Saturday 24 March 2018

Karl MacGinty: Love is the best in US Ryder Cup revolution

Davis Love III: Second chance
Davis Love III: Second chance

Karl MacGinty

If Phil Mickelson's brutally honest rebuke of his captain Tom Watson at Gleneagles raised the scent of a Ryder Cup revolution in the United States, confirmation last night of the appointment of Davis Love III as American skipper for Hazeltine in 2016 seemed to signal the exact opposite.

Love, whose US team was on the receiving end of Europe's miracle recovery on Sunday at Medinah in 2012, is the ultimate 'steady hand on the tiller' as the Americans, rattled and panicky after losing eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups, try to navigate their way out of a major Ryder Cup crisis.

Yet the announcement of the captain and the unveiling of Minnesota native Tom Lehman, skipper of the team beaten by a record-equalling margin in Ireland in 2006, as one of his four assistants was just the tip of the iceberg as a raft of changes were announced in the way 'Team USA' goes about its business.


At the behest of the 11-man Task Force, set up by the PGA of America in the wake of that crushing defeat by Tom Watson's side in Scotland, there will be an entirely new qualifying system for the US team.

Also, a framework has been put in place to create a template for success similar to that in Europe, in which the captain at each Ryder Cup, starting with Love at Hazeltine, will have two former skippers among his assistants and, importantly, two likely captains in waiting.

The 'Team USA' operation, including the selection of captains, will from now be stewarded by a six-man Ryder Cup Committee, initially drawn from the 11-man Task force. For 2016 in Minnesota that committee will feature Davis Love, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and three senior PGA of America Executives, addressing Mickelson's call at Gleneagles for players to be "more engaged" in the entire process.

The new qualifying points system swings into operation with next week's Cadillac World Golf Championship at Doral. At this year's four WGCs and the Players Championship, one point will be on offer for each $2,000 won, plus one point for every $1,000 earned at the four Majors in 2015.

Next year, one point per $1,000 will be on offer for prize-money won in regular PGA Tour events and two points for every $1,000 won at the Majors, with the top eight in the Ryder Cup qualifying table on Sunday, August 28, 2016, earning automatic selection on the team.

In view of the ludicrous situation this year where the FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel and runner-up Chris Kirk were not in the US team despite a spectacular climax to the PGA Tour season, the four captain's picks will be given out later than ever before.

Three of them will be made after the final round of the BMW Championship on September 11, two weeks later than usual, with the remaining spot kept open until the conclusion of the season-ending Tour Championship a fortnight later.

Mickelson's principal point at Gleneagles was that the US team "have gotten away from a winning formula" established by the innovative and extremely well-organised Paul Azinger at Valhalla in 2008 on the occasion of their most recent Ryder Cup victory.

With Azinger unwilling to return to the fray eight years later, it makes perfect sense for the PGA of America to opt for a captain with recent, albeit losing, experience as they try to establish a solid Ryder Cup template of their own.


"I am honoured to accept the position of Ryder Cup captain for the second time," said Love. "I have the same goal as in 2012 but I am not the same captain."

Looking forward to the showdown at Hazeltine with Clarke, one of his best friends in professional golf, Love recounted a story from the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, when both were vice-captains.

"Darren and I were leaning against a cart in the middle of the 10th fairway just chatting when he said, 'Davis, if you're offered the captaincy, don't accept it until I'm captain of Europe'.

"Unfortunately, Darren's wish has come true," the American joked, adding: "I look forward to a very special week for the both of us."

Irish Independent

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