Sunday 21 January 2018

Bubba Watson in limbo after Davis Love III omits him from first three US wild cards

Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson

James Corrigan

If Bubba Watson ever doubted the validity of last year's poll of the PGA Tour pros which featured him as cast-adrift last in the question of who they would least be likely to help in a bar fight, he probably knows better after Davis Love III named his first three Ryder Cup wildcards.

Watson, the two-time Masters winner who, as world No7, is the third-highest ranked American player, was overlooked by Love for the match in Hazeltine in two weeks time. The nod went to Rickie Fowler, JB Holmes and Matt Kuchar with one more to be named after next week's Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Watson is favourite to get that final golden ticket, just five days before the 41st edition of the Ryder Cup tees off, but with 11 other Americans who are not on Love's roster also having qualified for the 30-man shootout in Atlanta, the left-hander's place looks far from certain.

Justin Thomas and Daniel Berher catch the eye as rookies who could force Love's hand at the deer Lake and make Watson look vulnerable. And, no, this maverick does not seem the type to take vulnerability well - particularly if there is a sense of injustice.

With Fowler not only down on his form - he did not even make it to the Tour Championship - but also possessing a Ryder Cup record which reads 'played eight games, won none' (although he has secured five halves), Watson surely cannot help but feel this was as much a popularity contest as a golf selection.

Love revealed that he took advice from the eight automatic qualifiers before coming to his final decision - as well, of course, from his four assistants who include Tiger Woods - and in the 'Nice Guy Stakes', Watson would have been operating at a disadvantage.

Fowler is hugely liked in the locker room and was a member of the famous 'task force' set up by the PGA of America in the wake of their third successive defeat at Gleneagles two years ago and actually played a part in reappointing Love as captain after he came so close to victory in 2012. 

Watson is a loner and a curious one at that, and is not universally liked on the ranges, as shown in the anonymous survey conducted last year by leading US network ESPN which asked more than 100 PGA Tour pros who would be last colleague they would help if an argument went outside into the car park. Watson was the runaway winner.

Love made no secret in his press conference of his aim to pick the best team players before the best individual players.

"There were questions as late as last night but my assistants and I kept coming back to these three guys,"Love said. "We are a sports team and we have to draft the right players for the right positions. There have been a lot of things to look at. Making the pairings, fitting into the team, doing all the little things you're asked to do. These three guys fill a lot of different roles."

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