Former U.S. President George W. Bush (R) talks with U.S. captain Davis Love III during the afternoon four-ball round at the 39th Ryder Cup matches at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois. (REUTERS: Jeff Haynes)
United States captain Tom Watson wants his team to draw on the memory of their painful ‘Miracle at Medinah’ defeat when they bid to wrest the Ryder Cup back from Europe in Scotland next year.
Holders Europe, galvanized by an inspirational effort from Ian Poulter, produced a spectacular comeback from 10-6 down to win the trophy by 14-1/2 to 13-1/2 points at the Medinah Country Club in Illinois in September 2012.
“Through my conversations with our captain last year Davis Love, he said our players were absolutely depressed they lost and it stayed with them for a while,” said Watson at a joint news conference with Europe skipper Paul McGinley at Gleneagles on Tuesday.
“I hope that feeling remains for some of those players who will be on my team and they can use that as a motivator.
“I don’t think there’s going to be much motivation necessary but maybe just a word or two about, ‘We don’t want this to happen again’, will carry them over the hump and they may make a few more putts when they need to.”
Europe have won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups but McGinley said there is never anything to choose between two strong lineups.
“The margin between the teams is so small, and has been for a number of years, and Lady Luck has shone on us a number of times, there’s no doubt about it,” the Irishman explained.
“We’ve been fortunate to come out on the right side with some wonderful play and great heart from some of our players so I’m well aware the margin between the two teams is very slight.”
The two captains occasionally indulged in a spot of ‘mind games’ in a conference that marked the one-year countdown to the next edition of the biennial team event.
Tiger Woods has often been criticized for failing to translate his performances in regular tournaments into dominant Ryder Cup displays but Watson said the world number one was integral to his plans.
“I don’t care who you are as a player, if you don’t look up to Tiger Woods, what he’s accomplished in his career, and say, I want to play like Tiger Woods, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the U.S. skipper.
“He’s had the most remarkable career probably of almost any professional golfer in the history of our game. When I played in the Ryder Cup I heard several times, “And now on the tee Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.
“You don’t think that was kind of a moment,” added Watson taking a deep breath, ‘God, I’ve got Jack Nicklaus on my side.”
McGinley, however, quickly interjected to roars of laughter by saying: “We’ve got Ian Poulter”.
Watson, who will be making his second appearance as captain having led the U.S. to victory at The Belfry in 1993, said he wanted courageous players in his team.
“The home team has an advantage from a crowd standpoint and familiarity standpoint,” said the eight-times major winner. “I think we are going to go in as the underdogs because of the past records.
“But don’t tell that to my players. I said in 1993 I hope the players are all playing well going into the matches.
“The Ryder Cup pressure does a lot of things to players and their ability sometimes,” added the 64-year-old Watson, the oldest captain in the history of the event. “That’s where picking the right players for the team comes into play for me.
“I want people who can make that five-footer when they have to make that five-footer. That’s what I’ll be looking for, those are the types of players that win Ryder Cups.”
McGinley said he would not be surprised if the 2014 edition was as nail-biting as the ‘Miracle at Medinah’.
“I really see this as two heavyweights going toe-to-toe, 15 rounds,” said the 46-year-old Irishman. “We are going to have to play incredibly well to win.
“I know we are on home soil but it’s going to be a very formidable package that Tom is going to pose to us and that’s what makes it so enthralling…so exciting.
“As we saw in Medinah it came right down to the wire and I have no reason to think it won’t come right down to the wire again here in Gleneagles.”