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The last public image of the U.S. Ryder Cup team was not attractive. During the press conference following the third consecutive defeat in Gleneagles, Scotland two years ago, the tension between some of the players – particularly Phil Mickelson -- and Captain Tom Watson bubbled to the surface. Watson was criticized as a remote, authoritarian captain who did not take the time to get to know his players or accept feedback. It was an almost mutinous atmosphere, with players calling for a different approach to the matches. Rattled by the controversy and a string of defeats at the hands of a European team that – at least on paper – seemed inferior, the PGA of America convened a task force. No one was quite sure how a task force would remedy problems like the epic final day collapse at Medinah in 2012 when the Americans lost a 10-6 lead, but the feeling was it was time to reassess all aspects of the approach to the Cup this side of the Atlantic. One significant change was the timing of the four captain’s picks, which historically were made after the PGA Championship in mid-August. This year the first three picks will be made

after the BMW championship on September 11; the last pick is deferred until September 25 following the conclusion of the Tour Championship. This schedule will preclude a repeat of the awkward result in 2014 when Billy Horschel won the Fed Ex Cup but did not qualify for the team. The selection of Davis Love as captain of the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team reflected an effort to instill more unity and team spirit into the competition. It is ironic that Love was at the helm for the infamous loss at Medinah, where he was criticized for letting a seemingly insurmountable lead slip away. Yet, unlike Watson at Gleneagles who appeared to accept little responsibility and blamed the loss on poor play, Love was gracious in defeat and shouldered the blame. He is a player’s captain, and you can expect to see a lighter, more positive spirit at Hazeltine National when the matches commence on September 30. Love has the responsibility for course setup, and this typically affords the home team an advantage as the tract can be tailored to perceived strengths of the team. However, displaying sportsmanship, Love has allowed European captain Darren Clarke some input. Love

50 | Subscribe at | September | September / October / October 2016 2016

September/October 2016  

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