U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III has publicly handled the stunning loss of his team to the Europeans at Medinah with grace and candor. He’s admitted to second-guessing his decisions, like benching the dynamic duo of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson on Saturday afternoon, his four captain’s picks, and the pin placements for Sunday singles.
Love, the tournament host at this week’s McGladrey Classic, knows his leadership has been criticized by the press and the public, but perhaps he’s beating himself up over the loss more than anyone else. He’s able to look at the positives of the week, but he’s still not sleeping well. Three weeks later, the ghost of the historic Ryder Cup continues to follow him around.
“At the Pro‑Am draw party last night 50% of the people wanted to talk about ‑‑the Ryder Cup,” said Love at his press conference Wednesday night. “It was so much fun. And you sit there and go if I’d have just put the pin left on 17 on Sunday rather than right, would that have made a difference, you know. And the order of play and the pairings and all that, you can go over and over and over.
“Well, they wanted me to play Keegan and Phil on Saturday afternoon, but they didn’t want me to put them out first on Sunday. Well, wait a minute. They were playing really good. So you want me to play them Saturday, but you don’t want me to play them first on Sunday. Well, that doesn’t make sense. So you keep going back and forth on all the arguments.
“And what I’ve come down to is we really may have dropped the ball on pin placements on the last few holes because we waited ‑‑ we watched all week. We wanted pins on the left, and in the middle of the green because a lot of our guys were drawing it in there. And then the most two important holes in the singles came down to 17 and 18 and we had pins where if you hit it long and left, it was tough to get close to the pins because they were on the right. Should we have thought of that? Maybe.
“But I looked at it Saturday, this is what I’ve been doing for two weeks. I’m going on and on and on. But Saturday they all birdied it because it was on the left. Both teams were stiffing it. The Euros birdied it and I’m standing on 17 tee and they go, where is the pin tomorrow. I said well, it’s been here. This must be the wide right one, and I didn’t think to myself, well, maybe I ought to just leave it over there because we keep birdieing it, you know.”
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Pondering all those things can drive a person mad. We can pick it apart and talk in circles for hours, and we’ll still return to the same result. It’s tough to let go, though. We get it.
Love went over the numerous different scenarios and he came back to the same conclusion, which was still unclear in his lengthy soliloquy(s).
“If I could do something over again, it would be more getting guys thinking about how to play singles and where the pins ‑‑ maybe the pins needed to be easier or harder,” he said. “What happened on Sunday, I don’t really know, but they were playing great. And they didn’t play great on Sunday. So something obviously changed. And is that playing because we were too confident, because we were too far ahead. I don’t know.
“Maybe I should have had Bob Rotella there like Kyle Perry had him sitting there. He wasn’t calling Rotella and asking him for advice; he had him in the locker room. Maybe I needed him in the locker room, okay; we’re four ahead. What do I do now?
“So yeah, we’ve been playing that game like everybody else. Unless you were there. I’ve gotten ten times the quote from Teddy Roosevelt the man in the arena; unless you were there sitting in the locker room with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley and them wanting to go where they wanted to go and seeing it happen, it all sounded great the whole week.
“We just didn’t win. And I don’t think those ‑‑ those guys haven’t called to second‑guess. They’ve called to say I had so much fun. I wish we would have won, but it was still a great week. It was the greatest week of my life is what I keep hearing.”
For me, it was the most thrilling tournament I’ve ever covered. The way I see it, the Europeans staged an absolutely miraculous and inspiring comeback that will go down as the greatest comeback on Sunday in Ryder Cup history (to date). It was such an incredible adrenaline rush running back-and-forth and watching the action on Nos. 17 and 18 as quite a few key matches came down to those final two holes.
Meanwhile, back to the third event of the four Fall Series events… Love will try to balance being tournament host and playing his best golf to move up the PGA Tour money list. In 18 starts he’s earned $808,374 and he’s currently 104th, so he’s likely locked up his 2013 card.
More from Davis in his press conference here in Sea Island, Georgia:
Q. Are you surprised about the critical level of analysis that has followed?
DAVIS LOVE III: No, because I went through it with Kite, and I went through it with Lanny. I went through it with hal. As I said 100 times, Hal had a great plan. Davis and Chad and Tiger and Phi were supposed to go kick butt Friday morning and win two matches and get us off to a good start. Well, Davis and Chad and Tiger and Phil played like crap.
