Davis Love III: Reflections on the Ryder Cup Loss

Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III, turned in his note pads and radios and headed to Las Vegas to play in the J.T. Shriners. It seemed a bit of a surprise, but as he explained in this media session, he was itching to play because he couldn’t during the run-up to and playing of the Ryder Cup matches. There was just no time.

This transcript is very interesting because he goes into some detail about the behind-the-scenes planning, thinking and execution of his Ryder Cup master plan. The text has been edited for clarity and to largely limit it to just what he had to say about the Cup. It begins below:

So we’re back to moving on. I’m happy to be here [playing in Las Vegas]. I wanted to get back to playing golf, no matter what happened Sunday. I had committed that I needed to get back to my own game and it would be good for me either way.

You know, Sunday was not good; Monday was I think hard for a lot of our players. We packed up and gradually everybody was leaving. It was emotional saying goodbye to most of the guys. It was a little surreal. Phil and Amy sat with (indiscernible) and I at the elevator. They were the last ones to leave the ninth floor, and we sat there for a half an hour and I finally realized they just didn’t want to leave.

They had a big airplane and were going home to see their kids, but didn’t want to leave and it to be over. I think that’s how most of us felt. It was hard not to get up Monday morning and put your team clothes on and go play again.

I think we’re just sad it’s over. Obviously we’re stunned by the loss, but I think the team really came together. You saw that Sunday afternoon the way they handled it, and I saw it all day Monday. I just got a text from Jason Dufner and Webb Simpson. They’re still pulling together. I think that’s the impressive thing.

I packed up maybe 20 boxes of stuff out of my hotel rooms last night and went down and started helping the ladies in the office pack up their boxes. I just didn’t want it to end. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes, the support part of it and getting things done and making it nice for the team. That’s why I enjoyed working for Corey [Pavin in Wales].

So in reality, worked with him for two or three months and during the event, and then it didn’t take me two months to turn around and know that I was going to the captain. I had to start thinking about it. Mostly in the beginning it was thinking. This year has been a lot of work. The last two or three month have been hectic.

But that’s the two-year journey that you get to go on. If there is any sadness in the whole thing, I’m sad that it’s over because it was so much fun. My heart hurts for the players because they put so much into it and didn’t get the result they wanted.

Unfortunately what we knew was going to happen was if we got close they were going to put too much pressure on themselves, and one of the pressures was they didn’t want to let the captain down. Like I didn’t want to let Tom Kite down or Ben Crenshaw or Lanny Wadkins.

I think in the end, the enormity of it all, we might have been better off tied. Might have played better Sunday tied rather than trying to protect the lead.

In the end, I think Dustin Johnson said it best. Everybody is feeling sorry for themselves and he says, “Man, it’s just golf. They knocked in a bunch of putts and ours lipped out. There’s nothing we can do about it.” You know, that really did sum it up.

Sergio makes an eagle, and the next hole skulls it in the pine straw and then smacks it off the pin and it goes in. Next thing you know he wins two holes from Furyk. Everybody talks about 17 and 18, but we had things like that. They had I think five, maybe even six, eagles on Sunday.

Whenever a guy comes out of the box that hot…I saw one of our scorecards. We had a couple birdies in the first five holes and the guy was down because he birdied and the other guy eagled. We just didn’t have things go our way.

Then I think at the end the guys that we had at the end to try to just in case something bad happened, they didn’t make any putts either. It was an unfortunate situation for all of ’em to be in.

Again, they fought hard and played great the first two days. Just had kind of an off day on Sunday.

I think you know what I learned from Dr. Bob Rotella has sunk in gradually over 25-plus years. This might have been the best job I did of sticking with a game plan all week. Every time I would waffle a little bit, that’s why I had [Assistant Captains] Scott Verplank and Jeff Sluman and my assistants, every time I would go, “Hey, you know what, they want me to sit Keegan and Phil and Phil doesn’t want to play. He says he’s done and stick with the plan.”

But I could put Keegan with somebody else you know, and they go, No, no, no. Stick with your plan. The plan is working. We’re way ahead. Put Dustin and Kuch back in; put Tiger and Strick back in just like you planned on it. They’re ready to go.

I learned on the golf course I think one of the things that hurts me is that I don’t stick with it. I don’t stay committed. I get out of my plan. Tiger and I talked about it Sunday morning about how important it is doing the same thing over and over and over again.

