Philadelphia, PA – When Tom Watson's 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captainship was announced in December, many feared the veteran's old-school, no-nonsense approach would prove detrimental.
Worry arose over his age (at 65 he will be the oldest captain in U.S. history) and the effect his hard-edged competitiveness will have on the team's younger players.
Well, Watson made his first significant decision as captain on Wednesday. It trended toward his roots. And it was step in the right direction.
Given his aggressive, calculated nature, one would think Watson might have opted for more control, but instead he trimmed his captain's picks from four to three.
That's still one more pick than Watson had when he guided the U.S. team to victory in 1993 (the Americans' last win on foreign soil), but it's also the fewest number of captain's picks since Paul Azinger made the switch from two to four in 2008.
"Giving our players one more opportunity to earn a spot on merit, I believe, is the right thing to do," Watson said.
Since Azinger added the picks, the United States won convincingly in 2008, narrowly lost one in 2010, and collapsed historically at Medinah. The change hasn't been a total failure, but Watson is right, letting the players earn spots on merit is the way to go.
With that logic in mind, I suggest removing subjectivity entirely and letting the points list decide all 12 spots.
Last year, Davis Love III chose Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.
Of the four, only Johnson impressed. The big hitter went 3-0, but Snedeker was dismantled by Paul Lawrie on Sunday, Furyk suffered a debilitating loss to Sergio Garcia, and Stricker fell three times beside Tiger Woods before dropping his singles match.
Of course, the team collapsed as a whole, but Snedeker summed up the flawed logic of captain's picks prior to the event: "I look forward to getting to Medinah and trying to make Davis look like a genius."
Well, that didn't happen. And Snedeker shouldn't have been in that position to begin with. The comment just emphasized the tricky nature of the process. Let the guys earn it during the year, on the course.
If Watson's change was in effect last year, Hunter Mahan would have made the team as the ninth points selection.
Twice a winner on the PGA Tour in 2012, Mahan had played in the previous two Ryder Cups, holing a crucial putt at Valhalla in 2008 before falling to Graeme McDowell in the decisive match in 2010.
If all 12 were decided by points, Stricker, Furyk and Rickie Fowler would have filled the remaining spots, with Snedeker, Bo Van Pelt and Johnson narrowly missing out.
So, if it were up to the points list, Stricker and Furyk would have been in regardless. Love hit with Johnson and missed with Snedeker. Like I said: subjective.
There's always room for second-guessing. We might as well let the numbers decide, which is what Watson is trending toward. So far the veteran is doing what many expected: going old-school, implementing changes. And he appears to be headed in the right direction.