Davis Love was officially named the U.S Ryder Cup captain at a media conference at the PGA of America’s headquarters on Tuesday at PGA National, site of this week’s Honda Classic. Six members of the PGA’s Ryder Cup task force were present for the announcement, including PGA CEO Pete Bavacqua, president Derek Sprague, vice president Paul Levy, Phil Mickelson, Tom Lehman Rickie Fowler, and of course, Love. The PGA also revealed changes to the captain selection process and qualifying system for U.S. players.
Love was captain of the losing American Ryder Cup team in 2012 when Europe overcame a 10 to 6 deficit heading into Sunday singles to stage a comeback that led to retaining the Cup — which is now well known as “the Miracle at Medinah.” He will become only the second American in the event’s 80-plus history that will have a second chance to skipper the U.S. squad. (In good news the first was Jack Burke and he did get redemption the second time.)
“I’m here with the same goal I had in 2012 but not as the same captain,” said Love. “The task force has been an open, honest team building experience; the collaborative effort of so many veterans of the Ryder Cup is a result of the passion and commitment to build a team structure that will lay the groundwork for future teams.
“It’s a new business model, a new team building model that comes from being given an opportunity by The PGA of America to come together and use all of our veteran experience to build a new team culture and consistent plan for the future.
“Why the shift now, and not after 2010 or 2012? Simply, we want to win. What we created is a new process for continuity and teamwork which will prepare us for many years of success.”
The PGA of America also unveiled some pretty major changes to the selection process and qualifying system (which favors the top-ranked players) for deciding the U.S. team, including captain’s picks, and the vice captains.
Love announced that one of his vice captains is Tom Lehman, who was captain of the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team and member of the 11-man PGA Ryder Cup task force that was formed following the American loss to the Europeans at Gleneagles last September.
“First of all, I’m thrilled for Davis,” said Lehman. “Davis was a great captain and will continue to be a great captain and it will be an hand or to serve with him on this 2016 team.
“On a personal level, being from Alexandria, Minnesota to be able to go back home and be a part of this Ryder Cup Team, it will be a thrill beyond all thrills. I’m honored to be able to do that, to go back home to Minnesota and be a part of this. Professionally; Davis said it all, just this new process, this new era of a Ryder Cup family, bringing everybody in. I’m so excited to be a part of this team for that reason, to help build the team and be part of the process of building a team that has a chance to succeed in 2016.”
The PGA also revealed a newly-designated, six-member PGA of America Ryder Cup Committee, which includes execs Sprague, Levy, Bavacqua and captain Love, along with players Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
The Task Force announced the following changes in connection with the process to assemble U.S. Ryder Cup teams:
- Vice-Captains – Team USA will feature four Vice-Captains, composed of two former U.S. Ryder Cup Captains and two additional individuals with extensive Ryder Cup experience.
- Points System – All U.S. players will earn points based upon the following criteria starting in 2015 and concluding Aug. 28, 2016.
- 2015 Major Championships (1 Point per $1,000 earned) – The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship
- 2015 WGC Events and The Players Championship (1 Point per $2,000 earned) – WGC Cadillac Championship, WGC Match Play Championship, The Players Championship, WGC Bridgestone Invitational, WGC HSBC Champions
- 2016 Regular PGA TOUR Events (1 point per $1,000 earned) – Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, through and including the Barclays on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016
- 2016 Opposite Field PGA TOUR Events will not receive any points
- 2016 Major Championships (2 points per $1,000 earned)
- The Top Eight – Eight of the 12 members of the U.S. Team will be named on points earned following the conclusion of The Barclays, which is scheduled to conclude Sunday Aug. 28, 2016. This new timetable gives two additional weeks for players to earn Ryder Cup qualifying points.
- Captain’s Picks – Three of the four Captain’s Picks will be announced after the conclusion of the BMW Championship, which is scheduled to conclude on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. The final Captain’s pick will take place Sunday evening after the TOUR Championship, Sept. 25, 2016. This new timetable also is pushed back two weeks.
That last one, of course, should actually be called “The Billy Horschel” Rule. Last September Horschel won two consecutive tournaments in the PGA Tour’s FedExCup Playoffs, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship, and ended up claiming the FedExCup, the year-long points race, which rewards the winner with a bonus of $10 million, last September, just a few weeks before the 2014 Ryder Cup. Since the points ranking to qualify automatically had long been closed and captain’s picks had been announced prior to both those events, Horschel didn’t make last year’s team. (Which didn’t make sense to anyone.) Bravo, Task Force for fixing that glitch in the system.
