Ryder Cup captain Watson reduces wild card picks from four to three
Move designed to allow one more player qualify for Gleneagles on merit
Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson has reduced his wild card picks from four to three. Photograph: Getty Images
United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson yesterday admitted there was little “method in his madness” after reducing his number of wild card picks for next year’s contest at Gleneagles from four to three.
Watson has been charged with the task of trying to end Europe’s dominance of the biennial event, with last year’s “Miracle at Medinah” making it seven wins out of nine since Watson himself captained the US side to victory at The Belfry in 1993.
However, the 63-year-old did not offer any detailed analysis as to why he was changing the qualifying system first used in 2008.
“There’s not a lot of method in my madness but I think the players ought to have another shot of getting on the team by merit,” Watson said in an interview shown on rydercup.com.
“I will use all possible resources in choosing these three captain’s choices to complete the best possible team in order to win the cup back for the United States.”
Paul Azinger was the first US captain to have four picks and is also the last to taste success after his side won by five points at Valhalla.
Opposite number Nick Faldo had two wild cards – Ian Poulter and Paul Casey – while 2010 European captain Colin Montgomerie opted for three wild cards and 2012 captain Jose Maria Olazabal just two.
Current captain Paul McGinley has said he is likely to “tweak” the current selection process – which uses two wild cards in addition to 10 qualifiers – rather than make a radical change.
Watson revealed he had consulted other captains before making his decision, saying: “I ran it by three or four recent captains, we had long conversations about it and all of them said it was a good decision.
“I talked with Paul (Azinger) and he was behind it 100 per cent. He had some good thoughts about how he comprised the team and what he did to get them some ownership in the process.”
The five-time British Open champion insists he has been taking steps to ensure he will know all about the possible younger members of his team.
“I have already started the process of really trying to get to know who is out on the PGA Tour, I have watched a lot of golf and I know who Russell Henley is, Kevin Streelman, some of the youngsters you haven’t heard of.
“Tiger and Phil both won already this year and there’s always Steve Stricker. I know these players to a certain degree but I’m going to get much more familiar with them over the next 18 months.
Although Watson believes Europe’s biggest home advantage is having played previous Ryder Cups on courses used for regular tour events, he will not insist on potential team members visiting Gleneagles in advance.
He said: “We are just going to have to ramp up our preparation and if the players choose to go over there . . . The bottom line is to get your body on the right time as quickly as possible and then get to know the golf course.”