TOM WATSON has stamped his authority on American preparations for next year's Ryder Cup by opting for three wild cards at Gleneagles.
Watson's predecessors at the past three Ryder Cups had four captain's picks, but the 63-year-old quipped yesterday: "three is kind of my lucky number – I just want to give the players one more spot to make the team.
"I think that's essential," he went on. "It's such an important event, American players deserve at least that one more opportunity to qualify."
Home skipper Paul McGinley won't announce how many captain's picks he'll require for Gleneagles until he sits down with Europe's Tournament Committee at May's BMW PGA in Wentworth.
"I'm nearly clear on what I want to do," the Dubliner explained.
"But I'll still talk to a few people, basically make sure there's nothing I'm missing, before presenting to the committee what way I'd like to see the team formulated."
Yet it'd come as absolutely no surprise if McGinley also opted for three wild cards, one more than Jose Maria Olazabal at Medinah.
Having just two picks worked especially well for the Spaniard, with Ian Poulter and Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts emerging as two incontrovertible choices.
However, having three wild cards can offer precious wriggle-room.
As it turned out, Martin Kaymer sank the crucial putt that retained the Ryder Cup, but the German, who filled the 10th and final qualifying spot on Olazabal's team, was just one of many seriously concerned about his form in the run-up to Chicago.
Europe have used either two or three wild cards at every Ryder Cup since 1979, with one exception, 1993, when all 12 players qualified on the team beaten at the Belfry by a US side captained by Watson.
Watson, sensitive to recent remarks by Ian Poulter that he may be out of touch with the current generation of US players, has even started tweeting.
Yet his decision to row back from the four picks first introduced by Paul Azinger at Valhalla in 2008 underscores his determination to do things his own way at Gleneagles.
Meanwhile, 12-year-old Ye Wocheng will become the youngest golfer to play in a European Tour event after he qualified for the Volvo China Open yesterday.