Report: Tom Watson ripped U.S. team during Ryder Cup ‘bonding’ meeting

U.S. captain Tom Watson reportedly treats gift from his Ryder Cup players with disdain.Andrew Redington/Getty Images U.S. captain Tom Watson reportedly treats gift from his Ryder Cup players with disdain.

The entire U.S. Ryder Cup team squirmed in their seats while Phil Mickelson was delivering a brutally honest rebuke of Tom Watson’s captaincy after another defeat Sunday. It turns out, they shouldn’t have been surprised.

According to an ESPN report citing four anonymous sources who were present at what was supposed to be a team bonding session Saturday night, Watson denigrated his team’s play in the foursomes while taking no responsibility for his questionable pairings. He also scoffed at the players’ gift to their captain.

ESPN quoted one source that Mickelson was simply standing up for his teammates.

“He was trying to lead the team and protect the team there when he put himself under the gun pretty good on Sunday night. He did that for a lot of people,” the source said.

According to the report, Watson was so “pissed” when he addressed the team that “you could hear a pin drop at the meeting.”

Watson, according to the sources, told his players, “You stink at foursomes,” and when Furyk presented him with a mini Ryder Cup signed by all the players, he said, it “meant nothing to him,” unless he could hold the real thing.

One source was quoted saying, “It was fairly shocking that he treated this thoughtful gift with such disdain.”

Mickelson reportedly provided the pep talk, individually praising each player and their accomplishments and changed the atmosphere of the room, “180 degrees.”

Watson, it was reported, also greeted several players who had lost their singles matches by telling them they should have played better.

It appeared that Mickelson, at the final press conference at Gleneagles, was humiliating Watson while praising Paul Azinger’s successful 2008 captaincy by comparison. When a reporter suggested as much, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry you’re taking it that way. I’m just talking about what Paul Azinger did to help us play our best.”

It is now clear what was behind it, as well as the message Mickelson wanted to deliver to the PGA of America.

Keegan Bradley, who was one of those players, called for a change in the way future captains are selected when he appeared on Fred Couples’ XM Sirius radio show, suggesting that players be part of a selection committee. Couples, 3-0 as Presidents Cup captain, should be the choice, he said.

The players have taken the high road by not publicly criticizing Watson directly. Even Bradley on that show said he did a “great” job.

Azinger, meanwhile, pretty much assured he wouldn’t be asked back by ripping the PGA of America in a radio interview he did with the Back Nine Network Friday.

Asked whether he would consider being the 2016 captain, Azinger said, “No, absolutely not. Not the way it is currently set up. The PGA of America now recognizes that this issue goes beyond any captain they choose, that it’s an issue that they have to deal with. Europe is so vested in this. The players are vested, even monetarily, they’re vested in the Ryder Cup because what is the European Tour if they don’t dominate the Ryder Cup? So as the European players dominate the Ryder Cup, sponsors come in, and prices go up. They benefit. Who benefits now from our Ryder Cup? PGA of America.”

He also said Europe has a clear business model that works.

“Past captains from Europe are on the fairways and they’re in the team room. Future captains are on the fairways and they’re in the team room. As a past captain I have been filtered out of the process. Every past captain has been filtered out of the process. Players have been filtered out of the process. There’s no business model. Every repeat player has to deal with a different captain’s leadership style.”

Azinger said it’s the players who “are going to get scrutinized” while the captain is “going to put his legacy at risk.”

“And the PGA of America reaps all the reward,” he said. “The gap between the PGA of America and the players is the Grand Canyon. The gap between the past captains and the PGA of America is the Grand Canyon.” 

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