For someone as conservative as United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, not choosing the No. 7 player in the world, Bubba Watson, as a captain’s pick this week was basically like going shots fired starboard side across the PGA Tour.
Watson finished roughly $150,000 in earnings on the season outside of making the team automatically, but Love chose the three golfers directly behind him in the Ryder Cup standings instead.
The problem now for Love is that his options beyond Watson are not great. You could take Justin Thomas or Daniel Berger or even Jim Furyk, but it would be pretty odd to leave off a two-time Masters winner who doubles as a top 10 player in the world at the moment.
So why did Love preclude Watson in the first round of captain’s picks (the last pick will be made next Sunday after the Tour Championship)?
“You hear Davis talk about chemistry and how players are going to be in a team setting, so when he leaves out someone ranked so highly it does seem like it’s because the captain can’t see where he fits in, with regard to pairings and stuff like that,” European Ryder Cup golfer Lee Westwood told the Daily Mail.
There is certainly a case to be made when it comes to “pairings and stuff like that.” Watson is not necessarily the most popular player on the PGA Tour, and he does not have the best Ryder Cup resume (3-8-0 lifetime record), but he is still the extremely heavy favorite to be Love’s final pick. Why? Well he’s the No. 7 player in the world for starters!
Statistically, Watson does not stand out. He’s not in the top 150 in the world in putting, and he doesn’t have a top-10 at a PGA Tour event since March. Still, he’s in the Tour Championship and could theoretically play his way onto the team (if Bubba wins or contends at the Tour Championship, it’s hard to imagine him being left home). Are you really going to take Kevin Na or Daniel Berger to fight the Europeans over a two-tme Masters champ?
“What would happen if Bubba Watson won at East Lake? Is that what he has to do to get the pick?” Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo told Reuters.
Watson thinks he might be left home, and there’s not much he can do about it.
Spoke to Bubba yesterday and he said, “I am No. 7 in the World. If they don’t pick me, they must not think I’m good.” He may need a hug now.
— Adam Schupak (@GolfweekSchupak) September 12, 2016
Although he desperately wants to be at Hazeltine.
“I want to play on the Ryder Cup,” said Watson at the BMW Championship last week. “My whole goal this year was the Ryder Cup and the Olympics. That’s all I cared about the whole year was making those two events. I didn’t care how I did it, as long as I made those events. And I got in the Olympics, so I got one more to go, I guess.”
There is the matter of team chemistry, too. Love has been big on it.
“I’m going to talk to these 11 guys now that we have 11,” said Love this week of his eight automatic qualifiers and three captain’s picks. “We’ve got a game plan, a strategy, and we’re going to work on that the next two weeks and announce our pick next Sunday night based on what fits best for our team. Not really who shoots the lowest scores in the last tournament.
“These [captain’s picks] added a lot statistically, emotionally, leadership, for a lot of reasons. The next guy is going to have to step up and fill a role, as well. I haven’t really been able to talk to these three guys a whole lot about it.”
The subtext there is that Love doesn’t think Watson fills the role statistically, emotionally or when it comes to leadership — or he would have already picked him. But if nobody stands out at the final event of the season, Love’s hand might be forced. Love definitely has a Bubba problem, though, and no great solution in sight.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / 2016 Ryder Cup captain’s picks: Davis Love III has a Bubba Watson conundrum