Watson set to unleash Bubba

2014-09-23 17:29
Bubba Watson (AFP)

Gleneagles - Reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson was declared the American "big dog" on Tuesday by United States captain Tom Watson when asked who Europe would likely target in this week's Ryder Cup.

Watson, the oldest Ryder Cup captain at 65 and an eight-time major champion, had declared world number one Rory McIlroy, the British Open and PGA Championship winner, and 2012 Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter as top targets for his players to beat for an extra emotional boost.

When asked whose defeat might provide the same lift for Europe, captain Watson chose player Watson, the long-driving star who captured his second green jacket in three tries last April at Augusta National.

"If you knock off the big dog, that gives your team a boost," Watson said. "I would say that if I just had to pull a name, he would probably be the guy that people would be looking to defeat."

It's not the first canine tag for Watson, who played college golf for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

"I don't want to make too much of targets, but obviously there are. I think Bubba would be a target," Watson said. "I wouldn't define him as a target. I would just say that he can really get it going and make it happen. I hope he does.

"I hope the European team is thinking every one of us is a target."

Watson again stressed McIlroy as a key man to beat for the Americans.

"I wouldn't say target. We would like to beat every player," Watson said. "But if you look at the players right now, the number one player in the world is Rory McIlroy, and that's somebody that we'd like to see on the losing end of a match.

"Every player, when they're paired up, they will be targeting the players they are playing, not looking at somebody else."

Watson also spoke fondly of getting under an opponent's skin, or "needling" them, saying, "I love that element of the game."

But, he stressed, not in the Ryder Cup.

"No. You don't do that in The Ryder Cup," Watson said. "You play like gentlemen. When you're playing just for fun, you can get out the needle. Then you can stick it in."

Watson has not attended a Ryder Cup in person since 1993, when he guided the US team's most recent victory on European soil. The Americans have lost seven of the past nine meetings.

"They have been able to pull it out a little better at the end than we have," Watson said. "I can't explain why. I have to give credit to the Europeans. They have played better at the end."

Watson said his team is well mentally and physically but called for fewer events in the run-up to the Ryder Cup.

"I am concerned about how much these players are playing before they reach the Ryder Cup," Watson said. "These players are playing seven out of eight tournaments or eight out of nine. They are tired. That's too much golf.

"That does concern me and if they could rectify that by a change in the date or the way these tournaments are played prior to it, that would be great for the Ryder Cup."

But Watson doesn't want to see any longer gap between Ryder Cups.

"I still like two years," he said.

"I think that's just right."

Watson said five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, in his 10th Ryder Cup, and nine-timer Cupper Jim Furyk have lead roles this time due to experience.

"They are the veterans. The players look up to them," Watson said. "They have the platform a lot and that's a really good thing."


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