Paul Azinger backing Bubba Watson for Ryder Cup unless competitor wins at East Lake
By Andy Charles
Last Updated: 23/09/16 10:52pm
Paul Azinger expects Bubba Watson to get the final wildcard pick for the US Ryder Cup team unless one of his rivals wins the Tour Championship.
The final event of the FedEx Cup play-offs got underway on Thursday with a handful of players still holding out hope of being Davis Love III's final selection when it is made at the end of the tournament.
Watson is easily the highest-ranked of them, currently No 7 on the Official World Golf Rankings, but he is under pressure from the likes of Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Kevin Na.
Azinger, who was the last American captain to win the event back in 2008 at Valhalla, expects Love to select another experienced player if none of Watson's main competitors secures a statement win at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Azinger told Sky Sports News HQ: "I think if any player wins the Tour Championship this week that is not on the Ryder Cup team, he will make the team automatically.
"Davis' philosophy is to try and get players on there that are hot, playing well and really confident. If a player wins the Tour Championship that is already on the Ryder Cup team, I think he will pick Bubba Watson, who is seventh in the world.
"He's not automatic but if a Justin Thomas or a Daniel Berger, or somebody they deem as red-hot, wins the Tour Championship they are on it. Unless they are going to surprise us and pick Tiger Woods or something."
The United States team will go in with a huge advantage in experience, with European captain Darren Clarke having seen five rookies qualify and then picking a sixth - Thomas Pieters - as one of his wildcards.
But Azinger has experience of success with a team chock-full of rookies as his victorious 2008 roster also had six players - Anthony Kim, Ben Curtis, Boo Weekley, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and JB Holmes - who were experiencing the event for the first time.
He added: "We won our Ryder Cup with six rookies. I don't see anybody really as a rookie. Anyone who has played well enough to qualify for a Ryder Cup team, to get his name on a bag, they are all seasoned professionals and a lot of times the first Ryder Cup for a player is his best ever - it was for me.
"Certainly Europe can win and this is going to be a pressure-packed Ryder Cup for the American team as they try to end this streak.
"These guys can respond to the pressure and that is the reason they were able to make it on to this team. There is no shortcut to success for America - you have to be prepared and these American players are going to be the most prepared of any team in a long long time."