Tuesday's roundup: Love named U.S. Ryder Cup captain
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. — Davis Love III was on his porch in Sea Island taking part in a conference call for the first Ryder Cup Task Force meeting, and he was shocked by what he heard.
First, the PGA of America really was going to let the players have a voice.
And then it quickly became clear the choice was going to be him.
Love was introduced Tuesday afternoon as U.S. captain for the 2016 matches at Hazeltine.
And while it appeared as though the Americans were looking in their past, he was presented as the start of a new model they hope can end two decades of European dominance.
He also was captain in 2012 at Medinah when Europe staged the biggest rally by a visiting team.
"I'm here with the same goal I had in 2012, but not as the same captain," Love said.
Love was part of an 11-member task force — eight of them former Ryder Cup players — that met twice since December.
The agenda for the first meeting was to define the role of the captains and assistant captains, and then to throw out names. Among those mentioned were Fred Couples, Steve Stricker and Love.
Phil Mickelson, whose biting comments at Gleneagles regarding Tom Watson's style was the impetus for the task force, said the qualities of a captain included someone who was respected, didn't let his ego keep him from listening, some who could take the blame and share the credit, and who had the experience to build a blueprint for the next 20 years.
"There's only one guy who fits that bill," Mickelson said.
The PGA of America also announced changes to the U.S. team to boost its chances.
Qualifying for the top eight players will end after the first FedEx Cup playoff event (The Barclays) instead of the PGA Championship. Three of the four captain's picks will be selected after the third playoff event (BMW Championship), while the final pick will be selected after the Tour Championship.
With a crowded schedule in 2016 because of the Olympics, that means the 12th player will be chosen five days before the matches begin.
Also, two of the vice captains will be former captains, and the other two will be players with Ryder Cup experience. Love already has selected Tom Lehman, the 2006 captain, to help him at Hazeltine. Lehman is from Minnesota.
Mickelson said the task force realized it had its captain after the first meeting, but it met again in early February and reached the same conclusion. The vote was unanimous the first time around.
More than a captain they wanted, Mickelson said the players felt they had partial ownership in the future.
"We went from having zero input and zero continuity, and both of those things the Ryder Cup Task Force has solved," Mickelson said.
Love is the first U.S. captain to get another chance since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, and the first since Jack Burke Jr. in 1973 to get a second chance after losing. And he can expect to be involved in more Ryder Cups after Hazeltine.
Mickelson said he wouldn't rule out Love returning as captain in 2018, but "for sure a vice captain."
"It's not just a two-year commitment," Mickelson said. "Really it's a four- or six-year commitment to get the thing started."
Europe last week selected Darren Clarke to be captain for Hazeltine.
Tiger Woods, who was part of the task force, congratulated Love in a statement and said he respected him as a person, player and captain. Woods, Mickelson and Love will be part of the "Ryder Cup Committee," along with three PGA officers, to resume the work of the task force.
Love said he "didn't go in asking" to be captain again.
"I could not be more excited to captain the 2016 team," he said. "But I agreed to do it for one reason. The members of the task force, to a man, have said they will do whatever it takes for this team to be successful. They are all in. Our team will trust each other and we will have a shared vision."
Love said if he had been in the room, instead of on a conference call, when the names of potential captains were being written on a board, "I probably would have walked out" when his name appeared.
More than the task force choosing him, he was excited that the task force was involved in the first place.
"It was more the process," he said. "In a text during a break to Steve or Jim (Furyk), we were like, 'They're actually going to let us pick the captain.' I don't know what I expected when I walked in there. I thought that I'd be giving advice."
No one summed up the 10th hole at Riviera as well as Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.
"Fun hole to watch. Tough to play," he said during the opening round of the Northern Trust Open.
What many consider to be the best little par 4 in America — and among the best in the world — received even more attention last week at Riviera when it went from being clever to at times cruel.
Vaughn Taylor, in contention and headed toward another top 10 that would have got him in the Honda Classic, found the front bunker on Sunday. He went over the green into the back bunker, hit a poor shot that stuck in the sand on the slope, knocked that one back down toward his feet and holed at 15-footer from the fringe for a triple bogey.
Defending champion Bubba Watson, who earlier in the week professed to be "scared to death of the hole," was two shots out of the lead and made double bogey.
Was it over the top?
More than one player trudged off the 10th believing the joy had been sucked out of the 315-yard hole. There was ample evidence, especially on Thursday and Sunday with a far right pin, of shots that had plenty of spin taking a hard hop and catching enough of the slope to roll off the green, either in the collection area of in a bunker.
The response from Riviera superintendent Matt Morton? Welcome to our world.
With all the chatter about so much sand from so many bunker shots building up the green, Morton said the real culprit was a long drought creating firm conditions.
"The main difference is three firm years in a row," he said. "During the Northern Trust Open, it's usually wet and you deal with rain. We're in a drought. You're seeing three years of dry, firm conditions. We've been able to showcase the hole the way members play in the summer."
It began to rain heavily on the back nine Sunday, and when Dustin Johnson and James Hahn reached the 10th hole in the playoff (the second extra hole), it helped slightly to be able to get their flop shots on the green. That said, they were flop shots of the highest quality.
And that remains the secret to the 10th hole. Great shots are rewarded, but they better be great. Vijay Singh showed that with his bunker shot in regulation to 9 feet for birdie. Taylor did not with his bunker play.
It all goes back to Ishikawa.
A couple of caddies walked off the back of the green toward the 11th tee and whispered, "Greatest hole in golf." Players would be a few steps behind and could be heard to mutter, "Worst hole in golf."
Fun to watch. Tough to play.
Mixing it up
Geoff Ogilvy wouldn't mind defending his title in the Barracuda Championship, though that would mean he's not eligible for the World Golf Championship in Bridgestone the same week.
Ogilvy much prefers Montreaux to Firestone, but he would rather play for $8 million in prize money instead of $3 million, along with the prestige of trying to win a fourth WGC title.
The Barracuda Championship uses modified Stableford system, and that's appealing. That led to questions about how the PGA Tour could add a level of interest to a season that is 72 holes of stroke play in every tournament but two (Reno and the Match Play).
He came up with one solution — team competition — and two possibilities.
"I think it would be fun to play a mixed tournament," he said. "That would be interesting, don't you think?"
Imagine the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour each counting it as an official event (a medalist along with a team winner). Ogilvy said he would want Lydia Ko was a partner, and who can blame anyone for choosing the No. 1 player?
The other idea would be a fourballs competition, much like the USGA is doing this year at Olympic Club.
Kenny Perry already has played four times on the PGA Tour this year, and the 54-year-old is not done yet. But he is setting a schedule with purpose.
"This is like a farewell tour," Perry said before missing the cut at Riviera. "I'm going back to place to say, 'Thank you.' When I turned 50 in 2010, I just left. I was still fully exempt and I wanted to go back to these places like Colonial, Memorial, Byron Nelson. Because I don't plan on playing out here next year."
Perry is a three-time winner at Memorial and a two-time winner at Colonial.