Cumberland Times-News

Local Sports

December 11, 2012

U.S. to announce next Ryder Cup captain

The PGA of America is bringing a mystery guest to the "Today" show — its next Ryder Cup captain.

An organization that is not shy about giving rock-star treatment to the Ryder Cup, the PGA of America said Tuesday it would reveal the next U.S. captain during a segment Thursday of NBC's morning show, followed by a news conference in the Empire State Building.

NBC is the longtime broadcast partner of the Ryder Cup.

Adding to the intrigue is which direction the PGA of America decides to take — its model of choosing former major champions in their late 40s, or a stately figure.

The next Ryder Cup will be in 2014 at Gleneagles, Scotland, and there has been recent support for Tom Watson, who is revered in golf's homeland for having won four of his five British Open titles in Scotland.

Watson said over the weekend at the Australian Open that it would be a "great honor if I got tapped on the shoulder." Watson, who came within an 8-foot putt of winning the British Open at Turnberry in 2009 when he was 59, said in Sydney he had not spoken to PGA of America officials.

There also has been a push for Larry Nelson, who was overlooked as a captain two decades ago. Nelson is a three-time major champion — twice at the PGA Championship — who had 9-3-1 record in the Ryder Cup and won all five of his matches in 1979, beating Seve Ballesteros in four of those matches. At least two former captains have lobbied the PGA on behalf of Nelson.

Nelson, however, is scheduled to play in the Father-Son Challenge pro-am Thursday and Friday in Orlando, Fla.

For the last 30 years, it was easy to predict the next American captain. The PGA of America tended to choose a former major champion still moderately active on the PGA Tour, which keeps him in touch with the current players. That would point toward former PGA champion David Toms, though there has been discussion among PGA officials over the last month that Toms could wait until 2016 without any future candidate, such as Jim Furyk or Phil Mickelson, losing his turn.

Europe has captured the Ryder Cup seven of the last nine times, including a stunning rally at Medinah two months ago when it overcame a 10-6 deficit on the final day. Davis Love III, the American captain, said he wouldn't change anything about the week except for the outcome.

Love said last month he wouldn't mind being captain again, but only if there was a gap down the road, and not in 2014.

"I can guarantee you it won't be me," Love said about the next captain.

Paul Azinger was captain of the only U.S. team to win the Ryder Cup in the last 13 years, using a unique system of "pods" in which players were broken into groups of four. He said in a text message to The Associated Press he had not been in touch with the PGA of America.

The Americans have not had a repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, when the Ryder Cup was held on his home course of Muirfield Village in Ohio.

Watson was captain in 1993, the last time the Americans won the Ryder Cup when it was played in Europe. He told reporters in Australia he had not been back to the Ryder Cup since those matches at The Belfry.

"I'd like to go back as captain," Watson said. "That would be cool."

But it might not be ideal for America's most famous player — Tiger Woods — who has a frosty relationship with Watson, even though both are Stanford alumni. Watson was highly critical in the aftermath of Woods' personal life crisis, saying he needed to show more humility and fewer tantrums.

"I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown," Watson said in early 2010.

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