Sunday pin positions a source of Cup regret for Love
REUTERS - United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III says he has endured fitful nights of sleep since his team lost to Europe in the biennial competition, though his only regret was the position of flagsticks in the concluding singles.
Love, whose team were beaten by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2 as Europe matched the Ryder Cup's biggest ever comeback, felt he should have retained the same pin positions, left of centre, on the closing holes at Medinah Country Club.
However, the cups at the par-three 17th and par-four last were installed on the right portion of the green for Sunday's singles and Love watched in anguish as Europe won four of the six matches that ended at the 18th.
"We really may have dropped the ball on pin placements on the last few holes," Love told reporters on Wednesday while preparing for this week's McGladrey Classic at St. Simons Island, Georgia.
"We wanted pins on the left and in the middle of the green because a lot of our guys were drawing it (the ball) in there.
"The most two important holes in the singles came down to 17 and 18 and we had pins where if you hit it long and left, it was tough to get close to the pins because they were on the right. Should we have thought of that? Maybe."
Love, who had the luxury as host captain of being able to set up the course as he liked, had a long, hard look at those pin placements during the final session of team play on the Saturday at Medinah.
"Saturday they all birdied it because it was on the left. Both teams were stiffing it," he recalled. "And I'm standing on 17 tee and they (his players) go, 'Where is the pin tomorrow?'
"I said, 'Well, it's been here. This must be the wide right one.' And I didn't think to myself, 'Well, maybe we ought to just leave it over there because we keep birdieing it.'
"If I'd have just put the pin left on 17 on Sunday rather than right, would that have made a difference? What happened on Sunday, I don't really know."
On a Medinah layout virtually shorn of rough with lightning-fast greens, the Americans adapted more quickly to the conditions, holing putts in team play when it mattered most to build a commanding 10-6 lead going into the final day.
Sunday's singles then produced one of the most riveting days ever seen in the sport as Europe, with the iconic image of the late Seve Ballesteros on their sleeves and golf bags, ended up winning 8-1/2 of the 12 points on offer to retain the trophy.
Love has since been second-guessed over his strategy to rest each of his 12 players for at least one session, his singles order and his decision to bench the red-hot duo of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson for the concluding fourball matches.
"Well, they (critics) wanted me to play Keegan and Phil on Saturday afternoon, but they didn't want me to put them out first on Sunday," Love said.
"Well, wait a minute. They were playing really good. So you want me to play them Saturday, but you don't want me to play them first on Sunday" That doesn't make sense.
"They (the U.S.) were playing great and they didn't play great on Sunday. Something obviously changed. And is that playing because we were too confident, because we were too far ahead? I don't know."
Asked if he had been surprised by the level of scrutiny and analysis since the Ryder Cup, Love replied: "No, because I went through it with (Tom) Kite, I went through it with Lanny (Wadkins) and I went through it with Hal (Sutton).
"Our plan this year was to do something a little different, get ahead after two days and then in singles we would do our usual and play really well. And it didn't work."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Julian Linden)
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