It’s a great theory. If the first wave that hits the beach kicks everybody’s butt, you know, you win the war. But if the first wave fails, you get behind. And we screwed that up. It was a great theory. Nobody said, Hal, this is stupid; don’t try it and he said no, no, go do it. We’re all like, all right, we’re ready. We’re going to get ‘em, and we didn’t win. And we got behind.
So our plan this year was to do something a little different and get ahead after two days and then in singles we would do our usual and play really well and it didn’t work. But I am surprised at the back‑and‑forth of well, you should have done this, should have done that. Well, we put the guys that were hot that wanted to play first out against the guys they wanted to play against. I didn’t tell somebody they had to do something different than what they wanted to do. They all went out confident and ready to go. I think it’s unfortunate that it didn’t work.
We thought Kite was one of the best captains we’d ever played for and he just got hammered for the way he did everything. And Seve, now that he’s gone, his team was fighting amongst themselves and they beat us, you know. We were all happy and playing together as a team and we played bad. Tiger and Justin and I played bad, didn’t get any points. So it was all Tom’s fault. So I understand that. I signed up for that. Team would win, it would all be, you know, bad planning if we didn’t win from the captain.
Q. Have you heard anything or read anything that blamed you?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it’s the order was wrong or you should have played Keegan and Phil on Saturday. Why not do this, why not do that. I don’t read them. You know, I don’t read a whole lot of it, but you know, something should have been done different. We didn’t win. So I accept that. And you know, whoever’s next, David Toms, I’m going to say here’s what we did. Like Paul told me, here’s how it all happened. See what you can do, you know.
Q. Did you just confirm David Toms is the next captain?
DAVIS LOVE III: I’m assuming you got Toms, Furyk, Mickelson, Woods, Leonard. Somebody in there. I would bet Toms.
Q. Would you do it again?
DAVIS LOVE III: I don’t know. Immediately after, you know, you get the same thing like Freddie got when he won or Jack Nicklaus, we want you to do it again. I wouldn’t change anything about the whole week except for a point and a half. So I don’t know. I don’t think we could have ‑‑ like Mickelson told me on 10 fairway on Saturday morning, we’re putting everything we got into this. We can’t give you any more. Sit us out.
I don’t think we could put any more into it than we did, other than a couple putts lipping out for them and a couple putts lipping in for us and we’d have won.
I loved everything about my team, and I’d hate to say I want to do it again because that team didn’t win, you know. I’d do it again because I loved it. I wouldn’t do it again just to get a win or just to change the outcome. I’ve told them this since that day, I’d be assistant captain or Chris Noss’s job of doing all the behind‑the‑scenes work, I’d do that every time just to be on the team because it’s fun. It was as much fun for me to assistant to captain as it was to play, and that’s saying a lot. So it’s a lot of fun to play. I’d love to be in there.
If David Toms is next, I’d be the first guy in line to say I’ll do whatever you want me to do to help you. I think that would be a smart way to go is have either future or past captains currently, you know, like Paul Azinger or myself or David Toms or Justin Leonard, guys that just did it, like Tom Lehman and myself for Corey, I think that was great for all of us. You know, current guys that are attached to it a little bit more is a good way to do it.
Q. Is this the hardest part of being the Ryder Cup captain, the afterwards?
DAVIS LOVE III: I would say the picks. I realized about mid week of the Ryder Cup that win or lose I needed to go to Vegas, I needed to get back into the swing of golf so I could talk to people and explain what happened either way and see my friends.
You know, Bill Jones from Sea Island, we were talking about it a couple of times this week, and you know, his situation of being the CEO and now in a different role and my situation, you’ll never cease to be the Ryder Cup captain, you know. We’ll talk about this forever. We’ll have always lost. It’ll always have been a great week. It’ll always be a huge event in Chicago. It’ll always have some special feelings and some sad feelings about it. That’ll never go away, so yeah, the hard part is really that the team that we put together that played, we missed that. We’ve been missing that for two or threeweeks, you know, getting texts and phone calls and seeing Jim at the board meeting, you know, it’s like, God, I miss that week.
So the hard part is that it’s over, and the nice part is you’ll always be the Ryder Cup captain. That team will always be that team, but the hard part is that it’s over. And if we’d have won, we’d have still wanted to talk about it and we’d still be excited. So either way, yeah, it’ll live on.
I had more tidbits, but I’ll save them for later in the week when I have time to unload the notebook. I have to say, I was a little rusty after my two-week hiatus. I was just trying to get “back in the groove” on Wednesday afternoon talking with players on the range and putting green.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)