It was a surprise that wasn't really a surprise.
At The Greenbrier on Wednesday, 2014 Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson named good friend and two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North as one of his assistant captains. Considering the two's friendship, it wasn't that big of a shock, but nevertheless, North -- who carried an 0-3 record in one Ryder Cup appearance in 1985 -- was a bit of a surprise.
“My friendship with Andy dates back to 1967,” Watson said in a news conference. “Any time you have a friend, you can talk honestly to that friend about anything. Whatever conversations I have with Andy, I’ve always known that they’re private and they’re not going to go anywhere else. I really, truly value Andy’s observations.”
It's a good point. Having a confidant and sounding board, particularly for an event as loaded with pressure and expectation as the Ryder Cup, is invaluable.
Watson was appointed to the role because he is a throwback. He's the guy the PGA of America hopes can stem the tide of seven American losses in the last nine tries at the biennial competition.
But the last two losses have come in 14.5-13.5 decisions. The U.S. team is just one point away from having won the last two in a row. An assistant captain could be part of the edge that lets the American dozen win a road game at Gleneagles next fall.
North will be a help to Watson, no doubt, but who else should Watson pick to help him? Previously Watson has said he's considered up to 10 players for the job. He could pick just one more guy, like Fred Couples did for the 2011 Presidents Cup, or could have a full complement of four assistants like his last two predecessors.
No matter how many assistants Watson chooses to surround himself with, here are some suggestions for who he should select.
The Golden Bear's cache speaks for itself, but Nicklaus has been a captain that current players know. He was a four-time Presidents Cup captain before Fred Couples took on the gig, and his players all said they enjoyed played for Jack. He applies enough importance to the event to keep the guys serious, but allows the guys to remain loose.
Pairing Nicklaus, who is a great friend to the Stanford product, with Tom Watson would be creating a Murderer's Row of American excellence.
The 14-time PGA Tour winner has moved onto the Champions Tour, but Perry still keeps tabs on a number of younger players, including mentoring several. Perry was on a pair of Ryder Cup teams: the team drubbed at home by a record margin in 2004 and the resurgent, inspired American side that won in Perry's home state of Kentucky in 2008.
It'd be a little bit of corporate synergy, too, as Perry is sponsored by The Greenbrier, where Watson is the pro emeritus.
Before Tom Watson landed the job in a major surprise, David Toms was thought to be the guy that would be tapped to take over the American charge. The 2001 PGA champion is 46 years old and still playing an active schedule. Like Perry, Toms would be helpful in working with the southern contingent of American players that might make the team. It'd also be a nod from Watson that Toms should get a run at the captaincy in 2016 back on U.S. soil.