United States skipper Davis Love III has made the curiously late decision to name Ryder Cup veteran Bubba Watson as his fifth vice-captain ahead of this week's tournament. The two-time major winner joins Tom Lehman, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker as Love's lieutenants as favourites the USA attempt to end a run of three consecutive defeats at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota and secure their first win over Europe since 2008.
Watson, a Masters champion in both 2012 and 2014, currently sits behind Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth as the third highest-ranked American golfer at seventh in the world, but was overlooked for three initial wildcard picks that instead went to Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and JB Holmes. The final selection was thought to be between the eccentric maverick and in-form Ryan Moore, with the latter eventually getting the nod after losing to Rory McIlroy in a dramatic play-off at the FedEx Cup in Atlanta on Sunday (25 September).
"Bubba was obviously disappointed not to be on the team. But as our team has really bonded together over the last couple months, Bubba has offered a couple times to come and be one of our assistant captains, and I told him we had an extra red cart and we'd love to have him," Love said after Watson admitted last week that he wanted to be appointed as vice-captain in the event that he failed to gain selection as a player.
"So he's back at the hotel trying to get his clothes fit and get ready for assistant captain duties, much like Jim Furyk. Jim didn't really know until maybe a week ago that he was officially an assistant captain and not a player. Our team has rounded out both on the captains' side and the players' side, and we're ready to go and excited to get to playing."
Both the US and Europe are expected to pay tribute to Arnold Palmer this weekend after 'The King' of golf died at UPMC Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last weekend aged 87.
"Our country has lost a great sportsman and a great American," Love said of Palmer's passing. "As we approach the Ryder Cup this week, our team will keep Mr Palmer's family in our prayers and we will draw from his strength and determination to inspire us.
"When I think of Arnold Palmer, I think of his natural ability to relate to people, the close bond he had with his father, and how when I first came on Tour, he made young professionals like me feel welcome. He leaves an impact on the game and on sports in America that is unmatched."