Watson was controversially overlooked by Davis Love III for one of his four captain’s playing picks. The last of those was announced on Sunday night, Ryan Moore’s forcing of Rory McIlroy into four holes of a sudden death play-off at the Tour Championship sufficient for him to complete the USA team.
Watson had always been adamant he still wanted to be involved. The two-times Masters champion and world No7 will therefore join Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Tom Lehman in providing back-up to Love this week at Hazeltine.
“Bubba Watson was obviously disappointed not to be on the team,” Love said. “I called him and told him I was going in a different direction and he immediately said: ‘I still want to be a part of this team if you’ll have me.’ An incredible gesture. When I told the team members and assistant captains last night, we were still in disbelief. What Bubba did really shows how together the US team really is and we are excited to have him.
“When we started talking about this year’s Ryder Cup, we felt like we needed experience with our assistant captains. We needed some former captain experience and some possible future captain experience.
“Obviously Bubba rounds that out: major championship experience, Ryder Cup experience, on our side. We’ve got a great mix of guys that think differently.”
Reflecting on the selection of Moore, who is one of two rookies on the USA team against six for Europe, Love added: “It was a tough decision. We waited until the last minute to catch a hot player.
“Ryan obviously, week after week after week after week, was the hottest player since the US PGA Championship, and even before, he’s been the most consistent in all of the statistics; in the top-10 finishes, obviously a win last month. He’s just been right there at the forefront for us.”
Love admitted the death of Arnold Palmer, who had a terrific Ryder Cup record among a series of personal triumphs, may bring an emotional element to the home team which he will need to control.
“It’s almost like we are all dealing with the loss of a family member, and how is that going to affect both teams over the next few days?” he added. “So it’s got to settle in a little bit.
“There’s a lot of times I’m just sitting alone by myself and tear up. So who knows how it’s going to play out for an inspiration, but I think we’re just going to have to deal with it the next couple days. For a lot of us, he was our captain, as well, and will always be ‘The King’ for us. It’s going to be a different week for both sides, I think.”
Darren Clarke, Europe’s captain, agreed. “What I was going to say to the players I’m still going to say to the players,” he said. “But obviously with this passing of The King, it’s a slightly different perspective on the whole thing now. He will be missed. He was a lot of these guys’ [the players] hero as well.
“This will be another great chapter in the history of the Ryder Cup, and certainly one that goes along with honouring Mr Palmer as well.”
Clarke unsurprisingly praised McIlroy, who took delivery of the FedEx Cup in addition to the Tour Championship on Sunday evening. “He’s a wonderful young man and an unbelievable golfer, so he’s a hugely inspirational figure for our team,” said Clarke. “I feel very lucky that he’s on our European side.”
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