What's the one thing Love should have done differently?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 2, 2012, 4:50 pm

Everyone second-guesses a losing Ryder Cup captain. Even the captain has to wonder, 'Is there one thing I could have done differently?' If U.S. captain Davis Love III has asked himself that question, the GolfChannel.com team has some answers.


Difficult to pick just one.

The mistake Davis Love III made that sticks out most is posting Tiger Woods 12th in the Sunday singles lineup. I get it, the dude isn’t known for adapting well to the team atmosphere, and he slapped it around suburban Chicago for two days like a man who wasn’t engaged. Steve Stricker wasn’t much help to Woods but 0-3 was 0-3.

Singles, however, is a different animal, it’s where Woods shines brightest. To put him 12th, in a position that was virtually guaranteed to not matter, is reckless. Many believed Woods’ match would be irrelevant because the Ryder Cup would be clinched much earlier by the Americans. Turned out it was clinched by the Europeans in the 11th match when Martin Kaymer defeated Stricker.

This generation’s best player doesn’t play well in team events, but he’s still the best match-play competitor of this generation, too. Love said that everyone on his team got what they wanted in singles. So that means Woods wanted the last position? Even if it was true, Love should’ve known better. Woods needed to be a factor. Sadly for the Americans, and the crazed Chicago fans, he wasn’t.


Phil Mickelson can be a golfing genius, but sometimes he outsmarts himself. He won with two drivers in his bag at the 2006 Masters, but he struggled miserably in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines after deciding not to put a driver in his bag on what was then the longest layout in the championship’s history.

It’s difficult in this corner to overly scrutinize Davis Love III’s Ryder Cup decisions, because his strategies put his players in good position to win on Sunday. Sometimes, in sport, you lose because your field-goal kicker misses a point-blank chance from 25 yards. Love watched something akin to nine kickers missing Sunday at Medinah. In the end, if Jim Furyk doesn’t bogey the final two holes, if Steve Stricker makes a putt at the 17th, if Tiger Woods makes more than one birdie in the final round to take some early doubt out of his match, the Americans probably win. This writer will remember the American players beating themselves on Sunday more than the captain bungling anything. Yeah, the Euros were great, but the Americans winning just three of 12 singles matches? It's the lousiest Sunday in American Ryder Cup history.

Still, we’re second-guessing here, which is a sport within a sport in the Ryder Cup. If there’s one decision Love made that could be undone to try to win that Ryder Cup, it’s resting Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the Saturday afternoon fourballs. They were 3-0 and looked unbeatable as a tandem crushing Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in a record-tying rout in foursomes.

Yeah, Mickelson was insistent with Love that he rest, even citing stats showing that players who competed in all five matches did not historically fare well in Sunday singles. By the way, Americans who play five matches are 17-11-7 since 1979. Mickelson told Love that winning one more point on Saturday was not worth losing two on Sunday, but Love should have persuaded Mickelson otherwise, even though Love liked the idea of resting every player for at least one match. With the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, we can say Love should have scrapped that plan. Mickelson was wrong. One more point on Saturday would have been worth the risk of losing two on Sunday.


OK, so Phil Mickelson duped the captain. U.S. Ryder Cuppers who play all five sessions don’t actually have a poor singles record. The two Europeans who played all five sessions at Medinah, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, won their singles matches, too.

If there was one player on the U.S. side who could break the trend and play all five, who had boundless enthusiasm and could go another 18 (if not 36), who could resuscitate a lifeless teammate and pull out a victory . . . then it was rookie Keegan Bradley.

Lefty wanted to rest and not play five, and that’s his choice. (Though, really, shouldn’t it have been the captain’s?) Bradley, however, was so explosive in the team format and playing so well, how could Love afford not to trot him out again on Saturday afternoon? He’s 26 years old. He played only 12 holes in the morning and, really, cut that total in half – they played alternate shot.

In Saturday afternoon fourballs, Love should have paired Keegan with Tiger, left Stricker (who clearly had lost his putting stroke) on the bench, and watched to see if it worked, to see if it created a spark, to see if Bradley and Tiger chest-bumped and backside-slapped, to see if Bradley’s exuberance and Tiger’s stoicism created an mesmerizing duo.

