Watson's selection is a surprise in the sense that it goes against the PGA's own criteria dating back many decades. The profile of American Ryder Cup captains, for a long time, has been this:
- Major championship winner
- Still plays the PGA Tour
- Is in his mid- to late 40s
- Hasn't captained the team previously
Watson is the first repeat Ryder Cup captain - he previously led the 1993 team - since Jack Nicklaus in 1987. He's 63 now - he'll be the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history, 65 in 2014 - an 8-time major championship winner. (The one major Watson never won is the PGA of America's own PGA Championship.) He's one of the all-time greats, a figure who commands respect from today's pros.
Is he good choice? Absolutely. I believe the PGA should simply choose someone deserving of the honor, and that should be the only criteria. Watson certainly meets that standard.
You'll find many others suggesting that Watson will bring the no-nonsense, straightforward, disciplined approach that Team USA needs. Maybe. But look back over the history of the Ryder Cup, on both sides, and you'll find captains of every style and temperament, and you'll find that captains of every style have both won and lost. There is no pattern of what works and what doesn't.
Wait, scratch that: There is one pattern. The team whose players play best wins. Maybe Watson will inspire his team to play better than they otherwise would have. But at the end of the day - at the end of the match - it's about the players.
Captaining a Ryder Cup team is an honor, an honor of which Watson is very deserving. Watson did, in fact, captain the last American team to win in Europe, in 1993 at The Belfry (the 2014 Ryder Cup is in Scotland).
So is David Toms, who - when everyone thought the PGA would stick to its usual selection criteria - was the heavy frontrunner. Toms will still fit the bill in 2016.
Team Europe's captain for 2014 is yet to be announced, but Paul McGinley is considered the favorite, with Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez also in the running. Or, if the European Tour wants to make its own surprise pick, it could select a repeat captain in Colin Montgomerie.
List of all Ryder Cup captains