Davis Love III is back on the PGA Tour – but as a player, not the ubiquitous Ryder Cup captain scouting his potential team.
But not surprisingly, all anyone wanted to discuss Tuesday in Las Vegas was his most recent gig.
Two days after the Americans surrendered the largest lead ever on home soil, losing to Europe, 14 ½ to 13 ½, Love made no excuses for his team’s collapse at Medinah, saying, “Last week we had a plan, and I stuck with it.”
In a pre-tournament news conference at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Love told reporters, “Everyone watches sports on TV and thinks they know how it could have been done better. But in our team room, everyone was sold on it.
“When we were up by four (points entering Sunday singles), they weren’t arguing that much. Then something bad happens, and it gets turned around. But that’s my job. That’s why I signed up for it.”
Captains always open themselves up for criticism in a passionate event such as the Ryder Cup, particularly one that was so hotly contested. It comes with the territory.
With the benefit of hindsight, however, critics contended that Love should not have benched the dominant U.S. pair of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley for Saturday afternoon fourballs, after they went 3-0 to start the week. (Mickelson said it was his idea, because he didn’t want to overexert himself and be ill-prepared for Sunday singles.) Other points of contention: continuing to partner Tiger Woods with the slumping Steve Stricker, and then slotting Woods in the 12th match for Sunday singles. In the end, his match didn’t influence the final result.
“Our team agreed on everything we did,” Love said. “They know, like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, they know they got to do what they agreed to do, not what I told them to do. I’m happy with the decision.”
Adding to that thought later, Love said, “This might have been the best job I did of sticking with a game plan all week. Every time I would waffle a little bit, my assistants … would go, ‘No, no, no. Stick with your plan. The plan is working. We’re way ahead.’
“But I think that week we had a plan and we stuck with it, and I learned I can be a little more committed and a little bit tougher. I stood up to a couple things last week that you get criticized in the press for because I was being too nice and letting them do what they wanted to do.
“I guarantee Tiger Woods didn’t want to sit out. There was a lot of guys on our team that said, ‘Do not take Keegan and Phil out.’ But if you make them go play when they don’t want to play, they’re probably not going to play well.”
The Vegas event is the first of four consecutive starts for Love, who is planning to play the entire Fall Series, including The McGladrey Classic on Sea Island, where he is the tournament host. He’s currently No. 106 on the PGA Tour money list.
“I’m ready to start playing again,” Love said. “I might not be very good this week, but maybe by (next week’s) Frys.”
Still, for this week and, presumably, for months to come, Love’s mind won’t be far from Medinah.
“If there is any sadness in the whole thing,” Love said, “I’m sad that it’s over because it was so much fun. My heart hurts for the players because they put so much into it and didn’t get the result they wanted.”