An Interview With: DAVIS LOVE III
KELLY ELBIN: U.S. Ryder Cup team captain, Davis Love III joining us on this Wednesday 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? Some guys wanted to go to work on some clubs.
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.
It's a beautiful day. Kelly just said, how's the weather. It was cold on the range. We were thinking it was going to be cold on the course, but now it's warmed back up like yesterday. Good day so far.
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.
We're balancing that on our side, that we've played a lot of golf. But I've been asking them for weeks, make sure you're rested.
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.
But then when we went to dinner they all came back and they went to bed. So they're managing their time actually better I remember Watson coming up and down the hall at The Belfry telling us: Go to bed, go to bed, you've got to get some sleep. And I haven't had to do that yet, so it's been good.
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. But.
No. And I had said at the McGladrey I'd just improved it every year. I had once bouncy house the first year and two bouncy houses for the kids the next year. We just have three ping pong tables instead of two two years ago. So we're just giving them what they want.
No, it's just been amazing. I think Julius reminded me, we had Pass the Pigs early on, the little dice game, and we all sat around and played Jenga and Pass the Pigs. And it was more board games that the ladies would bring, and now it's full contact ping pong or table tennis. And we have a couple sets of corn hole boards and a gym. It's a lot more activity than in the old days.
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.
So I haven't really I know our guys want to know who they're going to play, but you can't tell them that. I have a feeling of some pairings, but no, I haven't really put the pencil to that yet.
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 on 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.
So the whole coaching thing, Bob Rotella is telling me about Coach Calipari and how he's having these guys practice and he's not drilling them to death all season. He's letting them play games and have contests and play whiffle ball in the gym, not grind it out over free throws every day.
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. These guys, they having fun and loose, and they were entertained. And Rickie came out and played great the next day. That's what we want is we don't want a whole lot of boring structure. And sure, we've got to be organized and prepared.
But we do get to go out to dinner and we do like the boys went to a movie. We want this to be as normal and intense, pressure packed week as we can have. We at least want to get enough normalcy in the week that they're comfortable when they go play.
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.
There are golf fans that don't know much about golf other than the Ryder Cup, and I think that's great. A lot of attention on these guys when they're out there playing, and they feel it.
But I think that's good. I think Paul Azinger said it best: Only under this kind of pressure and intensity can you have those great moments and those incredible shots that just brings out something great in you.
I think that's why the fans love it so much, and our whole country is interested, because it's the U.S. Team. We just went through an Olympics, and this is becoming like the Olympics for America. They realize that our team is going up against an unbelievable team from Europe, and they want to see what happens.
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.
So I think that's the difference is they've done a lot, they've played a lot of great golf, and they're really comfortable, confident guys.
I caught myself yesterday watching them play and thinking about pairings and going, holy cow, I picked those two guys, you know? Those two guys are rookies, and look how great they're playing out here. They were nervous. They were nervous on the first tee; some of them admitted it, and they were shocked at how many people were out there.
And they were telling me that, and they never missed a shot. It wasn't like they were so nervous that they couldn't hit it or that they didn't play well or they didn't make a bunch of birdies.
And I was just talking to Butch Harmon and he was watching a lot of them, and he goes: Holy cow, these guys are playing unbelievable, aren't they?
I said: Yeah, it doesn't look like rookies versus veterans or picks versus guys that made it.
I was talking to a bunch of the SKY TV guys out there, like both teams are just playing so well, it's hard to figure out what you do, who do you sit out, why would you sit anybody out; they're all playing great, they all look like veterans, and it's exciting to watch.
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. And finally, how's his ping pong game; is it better or worse than it was through the years?
DAVIS LOVE III: It's gotten a lot better. I'm not going to rank my guys, other than who was sitting up here and was telling you was it Dustin, that said his game was kind of middle of the pack?
It's clear that Kuch is the best, and I'm not going to give you any scores, but now they're comparing they've got Kuch and all these other points and they're comparing how many points they got off of Kuch. I got 12, I got 14. They can't beat him, it's just a matter of how close you came. I don't think Kuch is really showing them everything he's got, either. He's being a little bit nice.
But Phil improves every year. We have multiple guys that have their own paddles now. The Killerspin people just completely outfitted our room. And if we have an injury this week, it'll probably be somebody stepping on a ping pong ball because they're everywhere. They gave them so many, they don't even care; they have pockets full of them and they just keep hitting them.
But it's a lot of fun. We tease Phil a lot in there, but we have like Kuch and we have a whole bunch of guys that are really good, and I don't I learned, I don't know, three or four Ryder Cups ago, don't even play, because they're going to embarrass you. I need to like take my daughter in there and play with her so I can get a game.
