OK, OK, the 2010 Ryder Cup concluded less than two weeks ago, and we're already discussing potential captains for the 2012 matches.
But it's never too early to begin looking to the future...particularity when considering that the American side has won just a single Ryder Cup match in the past decade.
Here are five potential captains that could lead the American Ryder Cup team to victory in 2012 at Medinah Country Club.
Although Mark O’Meara has lost as many singles matches as any other player in U.S. Ryder Cup history and has an unimpressive career record of 4-9-1, O’Meara has been a member of five Ryder Cup and two Presidents Cup teams.
O’Meara has also won two major championships during a single season, making him one of only three players to have accomplished that feat since 1994.
In essence, O’Meara is somewhat qualified to captain the 2012 Ryder Cup team, but he would, and should, be a second, third, or fourth choice.
Due to our utter lack of success in the Ryder Cup matches since 1985, the Americans are running short on potential captains with strong Ryder Cup records. So, the next best thing is to resort to those with Ryder Cup experience and major championship success.
The PGA of America doesn’t like to mix things up very often.
It’s a small miracle that they even changed the format of the PGA Championship from match-play to stroke play back in 1958. Paul Azinger should be hailed as a hero for talking the PGA of America’s top brass into allowing him four captain’s picks for the 2008 Ryder Cup instead of the usual two.
That being said, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results.
So, unless the PGA of America is, well, insane, they should be open to trying something new in their approach to the Ryder Cup. After all, the Americans have lost eight out of the last 12 matches (1989 was a tie at the Belfry, but Europe retained the cup because they had won in 1987).
In terms of Tom Watson—well, he’s the last American captain to have won on European soil (1993), he has won eight major championships, he is still active in the game, and he is unquestionably one of the most respected and admired American golfers alive today.
Watson’s chances of captaining a second Ryder Cup team, however, are very slim. Although Europe will often allow successful captains to stay in for two and even three Ryder Cup matches, the last American to captain more than one team was Arnold Palmer in 1975.
If Fred Couples were not already captaining the Presidents Cup team for the second consecutive time, he would be a prime choice for the American Ryder Cup captain in 2012.
Couples will be a Ryder Cup captain at some point, there’s almost no question about that.
Although his 7-9-4 Ryder Cup record is not overly impressive, he’s been a member of five Ryder Cup teams, he’s as cool, calm and collected as they come, and he already has some experience in captaining an American team at an international competition.
Although Couples is an unlikely choice for the 2012 matches due to his prior commitment to captaining the 2011 American Presidents Cup team in Australia, he would be the perfect choice for the 2014 matches in Europe.
If there was ever a guy with the right demeanor to captain an American team to victory oversees, it's Couples.
Simply put—nothing rattles this guy, which is precisely what is needed from a Ryder Cup captain, particularly on foreign soil.
Davis Love III is the obvious choice for the 2012 captaincy.
Love has competed in six Ryder Cup matches, and is a former major champion.
Love was also one of Corey Pavin’s assistant captains last week at Celtic Manor, which most viewed as a grooming activity for his own captaincy in 2012.
There’s nothing wrong with Davis Love III, and he will undoubtedly make a great captain one day, but why is there such an insatiable need to go down the safe route and select the obvious choice?
As mentioned previously, America has won just four out of the last 12 Ryder Cup matches.
So why not mix things up a bit?
The American’s 2008 victory at Valhalla was vitally important not only for the American side, but also for the Ryder Cup competition in general. At the time, Europe was on the brink of transforming this bi-annual competition into a traditional thrashing. No one is interested in a sporting event where the outcome is all but decided before the first shot is even struck.
With America’s victory in 2008, they demonstrated that the outcome of the Ryder Cup is no longer a forgone conclusion, as it more or less had been since 1999.
The 2012 matches are important extremely important for the American side for two reasons:
1. A second consecutive win on U.S. soil will reestablish some form of home-field advantage.
2. A second win in three matches will prove that the 2008 win at Valhalla was no fluke.
The smart money is on Love for 2012 captaincy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the best choice at this particular time.
In two words—why not?
Only one American captain has been successful in the past decade, and his name is Paul Azinger.
One of the main reasons why the Americans were successful at Valhalla was due to what Azinger called their 13th man— the crowd.
Azinger got the crowd so riled up throughout the weekend that the Europeans found themselves having to play in front of a 40,000 strong football that were looking for any excuse to max out their vocal cords.
Valhalla was transformed into Yankee Stadium during Game 7 of the World Series, and let’s just say that the European’s didn’t feel overly welcome.
That kind of crowd support was exactly what the American squad needed to get them over the hump and secure their first Ryder Cup victory since the miracle at Brookline in 1999.
The American crowd will be riled up at Medinah in 2012 no matter who is captaining the team. However, it’s difficult to imagine Davis Love III sending them into quite the same frenzy as Azinger was able to do in 2008.
While Azinger’s passion comes oozing out of his pours and infects everyone around him, Love, although just as passionate, tends to keep his emotions bottled up.
What do we need in 2012?
Well, we need a victory, and crowd support will once again play a key role in that happening.
Is there anyone out there with a better track record than Azinger when it comes to turning a golf course into the Super Dome during an NFC Championship game and leading his team to victory?
The PGA of America may have to stray from their rigorously boring and predictable strategy of electing a new captain every two years. But you know what; the institution known as the PGA of America will not collapse like an old Vegas hotel if they happen change things up a bit for the 2012 Ryder Cup matches.