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Watson's warning: 'If you're not playing well you might not play'

Whenever Tom Watson has spoken about his role as Ryder Cup captain he has been at pains to stress his desire - and that of opposite number Paul McGinley - that the contest at Gleneagles be played in the right spirit.

But scratch beneath the surface of the platitudes and it does not take long to realise just how badly Watson wants to regain the trophy after years of European domination.

Europe have won seven of the last nine contests, causing the PGA of America to ask Watson to reprise his role as captain at The Belfry in 1993, the last time the United States tasted success on European soil.

Watson will be 65 by the time of the matches on September 26 to 28 next year but has lost none of the compe-titive fire which almost saw him pull off a fairy tale sixth Open victory at the age of 59 at Turnberry in 2009.

"I think the team got behind me in 1993 and said we are going to win this no matter what," said Watson. "I will be honest with the players: if you're not playing very well you might not play very much."

Watson gave Lee Janzen, Chip Beck and John Cook just one game each before the singles 20 years ago. That is where Watson's predecessor, Davis Love, came in for criticism, acceding to a request from Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley to be rested for the Saturday afternoon fourballs at Medinah.

The pair had won all three of their previous matches comfortably, but while they rested Europe split the afternoon session 2-2 and then came from 10-6 down in the singles, where a "refreshed" Mickelson and Bradley lost anyway to Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy respectively, to grab victory.

Love did at least have the nerve to sit out Tiger Woods for a session for the first time in the world No.1's Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup career, although Woods still only managed half a point from four matches.

The impression remains that McGinley's captaincy will be a study in meticulous preparation while Watson is projecting a slightly more laissez-faire approach.

"The main thing I do is have their backs," he says of his players. "I cover them, I make sure they have what they need, their clothes fit, all the mundane stuff, but the bottom line is that I am a stage manager, they are the actors and they go out and perform.

"Medinah was great theatre and a great match, just the wrong team won."

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