PGA Tour Confidential: Who will be the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain?
The editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducted a special edition of their weekly e-mail roundtable to make their picks for the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Good day, PGA Tour swamis! Ted Bishop, the new PGA president, will name the 2014 Ryder Cup captain Thursday, live at 8:30 a.m. on the TODAY Show. Our question today is: who will it be?
I'll take the first reckless swing. Bishop has told me, and surely others, that the PGA wants to think outside the box. He has also said that a playing captain is pretty much impossible in this day and age. (Goodbye Tiger and maybe Phil.) Tom Watson would have been a great choice, but the way he talked openly about his possible interest in the job last week at the Australian Open tells me he's not the guy. I think the two not-so-obvious outside-the-box candidates are Paul Azinger (last winning U.S. captain) and Davis Love (beloved by the PGA and surely learned a lot at Medinah). But I think the PGA is going another way. I think the pick is ... Tony Dungy. He's a winner, and he won in Indianapolis, where Bishop is from. He works for NBC (synergy!), he comes out of the national pastime (pro football), he likes golf and he has the values the PGA holds dear. Crazy as it sounds, I think he's the guy. He would also bring U.S. eyeballs to a road Ryder Cup, and that's huge right there. Dungy. Yes, Dungy. And you all?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: What I don't get is why, unofficially, a player has to have won a major and a bunch of other tournaments to be a candidate. Playing ability has little or no correlation with leadership and the other intangibles that go into being a successful captain. So, why not Olin Browne? Or Brad Faxon? They're smart, analytical guys who know the game. They'd make fabulous captains. How about Joe Ogilvie? Maybe he could bring a sabermetric approach to the pairings and game the system. Come to think of it, I vote for Billy Beane.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: It's a great point. Majors should have little or nothing to do with this process. Just like the players - look at the Ryder Cup success of Poulter and Monty.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: It's obviously not a requirement for a European captain. It's such an American thing -- titles and such.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Disagree. The Ryder Cup is an exhibition, and the captain should be someone with great stature in the game. Most of the time that means a major winner, or someone like Montgomerie who played so well on the European Tour and in Ryder Cups. But the unofficial requirement that the U.S. captain needs to have won the PGA Championship is kind of dumb.
Wei: Of course it has to be someone who has stature in the game, but the major win qualification should be thrown out.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: There's only one U.S. captain who has won a Ryder Cup this century. I'd sign him up again for that reason. Zinger power.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Thinking outside the box is fun, but sadly, the PGA is going to think right smack in the center of the box. It was always going to be Toms, and on Thursday it will officially be Toms. But I agree with Van Sickle - I'd like to see Azinger get another swing at it.
Wei: I did a pseudo Twitter poll, and it seems like there are a lot of Larry Nelson fans out there, but I think that ship has sailed. David Toms seemed like the favorite for a while, but Golf Channel is reporting that he hasn't received a phone call from the PGA. Of course you can't go wrong with Azinger, but the smart money is on Tom Watson. He's beloved in Scotland and more devious (in a good way) than we give him credit for. Who better to inspire the U.S. team at Gleneagles than the five-time Open Champ?
Hanger: Wow, that's pretty interesting that Toms hasn't heard from them yet. I'm going with Watson, then, as my pick. Again, I'm biased as a KC guy, but that would be real fun, especially in Scotland. (If it was being played on a links course, I'd say Watson should be a playing captain!) Couples would be a great choice, too, but it would seem like a lot to give him a monopoly with the Presidents Cup in 2013 and the Ryder Cup in 2014.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I'd really love to see Watson captain the United States team, not only because I think he'd do a great job and the team would play well for him, but also to see the reaction of the European crowd. After winning five Open Championships, Watson is adored in Scotland, so would the European press have the guts to grill him, or would their reverence dull their pens? If not Watson, it will probably be Couples.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Watson makes a lot of sense as a captain in Scotland. Although I'd love to see Michael's Tony Dungy prediction come true. That would be the craziest correct call in the history of Confidential, by far.
Van Sickle: If Tiger Woods is going to be on the next team, I don't think the next captain is going to be Tom Watson.
Walker: I think Couples is the pick. At the Presidents Cup, Couples proved he can lead and motivate his team, as well as handle all the promotional (and time-consuming) responsibilities that come with the captaincy.
Van Sickle: I don't think there would be anyone unhappy with Fred Couples as the selection. And the PGA of America is under new management. It would be a heck of a statement coming out of the gate for Mr. Bishop.
Wei: I'm as big a Couples fan as anyone (Seattle pride!), but I have my doubts as to his abilities to handle all the "responsibilities" that come with the captaincy. I'm betting Jay Haas helped out quite a bit at the past two Presidents Cups. And let's be real, the Ryder Cup is a bit more intense than the Presidents Cup.
Walker: The team will play for Couples, and the sponsors and media will go gaga over him. What other responsibilities are there? He'll assemble a competent team of assistants, and his laid-back demeanor will help keep the team loose for the 2014 road game.
Wei: Don't forget coordinating the uniforms, especially proper rain gear that doesn't leak! There are also all those extravagant gifts they exchange throughout the week.
Van Sickle: Let's not rule out Jeff Sluman. He's a PGA champ, he was more or less acting captain as an assistant to Jack Nicklaus in several Presidents Cups, and this year he was a Davis Love assistant. Players like him, and he's got a ton of team coaching experience.
Wei: Sluman would be a fantastic choice. But if the PGA is trying to really go "outside the box," I don't think Sluman fits the description.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: If they really thought outside the box, they'd pick a former Ryder Cupper, and now an American citizen, named David Feherty.
Hanger: That would be truly amazing.
Wei: Way too good to be true. The PGA is not ready for something that radical! Maybe 2020?
Van Sickle: He would never agree to go against Team Europe. Those were his guys. That's a little too far outside the box.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: If they are truly thinking outside the box, that has to mean they are going to a non-golfer (Dungy, of course) or a former captain. I'm going with Watson. And if not Watson, then Love. Maybe the PGA wants to make this a four-year gig.
Van Sickle: I can't think of a reason to give Love a second turn after losing a 10-6 lead. Are you serious?
Morfit: Watch it, Gary. You're inviting the wrath of Bamberger, which ain't pretty. I'm still paying off my hospital bills.
Hanger: Captains don't lose leads, players do.
Van Sickle: I can't think of a reason to give Love a second chance after HIS TEAM lost a 10-6 lead. That better?
Walker: I can't imagine the PGA of America selecting Love. Losing Ryder Cup captains are like losing presidential candidates, rarely heard from again.
Godich: Wait a minute. If it's being announced on TODAY, then it must be Matt Lauer. He plays golf, right?
Van Sickle: Or Bryant Gumbel. How about Johnny Miller? The team would be so fired up to prove him wrong, they'd probably win 22-6.
Hanger: That's it! It's Miller! NBC, Golf Channel, The Today Show - whoa, just might be right.
Morfit: Golf Magazine's Connell Barrett just spoke to Miller by phone and reported he was in a great mood. But I ain't buying it.
Van Sickle: Let's stop fantasizing. It's fun to guess, but it's probably Toms or Couples.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Who do you think the PGA of America will select as the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain? Who SHOULD they select?