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Love still dealing with Ryder Cup loss

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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – In the 17 days since the U.S. Ryder Cup team blew the largest lead on home soil, Davis Love III has tried to fill every waking moment with distractions.

There have been tournaments – Love is making his third start since Medinah this week at the McGladrey Classic, is scheduled to play in the season-ending stop at Disney World and has three “silly season” starts on his calendar – and hosting duties (McGladrey), paddle boarding (an early Wednesday session off East Beach) and Policy Board duties (Monday’s meeting was his last as a player director).

Some would call this busy work, but on Wednesday at Sea Island Resort Captain America seemed to be coming to the realization that he was just postponing the inevitable. Bidding time until the quiet moments caught up with him and the doubts began dropping like so many European putts on that September Sunday in Chicago.

“Still not sleeping well,” he admitted when asked if the second-guessing had subsided or just started.

From his captain’s picks to his Sunday pairings Love has heard all the Monday morning quarterbacking, all the doubts, all the instant analysis that can make one of the most enjoyable jobs in golf seem ruthlessly thankless.

So in retrospect where, in Love’s opinion, would he have taken a Medinah mulligan?

“You sit there and go if I'd have just put the pin left on 17 on Sunday rather than right, would that have made a difference?” Love allowed.

That’s right, pin positions, of all things. Macro meet micro.

“If I could do something over again, it would be more getting guys thinking about Sunday’s singles and maybe the pins needed to be easier or harder,” Love said.

As for his pairings or captain’s picks Love leaves that to the pundits and revisionist.

For those who suggest that Love should have pressed harder for Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson, who were undefeated in team play, to play Saturday’s afternoon fourball session he points out that those were the same people who questioned sending the American duo out early on Sunday.

Or that those who questioned the wisdom of sending Tiger Woods out last on Sunday are some of the same critics who blasted Love’s decision to sit Woods for Saturday’s foursomes session.

For Love the second-guessing is more esoteric and personal. For a captain that didn’t leave a single detail overlooked it is now the details that haunt him when the distractions subside.

“Maybe I should have had (sports psychologist) Bob Rotella there . . . had him sitting there,” Love said. “Maybe I needed him in the locker room, OK; we're four (points) ahead. What do I do now?”

In Love’s defense he was playing without a script at Medinah. An American team hadn’t headed into Sunday’s singles with such a commanding lead (four points) since 1981(10 ½-5 ½) and there is no “prevent defense” in the captain’s playbook.

Midway through Ryder Cup week Love realized he needed to play the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and last week’s Frys.com Open and any other event that would allow him to hide in the moment and avoid micro-analysis.

But it was only a momentary reprieve. For those who know him the type “A” personality that made him such a good fit as captain now precludes him from moving on, at least entirely.

As for the critical analysis from the media masses and beyond Love knew coming in it was part of the gig, like custom golf carts and walkie-talkies.

“I signed up for that,” Love said. “We thought (1997 captain Tom) Kite was one of the best captains we'd ever played for and he just got hammered for the way he did everything. Tiger and Justin (Leonard) and I played bad, didn't get any points. So it was all Tom's fault. So I understand that.”

But then dealing with external doubt was never going to be a problem for Love, he’s been to enough Atlantic Coast Conference football games to know it is the nature of leadership. Dealing with the internal demons, well that’s something else. If the devil is in the details it is more than a little ironic that Love always comes back to the big picture.

“I wouldn’t change anything about the week except a point (the European margin of victory),” he said.

Even more telling, however, was Love’s reaction when asked if he would take the job again.

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “I don't think we could put any more into it than we did, other than a couple putts lipping out for them and a couple putts lipping in for us and we'd have won.”

With that he was off to play Wednesday’s pro-am at Sea Island. For five hours he could concentrate on his own putting, and that’s a start.

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