Golf: Davis Love's 'family' focus pays off for Team USA

Phil Mickelson (left) and Jordan Spieth celebrating the US’ Ryder Cup win with champagne. Mickelson was a key member of the task force set up in 2014 to end the country’s Ryder Cup drought.
Phil Mickelson (left) and Jordan Spieth celebrating the US’ Ryder Cup win with champagne. Mickelson was a key member of the task force set up in 2014 to end the country’s Ryder Cup drought. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Strategy which relied on engaging players, rebuilding credited for 17-11 Ryder Cup win

CHASKA (Minnesota) • In more ways than one, the United States proved up to the task as their meticulous preparations and renewed team spirit helped them beat Europe and clinch the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008.

With Cup veteran Phil Mickelson playing a pivotal role as on-course leader, Patrick Reed injecting passion into the mix and skipper Davis Love III ensuring that every player had a vested interest in the outcome, the US won 17-11 on Sunday.

The balance of power in the biennial team competition shifted as the Americans avoided what would have been a damaging fourth defeat in a row, and it was underpinned by the work of an 11-man task force set up after their heavy loss in 2014.

"We haven't had a good run lately and I'm thrilled for them that they got the win," said Love of his players.

"Proud of the way they competed all week. I'm proud of their attitude. But mostly proud of the way they came together as a family."

  • RYDER CUP

  • FINAL RESULTS: USA 17

    EUROPE 11 DAY THREE SINGLES: USA 7 1/2 EUROPE 41/2

    • Patrick Reed bt Rory McIlroy (Nir) 1 up

    • Jordan Spieth lost to Henrik Stenson (Swe) 3 & 2

    • J.B. Holmes lost to Thomas Pieters (Bel) 3 & 2

    • Rickie Fowler bt Justin Rose (Eng) 1 up

    • Jimmy Walker lost to Rafa Cabrera Bello (Esp) 3 & 2

    • Phil Mickelson halved Sergio Garcia (Esp)

    • Ryan Moore bt Lee Westwood (Eng) 1 up

    • Brandt Snedeker bt Andy Sullivan (Eng) 3 & 1

    • Dustin Johnson bt Chris Wood (Eng) 1 up

    • Brooks Koepka bt Danny Willett (Eng) 5 & 4

    • Matt Kuchar lost to Martin Kaymer (Ger) 1 down

    • Zach Johnson bt Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 4 & 3

  • [Heading]

    [Porta ac consectetur ac morbi leo risus]

Following Europe's 161/2-111/2 victory at Gleneagles in Scotland, the PGA of America established a task force, including eight current and former players, to identify how the US could play more successfully.

The automatic qualifiers were reduced from nine to eight to boost the number of captain's picks to four, with the final wild-card choice being announced just five days before the start of the Ryder Cup.

There was also a return to the successful system adopted by 2008 winning US captain Paul Azinger, who wanted his players to be fully engaged in the process and relied on the input of the automatic qualifiers for his wild-card selections.

"Just because we got kicked around for so long, you keep losing, you feel like you've got to do something different," said Love.

Love had guided the US to a 10-6 lead heading into the final day in 2012 but the team lost 131/2-141/2 in what is known to European fans as the "Miracle at Medinah".

"It was a little bit of a rebuilding, a little bit of a shift in attitude," Love said on Sunday.

"We're going to go into it with a better attitude from now on."

Mickelson was also a key member of the task force, having scathingly criticised the tactics of 2014 captain Tom Watson immediately after the US loss at Gleneagles, saying that the players had been left out of the process.

While Mickelson was jubilant on Sunday, after his team had regained the cherished Ryder Cup trophy with a sizzling display in the last-day singles, he cautioned that what had been ushered in by the task force was only a foundation for the future.

"We've got some work to do," said the 46-year-old. "The thing about this is that we need to build on it. Otherwise, it's all for naught."

Europe captain Darren Clarke admitted that "the American guys played better than we did".

He added: "They holed the putts when they had to, and we lipped out. But that's happened the other way around for quite some time."

Despite being a member of the beaten team, Rory McIlroy suggested the US' win was a positive outcome for the future of the event.

"It is disappointing obviously," said the world No. 3.

"But it's good for golf. It keeps the Ryder Cup interesting going into France in a couple of years' time. We'll be back better and stronger."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2016, with the headline 'Love's 'family' focus pays off for Team USA'. Print Edition | Subscribe