But it's fun, and it's great to see. We have something to somebody says, well, if you hadn't been such an outdoors man and hunted and fished so much you might play a little better.
Well, I might have gotten burned out, too. These guys this week, they have an outlet, they have something to get back, they have something to tease each other about and think about. Will it be table tennis 10 years from now? No, it might be something else. We have a foosball table but I don't think I've seen anybody play it yet. They're all whacking the table tennis balls around.
KELLY ELBIN: 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.
He and Brandt have been going back and forth all week, and they're having a great time, and he's pulled Brandt in. He's great. They're just great.
I love being around them (tearing up).
Q. Are you getting a little emotional there?
DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, yeah. I told you, Bubba and I are going to cry a lot. We were both crying at the same table last night.
Q. Both you and Ollie have talked about 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 hot 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.
The way they're talking to me the last month to six weeks, I don't think I can make them mad. They might not play well, they might go out and lose a match, but I can't make them unhappy or mad because they'd all be happy to play with each other.
I'm finding them easy to pair and hard to sit out, is the short version.
Q. One of your assistants is Mike Hulbert, not necessarily the best known name to European fans. I see he caddied for you a couple times before he joined the Champions Tour. Do you and he go back a long way and what does he bring to your command structure?
DAVIS LOVE III: The first PGA TOUR event I got an exemption to the Atlanta Classic. I grew up there and my dad was the pro there when I was growing up, and I got paired with Mike Hulbert and Ken Green.
My dad asked me when I got done I probably shouldn't tell you this. But he asked me when I missed the cut and they both made the cut, of course. He asked me, "What do you think about those two guys?"
I said, "Mike Hulbert, he's got a lot of game. He's talented, he hits the ball solid. And Ken Green, you don't know what he's going to do."
And Ken Green won twice that year and Mike Hulbert lost his card, so I wasn't a very good judge. Mike and I were at Q school together.
But Mike obviously had a long, long career, as did Ken Green, and they're both great players. Mike and I have been friends ever since. We just hit it off. We both like to fish and we had friends in common; Joey Sindelar, and the next thing you know I talk about Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, guys like that a lot, because that's guys that my dad knew and who I idolized.
But the guys that brought me in when I came out on Tour were Mike Hulbert, Joey Sindelar, Jeff Sluman, Fred Couples; Scott Verplank and I were competitors, so he came out on Tour basically the same time. So these are all guys that I came up with.
You know, my brother is here; four of my best friends that I trust. When I say, "Hub, go stand by that elevator and make sure everybody has a white hat," he says, "okay, I'll do it."
If you tell Hub to go stand out there and wait by Medinah gate and wait for a black car to come, he'll do it. I mean, he'll do anything you ask him.
That's what Corey and I talked about last time is you've got to have people around you that you trust and that are your friends, and these four guys that will definitely do that.
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. Have you given your captain's gift to the team yet, and if so, what is it?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, if I haven't given it yet, I probably wouldn't tell you.
I think Jackie Burke said I said it the other day: It's like a cruise ship, there's always good dinners and a bunch of gifts, and when are we going to get to playing golf. But we still have some things to give out.
The PGA of America has given some very nice gifts. Robin and I and the PGA of America gave them a very nice gift last night of some china that they'll enjoy for a long time. One of the neat things about this week is there's so many special moments like that. But yeah, I have a couple more gifts to give.
Q. When will that happen, and can you talk a bit about what you're going to give them?
DAVIS LOVE III: I'm not going to tell you the pairings or any of my good secrets like that. I know Zach is the only one that knows one of the gifts that's coming, because we hang around a lot together, and he knows me pretty well.
I just told him, "I haven't given you anything dangerous yet. You know I'm going to have to give them something they can get hurt with."
I think Tom Lehman gave them a mountain bike, and I said, that's a really cool gift, get them outside doing something fun. So they'll get something like that from me eventually.
Q. Just curious what you guys did for dinner last night, where you went and just how the evening went.
DAVIS LOVE III: It was great. We went to Gibson's steakhouse, which was a police escort and only about 10 minutes away, which was great. We had a great private dinner and we watched the captain's video, which I've always been a big fan of. I had them lengthen it. I might have had them lengthen it too long, but everyone really liked it.
I keep throwing quotes out like the Jackie Burkes and the Ben Crenshaw, "this beautiful little cup," and it's a really neat video that only the Ryder Cup players get to see. It was a fun night. At least the guys at my table that hadn't seen it were blown away, and it was fun.
And the PGA of America and Robin and I gave them a gift, and the food was excellent, and we were back, and I went to the team room and nobody showed up. They must have had a good night and they were back and ready to go to bed.
Every night has been really unbelievable. The biggest change in the Ryder Cup from '93 is it just gets better and better and better every year. And all I'm doing is, like I said, adding one more table tennis table, and taking what I saw Julie Crenshaw do and Christy Kite do and Tom Watson, and just taking it one more step and just improving the foundation that all those ladies and captains gave us.
Last night was just another great night. We're on a roll.
Q. I think it's fair to say that both captains are in agreement that this is going to be a very, very close match. What in your opinion will be the deciding factor? What is it about this course, the players that we have on show, that is going to decide this match?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think it comes down to putting, generally. A chip in here or there maybe, but it generally comes down to which team holes the most putts. I said it like Monty, I always just watch Monty he might be winning the Order of Merit every year, but I always putted better in the Ryder Cup, didn't he. Peter Baker, I could just go down the list. They always seem to have a few guys that putted so much better.
Sunday of Brookline, what did we do? We made every single putt. I mean, it was in the captain's videos and other videos we watch, all you see is guys just making putts from all over the place.
I think it's whoever gets hot and confident with the putter. Valderrama, you could not have seen a worse putting team than the U.S. had. Tiger, Justin, myself, we putted so poorly. And you just get going and you start making them, and you feed off of it.
So I think it's going to come down to putting, chip ins, hole outs, things like that. Because they're both evenly matched. You have great ball striking teams, you obviously have a big ballpark golf course where guys are going to be able to go out there and bomb it around and free wheel it, and it's going to be fun to play, but it's going to come down to chipping and putting.
I don't know who I heard yesterday, they said pretty much every tournament we play now comes down to who makes the most putts. Brandt, who's the hottest putter in the world the last four months, three months, whenever he came back at the Open Championship? Brandt Snedeker? It's Rory and Brandt I don't know, I'm watching a lot of golf.
But they're just winning because obviously hits it good. They're just putting great, and I think that's what it comes down to.
Q. Can you update us on Dustin's caddie situation, and who do you think will be caddying for him on Friday?
DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, Jeff Weber is caddying for him. Bobby Brown is just such a good guy and an upbeat guy, and he's really down about it.
But yeah, it was I mean, Bobby knew it. He was supposed to go with us to dinner Saturday night in Atlanta and go to the concert with us. And he called me, as he goes, "Man, I am down." He left the course I think on 11 Saturday at TOUR Championship, and Jeff Sluman has had him to doctors and therapists, and he's not going to make it.
So Jeff Weber, my caddie, is caddying; so my brother went to the assistant caddie captain role. Luckily we had some extras around.
I said it: We were all fighting over who got to caddie for Dustin. My brother wanted to caddie and I wanted to caddie.
A great guy. I mean, Dustin is like, "All right, cool, I've got a caddie, let's go." You know, he's happy.
You know, it's a team, and we filled in, and it's good to have extra people around. That's one thing we learned from former captains is having an assistant captain for the caddies, have a backup guy to help you with the logistics, Chris Noss, who was Corey's caddie and Corey's trainer and now trains a bunch of guys.
So I've got my trainer, Randy Myers, who trains Brandt and a few guys on the team, so we've got a team around us that we can fill in the blanks. You don't have to ask Mike Scully if he's got a caddie. We have it covered.
Q. How would you sum up how you felt in the Ryder Cup 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 honestly don't think you get any more nervous on Sunday trying to win your singles match than you are Friday morning hitting the first shot, and that's I've been in this situation a couple times where you knew your point was going to matter to win the Ryder Cup.
I'm telling you, it's not any different putting that putt than it is hitting off the first tee Friday morning.
So it never really changes, because you know every shot, every half point, everything adds up. We went back with Hunter and said: Hunter, look, it all added up, and you were just a guy that was trying to come back in your match and win. We had a couple guys flip matches. We were asking you to flip another one, and if this guy would have done this and this guy would have done this and this guy would have done this, we wouldn't have been in this situation.
And everybody there was nobody on that team that didn't have a half a point for them or a full point. I keep saying I missed a shot at the second hole Friday with Chad Campbell in Detroit that cost Chad and I winning that match. It was just one shot.
If I could have hit that shot over again and hit it on the green, we would have won because Chad was playing good, I was playing good. I just put us behind the 8 ball.
And that one shot was at the beginning of the tournament, and I think that's what guys the pressure is every single shot. You know it's going to come down to being important. Half a point a day is huge. If you win a half a point more a day, that's the Ryder Cup. It never lets up from 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.
KELLY ELBIN: On that note, Captain Love, thank you very much.
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