Is Captain America up to the task?

The United States’ dominance of the Ryder Cup is a thing of the past, so the PGA of America is looking to the past to try to turn things around.

Captain Tom Watson, who led the Americans to their last victory on Europe soil in 1993 at the Belfry in England, will be in charge for the Americans again this week at on the Centenary Course at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland.

“Tom was the last American captain to accomplish (a win in Europe), and we hope that he can do it again,” president of the PGA of America Ted Bishop said when it was announced late in 2012 that Watson would lead the U.S. team.

Watson, 64, is the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history, taking that honor from British legend J.H. Taylor, who was 62 when he guided Great Britain to a 6 1/2-5 1/2 victory in 1933 at Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club in Southport, England.

The United States holds a 25-12-2 lead in the series, much of the advantage built when the competition was solely from Great Britain. However, the team from across the Atlantic now includes players from all of Europe, and the Euros have won seven of the past nine matches.

Making Watson’s task even more formidable, three of the top American players — Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner — are not on his roster. Woods and Dufner are injured, while Johnson is on a leave of absence to deal with personal issues.

Not only that, but Phil Mickelson endured possibly the worst season of his career, failing to win a tournament for the first time in 11 years.

Watson plans to stick with the same basic strategy he used in a 15-13 victory 21 years ago that was accomplished thanks to a 7 1/2-4 1/2 margin in Sunday singles.

“I’m going to play the players that are playing well (the first two days in the pairs matches),” Watson said. “I like to keep it simple. … Nothing short of bringing back the Cup would be a success.”

In addition, Watson emphasized that the theme for the U.S. team is redemption, given the Europeans’ recent dominance, including a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory two years ago that was called “The Miracle at Medinah” thanks to an 8 1/2-3 1/2 blitzing of the Americans in singles.

That theme figured heavily in Watson’s three captain’s picks — Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan. Bradley and Watson were on the U.S. team at Medinah, while Mahan lost the deciding match to Graeme McDowell four years ago at Celtic Manor in Wales and was left off the 2012 team by captain Corey Pavin.

Others on the U.S. team are Mickelson, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and rookies Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker.

Captain Paul McGinley’s European roster consists of top-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer of Germany, Ian Poulter of England, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Lee Westwood of England, Sergio Garcia of Spain, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Justin Rose of England, Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and rookies Jamie Donaldson of Wales, Victory Dubuisson of France and Stephen Gallacher of Scotland.

“Every player in this team will go in there thinking about Medinah,” Watson said. “They will know, I don’t have to tell them. I know how it hurt me. I watched it (on television), and for three days (afterward) I had a big hole in my stomach.”

Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion, made the team on the strength of his 3-0 record while teamed with Mickelson two years ago, and figures to be paired with Lefty again.

However, he is haunted by his 2-and-1 singles loss to Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman arrived late and nearly missed his tee time, but he took charge with birdies on the 14th and 15th holes after the players were even through No. 13.

“I’ve made no secret of how important this team is to me and how badly I want to go back and win the Ryder Cup,” Bradley said. “I think this is a redemption year for a lot of guys who were on the team in 2012.”

Simpson had a 2-2 record at Medinah, going 2-0 in four-ball competition with Bubba Watson, both of them lopsided 5-and-4 victories.

However, Ian Poulter, the inspirational leader of the Euros, beat him in singles, 2 up. The American held a 2-up lead through six holes, still was ahead through 10 holes and was even until the Englishman won the last two holes with a par and a birdie.

“I’ll never forget the feeling that I had watching Europe celebrate,” said Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion. “They were all smiles and having fun, we had our heads down and it wasn’t a good feeling.

“Two years have gone by very quickly, and I remember all my matches like they were yesterday. I am eager to get back in the mix and try to get back the Ryder Cup.”

That is the goal of the entire American team, to reach into the past.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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