LOVE is in the air. Or is it? Definitely not if the initial reaction to the impending re-appointment of Davis Love III as the United States Ryder Cup captain is anything to go by.
According to reports, the shock move is set to be confirmed next Tuesday ahead of the Honda Classic as it starts the PGA Tour’s “Florida Swing” close to the PGA of America’s HQ in Palm Beach Gardens.
It’s a shock because, quite bluntly, it’s not what we were expecting from the much-talked about US “task force” set up in the wake of last September’s defeat at Gleneagles. Or, more specifically, set up after Phil Mickelson ripped Tom Watson to shreds in a press conference as he pointed the finger of blame at his captain for that disappointment.
For the Americans to appoint 11 members – it comprised PGA of America officials, former captains and current players – to the said “task force” always appeared to be farcical, to be honest, and so it has proved.
As recently as two weeks ago, we were hearing that Fred Couples, who has a 3-0 record in the Presidents Cup, wanted to be the US captain at Hazeltine.
Apparently, he told Tiger Woods, a “task force” member, so and others, too, yet, once again, he’s going to be overlooked by the PGA of America.
Astonishing. Even more so when you consider the Americans are trying to find the right Ryder Cup formula yet have someone there who has found that in the other team event they play in the men’s professional game.
That one will take some explaining by the PGA of America’s CEO, Pete Bevacqua, next week, as will the decision to give a losing captain another chance when the US really needed positivity heading into the next match after being beaten in eight of the last ten encounters.
Admittedly, Love was a bit unlucky to taste defeat in 2012 at Medinah, where he watched his side build up a four-point lead heading into the singles only to see their opponents equal the record last-day fightback to come out on top.
He got so many of his pairings right that week, notably the one that saw Mickelson join forces with Keegan Bradley, though, after watching them win their opening three matches, it was a mistake that the captain then listened to Mickelson and allowed the pair to sit out the Saturday afternoon session as Ian Poulter breathed life into the European effort.
The time to give him that second chance, however, was last year, when Love – not Watson – should have been the one talking about how the hurt from Chicago would be driving the American players in Perthshire.
The reaction, of course, would have been different if the PGA of America had opted for a different returning captain – Paul Azinger.
The winning skipper at Valhalla – was that more down to his “pod” system or opposite number Nick Faldo being hopeless? – he opted not to be part of the “task force”.
Why? And did that preclude him from being considered, unlike Love, who was on the panel that convened twice before coming to the decision to turn to him again? “Reports that PGA and I are at odds are completely false,” wrote Azinger on Twitter yesterday, but there has to be more than meets the eye on this one.
Whatever was recommended by the “task force” – both in the short and long term – has to be made public, either by the PGA of America or its members. After having lots to say at Gleneagles, in fact, it should be down to Mickelson to spill the beans again.
The Ryder Cup is a great event – the best golf has to offer in an era where entertainment is demanded by the sporting public. It needs the Americans to be singing from the same hymn sheet, though, for it to stay that way and, quite clearly, it’s not happening right now.
As a sign off, I always think of Ian Wood, one of my predecessors when I hear Love being mentioned. “Why should I refer to him as Love III when I never knew I or II?” he always said, smiling mischievously as only he could.