Two days after the last U.S. Ryder Cup task force meeting in San Diego earlier this month, Fred Couples, who is not among the 11 task force members, summed up the mood of the meetings.
“I honestly think the next guy they choose will be someone the players want,” Couples said.
Couples revealed that he’d already had a conversation with PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua about the vacant Ryder Cup captaincy and he planned to talk to the association’s president, Derek Sprague, within a few days.
That meeting doesn’t seem likely to happen now. Or, if it does it will be short.
According to Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte, Davis Love III will return to captain the U.S. team in 2016 at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.
There is no question Love is the quintessential “players’ captain.” Remember, this is the same man who received almost universal support from the rank-and-file after the team blew a four-point lead heading into Sunday singles in 2012.
When Love was criticized for sitting Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley on Saturday afternoon at Medinah, Lefty was the first to step to his captain’s defense.
“You cannot put that on him; if anything, it was me,” Mickelson said in 2012.
When Jim Furyk was asked on that Chicago night about his single’s loss to Sergio Garcia, he was just as adamant.
“I've got 11 guys, I've got a captain, I've got four assistants that I know will pat me on the back; that know how I feel, understand how I feel. You know, we came here as a team. We wanted to win the Ryder Cup as a team, and we didn't do it, but we are going to leave here in the same fashion,” Furyk said.
Without dredging through fresh wounds, it’s safe to say last year’s captain, Tom Watson, didn’t enjoy the same level of support, which goes a long way to explaining why the PGA seems bent on giving Love a match-play mulligan.
While Couples and Paul Azinger seemed to be the clubhouse leaders to captain the next U.S. team, given the intensity of the last few task force meetings, in retrospect it’s easy to make the leap to Love to lead the next American squad.
But what also can’t be ignored is Love’s own emotions regarding the biennial matches. This is, after all, the same man who didn’t want to be involved in the last matches because of the bitter Medinah memories he would represent.
“After Wales (2010 Ryder Cup), I said I’d be an all-time assistant captain,” Love said in September. “I’ll do whatever you guys want me to do. If they said come open boxes in the storage room I’d do it, because it’s fun. [But] sitting out in front and doing all that part, I enjoyed it but ...”
It’s also worth pointing out that Love is currently in the running for chairman of the PGA Tour’s Players Advisory Council, a position that will lead to a three-year term on the policy board if he’s elected.
Never mind that if elected to PAC chair Love will be 54 years old by the time he is finished serving or that it will be his fifth term on the policy board. When asked about his nomination at Torrey Pines earlier this month Love explained that he felt it was his duty to serve on the board to help ease the transition to a new Tour commissioner, which seems likely to occur next year.
It’s not a stretch to see this most recent news in a similar light. The PGA of America needs results and Love likely feels an obligation to provide . . well, redemption.
Love was clearly the players’ choice, but for everyone else outside the circle of “11,” he will be a curious selection. Following months of meetings and media scrutiny, the PGA decided its best option was to circle back around and give Love a second act.
The task force was supposed to provide answers. The task force was intended to create a blueprint for future success. Instead, the “11” dusted off the status quo and created a succession plan.
Your scribe covered Love’s first captaincy extensively. It was an intense two years of detailed planning, which was perfect for Love’s Type A personality. His match mea cupla will be no different.
What changes this time will be the scrutiny. The golf world expected something dramatic, something revolutionary. Instead, they got something borrowed and bruised.
Love was a very good captain in 2012, but we just don’t know if he can do any better and, make no mistake, the scrutiny this time around will be much more intense.