ATLANTA -- Six years and one month ago, Bubba Watson lost a playoff at the PGA Championship in his bid for a first major title. He shook the hand of the winner, Martin Kaymer, then walked off the final green and immediately asked the next person he saw a question that had been weighing on his mind throughout the conclusion of the tournament.
"Did I make the Ryder Cup team?"
Watson can be criticized for flaws in both performance and demeanor at times, but his desire has never wavered -- especially when it comes to representing his country.
That was true then, when he did indeed qualify for the U.S. team, and it remains true today, as he hopes for the 12th and final spot on the roster going into next week's competition at Hazeltine National.
"It's everything," he said of making the team after an opening-round 2-over 72 at the Tour Championship on Thursday. "The only two things that were important this year were making the Olympics and making the Ryder Cup team."
On this day, one which began with a bogey on the first hole and ended with bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes before a disappointing par on the par-5 finisher, Watson didn't ask any questions about making the team as he walked off the final green.
Instead, he was the one being asked the questions -- and insisted he doesn't have any answers as to whether he'll be captain Davis Love III's final wild-card pick on Sunday evening.
"I know the same as you know," he told the assembled media. "The only thing I know that he told me -- and he's told everybody -- is that it's about who matches up well. I don't know what that means. I don't know if it's about partners. If a guy matches up better with two people or a guy matches up better with three people. I don't know that."
He actually knows a little more than that.
He knows that -- according to the captain, at least -- his result at East Lake Golf Club won't determine his fate for being on the team. As much of a head-scratcher as it sounds, considering the task force charged with overseeing the team pushed back the final pick specifically to allow room for a hot player to be chosen late, Love has told Watson and others that their performance this week won't impact the selection process.
"There's nothing I can do now," Watson explained. "Davis said it's all about strategies and different things. It's not about my play. It's not about anybody's play. So I can't worry about that."
He also can't -- and won't -- worry about being the focal point of discussions surrounding that final pick.
There are some who are adamant that it'll be him, no matter what; there are others who maintain he definitely won't be it. There are some advocating that his booming drives will put pressure on the European counterparts; there are others who believe his tendency to sulk when struggling is a deficiency the U.S. team can't afford.
Not that Watson has heard any of this chatter.
He insists that he hasn't watched, read or listened to any media in two years -- especially media analyzing, writing or speaking about him.
What he has heard about is what some potential teammates have said about having the world's seventh-ranked player in the team room next week.
"People came up to me and said, 'Do you know what Jordan [Spieth] said about you? Do you know what Brandt [Snedeker] said about you?' So I thank both of them," he said. "That was the only clips of media I know about."
It's true. If there is a contingent of U.S. players lobbying for Watson to be excluded, they might be part of a silent minority.
"I don't know where everybody gets this idea that Bubba Watson is a bad teammate," Snedeker said earlier this week. "He is probably one of the best teammates you could possibly have. I want that out there for everybody to hear. Bubba Watson is a great teammate. So I don't know why everybody keeps making this diversion of the truth, making Bubba out to be this bad guy.
"He is a great teammate. He was unbelievable on Monday [in a practice round at Hazeltine]. He's been unbelievable all year. And we would be lucky to have him on the team as a teammate, period, end of story."
Snedeker and the other players might want him there no matter what.
On Thursday, Watson revealed that he texted Love recently and asked if he could serve as an assistant captain if he's not picked for the team.
"There's going to be one year, hopefully before I pass away, that we actually win," he said with a smile. "I want to be a part of it."
He'd prefer that role come as a player, but that won't be announced until Sunday evening.
When Watson walks off the final green this time, instead of asking the next person he sees whether he made the Ryder Cup team, he'll await a phone call from the captain, determining whether his inherent desire to represent the U.S. will culminate in an official tee time next week.