(Reuters) - Tom Watson, heavily criticized for his allegedly detached approach in captaining the United States in its Ryder Cup defeat last month, has written an open letter in which he takes “full responsibility” for any mistakes made.
Watson, whose strategy was implicitly slammed by Cup veteran Phil Mickelson after the Americans had slipped to their eighth loss to Europe in 10 meetings, also praised his team for the “guts” they displayed in the last-day singles.
Though Watson did not address what had happened in a reportedly “ugly” U.S. team room on the eve of the concluding singles matches, he said that any miscommunication was entirely his fault.
“First, I take complete and full responsibility for my communication, and I regret that my words may have made the players feel that I didn’t appreciate their commitment and dedication to winning the Ryder Cup,” Watson wrote.
“My intentions throughout my term as captain were both to inspire and to be honest.
“Secondly, the guys gave everything. They played their hearts out. I was proud to get to know each and every one of them. I know they are all going to win tournaments, be on future Ryder Cup teams and have wonderful careers.”
ESPN reported on Friday that, according to four unidentified team sources, Watson took no responsibility for any shortcomings by the Americans at Gleneagles and had panned the poor play by the U.S. in the final foursomes matches.
Though the U.S. ultimately suffered a crushing loss by 16-1/2 points to 11-1/2 in the 40th edition of the biennial competition, the Americans started out strongly in the singles matches before running out of steam against an inspired Europe.
“Our team certainly showed guts when it took it to the other team early in Sunday’s singles matches,” said Watson, at 65 the oldest ever Ryder Cup captain. “We were indeed tied with them as the scoreboard turned wonderfully ‘red’.
“Our players started fast as I had asked them to in my comments the night before. I asked them to really concentrate on holes two to five, as the Europeans had won too many early battles on these particular holes.
“But in the end, the facts are that the other team played better.”
Shortly after the Ryder Cup, Mickelson told a news conference that Watson had not engaged with the U.S. players and should have stuck with the system that worked so successfully in 2008.
Six years ago, the Americans won the trophy at Valhalla where their captain, Paul Azinger, implemented a four-man ‘pod’ system, an idea he got from the Navy SEALS, whereby the players spent a lot of time together on and off the course.
“As for Phil’s comments, I completely understand his reaction in the moment,” said Watson.
“Earlier this week I had an open and candid conversation with him (Mickelson) 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. Phil is a great player, has great passion and I admire what he’s done for golf. “
Watson ended his letter with yet another admission that whatever went wrong had been due to his leadership.
“The bottom line is this, I was their captain,” he said. “In hindsight whatever mistakes that were made were mine. And I take complete and full responsibility for them.”
Editing by Gene Cherry