Old hand’s recall a very clever move, says losing European captain Bernard Gallacher
Published 13/12/2012 | 17:14
BERNARD Gallacher has described 63-year-old Tom Watson's recall for the 2014 match at Gleneagles as "very clever".
Gallacher was Europe's captain when Watson led America to victory at The Belfry in 1993.
"It is a surprise," Gallacher said. "The USPGA obviously decided they needed a bit of experience over in Scotland and Tom is probably the most respected figure in the game today.
"He's done the job before, he's been there as a player, he knows how to win in Europe and in Scotland as well."
Four of Watson's five Open titles between 1975 and 1983 came north of the border.
"He's well liked there, so this is a very clever appointment in my opinion," Gallacher added.
"It looks like it will be a young, inexperienced team next time and they probably feel they need a very experienced leader.
"In recent years they have picked someone who is still playing on the main tour, but Tom Watson is still in touch with many of the top players. He still plays in our Open championship and the players will certainly know him."
As for his memories of 19 years ago Gallacher, who was in charge for the second of three matches, added: "I didn't feel intimidated. He was very straightforward, uncomplicated.
"They played well. We were leading going into the singles, but his team came through - like the reverse to Medinah in a way.
"He said the right things. He has great experience in speaking to the media.
"The Ryder Cup has become very important to America - Medinah was a complete sell-out - and it's an event they want to win.
"Also Tom Watson will keep the Ryder Cup on the front page of the golfing press for the next couple of years. All in all, Tom Watson is going to be good for the Ryder Cup."
Watson spoke out against Tiger Woods following his sex scandal in 2009, and not only for his off-course behaviour.
"Tom Watson is a very straight talker and when he criticised Tiger for swearing and spitting and all that I think he said what we all felt," Gallacher said.
Colin Montgomerie, who played under Gallacher against Watson and went on to become a winning captain in Wales two years ago, called Watson's appointment "very wise" but believes there is now a lot of pressure on him.
"What happens if he fails?" he said.
"He has to win now. If he doesn't succeed at Gleneagles what's going to happen in 2016?
"There is a lot of pressure on Tom Watson, but he can handle that - I'm sure he can. I personally wish him well.
"He was very respected back in '93 - of course he was - and having won eight majors, four of which were won in Scotland, he will be very favoured here.
"Since his achievement in 2009, how close he came to winning the Open again, he's even more respected now and I think it's a very wise appointment.
"It might change Europe's view. We have a voting situation coming up and have to decide who to take on as our captain.
"We tend to go with someone younger who is playing on the Tour, so you have to think of the likes of Darren Clarke or Thomas Bjorn or Paul McGinley.
"It will be a task for anybody to take on Tom Watson because he is very well respected, very well liked and loved here in Scotland."
Montgomerie has never ruled himself out of doing the job again, but does not expect to be asked.
"It's the greatest honour bestowed on any European golfer. I had that honour, but I think it's a one-hit deal now.
"The days of Tony Jacklin doing it four times and Bernard Gallacher three are in the past now. There are some great candidates within the European Tour and I wish them well."
Montgomerie added: "They've gone back to the future if you like and obviously they want to win this now - they were shocked at Medinah. They were 10-4 up and lost."
Ahead of Watson being named, Clarke said in Australia: "He is one of the legends of the game and I am sure he would be a fantastic captain, not just to the team but to all aspects of the Ryder Cup.
"The man is a huge name in the world of golf and rightly so."
Paul Azinger, the only person to lead America to victory since 1999, told the Golf Channel: "I'm really surprised about it, truthfully, but I think it's okay.
"I believe that there's a philosophy the PGA of America has had in a place for a while that hasn't really worked, that a contemporary needs to be out there, someone under the age of 50 who is with the players.
"Had we been winning Ryder Cups all along that would have been a great philosophy. But Watson is a good choice at this time."
Webb Simpson, a member of the losing side in Chicago, said: "Such an amazing player and person and he demands respect just by the kind of player he's been.
"He's like a quiet lion. It would be an honour to play for him."
Team-mate Brandt Snedeker added: "I'm surprised. I knew (PGA president) Ted Bishop was thinking outside the box, but I'm excited.
"Tom is a good friend of mine. He's one of the best players to ever play the game and he's going to instantly gain a lot of respect and instantly sway the home-field advantage for us in Scotland because of his success over there.
"It's going to be a different feeling for us to have a guy who a lot of us young guys have grown up watching on TV and not spending a lot of time around him to be our captain."