Task force revamps US Ryder Cup team

Davis Love (File)
Davis Love (File)

Chaska - A US Ryder Cup task force formed only days after a humbling 2014 defeat at Gleneagles has revamped the Americans' mindset and attitude entering this year's showdown against Europe.

And part of how they did it is by stealing some tricks from their trans-Atlantic rivals.

Echoes of Phil Mickelson's 2014 post-Cup comments detailing a lack of player input on captain Tom Watson's team and how that differed from a 2008 US home triumph will be felt at the 41st biennial golf matches September 30-October 2 at Hazeltine.

"Definitely a fresh, positive attitude from the start of 2015 building for the future," 2016 US captain Davis Love said. "We're going to learn from our mistakes in the past and build on it."

Love, who also guided the 2012 US squad that fell victim to the greatest last-day comeback in Cup history, was named to an 11-person US Ryder Cup task force barely two weeks after the third US loss in a row and eighth in the past 10 Ryder Cups.

Love and fellow captains Tom Lehman and Ray Floyd were joined by three PGA of America officials and players Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods.

"Players hadn't had any involvement or input into the process and that has changed," Mickelson said. "Davis has been the leader of that change.

"There's a lot more input from players and assistant captains and building a platform for years to come. We'll try to keep some continuity from year to year, something we really haven't had in the 20 years I've played."

Love was named captain. Woods, Furyk and Stricker are assistants. Fowler and Mickelson are playing. The qualifying formula was tweaked and the timing of captain's picks was changed.

More than that, planning and strategy will decide every detail well in advance for foursomes and four-ball pairings to ease worry and better prepare.

"The whole goal is to give the players an opportunity to succeed as opposed to giving them challenges to overcome," Mickelson said. "The way you do that is eliminate the variables, the obstacles that cause pressure -- who are you going to play with, what matches are you going to play, what holes do you tee off on, what ball are you going to play.

"You cannot decide that 30 minutes before tee time. You've got to decide that 30 days before the tee time so that you know how to prepare properly heading in. You can prepare with your partner, be ready and eliminate a lot of the uncertainty which ultimately causes pressure."

Stealing a page from Europe, the idea is to keep the program going from Cup to Cup and build teamwork.

"When you look at the European team, many of them play the best golf of their entire career the weeks of the Ryder Cup," Mickelson said.

"There's a lot to be said for having a camaraderie and support system, working together, having a game plan, building each other up, pulling each other from lows and helping each other reach new highs.

"That's not a fluke. When you have a real team, a partnership, you lift each other up to new highs and we haven't had that type of continuity, support system, game plan, structure, from year to year.

"So what we'll ultimately look at is: 'Are we playing our best golf the week of the Ryder Cup?' That's what we have to do to be successful, to win."

Mickelson warns that all the planning means nothing if US players don't execute.

"We still have to play great golf to win," he said. "The difference is we're being put in a position to succeed."

Continuity is key, Love said.

"We have a plan that's going to put us in the best position to win Ryder Cups, not only this year, but beyond," Love said. "We need to not be trying a new system every year."

Fowler, 27, is winless in eight Cup matches but more excited about this year's event than any before.

"Being a part of that task force and being with the guys in meetings and getting to see the excitement level and how much the Ryder Cup means to players like Tiger and Phil and Davis, it was special," Fowler said. "This is a team we want to be a part of, having Davis lead us."

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