If you’re looking for someone that’s been there and done it – and probably got several t-shirts – in the Ryder Cup, then Tom Watson would be high up on anyone’s lists.
The eight-time major champion played on three winning Ryder Cup teams from 1977 to 1983, as well as the 1989 team that tied with Europe. He has also won one and lost one as captain.
But while many believe the victory at Hazeltine two years ago was the beginning of an era of dominance for the Americans, the 69-year-old is not buying into the hype, instead choosing to back a veteran to shine.
“This USA team is very strong,” he told NCG. “Jim Furyk is a solid competitor and a good man. He will have them ready.
“I think their chances are better than 50-50. Are they a golden generation? No.
“But they are a young team who are playing really well, with a strong Tiger Woods. And that is important.
“To win a Ryder Cup you need players who are in form.”
Reflecting on his triumph at The Belfry 25 years ago, the last time the USA won a Ryder Cup on European soil, Watson added: “We had a really strong team that year. The Europeans had beaten us a number of times leading up to 1993, and, even though we had won in Kiawah Island against them, they had shown they had some game.
“Going over, as a team, we thought we could do it and, indeed, it played out that way. But the matches were very close. It came down to the wire and the small margins went our way, thankfully.”
So what did he mean when, in the build up to that Ryder Cup, he told the press: “We’ll win because I’m lucky”?
“I used that as inspiration for the team,” he explained. “I wanted to give them some positivity. But throughout my career I do believe I was lucky, so it was not a false statement. Against Jack Nicklaus, for example, I always made putts when I needed them.
“I didn’t mastermind the victory at all. The players did. The captain is there to just facilitate their needs and be there to talk to them when they need a hand. Sometimes the position is overstated. It is the players who perform.”
As for the defeat at Gleneagles in 2014, where does Watson feel the game plan went wrong?
“What went wrong is quite simple: The other team played better than us. You really cannot control that.
“Look at the way Europe putted that year. They made many more birdies compared to us – 15 I think it was. That is what will win you Ryder Cups.
“I felt for the team. We did not go over there to lose. That is, for sure. But as I said the bottom line is that Europe were too good for us that year.”