Halfway through the PGA of America’s first Ryder Cup task force meeting last December, Davis Love III realized his biggest regret about his 2012 stint as captain of the losing squad at Medinah. He had not properly collaborated with past captains and formers players to build off past successes and correct missteps.
He won’t make the same mistakes in his second chance.
“I’m here with the same goals, but as a different captain,” he said at a press conference announcing Love as the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain. “2016 will be a collaborative effort of many individuals to create the best environment for our team to be totally prepared.”
Those individuals include a Ryder Cup committee of Love, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and three PGA officials. This committee replaces the much-ridiculed task force formed after the Europeans drubbed Team USA in Scotland last fall.
Mickelson, who was on the task force, attended the press conference at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and he looked pleased with Love’s selection. Mickelson energetically answered questions during the press conference, even jumping in to answer questions not directed to him or finishing questions Love had already answered.
The last time Mickelson was at a press conference discussing the Ryder Cup, he opened the door into the team room atmosphere when he openly questioned the methods of his 2014 Ryder Cup captain, Tom Watson.
“We really haven’t had the opportunity to voice our opinion to be heard,” Mickelson said on Tuesday. “To get everyone together to have a voice and to make an impact is really a positive step.”
Woods, who is still on a break from competitive golf, offered his support for Love in a written statement released by the PGA of America.
“I want to congratulate Davis on his selection,” Woods said. “I have great respect for him as a person, player and captain. I know he’ll do an outstanding job leading the 2016 U.S. Team. I’m proud of what the Task Force accomplished making substantive changes in the Captain’s selection process & qualifying system. It’s also an honor to be on the PGA of America Ryder Cup Committee, helping select future Captain’s, Vice Captain’s & other duties. We are fully committed to winning back the Cup in 2016 and beyond.”
Love joins seven Ryder Cup legends as the only leaders to captain the American side multiple times. Neither needs a first name: Hagen, Snead, Hogan, Palmer, Burke, Nicklaus and Watson. Those seven men are 4-3 in their second go-round as the head man, with Watson’s 16.5-11.5 defeat last year in Gleneagles the most recent. Burke is the only captain to lose his first attempt and be asked back a second time, winning 16 years after his defeat in 1957. Love only will have four years between stints when he arrives at Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis for the 2016 Ryder Cup.
“I never thought I would have another chance,” Love said. “I didn’t go into the task force thinking I needed to throw my hat in the ring.”
Love’s first order of business was to name Tom Lehman, 2006 Ryder Cup captain, as his first vice-captain. Lehman, a member of three Ryder Cup teams and a Minnesota native, is one of four total vice-captains that will be announced later.
The second act was the “Billy Horschel Rule.” The eight players who automatically qualify for the team will be named after after the 2016 Barclays, the first event of the FedEx Cup, and three of the captain’s picks will be selected after the BMW Championship, the third leg of the FedEx Cup. The final pick will be turned in after the Tour Championship. Last year, Watson made his picks after the Deutsche Bank Championship — the second FedEx Cup playoff event — and watched while Horschel won the BMW and Tour Championship but not make the trip to Gleneagles. Love is also restoring the fourth captain’s pick for the U.S. team, which Watson had eliminated before the 2014 Ryder Cup in favor of nine qualifying spots for the 12-man team.
Love’s selection, first reported last week, was a surprise. The two Ryder Cup captain candidates who had drawn the most public attention were Paul Azinger, and Fred Couples.
The legend of Azinger’s pod system from the 2008 victory in Valhalla grows with each passing U.S. team defeat, but Azinger said he had no interest in leading the 2016 squad and recommended Love to the PGA. In the aftermath of last year’s Ryder Cup defeat, Couples said the U.S. team, including Woods and Mickelson, bombarded his phone with calls and texts all with the message: “We need you to do this,” but the task force ultimately went a different direction.
Team USA, which has won the Ryder Cup only once this century, can only hope that direction is the right one.