Love back on course but still smarting

U.S. golfers (L-R) Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Jim Fuyk, Jason Dufner, Keegan...

U.S. golfers (L-R) Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Jim Fuyk, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley stand with captain Davis Love III during the closing ceremony of the 39th Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, September 30, 2012. (REUTERS)

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:54 PM ET

Davis Love III was in front of the press again Wednesday, this time as a player at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and not as Ryder Cup captain.

It was clear, however, that the sting of defeat still weighed heavily on the man who said and did a lot of right things with his U.S. squad before the Sunday meltdown at Medinah.

"I'm happy to be here," Love said. "I wanted to get back to playing golf, no matter what happened Sunday. I had committed that I needed to get back to my own game and it would be good for me either way.

"You know, Sunday was not good; Monday was, I think, hard for a lot of our players. We packed up and gradually everybody was leaving. It was emotional saying goodbye to most of the guys. It was a little surreal."

They still were in shock about having their 10-6 lead go south and losing a Ryder Cup to Europe that most thought the U.S. had locked up.

Love said that the big Saturday night lead likely wasn't the best thing for his players, who got into a defensive mode Sunday and ended up losing 14 1/2-13 1/2.

"I think in the end, the enormity of it all, we might have been better off tied," Love said of his team's dominance over the first two days of the three-day competition.

"We might have played better Sunday tied rather than trying to protect the lead."

Love seemed secure in the fact the Europeans outplayed his team when it counted.

"In the end, I think Dustin Johnson said it best. Everybody is feeling sorry for themselves and he says, 'Man, it's just golf,' " Love said. "(The Europeans) knocked in a bunch of putts and ours lipped out. There's nothing we can do about it.

"Sergio (Garcia) makes an eagle, and the next hole skulls it in the pine straw and then smacks it off the pin and it goes in. Next thing you know, he wins two holes from (Jim) Furyk. Everybody talks about 17 and 18, but we had things like that. They had I think five, maybe even six, eagles on Sunday.

"It was an unfortunate situation for all of 'em to be in. Again, (the Americans) fought hard and played great the first two days. Just had kind of an off day on Sunday."

The biggest question raised about Love was his decision to sit out the red-hot duo of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson in Saturday afternoon four-balls. Mickelson asked to sit out, but Love addressed it anyway Wednesday.

"There were a lot of guys on our team who said, 'Do not take Keegan and Phil out.' But if you make 'em go play when they don't want to play, they're probably not going to play well," he said.

Right out of the gates, long before the competition started, Love spoke of a game plan from which he was not going to stray.

He didn't, and it worked well ... for two days.

THAT TIME ALREADY?

It's hard to believe, but it's time to start thinking about another golf team competition: The Presidents Cup.

The event will be held at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village next October.

On Wednesday, U.S. captain Fred Couples announced Jay Haas as one of his assistant captains, while International captain Nick Price named Shigeki Maruyama, Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone.

The good news is that Canadian players can qualify for the Presidents Cup. The bad news is the international side is for non-Europeans, which excludes some of the game's biggest stars, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy among them.

The U.S. has owned this competition, winning seven of nine, and tying once.

Canadians will need a big year to get even a sniff of qualifying for the international team. Graham DeLaet is 43rd in the standings, while David Hearn is 56th. Adam Hadwin is 99th, Richard Scott 156th and Stephen Ames 163rd.

COUNTING YOUR CHICKENS

Poor Gene Wojciechowski.

The ESPN.com writer has become a target for European fans and maybe some Americans, too, after his Saturday evening column under the headline "Ryder Cup all but locked up for U.S."

It seemed a safe assertion, but Wojciechowski's column ended up looking silly after Europe's stunning comeback Sunday. Rumours had the European squad reading the piece before going out and destroying the U.S. team -- what's commonly referred to as bulletin-board material.

Wojciechowski ended his column with Ian Poulter's quote from Saturday night that said the U.S. had "given us a heartbeat," then added his own ending: "Heartbeats count for something. But a 10-6 advantage for Team USA counts for more. More than the Europeans can make up."

In the columnist's defence, there wasn't a person at Medinah who wasn't thinking the same thing. But he sure is taking his lumps in the aftermath.

The article (es.pn/W1xFX4) has been recommended on Facebook 33,000 times, put on to Twitter 6,000 times and commented on more than 900 times on ESPN's site.

ON THE TEE

PGA TOUR

Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

TPC Summerlin, (7,243 yards, par 71), Las Vegas

--Only two of the world's top 30 players are in the field. Canadians David Hearn and Stephen Ames looking to pad their money totals. The event kicks off the PGA Tour Fall Series.

EUROPEAN TOUR

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

St. Andrews Old Course (7,305 yards, par 72), St. Andrews, Scotland

--2010 winner and Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer, along with European teammates Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson, in the field.


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