There is an old adage when analyzing a coach's strategy following a big game: if it works, the coach looks like a genius; if it doesn't, he comes off as a goat. Unfortunately for United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, he now faces the latter situation.
Critiquing Love's roster management and coaching strategy following his team's historic loss Sunday just doesn't feel right.
Less than 24 hours earlier his team led the Europeans, 10-6, needing only 4.5 more points to win their first Ryder Cup since 2008. All seemed right in the world for the U.S., but then all hell broke loose during the singles matches.
Everyone knew a massive comeback by Europe could happen. The U.S. accomplished the same thing at the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline. Everyone knew the storyline, but nobody really thought it would happen.
Welp, nobody decided to tell Europe.
When reviewing the final results of this year's tournament, the winless records of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker stick out like a sore thumb. The two players were absolutely awful as a team on Friday morning, losing their match to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose 2&1. Later that afternoon, the pairing lost again, this time to Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts, 1-up.
Love's decision to play Woods and Sticker Friday afternoon is the first questionable decision he will likely need to address over the next few days. That team was chosen instead of the Jim Furyk/Brandt Snedeker pairing, who had already lost in the morning foursome matches. As the tournament results now show, of course, Furyk and Snedeker would win their next match the following day. Did the United States miss a point opportunity because of Love's decision?
The answer is simple: nobody knows. There was no way anyone could predict that Woods - the cup points leader for the Americans - would have an awful Friday. The same can be said of Stricker, who has historically played well in past Ryder Cups.
A second area of critique lies on Saturday's afternoon session, specifically the team of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson. Undoubtedly the hottest team on the course the previous three sessions, Love chose to sit the pairing in favor of playing Woods and Stricker, who had not played the morning foursome session. Woods and Stricker would eventually lose their third match of the tournament to Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald.
Why did Love choose to sit Bradley and Mickelson? This answer is easier than the first: because Mickelson asked to sit out. Instead of playing Bradley with another partner Saturday afternoon, Love chose not to split up the team and rested Bradley as well. Both players would have over 12 hours of rest before their respective singles matches on Sunday.
Two questionable decisions, two potential points that the United States may have won had Love decided differently.
In the moment, the Americans appeared to be a lock to win the cup. Love's roster management and strategy was being heralded as brilliant. Nothing was broken, so nothing needed to be fixed. My, what difference 24 hours can make.
Hind sight is always 20/20, but in the case of Davis Love III, foresight could have been much more helpful in the end. Then again, nobody could have predicted what Europe accomplished Sunday. Make no mistake about it: Davis Love did not lose the Ryder Cup for his team.
Europe simply went out and won it.