Ryder Cup Captain: Davis Love Gets the Nod, but Was It the Best Choice?

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJanuary 21, 2011

MEDINAH, IL - JANUARY 20: Davis Love III speaks during a press conference for the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain's Announcement at Medinah Country Club on January 20, 2011 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It was hardly a well kept secret that Davis Love would become the next United States Ryder Cup team captain. On Thursday it was finally made official.

Love will lead the team next year in an attempt to recapture the cup from the European squad, which edged out the American in Wales last October to take the cup away.

Love was the expected and, to many, logical choice. The 46 year old succeeds Corey Pavin, who was unable to hold onto the cup on foreign soil last fall. Before Pavin, Paul Azinger led the Americans to victory in 2008.

Love, Azinger and Pavin are all contemporaries, and had their best years, for the most part, in the 90's. Love has been the more successful PGA pro of the three, with 20 victories compared to Pavin's 15 and Azinger's dozen. All three own one major title.

Of the three, Love is the one who is still competitive on tour, although he hasn't won in over two years and has only two victories since 2003. If this gives him an advantage over the other two (still playing on tour), as players like Steve Stricker indicated yesterday, it is a slight advantage at best.

Although it is important to be in tune with the current players, it is perhaps more important to bring a certain personality to the job. A cut throat, hold nothing back attitude. A good example of this would be the European Ryder Cup captain last fall, Colin Montgomerie. Montgomerie seemed born to lead that team, and he hardly missed a beat in winning the cup back for Europe.

Azinger had this attitude as well (perhaps is lesser degrees), and it also resulted in a victory.

Corey Pavin did not have it. Pavin was a curious choice from the get go, and his inability to show leadership for the team cropped up again and again. For me, Pavin's best move was telling the insufferable Jim Gray to go take a flying leap. But that, unfortunately, was the high point of Pavin's tenure as captain.

So where does Love fall? Is he a Azinger or a Pavin?

I'm afraid he falls somewhere in the middle. He doesn't have Zinger's drive and attitude, but he certainly isn't the sweater wrapped around the neck push over that Pavin was.

The Ryder Cup captain starts the job on the day he is picked. Love reported for work on Thursday. I say this because we are already judging him. His press conference has been described by many already as emotional. That little word in itself has set his captaincy into motion. Love is emotional about the job.

This is a good thing. He cares. You would hardly want someone in the position that didn't care.

But will that, ultimately, be enough?

I don't mind the Love selection. He deserves it, certainly. But was it the best choice? You only get so many shots at this, so it is good to make sure you get it right. The U.S. did not get it right with the 2010 captain. Did they with the 2012?

Only time will tell. And, of course, there is only so much a captain can do. The players have to go out and get the job done, in the end.

But were there better choices? Here are four names (actually five) I think might have been slightly more interesting picks.

One, Paul Azinger. At 51 years old Azinger still has the pulse of the players, and of course the respect. Why can't we go back to someone who has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt he is the best man for the job?

Two, Phil Mickelson. He's 40. He has the respect of all the players. He wouldn't even have to play. Based on his poor Ryder Cup record this might be the best thing for the team. Mickelson does have a fiery personality behind that big ole grin he's always wearing. He is a logical choice in about six years from now, so why not now?

Three, co-captains Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. No one is more respected than Jack, although Watson is close. They have both captained before. Nicklaus won as skipper in '83, but lost when he took the team over again in '87. Watson led the team to a victory on foreign soil in '93. Alone they might be intimidated to lead the younger guys, but together I think they could handle it. What pick would be more fun?

Four, John Daly. Fiery, emotional, controversial. What more could you ask? Daly is 44 and still carries a chip on his shoulder the size of a Ford Explorer.

Love is the pick, and not a bad pick at all. But as an American golf fan, do you feel we made the best pick, or the safest pick?

Hopefully they end up being one in the same.