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Love Preps His Team with Humor and History
Chemistry is elusive, even under the best of circumstances. And in preparing Team USA for a Ryder Cup, Davis Love III is looking for that elusive elixir which will captain his stable of thoroughbreds to a rare victory. Round-robin tournaments of table tennis? A Pearl Jam concert? Heartfelt discussions over a late-night beer? Have fun? If these work, then bring it on.
Love has played in six Ryder Cups, only two of which were won by the U.S. (1993 and 1999). He's been there. He's done that. He knows what the mandate is, here at Medinah in 2012. He knows what his players want to do. You can talk until the cows come home, but find ways to get your mind off of the pressure; find ways to kill time until you hit that first drive on the first tee, with the world - and your teammates - watching.
Today, two days before that first tee shot, he sat down and fielded the inevitable questions, so that his players could get back to thinking - or not thinking - about their game.
MODERATOR: U.S. Ryder Cup team captain, Davis Love III joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. Davis, you had your first group go out for a practice round today at 9:30, and you've got a couple other groups that went out at 11:00. Do you want to talk about those three groups going out today, please.
DAVIS LOVE III: It was kind of a scramble to get them where they wanted to go this morning, but we were very organized, and we got them all where they wanted to go. I heard that the European Team well, it says right here, they're playing holes 1 through 9. I heard they were going to play nine, and we had basically they gave us freedom to go wherever we wanted with that schedule. And some of our guys wanted to work out, some of our guys wanted to sleep in, and some of them just wanted to hang out. But then I was in the hall at 7:00 and guys kept leaving. I said, 'What happened to sleeping in?' So it's turned out to be a great day, and they're having fun. They're playing some matching. I was really looking forward to coming in here. I hated to leave them because they were all having fun.
Q. It got brought up last week that all 12 Americans were in the field at The TOUR Championship and I think only five Europeans. Where is the line split between being tournament ready and being exhausted?
DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know, we do that all the time. Like Dufner said, he needed a week off at Barclays to be ready for this week. And Brandt is just playing, making up for lost time, and looks like Dustin kind of the same way; they want to play because they're making up for lost time in the middle of the year. I don't know, this week I think you're going on a lot of energy and adrenaline, and that'll carry you through. But you have to balance it. I think it's always tough for us. As a captain, when a guy says, 'I'll play as many as you want me to play,' you've got to decide how many is right for him. And we talked about it yesterday, that you want to play five, but it might not be the smartest thing to do. And I only had Jim Furyk go to Pearl Jam Friday night with us because everybody wanted to get to bed. And our team has been we've been shocked the last two nights. They play hard ping pong early, couldn't get them to go to the Rules meeting because they were all playing ping pong.
Q. Did Floyd and Irwin ever play table tennis?
DAVIS LOVE III: Table tennis, gosh, I've got to get a hang of that. I've learned to say FedExCup, 39th Ryder Cup, but I can't get out of saying ping pong.
Q. Just curious, there was a feeling for many years on Europe's side, I think, that if you beat Tiger in a match it felt like you had won two points. Is there any type of feeling with that toward McIlroy?
DAVIS LOVE III: I hadn't thought about it on their side. I've thought about it on our side, yeah, that Tiger, Phil, Furyk, Strick, any of our veterans that have been around a while; that if you beat them, it's like more than a point. But I hadn't really looked at it from their side. No, I've been trying to focus on our team. I love my team, and it's more like trying to figure out how we're going to play together and not really…Ollie is going to put them out, and I can't really guess how he's going to put them out. I don't know if that's worth scratching my head over. I didn't go to bed until 2:30 already thinking about my team; and if I had to think about their team I wouldn't get any sleep, because they're as strong as we are. And it's hard to figure out what they're going to do.
Q. A lot of attention has been brought to having a lot of fun this week, and as I'm hearing interviews I'm starting to get the impression that life on Tour is not a lot of fun. I'm assuming that's not the case.
DAVIS LOVE III: No, other way around. Life on Tour is fun; we just want to keep it going. We don't want to get here and try too hard. The thing is we don't always get to stay in the same hall; we don't get to go on the same bus to dinner like we did last night. That's the difference. And we want them to enjoy the experience and not put too much pressure on themselves. And you've got to let…we've got unbelievably fast thoroughbreds here, and if you don't ever let them out in the pasture to kick their heels up and eat some grass and keep them in the stall and make them run hard all the time, they're never going to run. So we're just letting them be themselves. I'll never forget Rickie Fowler popping out of the wardrobe boxes over in Wales, the night before the last round. And Rickie came out and played great the next day. That's what we want - we don't want a whole lot of boring structure.
