2012 Ryder Cup: Let the Blame Game Begin

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2012

Whenever an unfortunate event presents itself, our first instinct is always to channel all of the blame towards a single target.

It’s as if we have become so obsessed with obtaining “justice” that in some strange way we feel better about ourselves when we are able to place all of the blame on an individual or group of individuals.

The majority of the time we quickly and often blindly channel all of our blame towards the top.  

A financial meltdown must be blamed solely on the President of the United States.

A football team going 5-11 must be due to an incompetent head coach.  

And the U.S. meltdown at Medinah must fall solely on the shoulders of the team’s captain, Davis Love III.  

But those of us who are interested in evaluating situations rather than blindly throwing the blame towards the top and moving on know all too well that catastrophes are rarely the result of a single person or even a single event. They are most often the result of a series of unfortunate events caused by a number of people which ultimately leads to one catastrophic outcome.

So, if you’re attempting to throw all of the blame onto Love for America’s epic collapse at Medinah, well, the majority of your blame is headed in the wrong direction.

Of course hindsight is 20/20 and you can point to a few very minor gaffes Love may have made, most notably his decision to sit Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley during Saturday afternoon’s four-ball matches after the duo had already captured three points together in dominant fashion. But Mickelson also said that was more his decision than Love’s.

“Keegan and I knew going in that we were not playing in the afternoon, and we said on the first tee, we are going to put everything we have into this one match, because we are not playing the afternoon,” Mickelson said on Sunday night during the team’s post-Ryder Cup press conference.

“And when we got to 10, I went to Davis and I said, listen, you're seeing our best; you cannot put us in the afternoon, because we emotionally and mentally are not prepared for it…So you cannot put that on him; if anything, it was me, because I went to him 10 and said that to him,” Mickelson continued.

On the flip side of things you could of course argue that Love was the captain and not Mickelson, so if he felt that these two players could have secured another point for the American side during Saturday afternoon’s four-ball matches he should have been a strong enough captain to put them out there, no matter what Mickelson and Bradley said.

But that is just one minor decision and is small-time stuff in the grand scheme of things. The American side was ahead 8-4 at the time and Love thought Mickelson and Bradley needed a rest while he also felt that he needed to get Woods and Stricker (who had sat out the morning foursome session) back out on the course one more time before Sunday’s singles matches.

If Love’s decision to give Mickelson and Bradley a rest on Saturday afternoon with the American side leading the matches 8-4 is the best that critics can point to in terms of second guessing Love’s captaincy, than it should quickly become clear to most that Love made very few if any truly bad decisions while serving as the American captain.

Love’s pairings were for the most part very successful. His players were loose and appeared to be genuinely enjoying their Ryder Cup experience.

Love also cannot be criticized for his Sunday singles lineup.  

Love knew that the European side needed to front load its lineup on Sunday so he combated Olazabel’s predictable lineup with the exact singles lineup you’d expect from the American side. Love put his hotter players towards the front to face off against the best the European side had to offer and saved some of his most experienced players for the final matches just in case the whole thing did come down to those last few matches late on Sunday afternoon. It was a perfectly logical decision and one that any competent Ryder Cup captain would have made.

The blame for America’s collapse at Medinah does not fall on the jockey, it falls on his horses.

Love did everything you’d expect from a captain, his horses simply didn’t perform as well as expected… and we’re talking about four horses in particular: Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker

These four players managed to win just 2.5 out of a potential eight points, and on Sunday they combined to secure just a half point for the American side.

Stricker, Woods, Furyk and Snedeker made up just 25 percent of the American Ryder Cup team but managed to lose nearly 40 percent of the points that the Americans handed over to the Europeans.

Snedeker alone cost him and Furyk their foursomes match on Friday morning with a drive that literally flew 100 yards to the right of the fairway and then got absolutely demolished by Paul Lawrie during his singles match which transferred even more momentum to the European side during the critical early stages of the singles session.  

Stricker put up a big goose egg for the week going 0-4-0, not to mention missing some key putts down the stretch that could have secured the cup for the United States.

Furyk of course held a one-up lead standing on the 17th tee before bogeying 17 and 18 to hand his match to Sergio Garcia.  

And the No. 2-ranked player in the world, Woods, managed to leave Medinah with just a half point, which was simply a continuation of his dismal Ryder Cup career.  

There were of course many other players on the American side that did not perform well on Sunday afternoon, but Stricker, Woods, Furyk and Snedeker had been the weak link for the American side all week, and those 5.5 points lost between the four of them were literally the difference between an American rout and a shocking defeat.

Woods qualified for the team automatically by leading the Ryder Cup point standings, but Stricker, Snedeker and Furyk were all captain’s picks, so if you wanted to toss some blame in Love’s direction for his captain’s picks it would not be completely unreasonable…until you begin exploring Love’s other options.

Snedeker was an obvious choice. He had played extremely well all year and won the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup the week prior to the Ryder Cup, not to mention that he is one of the best putters in the world.

The Furyk and Stricker picks were slightly more controversial in that both men were getting up there in age and Furyk has a horrendous career Ryder Cup record. But, what was the alternative?

Rickie Fowler? No one has seen him since The Players Championship.

Hunter Mahan? No one has seen him since Augusta.

Nick Watney? He mixed one win at The Barclays into what can only be described as a dreadful season.

Love went with two veterans to balance out a team which included five rookies, which was a perfectly logical strategy.

The jockey chose the right horses; the horses simply didn’t run a good race.

So, if you are looking to take the easy route and throw all of the blame towards the top, Love is your man.

But if you take even a moment to truly evaluate the 2012 Ryder Cup, you will quickly realize that, yes, some of the blame can fall on Love, but the majority of the blame should fall on the four men that managed to hand the Europeans 5.5 points over the course of three days.

For more golf news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.


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