A theme echoed throughout the press conference was the theme of “continuity,” echoed periodically by the execs, the captains and the players present, which was part of the decision that resulted in picking Love to do the job again. Mickelson revealed that Love didn’t petition to have another cup at captaining the team, as well.
“It was not Davis’s idea at all to be captain,” said Mickelson.
“He felt like he was taking somebody’s spot. He felt like it wasn’t his place to do that. But, Karen, when you look at big picture, if you look at like 2016, there are a number of people that could be great captains that could help lead us to hopefully a successful week, whether it’s Fred Couples and Paul Azinger, the names that were being thrown out to other players like Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and a few others that were even discussed.
“But when you look at big picture over the next ten Ryder Cups and trying to build a platform and a blueprint to follow and have continuity from yeartoyear, you want to have somebody that has experience. You want to have somebody that can look back on past things that have been done well and things that could be improved upon, which Davis in 2012 did a lot of great things right; and he did some things that he would like to do differently, and he has something to work off of, rather than bring somebody in for the first time that is starting from an open campus.
“So that made us want to have somebody with past experience, and when you look at the way Davis has always throughout his career been able to, as a policy board member for the PGA Tour take input from so many different viewpoints, put it all together and create some great decisions from that, he was a perfect fit for what we wanted in that we have input coming from all different areas and he’s a great guy to integrate all that information.
“He’s a guy that people love and respect, and he’s a guy that already has done a great job and put us in a position to succeed, even though we didn’t do it. And ultimately, the goal is to put players in a position to succeeded as opposed to create obstacles for them to overcome.
“Davis has put us into position to succeed and we are looking forward to not just 2016 and his captaincy but really laying a foundation and a blueprint for the years to follow of continuity and success.”
Love wasn’t a bad captain. The part that he could control he did very well — which in large part has to do with the pairings in the team format matches, the fourball and foursomes, that take place the first two days of the three-day event. Heading into Sunday singles, the U.S. had a 10-6 lead. He couldn’t help that the American players didn’t close out early and that Justin Rose putt out of his mind, which arguably kickstarted the European comeback. Love did what he could do as a captain quite competently and in an organized, well-thought-out manner.
But it is now 2015 and you can always improve on your past experiences and previous “mistakes” when you have a second opportunity — like Love does. It makes sense.
Love learned that he should utilize the wisdom of past captains more closely, picking their brains for advice, and would like the Americans to play more matches that are in the Ryder Cup format on a regular basis.
“I think small changes that we can make, our practice time preparation, I think that’s one thing we all as a group realize that maybe sometimes we’re not quite as prepared on Friday morning as we would be at The Honda Classic or at the PGA Championship,” said Love. “We don’t control the week.
“I think every week we go out to play, we make every decision. We control our own schedule. Phil knows when he’s going to play a practice round with Rickie and who they are going to play against and where he wants to go to dinner. I think giving the players a little bit more time to prepare from Monday to Friday is a big part of it.
“Just little things add up. I think one of the comments that we came out of the first meeting with is, we are going to leave no stone unturned. We are going to look at every aspect of The Ryder Cup. That process is still going to continue with this committee with, Tom and I as the leaders of this bid for 2016 starting off. We are going to look at every little thing and try to make each little piece of it better.”
Another key theme was “preparedness.” But, finally, let’s take it back to continuity.
“We are certainly going to look at winning teams, in any sport,” said Love. “I think what it boils down to, the short answer is, just like what I just gave, the players had input.
“The players are helping their organization make decisions, and The PGA of America realized that they had a wealth of information out there, not only from current players, like Tiger and Phil and Stricker and Rickie, the future, but also past captains that they were not taking advantage of. Now they have given us that voice.
“As I said, I sat on golf carts with Darren Clarke and Thomas Björn and watched them operate, and we learn from that. Paul was a great leader, a great captain and he had a great team behind him.
“I think that’s what we’ve organized now is Derek and Pete have given us that opportunity to all have a voice. When you listen to Phil Mickelson talk tore Tiger Woods or Steve Stricker, they have input and they have passion and they have commitment; it’s going to get nothing but better.
“We just want that to pass down to our players and we want players who want to make this team because it is going to be a few beginning, and they are going to have a voice but they are also going to have better leadership when they get to Hazeltine.”