ORLANDO, Fla. – While the specifics of this week’s initial meeting of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force remain a well-guarded secret, some members of the 11-person panel left the meeting feeling optimistic about the American team’s outlook.
The meeting, which lasted nearly five hours, covered everything from potential future captains to how the team is selected.
More important than the specifics, however, seemed to be the PGA of America’s willingness to listen to current players and former captains following the U.S. side’s sixth loss in the last seven matches this year in Scotland.
“I was extremely pleased with (PGA of America CEO) Pete Bevacqua and (president) Derek Sprague. They very much took a back seat in that meeting to let the players and the former captains have their way with the agenda,” said 2006 U.S. captain Tom Lehman on Sunday at the PNC Father/Son Challenge. “I give them high marks for putting their actions where there words are.”
The task force – which was created following the U.S. team’s five-point loss in September at Gleneagles – includes Sprague, Bevacqua, vice president Paul Levy, Raymond Floyd, Lehman, Davis Love III, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods.
Predictably, Woods and Mickelson were two of the loudest voices on the conference call.
“Tiger took charge. Raymond took charge, Phil took charge. We have guys who are very confident, very smart and sure of themselves. Somebody is going to step up and be the leader of this thing and that’s what we need,” said Love, the 2012 captain.
“I can tell you that Tiger, Furyk and Stricker have been blowing my phone up since the meeting. It’s not like we had a meeting and said we’ll see you again in February. Everybody is excited and engaged.”
Players and former captains stressed the need for increased continuity at the biennial event, and the meeting also examined how points are awarded and when the team should be selected for the 2016 matches.
Because of the Olympics, the ’16 PGA Championship will be played two weeks earlier then normal (July 28-21) in order to avoid a conflict with golf’s return to the Games, and there was a consensus to avoid a situation like the one that occurred this year when Billy Horschel won the FedEx Cup but wasn’t selected to the U.S. team.
“Put the guy on the plane. Who cares if his clothes match, we want a guy who is playing well,” Love said.
There has been no timeline set for naming the next captain and the task force plans to meeting again in February around the week of the Farmers Insurance Open.
Yet what the meeting lacked in specifics it made up for with a renewed sense of cooperation between the players and the PGA and the need to create a familiar atmosphere for the team members.
“I told (Mickelson), ‘The only thing you don’t know when you go to a tournament is your tee time. You know who your caddie is, where you’re going to eat. You control it,” Love said. “All of sudden you don’t control it. You’re told, ‘No, no. You can’t go chip.’
“A decisive game plan is what we need to have.”
Some have criticized the task force as being an overreaction to another U.S. loss, and one former player questioned an apparent movement to give players a larger voice in selecting captains.
“I’m surprised players are actually picking the captain,” said Larry Nelson, who was not asked to be on the task force despite a 9-3-1 record in three matches. “Players are players. There captain needs to be someone who doesn’t answer to anybody else.”