He played for four U.S. Ryder Cup teams and captained another, taking in more than his fair share of tense and emotion-filled moments.
But Tom Watson’s favorite Ryder Cup moment happened just before he swung a golf club in the United States vs. Europe event.
It was at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in 1977, when the American flag slowly made its way up a flagpole during the Ryder Cup opening ceremonies.
“The first time I played on a Ryder Cup team it was a feeling I’ve never had before, and that’s playing for my country,’’ Watson said on Wednesday at Hualalai Golf Club after getting in a pro-am round leading up to this weekend’s Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.
Watson, the 2010 Mitsubishi Electric champion and one of 40 players in this year’s field, is elated about having the chance to experience that feeling again.
He will captain the U.S. 2014 Ryder Cup team in hopes of ending what has been a bad stretch at the event since Watson captained the 1993 U.S. Ryder Cup team to a 15-13 win over Europe.
“After it was over (in 1993), I didn’t say anything to anybody, but I wanted to do it again,’’ said Watson, the first repeat U.S. captain at the event.
Just before PGA of America president Ted Bishop informed Watson of his selection in December, the 63-year-old told reporters in Australia that he was itching to get a “tap on the shoulder’’ from Bishop. It’s an itch Watson said he has had for at about 10 years.
“When I got the phone call from Ted Bishop of the PGA, relaying the fact that he thought I’d make a good Ryder Cup captain for the next Ryder Cup in 2014, I was thinking, ‘Man I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time.’’’
Since the U.S. won at The Belfry in Warwickshire, England in 1993, it has dropped seven of the next nine Ryder Cups – a trend Watson wants to change.
The 2014 Ryder Cup will take place at the Gleneagles Hotel’s PGA Centenary Course in Perthshire, Scotland.
As a player, Watson has had his fair share of success on the British Isles, having won five British Open titles. In the 2009 British Open, just before his 60th birthday, he finished runner-up to Stewart Cink at Turnberry in Scotland.
But when he discussed his role as captain, Watson tabbed himself a “stage manager.”
“I give them their marks on the stage, and they go out and perform,’’ he said.
Watson hopes all of his golfers are performing well going into the tournament mainly because of his burning desire to win. If any particular player is struggling, Watson won’t display too much patience.
“I want to win at all costs, meaning that I’m going to play somebody five matches if that’s the case,’’ Watson said. “If somebody’s not playing well, I’m going to sit them. They’ll play, but they won’t play very much. That’s just the way it is in the Ryder Cup.
“So I go back to the point where I hope everybody’s playing well.”
The way Watson sees it, they’ll need to do so in unfavorable weather conditions with Scotland being known for rain and heavy winds.
“They’ll know well beforehand that conditions are going to be cold and probably windy, and they have to prepare for that.”