ATLANTA — Bubba Watson is a two-time major champion who is ranked seventh in the world, and he finished ninth in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, one place removed from an automatic spot.
But captain Davis Love III didn’t make Watson an at-large selection on Sept. 12, instead choosing Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes and Matt Kuchar — 10th, 11th and 12th in the standings — with one more pick to go.
That led to all kinds of conjecture that Watson was passed over due to various issues, perceived or otherwise, about his qualities as a teammate. A 2015 ESPN.com poll of 103 PGA Tour players — in which Watson was named by the most players as the one they’d least like to help in a fight — also fueled the argument.
But without prompting, Brandt Snedeker stepped up to defend Watson.
“I don’t know where everybody gets this idea that Bubba Watson is a bad teammate,” said Snedeker, who along with Watson is competing in the 30-player Tour Championship this week at East Lake Golf Club. “His is probably one of the best teammates you could possibly have. I want that out there for everybody to hear. Bubba Watson is a great teammate.
“So I don’t know where everybody keeps making this diversion of the truth, making Bubba out to be this bad guy. He is a great teammate. He was unbelievable on Monday (when several players practiced together). He’s been unbelievable all year. And we would be lucky to have him on the team as a teammate, period, end of story.”
The story, of course, has yet to end. Love has one more pick on Sunday after the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship. Watson could very well be it. He won earlier this year at the Northern Trust Open. He tied for eighth at the Olympic Golf Tournament last month.
But Love perhaps inadvertently fueled this thinking when he didn’t say Watson’s name last week in announcing his first three picks and seemed to give little indication that Watson was being considered, suggesting that Love had not even called him.
It doesn’t help Watson’s cause that he is 3-8 in three Ryder Cup appearances, including 0-3 in singles. He’s never won a foursomes match (alternate shot.) He’s also 0-1-1 in singles at the Presidents Cup.
But Watson was invited to a practice session on Monday at Hazeltine National, along with other potential picks Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who are also in the Tour Championship field. They joined Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and others in getting a look at next week’s Ryder Cup venue.
Snedeker acknowledged that Love has a “tough, tough decision. We were sitting around, a few of us talking about it last night, and we were all scratching our heads thinking there’s so many different ways he could go.”
Love is scheduled to make his final pick Sunday night, and the team meets for the first time at Hazeltine on Monday.