Ask any Ryder Cup captain and they’ll tell you that being second-guessed is part of the J-O-B.
U.S. captain Davis Love III has endured his fair share.
It started when he announced his captain’s picks — including the selection of veteran Jim Furyk over one of a handful of available younger players.
The result? The pairing of Furyk and rookie Brandt Snedeker nearly battled back to halve their match against Graeme McDowell and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy in the very first match of the 39th Ryder Cup. And then in a rematch Saturday morning, Furyk and Snedeker got their revenge with a 1-up win over the Northern Ireland stars.
It’s continued this week when Love threw all four of his rookies into the fire, then decided not to mix up any of his pairings over the first two days and even opted to sit Tiger Woods for the first time since Woods began chasing the Cup in 1997.
The results? The rookies, led by Keegan Bradley, have combined to go 8-3, and Woods responded in his Saturday afternoon match — cranking it up on the back nine in one of the most exciting matches of the weekend in front of 40,000 festive fans at Medinah Country Club.
But most important for Love, the U.S. squad followed up a great start on Friday with another dominant performance Saturday to take an overwhelming 10-6 lead over the Team Europe heading into today’s singles matches.
Plain and simple, Love has pulled all the right strings, but like any good captain, he’ll never admit it.
“These guys make my job easy; they came in really prepared,” Love said. “They came in playing very well. They went out with guys they like to play with, and they are having fun.
“I think that was really the key; they bought into the fact that if they just went out and played their game with their friends, they were going to have fun and play well. And they’ve done that, really, except for Saturday morning for about nine holes, they’ve done that all day the last two days.”
The Europeans gained a measure of confidence Saturday in the gloaming when they won the final two matches of the day, including a performance for the ages by Ian Poulter in the finale.
The tough-as-nails Englishman birdied the last five holes to propel himself and Rory McIlroy past Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.
That has Love’s counterpart — Jose Maria Olazabal — thinking a miracle come Sunday. Miracle as in a European version of the U.S. team’s “Miracle at Brookline” in 1999.
“Yeah, I believe it’s not over; that’s what I learned from Seve (Ballesteros),” said Olazabal, whose team will sport Ballesteros’ colors (blue and white) today and also feature a silhouette of Ballesteros on their shirts.
“There are 12 matches to play, and of course we have a tough task ahead. But it’s not over ... simple as that.”
But in order to retain the Cup, the Europeans have to win 8 of those 12 matches, not an easy task considering the way most of the U.S. team has been playing. And certainly not an easy task given the home-field advantage the huge crowds at Medinah have provided.
“We’ve seen how supportive the crowds have been this week, and it’s going to be the same Sunday,” Olazabal said. “But at the end of the day they are not hitting the shots.
“What we have to do is hit great shots, make a few putts and get the momentum on our side.”
You can bet Love, as he has all week, will have his guys ready for what lies ahead.
“Now it’s individual, now you’ve got to not look at the leader board, you’ve got to not listen to the roars,” Love said. “You’ve got to just play your match.
“It’s an individual game again, and I think these guys have all proven that on their own, they’re the best players in the world.”
And when the first group reaches the tee at 11:03 a.m., he wants them all to be aiming high — real high.
“We’re all going to be playing hard, and we won’t win all twelve,” he said, before rethinking that. “It would be nice if we did ... we’re going to give it a good shot.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.