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Why Bubba Watson should be lauded, not chastised, at Ryder Cup

Bubba Watson didn't get a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but as a vice captain he gets to cruise around in a personalized cart. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

CHASKA, Minn. -- Early Tuesday afternoon, as the first of three U.S. foursomes made its way to the ninth tee box, a lone red golf cart trailed behind.

The driver had an earpiece in his ear, a smile on his face and no clubs in the back of that cart, because even though he's the world's seventh-ranked golfer, he won't be hitting a single shot here at the Ryder Cup.

Bubba Watson missed qualifying for this year's roster, wasn't one of the first three captain's picks, and then was passed over for the final selection on Sunday in favor of Ryan Moore.

For a guy whose mood swings in the past have often ranged from very high highs to very low lows, it wouldn't have been surprising if Watson went home and sulked for a week. Or went on social media and blasted the snub. Or posted videos of himself head-to-toe in blue and gold, chanting, "Olé, olé, olé, olé..."

He did none of this. Instead, he asked captain Davis Love III if he could still be part of the team as a vice captain, a request that Love quickly obliged.

Think about it: That's like getting dumped by your girlfriend and then happily helping her move into a new apartment with another guy.

As he drove that cart, the fans enthusiastically shouted his name, but popular social media reaction toward Watson's inclusion has been something less than enthusiastic.

He's been criticized for forcing his way into the team room. For wanting to steal some of the spotlight. For being a distraction.

There's one word that hasn't been used to describe Watson's decision -- selfless.

Too bad. That's exactly what it is.

Sorry to burst the bubble of so many fans who have preconceived notions about his personality or his intentions this week, but there's no other way to categorize it.

This is a guy who played in seven of the last eight PGA Tour events to close out the season, including a detour to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics. There's no doubt he'd enjoy some downtime with the family at home, just relaxing instead of watching his buddies play golf.

This is also a guy who once lost a major championship in a playoff, only to anxiously ask seconds later, "Did I make the Ryder Cup team?" That's how much he cares about playing in this event, which only shows how much it must have hurt when Love never called with positive news.

And yet, when it came down to it, Watson insisted he'd rather drive a cart while listening to the action through an earpiece than be anywhere else this week.

"I think it shows a lot about who Bubba is," said Rickie Fowler. "People may not always see that side of him. Bubba's one of my best friends. We've spent a lot of time together. I've always seen that side of him, but hopefully this shows some people that that's part of who he is."

All of which leads to another criticism: Watson shouldn't be here because he isn't well-liked by other players on the team.

Might want to take a mulligan on that idea.

Love's method of leading is majority rule. This wasn't his decision; this was everybody's decision. If the majority of players in that team room didn't want Watson here, he wouldn't be here.

"Davis asked what we thought; we said bring him in, that would be awesome, love to have him," Jordan Spieth explained. "After a guy who is, what, seven in the world and doesn't get a pick, to sit there and say that at that moment when he feels like he did his job on the weekend at the Tour Championship, which is play really solid golf on the weekend, it's really big of him, and we're very much welcoming."

Is Watson going to be the deciding factor for the U.S. side? Is he going to impart some bit of course knowledge or strategic wisdom that will help secure the deciding point?

Of course not. But so what? If nothing else, it's good karma to allow a guy like Watson to hang around the team if he wants. The too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen theory shouldn't hold much weight, because he's unlikely to play much of a role in strategic discussions that Love has been having for months with the other assistants, Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Tom Lehman.

"Bubba thinks his role is to go on the first tee and whoop up the crowd," the captain said. "He already did that this morning."

It's a perfect role for him.

Watson loves this event, was heartbroken that he wasn't picked for this event, and still wanted to be a part of this event.

To chastise him for that is missing the point.

On a team that's struggled to win the Ryder Cup for so long, this type of selflessness should be celebrated instead of castigated.

As Watson said last week, "There's going to be one year, hopefully before I pass away, that we actually win, and I want to be a part of it."

He's a part of it this year, watching from a cart, whooping up the crowd and doing whatever else he can to help the U.S. team finally win. For a guy who'd rather be hitting shots than watching 'em, it's an admirable decision -- whether the popular opinion agrees or not.