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Veteran Watson relishes return to U.S. Ryder Cup captaincy

updated 9:25 AM EST, Fri December 14, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tom Watson named as United States' Ryder Cup captain for 2014 event in Scotland
  • 63-year-old is the oldest U.S. captain in Ryder Cup history
  • Sam Snead held the previous record when captaining the U.S. at the age of 57 in 1969

(CNN) -- Tom Watson will become the oldest Ryder Cup captain in golf history when he takes charge of the United States team for the 2014 contest in Scotland -- a country that has played host to some of his greatest successes.

The eight-time major winner will be 65 when the event gets underway at Gleneagles. He is the last U.S. captain to have won on European soil, triumphing at The Belfry course in England in 1993.

"I was waiting for about 20 years to get the call," the 63-year-old said at his unveiling on Thursday. "I loved it the first time. It's just a great honor to be able to do it again."

The United States Professional Golf Association (USPGA) turned to the five-time British Open champion in a bid to overturn recent poor form in the Ryder Cup, with Team Europe having won five of the last six matches -- including at Medinah last September.

Read: U.S. stunned as Europe wins Ryder Cup

Europe's Medinah miracle
German Martin Kaymer milks the moment as his putt on the 18th green ensures Europe will retain the Ryder Cup. His defeat of Steve Stricker capped an improbable comeback, as the Europeans triumphed 14½-13½ despite trailing 10-4 at one stage on Saturday.
German Martin Kaymer milks the moment as his putt on the 18th green ensures Europe will retain the Ryder Cup. His defeat of Steve Stricker capped an improbable comeback, as the Europeans triumphed 14½-13½ despite trailing 10-4 at one stage on Saturday.
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Having turned professional in 1971, Watson is a seasoned veteran of the golfing world whose experience and respect are expected to aid the struggling U.S. team in two years' time.

The U.S. has picked a new captain for recent Ryder Cups, which are held every two years, but the USPGA said it wanted to try something different after losing seven of the last nine tournaments.

"The pressure of playing in the Ryder Cup is greater or as great as in any event," said Watson, who will replace Davis Love III. "My job is to help them deal with that pressure. I've lived for that pressure and lived underneath that pressure all my career."

One of the most popular figures on the golfing stage, the revered Watson tried to play down the gulf in age between his players and himself at the New York press conference.

The previous oldest U.S. captain was the legendary Sam Snead, who was 57 when he oversaw his nation's retention of the trophy in 1969 -- made famous by Jack Nicklaus' concession of a match-equaling putt to Tony Jacklin.

"I deflect that very simply by saying, 'We play the same game,' " Watson said.

"I hope I can set the table for these players. I'm the stage manager. I set the stage for them to go out and do what they do. In two years, I hope they can get it done."

Watson's relationship with Tiger Woods will come under intense scrutiny, having criticized the 14-time major winner's behavior on and off the course following his fall from grace in 2009.

Nonetheless, Woods was one of the first to offer both his support for Watson and availability for the tournament.

"I would like to congratulate Tom Watson on his selection as Ryder Cup captain," Woods said in a statement.

Peter Hanson, center, and Francesco Molinari of Europe celebrate their team winning the 39th Ryder Cup on Sunday, September 30, in Medinah, Illinois. Europe produced the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history to defeat the United States and retain the trophy. See more of the best of CNN's photography. Peter Hanson, center, and Francesco Molinari of Europe celebrate their team winning the 39th Ryder Cup on Sunday, September 30, in Medinah, Illinois. Europe produced the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history to defeat the United States and retain the trophy. See more of the best of CNN's photography.
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"I think he's a really good choice. Tom knows what it takes to win and that's our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States team."

Watson swiftly dampened the sparks of any potential controversy about Woods by stating that he would pick the former world number one in his squad whether or not he qualifies for one of the eight automatic places on offer. The captain also has four discretionary choices.

"I want him on my team," Watson said. "Tiger is maybe the best player in history. If he's not on the team, he's going to be number one in my picks."

Watson, the first U.S. captain to return to the helm since Jack Nicklaus lost on home soil in 1987, also received the backing of Brandt Snedeker -- like Woods, a member of this year's unsuccessful side in Illinois.

"Obviously they were looking outside the box, given our recent failures," Snedeker told the PGA Tour website.

"They wanted to get a guy who has had success and commands respect. I think that's why they went this way: to get the U.S. to rally around him as a way to rejuvenate the American side.

"Tom is one of the best competitors of all time. He's going to bring that fire and unwillingness to lose and mental strength that has defined his career."

At the 2009 British Open, Watson missed a par putt on the 72nd hole at Turnberry that would have made him the oldest major champion in the history of the sport.

The American has a warm relationship with Scotland, the country where he won his first major title at Carnoustie in 1975 and where he would eventually win half his major crowns.

His appointment was announced by the USPGA on nationwide television, with predecessor Love having relinquished his post after what was dubbed the "Meltdown in Medinah" in the U.S. but the "Miracle of Medinah" in Europe.

"We've got the right guy," rallied USPGA president Ted Bishop.

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