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Love Hopes 'Hometown' Advantage Leads to Victory


Davis Love III is looking to alter the recent history of the Ryder Cup, and the USA's captain is charged with figuring out how to configure his 12-man team for success at Medinah Country Club near Chicago. After all, the Yanks have lost nine of the past 13 matches in the biennial competition to the Europeans, including succumbing 14˝ to 13˝ at Celtic Manor in Wales two years ago.

Love has a talented squad; all 12 members of his team played in last week's 30-player Tour Championship, which Ryder Cup rookie Brandt Snedeker won, along with the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus.

"They are all playing well," Love told reporters Tuesday. "That's the only - our assistants, every time we look at pairings, we go, how do you sit somebody out?" They are all playing great."

Love has some decisions to make, as there are eight four-ball and eight foursome matches on the first two days, while Sunday will have all 12 players on each squad going head-to-head in singles. What he knows for sure is that Chicago-area fans will be in full voice in support of the American team.

Love noted that the only sure thing is Tiger Woods. "Tiger is pretty easy," Love said. "It's just ask him if he wants to play three or four or five matches, and there's a lot of guys that want to play with him."

Here's what else Love had to tell reporters during a sit-down session early in the week of the 2012 Ryder Cup matches, which start Friday.

MODERATOR: United States Ryder Cup Captain, Davis Love III, on this Tuesday, first practice round of the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. Davis, welcome into the media center, and you have three pairings out there, three groups. Some comments on groups that you put together today, please.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, we had photos and we had media and we've got media this afternoon. So we tried to give everybody the most amount of time to warm up after pictures and get done in time, which they are playing kind of slow. Doesn't look like they are going to get done in time for media. Just trying to get everybody on the golf course and organized and playing with guys that they were going to have fun with. Not much rocket science in it except getting guys out there happy and having a few matches and playing first day really for everybody at the same time to see the golf course. So we just wanted to get them out there one time around and talk about how we want to play tomorrow.

MODERATOR: Some comments on your first night with the team together last night.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, we had a great night. We had one incredible big table for dinner. It's hard to do that once the week gets going, everybody sitting at the same table. Some great gifts presented by the PGA of America. It was a lot of fun. We have an incredible team room. The PGA of America has done an incredible job with the hotel and the guys and girls were just blown away. A lot of ping pong - or table tennis, excuse me, I'm going to get that by the end of the week. Table tennis was played, and just good fun, and everybody went to bed early. It was shocking. I think they realize they have a long week last week and they have a long week this week - it was 10:00 and it was cleared out. Either that or they wanted to go watch the second half of the football game, one of the two.

Q. Yesterday you spoke of your mindset for what you wanted to do in terms of encouraging a lot of birdie opportunities so it's a lot of fun to watch on TV. With the way you've kind of steered Curtis here, do you feel like that also obviously is a big advantage for your team in terms of having a little bit more of a wide open rough and favoring the longer hitters?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think it's obvious when we go over there, the fairways go like this at 280 or 290 (indicating tapering in) and there's a lot of deep rough. I'm not real clever, but I would just do the opposite of them and have it go the other way. But again, it's more my personal preference for the style of golf I like to watch and I like to play. I've just never been a fan of driving it in the rough and chipping it out and playing a wedge game. Not that we are not good at that. I mean, we have got five or six guys that if you played the Ryder Cup on a U.S. Open style course would probably be just as happy. But I think the fans, if you were playing this golf course for a PGA Championship, Kerry wouldn't like it, because you might shoot 12-, 14-under par. But the way he set it up in 2006 and 1999, it was fair. It was hard, but it was fair. Obviously it identified the best player in the field, so he set it up right.

But match play, Ryder Cup, is a whole different animal, and we want it to be fun for the players and we want it to be fun for the fans. And we want to keep Tommy Roy over in the trucks happy and see some birdies. And I think it's set up like that. I wouldn't be surprised if anybody complained. I've never heard a player come in and go, well, the golf course was way too easy. They are always complaining about it's too hard or the pins are too tough or the greens are too fast. Even last week, those guys said they were really, really fast, and we don't want them that fast this week. We are not looking for easy; we are looking for fun. And these matches ought to be, I think some holes ought to be won with birdies and not all with bunch of pars and you lose a hole because you make a bogey or a double. I don't think that's as much fun.

