Love has hands full with Ryder Cup pairings

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2012, 7:00 pm

ATLANTA – Early last week at Medinah, as Davis Love III feverishly scrawled notes into his now-ubiquitous legal pad and mulled a seemingly unlimited list of potential pairings for next week’s Ryder Cup, his trance was broken by a bit of unsolicited advice from Keegan Bradley.

“You know you can overthink this,” the Ryder Cup rookie told his captain.

From the mouths of babes.

Since time began at Samuel Ryder’s member-member, captains have mixed and matched team pairings with varying levels of intensity and success. From Paul Azinger’s detailed “pods” system in 2008 to Jack Nicklaus’ seemingly laissez faire approach in his two stints at the helm, the only absolutes seem to be that there are no absolutes.


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For some captains personal compatibility is the deciding factor, while others have tried to match individual games to particular formats – pairing players with similar styles (long, short, straight, wayward) in foursomes play while fourball (alternate shot) favors the pairing of aggressive players with more conservative types.

Others – like Tiger Woods, who has played on just one winning Ryder Cup team in his Hall of Fame career – figure it all comes down to form.

“I’ve played with all different types of different personalities and different types of games, and it's about just going out there and playing well,” said Woods, who in six Ryder Cup matches has had 13 different partners in foursome and fourball play. “It's not rocket science. You've just got to go out there and hit a lot of good golf shots and make a lot of putts.”

The only factor that doesn’t seem to matter anymore is golf ball compatibility, a concern for captains and competitors until the rule was changed for U.S.-played matches in 1991 and was slowly phased out in Europe.

“That was a big deal for a number of years to be able to figure out an alternate-shot partner, who is playing what ball, then on top of that, what compression (golf ball) within that company,” Woods said. “That does change quite a bit. Now we can drive with our teammate’s ball and have them fire it into the green with their ball.”

Although he is still a few days removed from announcing his Day 1 teams, Love seems to be favoring comfort over complex calculations – the not-so-subtle byproduct of Ryder Cup memories good and bad.

During a recent interview Love’s mind immediately raced back two decades to his first Ryder Cup (1993) and a nervous plane ride to England. The rookie wanted to play with Tom Kite, felt their games and personalities matched well but as a first-timer he didn’t feel it was his place to lobby captain Tom Watson for the pairing.

“I remember telling Tom Kite, ‘Please go tell Tom (Watson) that we’re going to play together,’” Love said. “We’re going to lobby Watson that we get to play together . . .”

This year’s rookies will not have similar anxieties. On Saturday in Atlanta Love hosted a team dinner and outlined the week’s plan, complete with potential pairings and practice-round groups.

In fact, even as he mulled all the potential pairings late last week, dissecting each option as he took a break to prowl for redfish near his St. Simons Island, Ga., home, Love knew most of the heavy lifting was already complete.

Give Fred Couples, one of Love’s four assistant captains, an assist for that. During the 2009 Presidents Cup Couples marched Woods out with Steve Stricker and the duo was unstoppable at Harding Park. Although the two play vastly different games, and live vastly different lives, the pairing worked and it doesn’t seem likely Love would try to re-invent that wheel.

“Obviously Tiger and Stricker, they have had some success, they are going to want to try and play together,” Love said. “There are some obvious pairings that we’re looking at, Bubba (Watson) and Webb (Simpson). Friends like that are probably going to play together.”

All 12 of Love’s players were asked who they would want to be paired with at Medinah. For this captain there is an “I” in T-E-A-M.

“Guys think they are doing me a favor saying, ‘I’ll play with anybody,’” Love said. “That doesn’t help me. I picked you because I knew you could play with anybody. Who do you want to play with?”

What seems certain is that there will be no surprises from Love. Hal Sutton, the 2004 captain, probably thought it was a good idea to send Woods and Phil Mickelson – top players with vastly divergent personalities – out together on Day 1 at Oakland Hills, a failed experiment that produced an 0-2 record. Just don’t expect the same type of coloring outside the lines from Love.

On this, Bradley’s sage words seem to echo throughout the process. Having played on six Ryder Cups, Love realizes that the perfect pairing is quite often the easiest and that all the hyper-analysis in the world isn’t going to change that.

Of the 20 team matches Love played in the Ryder Cup he was paired with Couples, his closest friend on Tour and a natural partner, just three times. By comparison, the dynamic, albeit eclectic, duo were paired on eight occasions out of 22 team starts at the Presidents Cup.

“There were times when Freddie and I would look at each and ask, ‘How come we are on this team and we’re not playing together?’” Love said. “Why isn’t it more automatic? We’ve talked about this several times making pairings, ‘Look at those two, they are automatic. Let them go.’ Luckily we’ve got guys that match up.”

That’s not to say Love will dogmatically adhere to his legal-pad game plan like Sutton did in 2004. “We could go 4-0 or we could go 0-4 (on Day 1) and things might change. But we’re going to have a plan pretty much for the week who is going to play with who,” he said.

For Love, a Type A sort who craves structure above all else, Ryder Cup pairings are not so much a science as much as they are a study in group psychology. For Capt. Personality this week’s lineup is all about comfort and avoiding, as newcomer Bradley pointed out, overthinking the obvious.


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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm

Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.