Q. We've heard a lot in here about how important the Ryder Cup is to the team and to the players. I was wondering if you could put into perspective how important it is to the country beyond this sort of Ryder Cup bubble, whether this event matters to the sports fans of America.
DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, I think so. When you see that from seems like every two years, everything doubles, the amount of people watching, the amount of cameras on the golf course, and the amount of media, the amount of attention. Our country has caught on, thanks to Seve and Bernhard Langer and the matches becoming I've always said, it's like the America's Cup yacht races. I never heard too much about it until we started losing. Everybody got real interested. And now people watch it on TV and there's a lot of sponsors and we talk about it. I think the Ryder Cup was like that. We were winning a whole bunch of them, and it wasn't a whole lot of fun, and the PGA of America was having a tough time selling it. But all of a sudden here comes Seve and Langer, and then it becomes really popular. TV made this something that America really cares about and are passionate about.
Q. As a group, what distinguishes these rookies, and how are they fitting in?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think what distinguishes them is they're not really they may be rookies here at the Ryder Cup, but they're major championship winners, they're FedExCup winners, they're veterans that are playing in their first Ryder Cup rather than even a Rickie Fowler last time, not being a Tour winner when he was on the team; we've had some guys make teams that over a long period of two years just had a lot of top 10 finishes and weren't major championship winners.
Q. Can you talk about the evolution of Phil as a teammate on these Ryder Cup teams from what you've seen through the years? And talk about this year in particular, what you think he's contributed before you guys ever hit the golf course.
DAVIS LOVE III: It's gotten a lot better. Phil improves every year.
Q. Can you talk about Phil's leadership in terms of conversations he's had with you previously and so forth?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I think he's a lot like Tiger. They both came on to the teams trying to win a whole bunch of points, and they thought that was they were supposed to do, and now they just want to win. I can't tell you how many times both Tiger and Phil have said: Whatever you want us to do, we'll do it. We just had a discussion out there in the group, Tiger, Strick, and they're like, look, tell us what you want us to do, and we'll do it. I think that's the difference with a veteran, somebody that's been around. Phil gets it, and he knows what to say at the right time. He knows when to be serious and when to be give his strategy theories, and he knows when to make a joke and have fun.
Q. Both you and Ollie have talked about how these teams are so closely matched and now you have to come up with pairings. Are you concerned you might make a misstep that might make the difference?
DAVIS LOVE III: Rotella has coached me not to worry about that, but yes. You know, you prepare for everything. If you put the wrong guys out, what are you going to do? How are you going to make up for it? If you put them out and it doesn't work, what's the backup plan? Fortunately, the way we've all looked at it is, if we threw the names in a hat and drew them out, our guys are all happy with each other, they're comfortable, they're all playing great. It's not like you can make a bad pairing; it's just you can make a fun pairing and a comfortable pairing. If you can put the buddies together or if you put the guys that play together in practice rounds on Tour, then you're good. I'm finding them easy to pair and hard to sit out, is the short version.
Q. Obviously a Woods/McIlroy Sunday singles would create a lot of buzz for golf, particularly going against the NFL on Sunday. Have you given any thought to getting with Ollie and arranging that? Would such a backroom arrangement go against captain protocol? Probably not, considering we're in Chicago where there are a lot of backroom arrangements.
DAVIS LOVE III: I'm sure it's not in the captains' agreement that we don't do that, but I'm sure it's against the spirit of it. I said it yesterday or the day before up here; it would be neat to sit up here and match them up. It would be pretty good theater to match groups, and it would be fun. But since we can't do that and since I doubt that well, I definitely don't want to be the first one to go cross over into their room and start rigging pairings, so I would say no. But it would be fun to watch, that's for sure.
Q. How would you sum up how you felt in the Ryder Cup as a player and how a player feels versus say in a major championship, the pressure?
DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, I said it yesterday or the day before, they're all starting to run together; but the Ryder Cup to me is the last nine holes of a major when you've got a chance to win, except it starts Friday morning on the first tee, and it never lets up. I'm telling you, it's not any different putting that putt than it is hitting off the first tee Friday morning. Those guys were telling me they were nervous hitting off the first tee yesterday. It never lets up. But that's what we live for. And Freddie said it best: Four hours inside the ropes is what we live for. You want to get nervous. You want to feel that one of our guys said it, it's a good kind of nervous. You're not scared. You're excited and ready to go.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.