Q. For all of Tiger's brilliance over the last 15 years or whatever, with the dominance in the majors and whatnot, his Ryder Cup record has not really matched that success. Do you have a theory on that at all, and have you wondered yourself at all where that's gone?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you look at a lot of great players over the years. And I'm not a Ben Crenshaw stats guy, but you look at - I mean, Raymond Floyd, or you look at a lot of our great players, they don't have great Ryder Cup records. I think if you're even, if you're .500 in Ryder Cup, you're pretty dang good. If you're above .500 like Seve and José, you've had an incredible run in the Ryder Cups. I think it's tough to win, first of all. Tiger can play great and his partner not play well, or the other team play extremely well. I think there's probably a lot of times in a lot of match play tournaments where it's just a matter of who you're up against. You know, you play the top 64 in the U.S. Amateur or in the Accenture, and maybe through three rounds, the guy that's playing the best is already gone because he ran up against a guy that was hot that day and the guy scrapes by three or four matches and gets hot on the weekend and wins. So match play is just so different that it's hard to - I kind of throw the Jim Furyk or the Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods record of wins and losses out. You just ask them, what do you like better, alternate shot or best ball, or who do you want to play with. There's a reason why these guys keep making teams, and I don't look a whole lot at the record.

I know I messed Tiger up a couple times, so I'm part of his problem (chuckling). There's a lot of other guys. It's hard to match them up in the beginning, hard to figure out who you should play with. Gets a little bit intimidating. I know Curtis was bouncing back and forth. I was like, look, I can play his golf ball, let me go, and we won. I don't know, I think we might have played two or three times. But you keep a guy making teams - Jim Furyk has had a lot of partners, and it's not just Jim Furyk. I think right now, I'm not looking back trying to figure out who has the best record. I know who is playing well, pretty much our whole team, so just put them out there.

Q. Please, can you talk about the role that Michael Jordan is going to play in your team room this week, and beyond that, would it be possible for you to bring him in here to speak to us, please.

DAVIS LOVE III: No. (Laughter.)

Q. So can you please talk about his role -

DAVIS LOVE III: I can answer the second part. His role is, since probably, I guess '95 maybe, he's been to every Ryder Cup. He just loves it. I know there's a lot of people in this gallery that can say the same thing, but there's very few guys that are ever called best athlete in the world that come and follow every Ryder Cup match. So he was an assistant for Fred and I asked him what he wanted to do this week; did he want to come in and hang out. I know Fred has already been hanging out with him some. But he's entertaining, watching, and we're going to have him in the team room if he wants to come in, or we're going to have him hang out in the locker room. He's just a good motivation for a lot of these guys that don't know him. He doesn't have an official role except for he's one of our buddies and we like having him around. And I just ran into Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake, George Lopez, Tom Lehman; it's pretty fun if you come in over there in our player dining or our locker room. We've got a bunch of guys - Toby Keith is coming this weekend; Michael Phelps is out there playing today. We have got a lot of people that have a lot of interest in The Ryder Cup, and that's pretty cool.

Q. Kind of a follow up to both previous questions. What's the most challenging thing about pairing Tiger with somebody tactically? And did you have any role introducing Michael to the game when you were both at Carolina?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yes, I started Michael playing, because his roommate and I, Buzz Peterson played a lot.

Q. What's the most tactically challenging thing pairing Tiger? He's had a dozen partners through the years.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, he played a lot of times, so he's going to end up with a lot of different partners. I don't think it's tactically; just a guy that he's comfortable with and then a guy - and just like anybody else, really. Phil, who are you comfortable with; who do you like to play with. And then somebody has to play in Phil's bubble or somebody has to play in Tiger's bubble, and I think that's the challenge. Steve Stricker has found his way into that pairing because he can handle everything that's going on around Tiger. It's not just - everybody wants to be Tiger's partner; everybody wants to be Dustin's partner. They hit it a long way and they make a lot of birdies. It's easier to play with Dustin probably or it's easier to play with Jim Furyk than it is to pair a guy with Tiger, because you get the extra attention and the extra pressure, and if there's five people watching inside the ropes from the media watching me play, there's 50 watching Tiger, and that's just - you have to have a special guy to be able to handle that. We've got a few on our team that can definitely handle it. We don't have a problem on this team pairing anybody.

