow them once coming of age to be considered for the Ryder Cup Captaincy. It would be less daunting to be staring down a Zach Johnson (albeit a superb match player but not with masses of Ryder Cup experience), Hunter Mahan or even Jason Dufner versus many of the European names mentioned above – I currently don’t see a Paul Azinger type captain coming through for the States (apart from maybe Keegan Bradley) although I do think Phil and Furyk will make good choices when the time comes and it may need to be soon.
One solution for Team USA may to do like Europe did with Jacklin and Gallagher in the 80s and early 90s where Gallagher served an apprenticeship of sorts under Jacklin for a number of Ryder Cups, ultimately resulting in THAT Victory at Oak Hill in 1995 which paved the way for many more having enjoyed a resurgence in the late 1980s. The US have only usually given Captains 1 go at taking the helm of their Ryder Cup teams over the past 30 years or so, apart from Jack and now Watson. From that Oak Hill win onwards, we (Europe) have had Captains like Seve, Torrance, Langer, Woosie, Faldo, Monty, Olazabal and McGinley to call on – guys with Ryder Cup experience in spades and the passion to match. The current European contingent looks like being no different for years to come.
I, for one, think Tom Watson will yet again be a superb American Captain, as he was at the Belfry, and will undoubtedly leave no stone unturned. It does not, however, paper over the cracks emerging in relation to the likely successors for the role of US Ryder Cup Captain.