NEW YORK – It was a New York Giants practice for lunch, a slice of the city’s famous pizza for dinner and a stroll through Manhattan on Monday for Davis Love III. Not a care in the world, right?
“On the way back to our hotel (Love) looks at me and asked, ‘How do you feel? Are you nervous?’” said Mike Hulbert, one of Love’s four assistant captain’s for this year’s Ryder Cup. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I feel good.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I don’t. I’m still churning.’”
The process of elimination that is the Ryder Cup selection is never easy – pulling rugs out from under dreams being an occupational hazard that comes with the gig – but for Love, an emotional sort with little interest in confrontation, it was agony.
It wasn’t so much the shell game that became this year’s process – with no fewer than seven players considered viable options for selection – so much as it was the phone calls that loomed after the choices had been made.
For two years, Love had readied for this day – decision day. But that didn’t make it any easier.
At 6:45 p.m. (ET) on Monday Love still had not made up his mind exactly who he would name for his four captain’s picks on Tuesday morning at the NASDAQ.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I’m still 50/50,’” Hulbert said.
It wasn’t until he sat down in a room with his four assistants assembled, either in person or via conference call, that he finally made a choice, as difficult as it was.
As expected, Love went with cup veterans Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk, gave a nod to recent form and a bomber’s advantage to Dustin Johnson and labored for hours on Labor Day between Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan.
Arguments for and against each candidate filled the room, Snedeker’s form (runner-up at The Barclays and sixth-place finish at last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship) and putter (first on the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting, one-putt percentage and total putts) were impossible to ignore; while Mahan’s resume (he is the only active American player with a winning Ryder Cup record and his two victories this year make him the only U.S. player with multiple wins not on the team) hung in the conference room like a red, white and blue elephant.
In a makeshift war-room in the bowels of the Renaissance Hotel just down the street from Times Square, the captain and his assistants debated for well over an hour.
When the dust and ShotLink reports settled it was Snedeker who got the nod, but Love’s night was far from over.
“You know, it was tough to make the phone calls. I think that's the hardest part,” Love said. “The decision on our four players was actually a lot easier than I thought. The phone calls, because we had a lot of them, a lot of great players that are not on this team; guys are going to make a lot of teams; guys that are going to have a shot at winning the FedEx Cup the next couple weeks.”
It is telling that Love’s order of phone calls went from most difficult to easiest. Mahan – whose struggles had been well-documented in recent weeks – was first. According to one advisor who was in the war-room, the call to Mahan was the hardest. “It was more emotional than he thought, both good and bad,” the advisor said.
It’s also worth noting that Love called all of the possible candidates. We mean all of them – from Mahan and Rickie Fowler, the most likely candidates that were left off the team, to long-shots like Nick Watney, Bill Haas, Bo Van Pelt and Robert Garrigus.
Fittingly, the last call Love made was to Snedeker, who was in the air at the time on his way to Indiana for this week’s BMW Championship. The voicemail he left was simple, although not entirely cryptic, “Hey, did you bring your putter with you from Boston. Call me.”
“He was most excited for Snedeker,” Hulbert said. “Davis was pacing around the room he was so happy for him.”
Or maybe he was just happy for himself, the hard part was over. By comparison, coming up with pairings and picking out raingear will be low-hanging fruit. His next most-difficult decision will be whether to send Stricker and Tiger Woods out first on Friday at Medinah or last?
For two years Sept. 4 loomed like a final exam no one wanted to take. Personal choices are easy, but decisions that directly impact others can leave a mark.
One man’s no-brainer being another’s nausea and all.
“I’ve been on the receiving end a couple times of, ‘I didn't pick you, I'm sorry’ phone calls,” Love said. “They are tough. It's probably the least thankful part of the job, but it's part of the job. And again, as (2010 captain) Corey Pavin said, ‘You're the captain. That's why they picked you.’ It was not enjoyable.”
As Love bolted Time Square Tuesday afternoon the metaphorical weight had been visibly lifted. He was on his way to the Empire State Building for a photo shoot full of smiles and handshakes. The irony was inescapable; less than 24 hours earlier he’d certainly felt like he’d been standing on a ledge.
On Wednesday at Sea Island Resort Davis Love III hypothetically referred to David Toms as the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain and a reporter playfully pressed him, “Did you just confirm David Toms is the ... Read More
Sunday night at last month’s Ryder Cup was already going to be difficult for the American team, which lost the largest lead on home soil in match history, and having the two squads mix in a post-game ... Read More
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