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Watson shows American spirit by accepting captain job

CHASKA, Minn.--Davis Love III can thank his lucky stars and stripes that Bubba Watson bleeds red, white and blue. It was a bit jarring Sunday night when Watson, ranked No. 7 in the world and one of the most gifted shot-makers in modern golf, was ...

Bubba Watson lines up a putt on the 13th green during the third round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club over the weekend. Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Bubba Watson lines up a putt on the 13th green during the third round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club over the weekend. Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

CHASKA, Minn.-Davis Love III can thank his lucky stars and stripes that Bubba Watson bleeds red, white and blue.

It was a bit jarring Sunday night when Watson, ranked No. 7 in the world and one of the most gifted shot-makers in modern golf, was left off the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Watson could have responded by throwing a fit, which he has been prone to do.

Instead, told he would not be playing this week at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Watson accepted the job as chief cheerleader, becoming one of five - five! - vice captains for Love's American team.

With this move, Love made sure that Watson won't be a distraction this week when he could have been a big one. Watson certainly can make the case that he deserves to be playing. Only two Americans are ahead of him in the world rankings: Dustin Johnson, at No. 2, and Jordan Spieth, at No. 4.

Watson not playing is inexplicable, except that it's not.

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By picking Ryan Moore over Watson on Sunday night, and subsequently assuring that Watson won't bitch about it, Love has a better outcome than he could have imagined.

Moore, ranked 31st in the world, is playing better than anyone on the American roster. After winning the John Deere Classic in August, he strung together three top-10 finishes in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He battled Rory McIlroy to the very end of a four-hole playoff in Sunday's FedEx Cup Championship in Atlanta.

He's going to win some matches this week.

Watson, meanwhile, hasn't played well since spring. Combine that with his quirky personality - he was the "winner" in an infamous, anonymous poll last year asking PGA Tour players who they wouldn't help in a fist fight - and even Watson started to realize his chances of making the team weren't good. In fact, he began lobbying last week for some kind of role, any role, on the team should he get shunned.

It was in Love's, and the U.S. team's, best interest to appease Watson.

"He adds a lot of fun, a different personality, a great heart," Love said Monday at Hazeltine. "Now that we have 12 plus Bubba, we have the perfect team."

Well, not exactly. It seems as if the U.S. has put together a pretty good team, certainly one good enough to win. But Love stepped in it last week during a radio interview when he declared, "This is the best golf team maybe ever assembled."

Few golf fans would put J.B. Holmes, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler, et al., above, say, 1975 Ryder Cup players Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin and Raymond Floyd. But that's another story.

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That's just the kind of bulletin-board material the Europeans, who have won the past three Ryder Cups and nine of the past 11, were hoping to get. It got even better for Darren Clarke's squad when Miller went so far as to say over the weekend that this European team is the worst "in many years."

Those comments are distractions the U.S. team doesn't need. But Watson toeing the line is a big help. The focus can remain on the golf, and Love should be congratulated for finding a way to make that happen. Thanks, Bubba.

"It was a difficult call," Love said. "But he immediately said, 'I still want to be part of this team if you'll have me.' It was an incredible gesture. That shows where our team is. We have an extra guy now. What Bubba did really shows how close this team is."

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