I saw it in him. He played really well on the back nine a couple matches because he finally got into just hitting the ball at the flag rather than working on his golf swing. I think I do that. We all do it.

But I think that week we had a plan and stuck with it, and I learned I can be a little bit more committed and a little bit tougher. I stood up to a couple things last week that you get criticized in the press because I was being too nice and letting them do what they wanted to do.

I guarantee Tiger Woods didn’t want to sit out. There was a lot of guys on our team that said, “Do not take Keegan and Phil out.” But if you make ’em go play when they don’t want to play, they’re probably not going to play well.

I’ve been put in that situation, too. You know, they say, “Well you could have sat down over lunch and talked to everybody.” Well, you don’t get that luxury. You have to turn in your tee times while they’re still on the golf course.

The plan was set. I road out to 10, popped underneath the ropes, and as soon as Phil saw me he ran over and said, “Don’t even think about it.” He knew why I was there. I wasn’t there to watch. He was winning. I was there to see if I could talk to Bones and see if they would play. He said no.

The domino effect is that you got to sit somebody if you put Keegan and Phil back in. I had sat Kuch and Dustin twice. If there was anything to me that didn’t look very smart was sitting Dustin and Kuch. They didn’t play an alternate shot match.

Everybody watches sports on TV and thinks they know how they could have done it better. In our team room everybody was solid on it. Pretty much when we were up by 4, nobody was arguing very much. I know they weren’t arguing with [Captain] Mark James either when he was 4 up [at Brookline in 1999]. Then something bad happens, it gets turned around.

That’s my job. That’s why I signed up for it. I said right from the beginning I know I’m gonna be in the same [situation] as Lanny or Tom or any captain that lost. I thought Tom Kite did a phenomenal job, but he lost because Tiger and Davis and Justin didn’t play any good. Then his plan was wrong.

His plan was three major winners would probably get him a whole bunch of points and they didn’t. That’s kind of what happened to us. My plan was I had Brandt Snedecker and Jim Furyk and guys that putted really, really well. I didn’t plan on the Europeans putting like Brandt, and they did it down the stretch and we didn’t. And was ultimately the difference.

You know, the plan didn’t just come to us Monday night at Medina. We’ve been working on this for months and months and months, talking to Paul Azinger over and over and over again.

We could have picked Nick Watney and Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler. We could have picked a whole different four. But, again, we had months and months of a plan that we talked to everybody on the team. Everybody was involved. We made some pairings really, really early.

My plan was we would never really play well the first two days. We would always get behind. We get behind the first segment. We start trying too hard and get behind after one day and we start trying to play catchup. We rely on the singles matches.

The picks and pairings were made all based on my taking Paul Azinger’s plan. Once I got into who was making the team, it shrunk to two-man teams from Azinger’s four-man teams.

I didn’t have to do a whole lot of personality profiling because I knew the guys. The Sunday lineup, if you go back and look at it, was based on the guys that played together and where we needed them in the lineup.

Tiger and Strick could still practice and eat and prepare together. First four could still prepare together. So it was all a plan and it didn’t work, so ultimately it’s my responsibility for not putting them in a position on Sunday to win. The picks were based on that.

You know, we knew we had Bubba and Webb as a team, but had to make some other teams. Jim Furyk, great alternate shot player. He loves alternate shot. Great putter in Brandt Snedecker. Everything was kind of calculated.

Now, Jim fell into the plan late with Brandt, but he agreed to it. You know, Steve Stricker is the No. 10 player in the world. It’s not like we took a chance on a guy. You know, I could have picked Fred Couples and maybe he would have played good and maybe he wouldn’t have.

We didn’t really take a chance with FedExCup champions. Obviously Brandt played good after we picked him, but he was playing well before. Just went with what we thought was best. It’s been said before: Our team agreed on everything we did. Like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, they know that they had to do what ultimately they agreed to do, not what I told them to do.

I’m happy with the decision. Now, I love Rickie Fowler and Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan Nick Watney. They are the future of the Ryder Cup.

Sure, maybe they would have done better, but I love the team I had. They gave it their all. Most importantly, they represented their country on and off the golf course.

Jose Maria said it best: America can be proud of that team. We could take our next 12 and do really well too. Hard to say what the right thing to do is.

This entry was posted in Failure, Mastery, Ryder Cup and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.