U.S. captain Davis Love III referred to his Ryder Cup team as “the best golf team maybe ever assembled,” a surprising comment for two reasons.
This was Davis Love, not exactly known for his brash comments.
And the U.S. team isn’t even assembled yet.
Two days before Love makes his final captain’s pick, and a week before the Ryder Cup begins at Hazeltine, Love went on SiriusXM’s “Fairways of Life” show on Friday and was asked whether the Americans have tried too hard.
He said they tend to panic after a bad round or lose momentum and are guilty at times of playing not to lose.
“You need to stand up there and smash it down the middle and take off walking and let the other team know, ‘We are going to dominate you,'” Love said.
It’s all about instilling confidence in the U.S. team, believing it has the better squad. Love pointed out the Americans don’t have to do anything “super human.” And then he finished his thought with words sure to cross the Atlantic.
“We’re a great golf team,” he said. “This is the best golf team maybe every assembled.”
And just like that, Love put himself in the company of other captains making bold comments.
All but one backfired.
The Americans had won 11 of 12 times in the Ryder Cup when the matches were played in 1967 at Champions Golf Club in Houston, with the great Ben Hogan as the captain. The opposing captain Dai Rees gave lengthy introductions at the pre-tournament dinner to the Great Britain & Ireland squad before taking his seat.
Hogan asked that applause be held until he was finished.
Players stood as Hogan called their name, and he said, “Ladies and gentleman, the U.S. Ryder Cup team – the finest golfers in the world.”
And he sat down.
GB&I was no match for the Americans in those days, and it showed. Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson won all five matches in a 23 ½-8 ½ victory.
The Americans had lost two straight Ryder Cups when Raymond Floyd took over as captain in 1989 at The Belfry and summoned his inner-Hogan. At the gala ball that week, Floyd introduced his team as “the 12 greatest players in the world.”
This didn’t exactly strike fear into Europe. Nick Faldo supposedly turned to Seve Ballesteros and said, “I guess that makes you No. 13.”
Europe built a 5-3 lead after the opening day, kept a two-point margin going into singles and the Ryder Cup ended in a draw, which effectively was another victory for Europe because it retained the cup.
Not to be forgotten is Hal Sutton, captain of the 2004 team at Oakland Hills.
Sutton gave golf what it wanted – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as partners – which sounded great on paper.
“This might be the greatest team in U.S. history,” Sutton said after announcing they would be in the opening match. “Why was it so alluring? They’re two of the greatest players in American history. They might shoot 58 tomorrow – if they make it that far.”
They had a better-ball score of 61, which might have been really special if Woods and Mickelson had made it to the 18th hole. Instead, Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington beat them on the 17th, and then Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood beat the not-so-dynamic duo in foursomes that afternoon.
Oh, well. It sounded good.
How will Love’s comments come across?
Bravado is not part of Love’s personality. He sounded as though he was reminding his team how good they are – more cheerleader than field general.
Words are words, however, and they elicited a quick response.
Westwood tweeted a link to the comments and said, “No pressure there then lads.”
Rory McIlroy told Golfweek magazine, “Of course we’re going to have fun with that. Yeah, and that’s going to give us motivation. Of course it gives us motivation if they think they’re the best U.S. team ever.”
Of course, it isn’t.
Five of the Americans on the team haven’t won this year. Only five of them have ever won a major.
Floyd didn’t have the greatest 12 players in the world, but they were pretty close: Curtis Strange, Tom Kite, Fred Couples, Paul Azinger, Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, Mark O’Meara and Payne Stewart played that year. All won majors. Seven are in the Hall of Fame.
But the greatest team is considered to be in 1981 at Walton Heath: Jack Nicklaus, Watson, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Floyd, Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Larry Nelson, Jerry Pate, Bill Rogers all were or became major champions.
This U.S. team will be measured by results. It could start by simply winning the Ryder Cup.
Republished with permission from the Associated Press.