By Mark Lamport-Stokes
(Reuters) – United States captain Davis Love III focused on “what fits best for our team” in naming Rickie Fowler, JB Holmes and Matt Kuchar on Monday as three of his four wildcard picks for this month’s Ryder Cup against Europe.
Love, who notably overlooked world number seven Bubba Watson, will announce his final selection on Sept. 25, after the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship finishes in Atlanta, to round out his 12-man team.
“These three guys are who we really all wanted,” Love said, referring to his four assistant captains, during a news conference at this year’s Ryder Cup venue, Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minnesota.
“We are very confident in them and we are excited that we have our 11 players now and we can move on. This was a tough decision. There were many great choices … and we have another tough decision coming up in two weeks.”
World number nine Fowler, 27, a triple winner on the PGA Tour, was a member of the 2010 and 2014 teams and has always been a popular figure among his peers.
Holmes, 34, known for his prodigious length off the tee, has made just one previous appearance for his country in the Ryder Cup, in 2008 when the U.S. last tasted victory over Europe.
Kuchar, 38, who is renowned for his consistency from tee to green and an uncanny ability to grind out top-10 finishes, has featured in the last three Ryder Cups.
“Rickie, he is so excited to be on the team again,” said Love. “We found no weaknesses in his game, and he’s such a great team mate. He’s really confident on the big stages … he brings a lot of intangibles to our team.
“JB, he’s so steady. He’s easy to pick, got a lot of experience. He’s consistent and he’s been on a winning Ryder Cup team before.
“And then Matt Kuchar. I’ve been on a lot of teams with Matt. He’s great, got a great attitude for matchplay, he’s a great partner. Like JB, he’s consistent. He’s easy to pair.”
MOST NOTABLE OMISSION
Left-hander Watson, a double Masters champion who is renowned for his booming drives and creative short game, was the most notable omission by Love on Monday after missing out on an automatic spot on the U.S. team by just one spot last month.
Asked about the absence of Watson, who has played in the last three Ryder Cups, Love replied: “We looked at a lot of guys that are in the Tour Championship and some guys that aren’t in the Tour Championship.
“The players that are playing in the Tour Championship need to try and win the Tour Championship and not think about Ryder Cup points. That’s the biggest thing I’ve told several players, ‘It’s not a scoring contest at the Tour Championship for who gets the Ryder Cup pick.’
“We’ve got a game plan, a strategy, and we’re going to work on that the next two weeks and announce our (final) pick … based on what fits best for our team, not really who shoots the lowest scores in the last tournament.”
The eight automatic qualifiers on the U.S. team, confirmed after last month’s Barclays tournament, are: U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson.
The U.S. will bid to end a dominant run by the Europeans, who have won three consecutive Ryder Cups and eight of the last 10, when the three-day competition starts on Sept. 30 at Hazeltine National.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Tony Jimenez and Frank Pingue)