We have a big issue, and that's who has to sit out, because they are all playing well. That's the only - our assistants, every time we look at pairings, we go, how do you sit somebody out. They are all playing great. So Tiger is pretty easy. It's just ask him if he wants to play three or four or five matches, and there's a lot of guys that want to play with him.

Q. Can you talk about the European Team having the silhouette of Seve on the golf bag, and given José's connection with Seve, did you expect something like that?

DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, definitely. You know, it's a huge loss for golf. It's a huge loss for all of us that considered him a friend. And it's such a big part of José Maria's life in golf. Yeah, we expected that. José Maria and I have talked a lot about some different things that we needed to do to help honor Seve, and he can share that with you or not. You know, it's part of who they are, and we don't have any problem with that. In fact, I gave all their caddies and players a yardage book, and ours have a little saying in it in the top, but theirs has a silhouette of Seve in their yardage book.

We wanted to do something that honored Seve, as well. You know, I know it's emotional for him; it's emotional for, I'm sure, Fred Couples or Paul Azinger or Phil, that we competed against him. We wanted to do that. And we think the friendships that we have made over there, we expect to honor him as well as they will. And it's going to be pretty cool. I don't know if they will use their books or not, but we have Seve in there and we have half of a cup, and if their caddies match up their yardage book with their player, they get a cup and if we match up - if I take my book and put it with Darren Clarke's book, it matches up and makes a cup, and that's what it's all about is we respect them and they respect us, and come Friday morning to Sunday night, we are going to have a lot of fun competing. And then as José said, then it goes right back to being friends.

I don't know who is going to win, but I know on Sunday night, we're all going to be in the same room, and our room's real big, and it will probably be our room, and we'll be having fun. We might have more ping pong - table tennis tables than them, so they might have to come over. That's the way it was in Wales, they were all over in our room celebrating. Obviously we hope that we have more champagne than them this time. But it's all in friendship, so there's nothing - nothing but good about Seve being on their bag.

Q. The groups that you sent out today, some previous pairings jump out to the eye when you look at them. Are you still in the process of mixing and matching within some of these groups, or are you pretty much just trying to get the preferred pairings on the same wavelength?

DAVIS LOVE III: Our assistants, as I think I said yesterday, we have not really had a whole lot of time in the same room over the last two or three weeks. So what I asked the guys tonight, I said, look, just go with these foursomes, go play, and give us a report on golf course - you know, I didn't even have to send them out, and you could have guessed that there was some really good pairings on our side. So it was no secret that Tiger likes to play with Stricker, based on the last few years. So we are going to send them out today. We are going to talk about it tonight. We have a n team dinner. We are going to have another team meeting and sit down with the assistants and say, all right, what did we see out there today; what did we like; what did we not like.

The first tee, I walked up and watched guys trading golf balls, and they were off and running. That's what I wanted them to do today. You hit his ball and I'll hit your ball and we'll see how it goes off the tee. You might see some alternate shot stretches of holes where they just play it straight up. Hopefully they are doing that on the back nine, because they were really playing slow on the front, so hopefully they only played one ball a couple holes to get going. But yeah, again, really our only issue is how do you sit out the guy that just won the FedEx or the guy that just won two weeks before, guys that are playing so well. Maybe somebody will come and go, hey, you know what, my back is hurting and I'm not hitting it as far as I thought and maybe I ought to sit two times. We just haven't had anything like that, any reason to think we ought to sit a guy out. That's going to be my challenge is going to be getting everybody enough starts.

Q. My question sort of follows on from that. Is it your intention to have everybody play on the first day through the two sessions there, and also, do you give thought to making sure that everyone misses a session to keep people fresh for Sunday.

DAVIS LOVE III: That's what I asked them last night. I said, figure out - there's a lot of guys that have played this course a lot and there's a lot of guys that have been around only maybe once before this week. I asked them to think about how long a week it is, how tired do you think you're going to be, just walking and playing. And you know, how many do you really think you want to play. I know the discussion last night was, when I came into the Ryder Cup, I wanted to play five matches; that was my - I just got to play five, I've got to play five. And then I played two or three, and then I go, I've just got to play four, or maybe even three, please. I think we've got some guys on this team that realize, the ultimate goal is to win; is not to play five and be 5 0.

