Rubenstein: Ryder Cup could enhance Love's legacy
Can being a winning Ryder Cup captain redeem a career for a player who won many tournaments but who didn't do what his talent suggested he might? That appears to be the case for Colin Montgomerie, who led Europe to a win at the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales. It could also be the case down the road for Davis Love III, who on Thursday was named U.S. captain for the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Montgomerie, 47, won eight Order of Merit titles on the European Tour, including seven in a row from 1993-199. He's won 31 European Tour events. He has yet to win on the PGA Tour, and he hasn't won a major.
Now that's a fantastic career on the course, but it's marred by the lack of a major. Montgomerie finished second in five majors. His talent is such that he ought to have won a major. Instead he's remembered for holding a one-shot lead playing the final hole of the 2006 U.S. Open, changing from a 6-iron to a 7-iron after a perfect drive, and then missing the green, pitching up, three-putting, and making a double bogey. He lost that U.S. Open by a shot to Geoff Ogilvy.
But now Montgomerie is probably going to be remembered more for what he did as a captain and not as a player. In leading Europe to a one-point win last fall over the U.S., he marked himself as an astute observer of match-play team golf, and what it takes to assemble a winning team. He was criticized heavily before the competition for not making Englishman Paul Casey one of his captain's picks - Casey was then ranked No. 6 in the world - but still Europe won.
Golf-watchers are likely to remember Montgomerie now for his leadership as captain more than for underachieving as a player. He remains the best player not to have won a major. But he's a winning Ryder Cup captain, and there's no bigger event in golf than the Ryder Cup.
This brings us to Love, another underachiever. That sounds almost stupid to suggest, given that Love, 46, won 20 PGA Tour events. He also did win a major, the 1997 PGA Championship. Yet his gift for the game is so outsized that it's fair to say he should have won more majors. He finished second or tied for second in three majors, but has only that one win on his ledger.
"Golf is not a fair game," Love said during the press conference Thursday when he was introduced as the next U.S. captain. "You can play your best and still not win. You can get bad bounces, and it ultimately comes down to a putt here or a putt there, or a shot there."
Love was very emotional during the press conference. Clearly, the Ryder Cup means so much to him. Should Love lead his team to reclaim the Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country Club near Chicago in late September 2012, he'll go a long way toward helping his legacy. He'd be remembered more as a winning Ryder captain than an underachieving golfer, notwithstanding the fact that most golfers would love to have his record as a player.
ALSO FROM LORNE RUBENSTEIN:
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and, most recently, he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 11 books, including The Natural Golf Swing, with George Knudson (1988); Links: An Insider's Tour Through the World of Golf (1990); The Swing, with Nick Price (1997); The Fundamentals of Hogan, with David Leadbetter (2000); A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands (2001); Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); and his latest, This Round's on Me (2009). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com .