Tom Watson said he has wanted to be a Ryder Cup captain again for a long time. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Tom Watson sees himself a "stage manager" as he looks forward to the 2014 Ryder Cup.
The U.S. captain has already been to Gleneagles to check out the facility that will host the biennial competition next fall. He even asked his hosts there for a few pin sheets from the Johnnie Walker Championship played annually on the Jack Nicklaus design. The conversation didn't exactly go well.
"I looked at them with a smile and said, 'You've not going to give them to us?," Watson said with a smile. "They said, 'No, we're not."
Of course, Watson fully expects to get the pin sheets and anything else he needs in advance of the competition. That conversation was just "kind of friendly repartee back and forth," he said. And Watson is looking forward to the day when he gets his team together in Scotland and goes from setting the stage for those "actors" to making decisions to help the team win.
When Watson first captained the U.S. team in 1993 at The Belfry, he didn't mince words with the members of his team. "If I don't play you, it's for a reason," he recalls telling them. But it didn't take long for his strategy to backfire.
"Payne Stewart and Paul Azinger, they were just shooting lights out in practice rounds, making ten birdies and things like that,' Watson said. "They got beat; they got whacked 6 and 5 in the first match. Now, what do you do?"
A three-hour fog delay admittedly racheted up the pressure and contributed to the defeat. But Watson, who remembers how wide-eyed the two were when they finally teed off and decided to split the team up, learned a valuable lesson that day.
"Like Roy Williams said, the basketball coach, if I want to get some advice on how to coach a team, especially on an away game, he said, Tom, I make a game plan for every team we play against, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that and do that, and then he said, invariably, five minutes into the game, I'm coaching by the seat of my pants and the game plan is out the window," Watson said.
"That's kind of the way it has to happen. You make the best decisions that you can make at the time you're trying to make the decisions and that's what you try to do."
Watson's 1993 team went on to beat the Europeans 15-13. But the Americans have only won twice in the next nine matches -- and famously lost a four-point lead in Singles last year. Hence, the call to the World Golf Hall of Famer.
"I hate losing," Watson said. "This last Ryder Cup, losing after a four-point lead, it tears you up. It tears me up inside. I had a vacuum; I lived with a vacuum for three or four days after watching the defeat.
"I still feel like I have a little ownership in that, because I played on the team. I understand what the players are going through. And it doesn't sit well with me. We have lost seven out of the last nine Ryder Cups, and my advice to anybody who is going to be on this team is that I hate to lose, and I hope you hate to lose more than I hate to lose. We're going to go out there with a purpose."
When PGA of America president Ted Bishop called to offer the captainship to Watson, he asked for a couple of days to think about it.
"And I called him back, and I said I'd be honored to, I'd love to do it again," Watson said. "In fact, what I didn't say was that I had been waiting for that call for the last 20 years, because I'd always wanted to be a Ryder Cup Captain again."