More of the Same from Davis Love and the American Ryder Cup Team
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
DAVIS LOVE III had a chance to be bold when he named three of his Ryder Cup wild-card picks for the match against Europe at Hazeltine at the end of September. He had a chance to pick some fearless rookies, unaffected by defeat.
So who did he select? JB Holmes, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar. More of the same old, same old. Fowler and Kuchar were members of the team that was thrashed in 2014. Fowler is in wretched form and Kuchar hasn't won a tournament for almost two-and-a-half years. At least Holmes has shown some form this season, finishing fourth at The Masters and a distant third at The Open, and he was a member of the team that won in 2008.
And here is a thought for you - after losing yet another Ryder Cup match, this time at Gleneagles, the United States formed a taskforce designed to ensure that such a massacre could not happen again. So what will they do if it does happen again? What will they do if a European team containing no fewer than six rookies flies to Hazeltine and gives those Good Ole Boys a hell of a spanking on their own turf?
Will we arrive a situation where Rory McIlroy approaches Tiger Woods and suggests that future contests see Europe taking on America and the rest of the world? You may well laugh, but when the matches between America and GB&I ceased to be competitive, it was Jack Nicklaus who had the idea of the continent of Europe combining to take on the might of America. And European golf hasn't looked back since. In those early days we were able to call upon the likes of Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer.
If Love's team loses it will be a fourth successive defeat, an outcome which is unprecedented. It would also be Europe's ninth success in 11 attempts, and by any account that is not competitive. Furthermore, when Americans keep losing at any sport they lose interest.
The US taskforce decided to appoint Love as the US captain. He is a popular enough golfer and he has led his country once before in the Ryder Cup - when they crashed to a historic defeat at Medinah in 2012, having led 10-6 going into the final day. Would it not have been better to pull up some trees in an effort to persuade Paul Azinger, the only winning US captain of recent times, to return and see if he could make the magic happen one more time? Or even Tiger Woods? You may say that he is not a team player but he IS a winner and has a winner's mentality and that, surely, is a key factor. He is one of Love's vice-captains and it will be interesting to learn what part he played in helping to select the wild cards and what part he will play when the contest gets under way.
When the USA's eight automatic choices were confirmed, there was only one rookie. Brooks Koepka is a fine young golfer but he is hardly likely to have any European golfer trembling in their boots at the prospect of facing him. He did, after all, come to the European Tour to learn his trade before trying his hand on the PGA Tour, and that means the Europeans know him, and they know all about his strengths and weaknesses. Koepka has won in some pretty exalted company, but he is inconsistent and right now he is playing poorly - he failed to qualify for the Tour Championship.
The other seven men have all been members of US teams who are used to being hammered by Europe. Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed were unfortunate enough to make their debuts at Gleneagles, Phil Mickelson is a serial loser, while Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Brandt Snedeker have all been on the losing side. But here's the thing - Dustin Johnson is the US Open champion, Jimmy Walker is the US PGA champion, Spieth is the winner of two majors and any captain would want Reed on his team - cut his arm and it will bleed stars and stripes. And Mickelson will feel that he owes his country a good Ryder Cup, especially after the cutting comments he made two years ago about Tom Watson's leadership.
The USA need a leader on the course and it should be Mickelson. But he is 46 years old now and almost certainly will not want to play five games in three days. So the role could go to the magnificent Reed, who is a natural cheerleader and an incredibly tough competitor who simply hates to lose He said at the start of the season that making the Ryder Cup team was more important to him that winning a major and, having achieved that goal, be sure that he will be up for the fight.
Love has now chosen three of his four wild cards, with the final player being named after the Tour Championship. As he deliberated, the choice for Love was whether he opted for JB Holmes, who was on the winning side in his only appearance in 2008, together with the likes of Watson, Kuchar, Fowler and Jim Furyk, who have all tasted defeat, or decided on some left-field choices such as Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner, Sean O'Hair or even Kevin Na, men who are all unaffected by the taste of defeat.
And who did he choose? Yes, he went for the same old names, and the smart money is on Watson being given the nod for the final place. Berger and Thomas are fearless young golfers who would have brought something different to the team. For Love, this is surely a wasted opportunity.
Much is made of the world rankings, and the fact that the US team features 12 players who are generally much higher in the rankings than the Europeans. But let's not give too much credence to that simply because PGA Tour events are given a greater weighting when it comes to world ranking points than tournaments played in Europe - the exceptions are the BMW PGA Championship and The Open. In fact, it was entirely down to his victory in the PGA Championship that Chris Wood made the European team.
So, do Europe have anything to fear? Has the US taskforce made the difference? I don't think so. Bring it on!
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