NEW YORK (AFP) – US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson said Saturday he takes full blame for the Americans’ latest loss to Europe last weekend at Gleneagles and regrets communication woes with his players.
In an open letter released following an ESPN report of a contentious meeting with players ahead of the final day of the biennial team golf showdown, Watson said he had spoken with Phil Mickelson about the star’s criticism after the US defeat and they had a better understanding of each other’s perspective as a result.
“The bottom line is this. I was their captain. In hindsight whatever mistakes that were made were mine. And I take complete and full responsibility for them,” Watson said.
Mickelson’s remarks came after Watson ripped players and dismissed a gift to him, ESPN reported, citing unnamed sources who were at the meeting of the US team, which would lose 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 to Europe.
Watson, at 65 the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history, guided the Americans to their most recent win in Europe in 1993 and was brought back in hopes of inspiring another victory.
But according to the report, his methods likely alienated the game’s top current US talent.
Watson was criticised for decisions about pairings, including not playing Mickelson on day two in either pairs format and benching star rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed after an opening victory Friday.
After the loss, Mickelson spoke out about what changes he felt were needed, a major repudiation of the methods Watson had used.
“As for Phil’s comments, I completely understand his reaction in the moment,” Watson said in his letter. “Earlier this week I had an open and candid conversation with him and it ended with a better understanding of each other’s perspectives. Phil’s heart and intentions for our team’s success have always been in the right place.”
Watson had also insisted that avenging a comeback win by Europe two years earlier was a major motivation even as players almost to a man dismissed that idea, an early sign that captain and players were not on the same page.
ESPN said Watson began the Saturday meeting with players by noting they were bad at foursomes, a format where they were outscored 7-1 overall, and then began to ridicule some European players.