PGA.com's Auclair: Love the Choice
Could The PGA of America have picked another man to lead Team USA in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club? Of course. But could a better man have been tabbed to lead the Red, White and Blue when they try and wrest the coveted cup back from the Europeans? No way, says our T.J. Auclair.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
A fine gentleman, a major champion and an ultimate competitor -- both individually and in team settings -- it was only a matter of time before Davis Love III was handed the reigns as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Officially, that time is now.
In arguably the worst-kept secret since Brett Favre's decision to return to the NFL late last summer, on Thursday The PGA of America formally announced its appointment of Love to the U.S. captaincy for the 2012 matches at Medinah Country Club just outside Chicago.
Unlike Favre's, this decision was brilliant.
Rumors swirled in mid-December 2010 that Love would be at the helm for the U.S. in 2012. In fact, on Dec. 16, two-time Ryder Cup team member, former Masters champion and Love's neighbor in St. Simons Island, Ga., Zach Johnson, spilled the beans via Twitter -- seeing as that's how beans are spilled by athletes these days -- tweeting:
"Looks like my fellow neighbor @Love3d will be the USA's next Ryder Cup Captain… still unofficial ... kinda. A pre-congrats! Well deserved!"
It is well deserved and now, Zach, you can remove the, "pre-" from the front of, "congrats."
Love, 46, is a perfect fit for a U.S. team that's looking to rebound from a 14 ½-13 ½ punch-in-the-gut loss at the rain-drenched Celtic Manor Resort in Wales last October. The 1997 PGA Champion is a veteran of six Ryder Cups as a player and also served as an assistant to captain Corey Pavin in Wales. In those appearances, Love has experienced the full range of emotions, as those teams he played on compiled two wins and four losses.
Four of those were nail-biters, including the, "Miracle at Brookline," in 1999, where the U.S. rallied from a seemingly impossible four-point deficit in Sunday's singles matches.
That was spectacular.
Love was also on the 2004 team at Oakland Hills Country Club in Detroit, which suffered the most lopsided loss in the history of the matches, an 18 ½-9 ½ drumming by the Europeans.
Talk about the other end of the spectrum, eh?
Overall, Love holds a 9-12-5 Ryder Cup record, having accumulated 11.5 points, 10th all-time for the U.S. side.
Regardless of the sport, teams need balance. That's precisely what Love brings as captain. He knows what it's like to experience the highs (U.S. Ryder Cup wins, a major championship victory) and lows (crushing Ryder Cup defeats and runner-up finishes in three major championships, including twice and, most painfully, at the Masters).
Love might not have a green jacket in his closet, but he's certainly a master at his craft, having racked up 20 PGA Tour wins in his career, good for a lifetime PGA Tour exemption. He commands respect from his peers whether its players like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who are able to relate and appreciate what Love has accomplished in his career, or younger players trying to carve for themselves a path of sustained success and consistency the way Love has.
For what it's worth, Love is the first U.S. captain since Lanny Wadkins with at least 20 PGA Tour wins. Quite impressive, considering that between captains Wadkins and Love, there's a who's who of superstars, including the likes of Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw and Curtis Strange who were never able to reach that career plateau. Then again, that stat didn't help Wadkins guide his 1995 team to victory at Oak Hill, but it does highlight the fact that Love is most deserving of this captaincy for his on-course achievements.
Unlike Pavin, his predecessor, Love won't turn 50 until 2014. That means splitting time between the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour the way Pavin did won't be an option and could benefit Love. Rather than relying on phone calls, text messages, emails, or reports from assistant captains who are out on the PGA Tour regularly, Love will be able to check in with potential team members personally.
Another quality that can't be overlooked with Love is that he's one of the most approachable people in professional sports. Good, bad, or indifferent, Love has never shied away from a tough question.
Players will feel comfortable talking to Love both about strategy as well as potential partnerships.
We hear it all the time -- golf is a fickle game. So cliché, yet so true.
The Ryder Cup is usually decided by the team that is putting the best in a given week. Love won't be able to stroke any putts for Team USA at Medinah, but his wealth of knowledge, experience and ability to take care of business in the most tense of pressure-cooker situations makes him a fantastic choice to lead the Red, White and Blue in 2012.
Regardless of what happens before a supportive home crowd at Medinah, a win or a loss will not define Davis Love III. This captaincy is the exclamation point on a career that speaks for itself.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the writer and do not reflect those of PGA.com, Turner Sports or The PGA of America.