By Larry Fine
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) – U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and European supremo Darren Clarke showed off their skills as master motivators and polished spin doctors after Friday’s see-saw opening day of action at Hazeltine.
The Americans, desperate to end a ruthless run of three successive victories by Europe, stormed to a 4-0 sweep of the morning foursomes before the Cup holders fired back by winning three of four fourballs matches to whittle down the U.S. lead down to 5-3.
So, is it better to take a two-point lead into the second day of the three-day event after squandering a four-point lead, or is it better to have seized the momentum even if your team trails on the scoreboard by two points?
The answer is yes, according to the dueling captains.
“Obviously happy to be 5-3,” said Love. “It was a good start. It was a good day. Proud of our guys.”
Clarke was pleased as punch with his team’s standing.
“As I’m sitting in my seat right now, in the position we were in at lunch time, I would definitely say it’s better to have a small deficit with some momentum, because we didn’t have much at lunch time.
“That’s golf. That’s match play,” the Northern Irishman said. “Certainly we managed to wrestle some of that back to the European side this afternoon.”
This point-counterpoint was conducted in two separate news conferences, but the debate could have easily come in a face-off.
“I like being ahead,” said Love, the losing captain in the 2012 Ryder Cup, which has come to be known as the “Miracle at Medinah” or the “Meltdown at Medinah,” depending on one’s point of view of Europe’s massive Sunday singles comeback that gave them victory.
“Being ahead’s great.”
Clarke said his players showed their heart in front of a boisterous crowd at Hazeltine that was determined to lift the home side to victory and stem Europe’s dominant run of eight wins from the last 10 competitions.
“This afternoon, the guys went back out there and they showed just how proud I am and why I’m so proud of them,” Clarke said.
“They showed a massive amount of desire and the fight in them to get themselves right back into it again.”
Love praised two of his pairings for not giving up on the brink of early elimination in the afternoon fourballs as they extended one-sided losses by two holes.
“I’m really happy with the way everybody just hung in there till the end,” spun Love, finding even more room for further optimism heading into Saturday.
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)