He’s just disappointed it wasn’t him.
Nelson, a three-time major champion with a 9-3-1 record in three Ryder Cup appearances, said Wednesday on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive show that no one from the PGA of America contacted him about being the captain.
“And I do not have a ticket to New York, so apparently it’s not going to be me,” Nelson said.
Golf Digest reported on its Web site that the PGA of America planned to make Tom Watson the next U.S. captain. It would be the second time that Watson, who will be 65 when the Ryder Cup is played in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland, has been a captain. The other time was in 1993, and Watson hasn’t been to a Ryder Cup since then.
“It’s disappointing, certainly not devastating,” Nelson said. “We don’t quite know how the decisions are made and what goes into those. We just to have to react to what they are.”
Nelson, a two-time PGA Championship winner, was in line to be Ryder Cup captain until being passed over for Lanny Wadkins in 1995 and Tom Kite in 1997. Nelson was thought to be too far removed from the game to be considered, though there has been a recent push for the 64-year-old Nelson to finally get his chance.
The PGA of America broke from its conventional pick and went with a veteran, but it wasn’t Nelson.
“I think it’s tough because it’s kind of the third time this has happened,” Nelson said. “It seemed to gather more momentum this year than in the past, and I’m certainly appreciative of the thousands of people who tweeted or sent me emails that were hoping this might be the time. I’m flattered by all that stuff, certainly disappointed. I don’t know why the decision was made the way it was, but you just have to honor that.”
Nelson is a quiet man from Georgia, though his career is remarkable beyond his three majors. He didn’t take up golf until after he returned from the Vietnam War, and he turned in a career worthy of being voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Watson is celebrated worldwide for his eight majors and epic duels with Jack Nicklaus. He is particularly popular in Scotland, where he won his first major at Carnoustie in 1975. Watson won the British Open five times, four of them in Scotland.
Nelson thought it was a “great decision” for the PGA of America to go away from its mold of picking past major champions in their late 40s who still played on the PGA Tour. It’s just that Watson already had his chance as captain in 1993, the last time the Americans won a Ryder Cup in Europe. Watson is the first repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987 at his home course of Muirfield Village.
“Tom will be a two-time captain. That I don’t quite understand,” Nelson said. “Other than that, I think it’s a great way to go.”
Nelson said he wouldn’t be interested in being an assistant captain.
“There are a lot of people who probably have less credentials that have been captain, and a lot of people that have more credentials that haven’t been,” Nelson said. “That puts me in area that it’s not a decision I can make. It’s a decision people I haven’t even talked to made. They make the best decision they possibly can and what they think will help the Ryder Cup. You just have to go with it.
“I’m not totally surprised, just disappointed.”