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Watson calls for end to Ryder Cup wild-card picks

September 24, 2013

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) — Tom Watson’s first major move on being appointed United States captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup was to reduce his number of wild-card picks from four to three.

If he had his own way, he’d have none at all.

“If you really look at it, the purist form of Ryder Cup would be no picks, no captain’s picks, 12 players who qualify,” Watson said. “That’s the way I qualified ... you had 12 players and no picks. Maybe that’s the way it should go back to.”

If that had been the case at Medinah last year, Europe probably wouldn’t have returned back home with the trophy. As it was, Ian Poulter — one of the team’s two wild-card selections — proved to be the inspiration behind Europe’s memorable comeback from 10-5 down at one stage on Saturday afternoon.

No wonder Paul McGinley reaffirmed Europe’s commitment to sticking with two wild cards as the rival captains sat beside each other at an often-jovial news conference at Gleneagles on Tuesday, celebrating the “Year To Go” mark for the 2014 tournament at the Scottish course.

Europe is looking to win the biennial competition for the eighth time in the last 10 meetings and McGinley reckons the difference between the teams will be “so slight and so small,” just like in Medinah when Jose Maria Olazabal’s visiting team prevailed 14½-13½.

“At the risk of repeating myself, I really see this as, again, boxing parlance, two heavyweights going toe-to-toe, 15 rounds,” McGinley said. “I know we are on home soil, but I know it’s going to be a very formidable package that Tom is going to pose to us, and I know that ... that’s what makes it so enthralling.”

For the United States to break Europe’s recent stranglehold, Watson could do with 14-time major winner Tiger Woods transferring his form on the PGA Tour to the Ryder Cup.

Back as the world’s top-ranked player, Woods still struggles to produce his best in the team competition, winning the Ryder Cup just once — in 1999 — since his debut in ’97. He only won half a point at Medinah and tied Raymond Floyd for most losses in foursomes (8).

Watson sees Woods as pivotal, though, comparing his aura to that of Jack Nicklaus.

“Tiger has a sense about him and in talking to Davis (Love III), he was very much a leader at Medinah,” Watson said. “We need him to be a leader. There’s not a question about that.

“I don’t care who you are, if you don’t look up to Tiger Woods, what he’s accomplished in his career and say, ‘I want to play like Tiger Woods,’ you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Qualifying for the Ryder Cup began a month ago in Europe while American qualifying will get under way on Oct. 10 with the Frys.com Open in San Martin, California.

Watson will return to the United States where he will look at samples of the team uniform for the Ryder Cup before monitoring player performance at the Presidents Cup in Ohio next month.

In contrast, McGinley will compete in the Dunhill Links Championship at nearby St. Andrews.

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