Ryder Cup exclusive: Davis Love III talks about adding Bubba Watson as assistant captain
CHASKA, Minn. -- In a week that started on a somber note with the passing of the legendary Arnold Palmer last Sunday afternoon, Ryder Cup USA Captain Davis Love III is delighted that -- with Palmer's memory everpresent -- the 2016 Ryder Cup will officially tee off on Friday morning.
I tracked Love down following his presser Thursday evening just moments after Friday morning's Foursomes pairings were revealed at the Opening Ceremony.
"It's been a hectic week so far, obviously, with the passing of Arnold Palmer," he said. "Getting that news on Sunday night changed a lot of things -- as it should have. So many things changed, so many things happened. The world stood still for a little bit and got surreal for a day. But we picked Ryan Moore, got him here and settled and started to think pairings -- getting guys in."
Being the Captain, Love explained, isn't just about showing up.
"You just think that, 'The Captain does his thing and everything else takes care of itself,'" he explained. "But, part of being a Captain, I learned early on as an assistant is, sure, we have a back office staff, or a 'backroom staff,' as Darren Clarke likes to call it, but when you don't have your tickets or your shoes, or you want to know what time to go to dinner, you ask the Captain because he's your friend, rather than going to ask somebody whose on the staff. Just getting everybody organized the first couple of days is so much fun, but it's just really busy. I feel like it's been one news story after another where we have to put out fires or -- there's just so much build up to it that it slows you down. I think all of our guys are so ready to just play golf. The good thing is, there have been several things that have popped up that keeps our guys away from hearing, 'Oh, this team has lost three in a row, eight of the last 10,' whatever. We haven't had to deal with too much of that part of it. It's more been Arnold and this story or that story. Let's focus on what we're doing. Even though we've been busy, that other stuff has kept us from thinking about winning or losing, or our record, or things like that."
Another storyline that has been pushed aside because of the Palmer news and other things like Phil Mickelson's assessment of Hal Sutton as a captain 12 years ago, or a derogatory blog penned by Danny Willett's brother, Pete, towards American fans, is this: World No. 7 Bubba Watson was not selected for the American team with Love's final pick.
There was a lot said in the last few weeks about Love's initial pass on Watson with his first three selections on Sept. 12. Many speculated that it was a "team chemistry" issue, an assumption that Brandt Snedeker and Jordan Spieth were quick to shoot down.
The topic arose again on Sunday when Love opted for Ryan Moore with his final pick, passing over Watson once more.
To his credit, Watson not only took it on the chin, but he also stepped up and said he still wanted to be a part of the team in some -- any -- capacity.
"We passed over Bubba once with the first three picks," Love said. "We called and told him, 'We didn't pick you. There's another pick coming.' Right then he offered to be an assistant captain. He said, 'If you pick Tiger or Jim, can I be an assistant captain?' I said, 'Well, I don't think Tiger's playing.' I told him to get through the Tour Championship. He played great on the weekend and everybody thinks, well, Bubba's back in it. Then, to not pick him again -- remember, nobody has ever been passed over twice -- that's in any team competition. Nobody has been passed over twice. You're not picked. He did ask why and I told him why. He didn't ask in a defiant way, he just wanted to know the reason. I told him the reason and he said, 'Well, I still want to come.' I said, 'You're welcome to come. I have six carts and five drivers. Come and do it'"
So, rather than a Captain's Pick, Watson became the fifth assistant captain for the Americans.
According to Love, people around Ryder Cup USA were floored.
"From disbelief to tears from guys, 'What do you mean Bubba's coming? You skipped over the No. 9 guy on the points list and the No. 7 guy in the world and he still wants to come?'" Love said. "You can ask anyone. He didn't come in and say, 'I'm going to sit on the couch and hang out.'"
So far, Watson has been the model assistant.
"The first night, he was directing guys with what to do -- signing bags and stuff," Love said. "I'm usually the first guy at the course -- maybe not so much this time -- but he's been the first guy here in the morning. He was in the first car with me on the first morning wanting to do stuff. I've had three or four staff and three or four captains say, 'I didn't realize Bubba understood everything this well, or would have this much impact.' He's helping us make pairings, he's talking to players, he knows the caddies. Heck, he knows the caddies way better than me or Jim or Steve. It's unbelievable what he's added. It's been fun and it's been a blessing to this team to have him here pulling everybody together.”