x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Davis Love III plays matchmaker with his wild-card picks

Teamwork is key to success and many on the US Ryder Cup team side are untried, writes John McAuley .

Davis Love III, the United States Ryder Cup captain, announced his picks in New York.
Davis Love III, the United States Ryder Cup captain, announced his picks in New York.

Davis Love III, the US Ryder Cup captain, revealed on Tuesday some wise words that helped inspire his four wild-card picks.

"Something crucial Paul [Azinger] told me is you've got to make sure when you're picking guys, you're picking pairings."

Azinger should know. Captain in 2008, the tenacious American moulded a team of unlikely heroes. His success - a first for the US in nine years - was rooted in clever partnerships during the first two days at Valhalla.

Of the four opening sessions in Kentucky, Europe emerged victorious from only one to give the home side a crucial two-point lead entering Sunday's singles.

Victory, the most decisive by the Americans since 1981, was sealed by Jim Furyk's 2-and-1 triumph against Miguel Angel Jimenez as the scoreboard ran flush with the Stars and Stripes.

Teamwork, though, proved their trump card.

The Ryder Cup has long favoured talented twosomes. While Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson were unstoppable for America in five matches across 1967 and 1971, the competition has never witnessed a finer partnership than Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.

The "Spanish Armada", as Love referred to them this week, gathered together their titanic talents and prodigious passion 15 times, losing just twice.

This month's meeting at Medinah, Illinois, will come down to the most compelling unions.

Olazabal, now the captain of Europe, has more obvious alliances for his opening foursomes: Lee Westwood-Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy-Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald-Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter-Justin Rose.

Love, meanwhile, could struggle filling his team sheet past Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker.

Granted, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, close friends and stablemates, seem a good fit. As do Furyk and Jason Dufner, two of the team's grittiest performers; a man of seven cup appearances with one of the hosts' four rookies.

Zach Johnson and Brandt Snedeker, too, should work well together, the American pair with an ability to outshine any opponent on the greens. At last year's Presidents Cup, Webb Simpson's calm complemented Bubba Watson's capricious brilliance. However, in contrast to the Europeans, the majority of these groupings are untried.

"We've been thinking long about pairings," Love said.

Having highlighted the disruptive effects of agonising over his wild cards, the captain's partnership predicament may give him a few more sleepless nights yet.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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