Major Tom: Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson on his near-miss at Turnberry, his relationship with Tiger, and Barack Obama's golf habit

Tiger Woods at the Honda Classic
Carlos M. Saavedra/SI
If Tiger is healthy, he's an "automatic" captain's pick, says Watson.

If Tiger Woods is healthy and hasn't qualified on points, will he be an automatic captain's pick?

I've said it before that he's an automatic pick. You can't have a player of that caliber not on the team. But that has to be weighed next to what his health is. I hope he can get back in the swing, because he wasn't playing his best even before the surgery. But if he's not physically right, Tiger will be the first one to tell me.

You were critical of Tiger a few years ago for his behavior on the course, his cursing—

That's under the bridge.

—and last fall you said you intended to sit down with him to clear the air. Did that happen?

Not yet.

Do you plan on having that talk with Tiger?

I'm not going to go into it.

How would you characterize your relationship with him?

We don't know each other very well.

Do you think it's important for the two of you to get to know each other better?

I think it's important to know everybody a little better, not just Tiger.

Have you been on teams where there's tension, or everyone isn't on the same page?

No.

Who besides Tiger is a lock for a captain's pick?

You'd have to think about Phil, with his worth to the teams and the inspiration he's been to our players. I want guys to be firing on all cylinders. That's one reason I went to [PGA of America president] Ted Bishop and [PGA Tour commissioner] Tim Finchem and asked for a week off before the Ryder Cup and after the FedEx Cup series. I think that rest is extremely healthy for the team.

What would winning the Cup mean to you?

It would be a very significant part of my career, to be part of a winning Ryder Cup team again. It's a great event, and the excitement is starting to build. I've enjoyed getting to know the players—guys I haven't known before. But I won't go in there and win it. The players will win it. And that's the number-one goal. It's the focus that I have right now, and I'm enjoying the process. And if everything goes the way I hope it goes, I'll give all the credit to the players.

Let's shift gears. A hypothetical: If the crafty, experienced Tom Watson of today plays a match against the fearless Tom Watson of 1980, who would win?

I'd say 1980 Watson kicks my butt, 6 and 5.

Speaking of youth, which of today's young players most reminds you of yourself?

Brandt Snedeker. He plays fast—I don't talk as fast as Brandt—but there's a lot of similarities between Brandt and myself. He has a keep-it-simple type of method. He's always looking for a way to make his swing better. All the kids do that, but he's got his head screwed on right.

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