The FootJoys aren’t dry yet and the sting of defeat still fresh, but on Tuesday the blue blazers at the PGA of America got back to work – Help wanted: 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Must be team oriented, media savvy and should understand the basic concepts of waterproofing. Some experience necessary. Non-major winners need not apply.
The PGA will name the next American skipper before the end of the year, which means Davis Love III is officially on the clock. Love, a six-time Ryder Cup player with a preferred pedigree, is the perennial 2012 pick, but he remained somewhat aloof about the job when asked about it on Wednesday.
“I think if you asked me two months ago, I'd have said no, I don't want to take any chance on screwing up playing,” Love said from the McGladrey Classic which he is hosting at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort.
“But now I look at it, I don't want to take any chances on not getting to be the Ryder Cup captain. If players ask me, are talking to me about it and they want me to do it, that's what I want to do. That's what it boils down to.”
In potential captain-talk that’s not exactly the enthusiasm the PGA is looking for following Monday’s half-point heartbreaker.
The problem, however, is that if not Love then who?
The last time a potential shoe-in waffled (Paul Azinger in ’08) we ended up with Corey Pavin. Whose next if Love blinks, Lee Janzen?
In 2008, following America’s rousing victory at Valhalla, PGA chief Joe Steranka dismissed the notion of simply asking Azinger to play two and skipper the 2010 team, figuring the lengthy list of qualified candidates exceeded the number of available chairs.
The question then, and now, is let’s see that list.
When Payne Stewart’s doomed plane went down in a South Dakota field in 1999 the natural order of U.S. captains was one of many unintended victims. Stewart, the commonly held notion goes, would have captained the 2006 team in Ireland, followed by Tom Lehman in ’08 and Azinger would get the Celtic Manor job.
But now there seems to be a leadership void that stretches from Azinger until the next crop of captains comes of age. Jim Furyk, who has the potential to be a game-changer, turns 50 in 2020; the same year as Phil Mickelson, whose leadership if not his play in Wales was inspiring. David Toms would be a viable candidate but he officially reaches his golf golden years in 2017 and Justin Leonard doesn’t turn 50 until 2022.
What will come of the decade or so until that foursome comes of age?
It is one of the game’s true injustices that Larry Nelson – who led men in a real war (Vietnam), won multiple majors and three times as many Ryder Cup matches as he lost (9-3-1) – never got his turn at the captain’s chair and the PGA could do much worse than the soft-spoken Georgian. But sadly the powers that be likely view Nelson’s age as a liability for an increasingly young U.S. team.
Janzen has the majors, but not the cup record (2-3-0). Ditto for Jeff Sluman, a perennial assistant captain who never actually played in the biennial grudge match.
There are other “obvious” choices. Freddie Couples would bring some much-needed California cool to an event that’s far too intense but his second go-around as the Presidents Cup skipper in 2011 makes “Boom Boom” a non-starter. Mark O’Meara, with multiple majors and five Ryder Cup starts under his belt, would seem to fit the bill, but his role in the player revolt a few years back appears to be a stumbling block.
For those who dismiss modern captains as little more than figureheads consider this gem from Boo Weekley, the emotional epicenter of the 2008 team, when asked if a captain can be the difference maker.
“We won by five at Valhalla? Paul was worth two (points),” he said.
In the futures category the Europeans have a 2-up advantage. Jose Maria Olazabal seems to be the 2012 guy, followed by Darren Clarke, if not Colin Montgomerie again in 2014 in Scotland, with Lee Westwood looming in the wings.
Of course, if the PGA had any interest in coloring outside the lines they could circle back around and give Azinger his second take in two years at Medinah, which would give Love the freedom to attempt to play on the 2012 team and slot him in for ’14. Love vs. Monty has a nice ring to it, no?
But then that would require a complete rewrite – Help wanted: 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Best available candidate.
And the PGA simply doesn’t do mulligans.