Ryder Cup 2016: Case for Bubba Watson as U.S. Captain’s Pick

September 5, 2016

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III has a daunting job ahead of him: filling the four spots on his squad reserved for wildcard picks. Who’s on DLIII’s short list? Presumably he already has his favorites — and we have ours. Each day in the run-up to Sept. 12, when Love will announce three of his picks (he won’t name his final pick until Sept. 26, the Monday after the Tour Championship), a GOLF.com staffer will make the case for a player who deserves the nod. Up next, Bubba Watson. Who do you think belongs on the team? Let us know here.

Let’s keep this simple, Ryder Cup followers: Why not Bubba?

The last guy you want to face in match play is a monstrously long hitter with shotmaking skills, a guy who carves wedge shots like a chef slicing up a Butterball turkey, and a golfer with a homemade swing.

The latter is dangerous in match play because a homemade swing at a high level of competition signals a player who knows his swing inside and out. He lives it, he trusts it. If his swing looks suspect, in your opinion, then he must be pretty darned good at something to rank among the world’s best players.

That is Bubba Watson. He is as ephemeral and unpredictable as the shots he hits. Sometimes they’re brilliant, sometimes they’re not. But they’re his shots and his unique style, and it can be maddening to opponents. He is a guy you absolutely want on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

The Bubba Report requires only one word: scary.

He’s picking up his foot on his backswing like he’s at a hoedown, he’s coming over the top and lunging/sliding forward like an amateur—and he’s blowing it 340 down the middle with a power-cut. He’ll do it all day long, too. Bubba usually ranks near the top of the Tour in birdies and eagles per round, fearsome ammunition for match play.

If you face him, maybe you think you can get under his skin because weird stuff does bother him. He likes attention — craves it, really — but he does not want a gathering of people to get too close. He’s an introvert and a showoff at the same time. Actually, here’s a better word: artist. Bubba paints with his golf clubs and he doesn’t do straight lines. It’s a beautiful thing.

About the elephant in the room: Bubba’s Ryder Cup record, which is mixed, to put it politely. Watson was 0-3 in the last Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland. His confidence and his game don’t always travel well. Six of his nine PGA Tour victories were racked up on three courses—Riviera Country Club, TPC River Highlands and Augusta National. He sometimes needs a comfort level to perform. Yet he won in China last year, holing a hellacious bunker shot on the final green for the victory in a setting that couldn’t have been much more uncomfortable for a down-home boy from rural Florida.

Bubba is a contradiction. Don’t read too much into his 0-3 mark in Scotland. He was saddled with Webb Simpson, who popped up the Americans’ opening drive in their best-ball match and continued to play poorly. After Simpson’s opening skyball, Watson fearlessly convinced the crowd the yell and cheer while he teed up, either to prove a point or to try to silence them, then drove it into the rough and dropped an expletive.

Two years earlier, he’d whipped American fans into a frenzy on the first tee by doing a similar move, one that England’s Ian Poulter tried to match in an effort to upstage Watson.

You can forgive his 1-3 mark in 2010 in Wales, where the matches were played in a quagmire and at uncertain times due to rainy weather. Bubba needs his rhythm.

I dug into old Ryder Cup report cards and here’s what I filed on Bubba:

– 2010: An emotional player, Watson’s power game was negated by wet, sloppy conditions and thick rough. He didn’t make a lot of birdies, got schooled by (Miguel Angel) Jimenez… C-minus, 1-3.

– 2012: Nobody inspired louder cheers since Amy Mickelson yelled for the Phoenix Suns… B-minus, 2-2.

– 2014: America’s big stud was big dud, especially when U.S. badly needed his singles point… D-plus, 0-3.

Why do you want a player with a 3-8 record who’s played on three losing sides? Because Bubba is a work in progress, an evolving player mentally and physically and, oh yeah, Hazeltine plays long. You can’t afford not to have Watson’s length and his enthusiasm. He’s too good to stay home.

Remember his 2010 pairing with Jeff Overton and their “Boom Baby!” moment? Maybe not, since the U.S. lost that Ryder Cup, too. Well, Bubba brings an almost child-like enthusiasm, a deep sense of patriotism and a big game to a big stage.

When the Americans arrive in Minnesota, Watson is very likely to be part of the team.

Why not Bubba?