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October 1 2012

4:15 AM

Mickelson defends his captain

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Davis Love III was proud of the way the Americans played.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.com

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Phil Mickelson wasn't about to let his captain, Davis Love III, take the blame.

So when someone asked Love whether he would have done anything differently, then specifically mentioned sitting Mickelson and Keegan Bradley after the team  had gone 3-0 in the first three sessions, the lefthander felt he had to step in.

"Hold on, Davis.  Hold on one sec," Mickelson said, interrupting his long-time friend in mid-sentence.

"As far as playing Keegan and I, you need to hear something," Mickelson continued, looking out at a packed interview room. "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. …

"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. And I know you're going to get pressure, because we're playing so good.

“But we have other guys that are dying to get out there … so  you need to stay to our plan. So you cannot put that on him; if anything, it was me, because I went to him at 10 and said that to him."

Love acknowledged there were those close to the team who thought maybe that strategy should change. So he rode out to the 10th hole to talk with Mickelson.

"Phil came running over and started yelling at me, we are putting the most effort into this, we are giving you our all and we are going to win this match and do not play me in the afternoon," Love recalled. "And I thought that was the funniest thing I had ever heard.

"He was really adamant that he did not think that they should play in the afternoon; that some of the other guys would have a lot more energy and would play well."

The decision was one of many tough calls Love said he had to make. Sitting Tiger Woods down for the first time in the former world No. 1's career was another but the U.S. Captain wanted the 14-time major winner fresh for the final Four-ball match and the all-important Singles. 

"Would I have liked to have had everybody on our team play four matches the first two days?  Yeah, because they were all playing really, really well," Love said.

Even so, Love said he's probably going to second guess himself for a long time. He knows some matches -- like Justin Rose's win over Mickelson and Ian Poulter's over Webb Simpson and Martin Kaymer's clinching win over Steve Stricker-- seemingly turned on a dime over the last three holes.

But that’s the Ryder Cup.

Love thought he had a solid plan on Sunday. The U.S. only needed 4 1/2 points in Singles to win the Cup. Granted, Love knew the 10-4 deficit wasn't insurmountable. After all, he was a member of the American team that staged that historic comeback at Brookline in 1999.

So he put the Americans who were playing best out first to counter what he knew would be the top of Europe's roster. But Jose Maria Olazabal's team simply played better and the Americans found out how the other side felt that year.
   
"I'm sure there's a lot of great plans in a lot of sporting events that sound really good the night before, before the game starts, and then there's a fumble or a turnover or something happens and it doesn't work," Love said. "What didn't work today is they played a little bit better than us and got some momentum and made it tough. ...
   
"But when you end up with the power and the excitement that we had in those first groups, and we had what we felt like was the steady Eddie guys in the back, we thought it was a great lineup. Again, a few putts they made, a few putts we missed, and it would have been a huge difference."

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