Watson will take heat off U.S. Ryder team: North

Tue Jul 8, 2014 2:43pm EDT
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By Tony Jimenez

LONDON (Reuters) - Having local fan favorite Tom Watson as Ryder Cup skipper at Gleneagles in September will take a lot of pressure off Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the rest of the United States team, according to vice-captain Andy North.

The 64-year-old Watson won eight major championships in a glittering playing career including five British Opens, four of them in Scotland.

"I think there's an advantage for us in that Tom is so beloved in Scotland," North told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

"I truly believe that a lot of the pressure will be off the players because everyone, especially the media, will want to talk to Tom.

"That's not always been the case with an American captain and Tom's going to have a very important part to play in that he will be spending so much time doing interviews and stuff," added North who will be a vice-captain with Ray Floyd at the Scottish venue.

"It won't take all the pressure off but if, as a player, you know you'll have 15 or 30 minutes less time dealing with the press every day that's 15 or 30 minutes more you can focus on other stuff like practising."

Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner and Patrick Reed occupy the automatic qualifying places in the U.S. team for the Sept. 26-28 match against holders Europe.

If multiple major winners Woods and Mickelson continue to remain outside the top nine, it is almost certain they will be picked as two of captain Watson's three wildcard selections when the final 12-man lineup is announced after next month's U.S. PGA Championship.   Continued...

U.S. golfer Tom Watson hits his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the 2014 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia April 10, 2014.  REUTERS/Jim Young