The Europeans were buoyed by the fact that they split fourballs, that they trailed only 10-6 heading into Sunday. In hindsight, the Americans probably wished they had that extra point Saturday night – and their dynamo, Bradley, on the course in each session.


Let the nitpicking begin, although these types of postmortems always seem to ignore the fact that neither Davis Love III nor Jose Maria Olazabal hit a putt that mattered last week. But if we must identify a goat it’s best to begin, and end, our search with the captain’s picks – specifically Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.

With Furyk and Stricker, Love opted for known commodities, let’s call them comfort picks. In Stricker the American side had the yin to Tiger Woods’ yang, a partner who he enjoyed a 2-1-0 Ryder Cup record with, while Furyk was viewed in team circles as the U.S. quarterback.

Neither, however, produced. Furyk was 1-2-0 and bogeyed his final two holes on Sunday to cough up a 1-up advantage to Sergio Garcia and swing the momentum back in the Europeans favor.

Stricker was no better, posting a 0-4-0 week and finishing bogey-par to drop the decisive point to Martin Kaymer, who didn’t exactly set Medinah ablaze on Sunday. The German was 1 over par on Sunday yet clenched the cup for Europe with his 1-up victory.

Love's biggest mistake may have come a month before the matches. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, it’s natural to wonder if Hunter Mahan, who was ahead of Furyk and Stricker on the U.S. points list yet was passed over for a pick, could have delivered on Sunday? One thing is for certain, he couldn’t have performed any worse.


I don't have a problem with many of the decisions made by Davis Love III. If just one player had turned his L into a W on Sunday, the captain would be hailed as a conquering hero and we'd instead be second-guessing his European counterpart right now.

The truth is, I thought Love did a very good job from a tactical and managerial standpoint. The only major issue I had relates to advice.

One by one Sunday afternoon, players approached the 17th and 18th holes for either the first time or one of the first times all week. And one by one, they went long and/or left approaching each green.

In a regular PGA Tour event, competitors are limited to advice only from their own caddies. At the Ryder Cup, the captains are free to dole out warnings anytime they wish.

Love should have taken advantage of that. By the time such decisive matches as the ones involving Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker reached the final hole, he should have been walking down the fairway with them saying, 'Everyone's gone long here all day. Keep in mind your adrenaline and take one club less.' Or once they were in such a predicament, Love could have offered, 'Yes, that putt from the back of the green is very quick, but it doesn't break nearly as much as you think.'

There is a difference between individual tournaments and team competition. Love had an opportunity to take advantage of that difference, but didn't.

Just think: His advice could have contributed to one more shot or one more putt being so much better. If he had, we might not be second-guessing him right now. We might be hailing him as a conquering hero.


The writing was on the wall.

In a year full of top finishes and solid play, Jim Furyk’s season was highlighted by the ones that got away. Whether it was an errant tee shot on the 70th hole at Olympic or a double bogey on the final hole at Firestone to hand the trophy to Keegan Bradley, doubts ran rampant about the former U.S. Open champ and his ability to seal the deal.

When Furyk saw his singles match with Sergio Garcia slip away on Sunday – allowing the Spaniard to turn a 1-down deficit on the 17th tee into a 1-up victory with a pair of pars – those lingering doubts were confirmed in a way no American fan had hoped to see.

Even with the revised format for compiling the American squad, captain’s picks are a precious commodity. In using one on Furyk, captain Davis Love III chose a player whose career fourball record (still stuck at 1-8-1) essentially took him out of the mix during the afternoon sessions and whose ability to handle the pressure cooker of singles play was suspect at best. Weeks or months down the line, perhaps the question Love will ponder most is whether a player like Bo Van Pelt, a steady ball-striker with a penchant for birdies, could have been more useful – or productive – in the slot given to Furyk.

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New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

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The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

“I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

“I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”

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On a wild Wednesday, DJ, Rory, Phil saved by the pool

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:39 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Call it black Wednesday, but then the one-and-done aspect of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was dulled three years ago with the introduction of round-robin play that assures every player at least three matches in pool play.

