By Andrew Both
(Reuters) - David Duval thinks the perceived importance of a Ryder Cup captain is a "little overblown" but nonetheless believes the next American leader should be closer to the age of the players than Tom Watson.
Eight-times major champion Watson was 65 when he captained an American team that lost to Europe last year, prompting criticism that he was too autocratic with his players and did not effectively communicate with them.
Phil Mickelson was particularly outspoken, saying the U.S. had "strayed from a winning formula" used by victorious 2008 captain Paul Azinger.
"Tom Watson is a legend without question, but when you get older players like that it's sometimes hard for a 22-year-old kid (to relate)," Duval, a new Golf Channel analyst, told Reuters.
"We need to bring in people who are closer to competitive days and closer in age to players who are going to be on the team."
Former world number one Duval played in two Ryder Cups, part of the winning U.S. team that made a huge comeback in 1999. He also was on the losing side three years later.
"You can't blame the captain for poor play. He's not hitting any shots," Duval continued. "In '99 we were getting blitzed and (captain) Ben Crenshaw was catching some heat and there was no reason for it.
"The putts were lipping out and on Sunday they stopped lipping out and started lipping in. It's such a fine line in that competition and every half-point matters so much.
"Players have to perform ... but I think it's important to have a captain the team wants and can relate to the players."
Asked if he would be interested in being involved with next year's team, Duval said he did not think he was on the radar.
Duval once said he would like to be a Ryder Cup captain eventually, but he perhaps is persona non grata with the PGA of America after saying back in 1999 that players should receive payment for the Ryder Cup, designated to a charity of their choice, something that now happens.
Duval is not part of the 11-man task force (which includes eight players, among them Phil Mickelson) the PGA of America has brought together to map a blueprint for what it hopes will be future Ryder Cup success.
The U.S. has lost the past three Ryder Cups and eight of the past 10 biennial competitions.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)