Bad planning by captain Davis Love costly for U.S.
After it was all over, when his words were all but drowned out by the singing from the winning team's fans, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love said, "The plan worked the first two days, it just didn't work today."
That's like saying a game plan was great for the first half, it just faltered a little down the stretch, causing the team to blow a 20-point lead and the game.
What the unprecedented home-soil collapse yesterday said was that the United States needs a new plan, some new planners and different players.
Here's how the plan worked out: The Americans had this Ryder Cup well in hand on Saturday, up 10-4 at one point, and let it dissolve into a stunning 14 1/2-13 1/2 defeat. You cannot call it a Jean Van de Velde-like team crumble because it was not all self-inflicted. Europe played inspired golf early Saturday evening and all day yesterday. But it was a pretty big collapse.
And it did not have to happen. Love, the old Tar Heel, earlier this week invoked former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith by saying that Smith always would calmly stick with his offensive plan all game, no matter what. Fine, except this weekend called to mind the old joke about Smith being the only guy who could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points. The great basketball star was shackled by Smith's low-octane offense.
Love did the equivalent of going to the four corners. He sat the unbeaten, galvanizing team of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley Saturday afternoon because part of "the plan" was that everyone on the team had to sit one session. Mickelson, in fact, said he urged Love not to play the dynamic duo in the afternoon session so they would not be worn out for the important singles matches Sunday.
Still, Love is the captain and should have adjusted his plan to at least keep Bradley on the course Saturday afternoon. Given the way he was on fire, there was a heck of a chance that the United States could have built such a big lead that the singles matches Sunday would not have mattered. Europe's players said as much. Keeping it within four, 10-6, "was crucial," Europe's No. 1 player Rory McIlroy said Sunday.
As it turned out, both Mickelson and Bradley lost their mojo and Sunday's singles matches for which they were so well rested. Mickelson was beaten by Justin Rose's birdies on the final two holes and Bradley fell to McIlroy. Bad plan.
Worse, in retrospect, was Love choosing two tired faces from Ryder Cups past with captain's picks. Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker made the team specifically because of their experience. It was believed they could handle tough scenarios such as tight spots in singles. But . . .
Furyk had a 6-foot putt on the 18th green Sunday to earn a vital half point. He missed.
Stricker had a 5-foot putt on No. 17 to stay even with Martin Kaymer and potentially win at least a vital half point. He missed. Bad plan.
Fact is, those guys and Love come from a losing Ryder Cup tradition. As Johnny Miller had said before the matches, who needs experience like that?
Sunday became just another chance for European fans to sing their soccer-themed songs and watch the European players spray champagne. While that was going on, Love rationalized. "Ultimately," he said, "this team really understands, it's just golf."
But for the previous two days, his players had been jumping up and down, gesticulating with every point. It sure seemed like they were really intent on winning, not just having a few laughs and a nice experience.
It ended up being another bitter experience, which should not have been part of the plan.