Otherwise Wednesday at Austin Country Club would go down as one of the championship’s darkest hours for the top of the dance card. In order, world No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson dropped his Day 1 match, 3 and 1, to world No. 56 Bernd Wiesberger; last week’s winner Rory McIlroy lost to PGA Tour rookie Peter Uihlein, 2 and 1, and Phil Mickelson, the winner of the last WGC in Mexico, dropped a 3-and-2 decision to Charles Howell III.

All told, 11 lower-seeded players pulled off “upsets” on Wednesday, although it’s widely held that the Match Play is more prone to these types of underdog performances than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

But if it wasn’t March Madness, it was at the least March Mayhem, particularly for those who shuffled around Austin Country Club in a state of mild confusion.

Although there were plenty of matches that went according to plan – with top-seeded players Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia all winning – it was still a tough day for chalk with three of the top 10 players in the world ranking either losing or halving (world No. 3 Jon Rahm halved his duel with Keegan Bradley) their matches.

At least McIlroy made things interesting after finding himself 5 down through 13 holes. The Northern Irishman played his last six holes in 5 under par to push the match to the 17th hole, but Uihlein closed out the bout with a par.

“If he birdies seven straight on you, hats off to him. It is what it is,” Uihlein said of McIlroy’s late surge. “I felt like if I just kind of kept giving myself a chance, I didn't want to give him any holes. He made me earn it, so hats off to it.”

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Johnson couldn’t say the same thing.

After not trailing in any match on his way to victory at last year’s Match Play, Johnson hit a ball in the water, two out of bounds (on the same hole, no less) and began to fade when he made a double bogey-5 at the 11th hole. Although scoring is always skewed at the Match Play because of conceded putts, Johnson was listed at 9 over through 17 holes before his day came to a merciful end.

“We both didn't have a great day. I think we only made three birdies between us, which is not a lot out here,” Wiesberger said. “Obviously it wasn't his best day. It wasn't the best of my days. I think we both have to do a little bit of work this afternoon.”

Although not as scrappy as Johnson’s round, Mickelson has also seen better days. Lefty made just a single birdie and played 17 holes in even par to lose just his second match in pool play.

But then this event hasn’t exactly been kind to Lefty, who has advanced to the weekend just twice in 13 starts.

“I was fortunate today, obviously, to get past him,” said Howell, who is the second-lowest seeded player to advance out of pool play when he did it in 2017 as the 61st player in the field. “But with this pod play the way it goes now, you never know. You've got to keep playing good. Last WGC we had, he won. So he's never out of it.”

That will be the solace those high-profile players who find themselves on the wrong side of the round-robin ledger now cling to. There is a path back.

Since pool play began, just four players have lost their Day 1 matches and went on to win their group. One of those players is Johnson, who lost to Robert Streb on Wednesday in 2016 but still advanced to the quarterfinals.

But if that helps ease the sting for those who now embrace the Match Play mulligan, it did little to quiet the crowds on what turned out to be a wild Wednesday.

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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 12:22 am

Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 1: (52) Bernd Wiesberger def. (1) Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1: Down goes the defending champ. Johnson never trailed in any match en route to victory last year, and he won five holes against Wiesberger. But that wasn't enough as the Austrian turned an all-square affair into an upset victory by winning three straight from Nos. 15-17.

Group 1: (32) Kevin Kisner vs. (38) Adam Hadwin, halved: This was a tight one throughout, as neither player held more than a 1-up lead. Kisner held a lead for much of the back nine, but Hadwin birdied the 17th to draw even and the match was halved when they both made par on the final hole.

Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

Group 3: (3) Jon Rahm vs. (63) Keegan Bradley, halved: Rahm was a runner-up at this event last year, but he got all he could handle from one of the last men in the field. Bradley was 2 up with three holes to play, but bogeys on two of the final three holes opened the door for the Spaniard to escape with a draw.

Group 3: (28) Kiradech Aphibarnrat def. (43) Chez Reavie, 3 and 2: Aphibarnrat took the lead in his group with a victory over Reavie during which he never trailed. The globetrotting Thai held a 2-up lead at the turn and closed things out with a birdie on No. 16. Reavie won only two holes all day.

Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

Group 6: (57) Peter Uihlein def. (6) Rory McIlroy, 2 and 1: McIlroy won last week at Bay Hill, but he's now playing catch up after a decisive loss to Uihlein. The American held a 5-up lead before McIlroy reeled off five straight birdies to cut the lead to 2-up, but a par from Uihlein on the 17th hole sealed the upset.

Group 6: (18) Brian Harman vs. (44) Jhonattan Vegas, halved: This was a tight match throughout, with Harman clinging to a 1-up lead for most of the back nine. But Vegas rolled in a birdie putt on the final green to salvage half a point, much to the delight of the Austin galleries who were out supporting the former Longhorn.

Group 7: (7) Sergio Garcia def. (62) Shubankhar Sharma, 1 up: Garcia and Sharma took turns leading this match throughout the day, with the Indian holding a 1-up advantage through 13 holes. But Garcia won the next hole to square the match, then earned a full point with a birdie on the 18th hole in his first competitive start since becoming a father last week.

Group 7: (20) Xander Schauffele def. (41) Dylan Frittelli, 1 up: The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year got the best of the former Longhorn in a tight match that went the distance. Schauffele led for much of the afternoon before Frittelli drew level with wins on Nos. 14 and 15. But Schauffele won the next hole and held on from there.

Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

Group 8: (25) Louis Oosthuizen def. (42) Jason Dufner, 1 up: Oosthuizen appeared poised for an easy point before Dufner rallied with three straight wins on Nos. 14-16 to square the match. But Oosthuizen regained a lead with a par on No. 17 and held on for a hard-fought victory.

Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

Group 10: (10) Paul Casey def. (51) Russell Henley, 1 up: Casey is making his first start since winning at Innisbrook, and he scored an early point after rallying back against Henley. The Englishman didn't lead in the match until the final hole, when Henley's tee shot found the hazard leading to an ill-timed concession.

Group 10: (45) Kyle Stanley def. (31) Matthew Fitzpatrick, 1 up: Stanley is making his first match play appearance since 2012, and he got off to a promising start by edging the Englishman. Fitzpatrick was 2 up with five holes to go, but Stanley won three holes the rest of the way including a birdie on the 18th hole to secure a full point.

Group 11: (64) Julian Suri def. (11) Marc Leishman, 3 and 2: Suri was the last man to get into the field following the withdrawal of Joost Luiten, but he's already on the board with an early point. Suri won each of the first two holes and never trailed in the match, closing out Leishman with a birdie on the par-5 16th.

Group 11: (35) Bubba Watson def. (23) Branden Grace, 5 and 3: Watson was absolutely unstoppable in the biggest rout of the day. The two-time Masters champ made seven birdies over his first nine holes, making the turn with a 6-up advantage. Grace never stood a chance.

Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

Group 13: (13) Alex Noren def. (61) Kevin Na, 4 and 2: Noren has come close to winning a few times already this year in the U.S., and he improved his career record in Austin to 5-1 thanks to a steady back nine. The match was all square through 11 holes before Noren took three of the next four, closing things out when Na conceded on No. 16.

Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

Group 14: (59) Charles Howell III def. (14) Phil Mickelson, 3 and 2: Mickelson is making his first start since his WGC win in Mexico, but he's now on the ropes after Howell put together a strong back nine that included three birdies in a four-hole stretch from Nos. 10-13 to take control of the match.

Group 14: (17) Rafael Cabrera-Bello def. (40) Satoshi Kodaira, 2 and 1: Cabrera-Bello made a run to the semifinals at this event two years ago, and he's off to another good start following a match in which he never trailed and lost only three holes. With the match tied through 11 holes, Cabrera-Bello's birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 proved pivotal.

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

Group 16: (16) Matt Kuchar vs. (54) Zach Johnson, halved: This draw likely felt like a victory for Johnson, who was facing a 4-down deficit with four holes to play before closing with four straight birdies to steal half a point.

Group 16: (47) Yuta Ikeda def. (27) Ross Fisher, 2 and 1: Ikeda now holds the top spot in the group after ousting Fisher, who made the quarterfinals last year. Ikeda squared the match with wins on Nos. 6 and 7 before a pivotal birdie on No. 15 gave him a 2-up lead he would not relinquish.