It was never going to be a surprise. Davis Love had hinted all along that Medinah’s first and only cut of rough would be trimmed down. He wants attacking golf and he’ll get it. The only problem is it will be that way for both sides.
Love has acquitted himself with charm and style in the weeks leading up to this Ryder Cup. He picked well with his wild cards, picked players who were coming into form and who have carried that form on. Dustin Johnson has played all his golf towards the back end of the season while Brandt Snedeker served his captain the ultimate line in payback with victory in the Tour Championship.
He has also given his players breathing space; he is not stepping on toes, but rather feeding off their experience. He knows he is in no position to tell Tiger Woods how to prepare for this week, and he knows he cannot help Zach Johnson with his putting. So he chooses only to recommend that his players do everything they need to be ready for Friday morning.
The backing of his rookies is also admirable. Sending three of them out in Friday’s foursomes would be quipped at in traditional quarters, but Love was quick to reject this when facing the media post opening ceremony: “They are not rookies. They are only rookies here. Brandt Snedeker is no rookie.”
Cajoling egos has been a staple theme in Love’s captaincy. He has wrapped a protective arm around his players enough to make them feel worthy of representing their country. This is important. Just because they are millionaires, it does not mean they aren’t fragile.
This cajoling of egos comes in many forms; whether it’s telling his players they are the best at what they do, or hinting that, by and large, they are longer off the tee than their European counterparts – alas the rough at Medinah being non-existent.
But it is with this last thought that Love may have created an unwanted hurdle. These players have built their games on hitting greens, games that have been bred on the PGA Tour. They are target golfers. Yes they have imagination; yes they can produce magical shots; yes they can play away from their comfort zone. But greens and fairways are the currencies they deal in and they are masters at doing this week in, week out.
Taking away the rough is a cry for Love’s bombers to open their shoulders. But now they have to prove they can go out and make the scores; there is no room or time to consolidate. It has to be all-out attack. But when someone attacks, there is always a counter-attack.
Rough or no rough, Europe will be relishing the task ahead.