I think I said it maybe to Brandt or one of the guys last night: If you're 3 0, you've had a hell of a week, you know. You don't have to play four or five to have a great week. And you want to be ready and rested. And my goal would be, yeah, everybody plays. We don't get to Sunday with a guy that's only played one match. We have seen that in the past where a guy sits out a whole lot and he's just not ready for singles. We have seen guys play five; play four matches and they are not ready for singles. We are going to mix it up some. Obviously we have three or four guys that have played a whole bunch of them that might have realized that they don't want to play five matches anymore. And then you might get a guy like Brandt or Duf or somebody like that that's really hot and you just say, we can't ever pull him out, so they may end up with five.

But as Bob Rotella says, in a perfect world, I would like everybody to play and everybody to be rested on Sunday, but you know come Friday in the middle of the day, something is going to change. It's hard to plan for that but we are going to plan for every eventuality and be ready for maybe a guy playing five or maybe a guy sitting two.

Q. I gather Paul Azinger suggested you try and guess where Rory will be in the order and put your two hottest players against him; have you taken that on board?

DAVIS LOVE III: He's given me a lot of suggestions, but not that one. They have a lot of good players. I think the best strategy for me is to put our best teams out there and not really worry, because you can't - in this format, you can't really - it's hard to target a guy. In this format, you don't know who is going to be their hot team. Certainly in my Ryder Cup history, we have run up against some guys that you didn't expect were going to be hot. And we can just run a big list of it. Like Monty; Monty would come in not playing well and he would play great every time. You just never know.

Now I'm not aiming at guys. The ultimate would be if José Maria could sit up here and he could put one out and I could put one out and then I could put one out and then he could put one out. That would be fun. Then you could target guys, but it's hard to guess, hard to play that game. It's a challenge to put them out there. We are going to put them out more in the order we like guys to play in. We might like certain guys to go first because they are raring to go, and then certain guys lay in the back because they are the - they want to see what's going on; they want to see how the matches are playing out, so I'm going to let guys pick a little bit and then I've got a couple ideas on who should go first and who should go last.

Q. You mentioned here earlier that with Tiger, you just sort of ask, and I don't know if I'm interpreting that correctly, that you maybe leave it up to him. But has he indicated to you that he does want to play five matches, and is that your intention?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, his answer so far is that he would be happy and ready to play singles, so he's very non committal. But he messes with me a little bit. He's been great on giving me adv and listening to my ideas, and when it comes down to it - what I asked him to do again, what I asked him to do today, is play in these groups and everybody come back and report on how they like the golf course, which way they thought would be better, odds or evens, things like that, and then we would talk about pairings and who should play with who and how many. So I haven't gotten a definite answer. I mean, you don't really want to ask a Brandt Snedeker, how many do you think you want to play, because he's going to say five, I'm hot. But you want to talk to Tiger, Phil, Strick, Jim, say, all right, how you feeling; how's your body; how do you think you're going to hold up; and let them determine it. If Tiger says I'm feeling great, I want to play as much as possible, then obviously he's the best player we've ever had. So you've got to defer to that and let him go.

Q. Over the number of recent matches, there's always been a war, a military connotation; the War by the Shore, jet fighters flying over and admirals giving presentation speeches and all that. I not you talk a lot about it being fun. Is that a conscious effort to eliminate this war reference all the time?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, the flyovers are cool, just because it's loud. I think we'll probably see one again tomorrow. But that's from football games and other things. That's just kind of cool. But I never liked the War by the Shore title, and it is - you've been hearing me say it over and over again. I've been so impressed with José Maria. Obviously he exudes class in the game, and we have had an easy relationship so far. It's been fun. We have some - a lot of people coming in our team room and they are not all athletes. So there may be other people coming in. But I've got a line in my speech, and you'll hear it, but it's not - this is not a war. It's a golf match. It's a friendly golf match that's grown a little bit since they started it, and it continues to be a friendly golf match.

And Thomas Björn can walk over into my room and ask me a question like he's done tw and bring me my package that he got in his room, and it's friendly. There's no problem with it. It's definitely not a war or a battle. But I have a friend that said he commanded all the paratroopers in the U.S. military to pull for me at one tournament, and he goes, "They do whatever I tell them to do. So you've got all the par troopers pulling for you this week." So it's n to have friends like that and presidents that support you. This is not a war, and it won't be that.

MODERATOR: U.S. Captain, Davis Love III. Thank you very much.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.