(Reuters) - United States captain Tom Watson said on Wednesday he has no issue with the deadline for making wildcard picks even though his team at next week’s Ryder Cup in Scotland will not include the game’s hottest player.
Billy Horschel was runner-up in the second of four playoff events on the U.S. circuit a day before Watson made his wildcard picks and then went on to triumph at the next two tournaments to secure FedExCup honors and the $10 million jackpot.
But Watson, speaking on a conference call in his final interview before the U.S. team leaves for Gleneagles on Sunday, said Horschel simply did not do enough to warrant selection at the time the team was picked.
“He was on my radar early in the year,” said Watson, who selected Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson as his three wild card picks. “I like his swing, like his fundamentals but he just didn’t perform well enough to get on the team.”
Watson says the timeframe for the picks, three weeks before the biennial event, represents a happy medium – late enough to identify in-form players but not so late as to be logistically unfeasible.
Horschel was ranked 69th entering the four-event playoff and his play in the season-ending Tour Championship was hugely impressive as he extended his run of scores in the sixties to 12, the longest on Tour, and outshot world number one Rory McIlroy in the final round to triumph.
The 27-year-old American said after his win that he still did not fee like he deserved to be on the Ryder Cup team. He also received a text message from Watson.
“Billy, you’re a day late but not a dollar short,” Watson quipped in the message.
Watson recalled that he had to make his two captain’s picks six weeks ahead of the Ryder Cup when he previously was captain in 1993.
“Three weeks (beforehand) is a logical place to make your captain’s picks,” he said. “Logistically, it would be awfully tough to make a decision the week before.”
Watson also said he would have no qualms about sitting out players for the entire first day if he felt their lack of form warranted it.
Under the Ryder Cup format, eight players from each 12-man team play in the morning matches and eight also contest the afternoon matches the first two days.
In 1993, Watson sat out John Cook and Chip Beck on Friday and Saturday morning.
Cook and Beck, perhaps fired up after being overlooked, came out hot when they finally got to play on Saturday afternoon, beating the formidable duo of Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie.
Watson also seems happy to play the underdog card as the Americans take on a European team that includes four of the top six players in the world rankings.
“They do look stronger on paper,” said Watson. “They’ve got Rory McIlroy and that’s a great plus, but the way I look at it, Rory can’t win the matches by himself.”
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue