Whether you realized it or not, the U.S. Open at Oakmont was a huge week for U.S. Ryder Cup hopefuls.
It was also a huge week for Ryder Cup USA Captain Davis Love III. Just like his predecessors, Captain Love had the U.S. Open circled on his calendar. Because, Love and captains before him have said, that's when the U.S. team really takes shape.
Double points are up for grabs in all the 2016 majors for U.S. players, but at the conclusion of the U.S. Open, it's a fairly safe bet that the top 5 players in the standings will have a spot on the roster.
And even outside the top 10, the U.S. Open serves as a monster week in terms of making a massive leap. Take Jim Furyk for example. He missed a lot of time between the Playoffs last year up until just recently to recover from a wrist injury that required surgery. With a T2 at Oakmont, however, the nine-time Ryder Cup veteran (already a Vice Captain for Hazeltine) shot up from No. 50 to No. 17 in the latest standings.
In our latest Q&A with Love, he talked about the team beginning to form, Dustin Johnson's win at Oakmont, golf in the Olympics and plenty more.
PGA.com: First off, how are you feeling?
Love: I've had some hip discomfort, but I'd say I'm decent right now. I'm going to try and play in D.C. this week, then Akron and Greenbrier and see how I do. We keep saying, "we'll try one more time to get over the hip issue without something drastic." It's not great, but it's OK. Let's just say I'm definitely feeling like a 52-year-old some mornings.
PGA.com: The U.S. Open is the time you said you'd really be looking at the points standings. Do you like what you're seeing right now?
Love: Funny enough, I really didn't get to watch much of the tournament at all. I mean I was keeping up with scores on my phone, but my daughter, Lexi, was in a horse show in North Carolina, so I was watching the horse show and tending to the grandbaby. We didn't get home until after midnight on Sunday. It was a great Father's Day.
I have to say -- I'm thrilled for Dustin after last year at Chambers Bay and the near misses he's had in other majors. It wasn't a wire-to-wire win, but he was in it the whole way. That's special at a place like Oakmont.
On that type of golf course to really blow everyone away -- he didn't give them much of a chance down the stretch, he iced it and finished it off -- is phenomenal.
Now it's getting a little more solid at the top. I think when I looked at the list today, your brain kicks into pairings after two majors. You can start thinking about that -- who's going to match up here? It's getting more solid.
Then there's Jim Furyk too. I've been hoping he'd be able to come back from his injury and play well. He's showed some signs and now with the T2 at Oakmont he jumped all the way from 50th to 17th. Here's a guy at 17th who sat out a long, long time. He missed a lot of tournaments, missed a major and a lot of his favorite tournaments. It's nice to see him up there now.
PGA.com: You're assured to have Furyk with you at Hazeltine. He's already a Vice Captain. Would you rather have him as a player?
Love: I've been pulling hard for Jim, Steve Stricker and even Tiger, you know to start playing, so they'd all be in the mix. We need some veteran leadership. I know the guys in 2012 wanted Jim on the team and he was a Captain's Pick.
Jim and his wife, Tabitha, are the best. When I was a younger player in Ryder Cups, everyone always looked to Maria and Raymond Floyd as that calming influence, people with experience that you could go and talk to about anything.
Watching Jim and Tabitha last year at the Presidents Cup in Korea and on so many teams together, they're that "Raymond and Maria" type influence for this generation. Heck, I'd even include Jim's caddie, Mike "Fluff" Cowen, in there too. Fluff has been a part of so many of these teams.
So, yes, it'll be great to have Jim as a Vice Captain. As a player on the team, I'd think it would be even better to have him as a partner. He's given some of the best little night-time speeches and rallies the guys so well when we need them to go out and do something. He's a proven leader. That goes for Phil Mickelson too. They're such a big part of these teams and it's great to have them around.
PGA.com: Zach Johnson rounds out your top 5 right now after a T8 at Oakmont -- his first ever top 10 in a U.S. Open. What are your thoughts on what he was able to do last week?
Love: When I heard about the rough and strategy it would take at Oakmont -- playing smart -- I figured it played right into Zach's hands. You gotta be the bomber guy who hits it a mile and can gouge it our of that rough, or you've got to be the tactician and that's Zach.
Zach's last two tournaments were at Colonial and Oakmont -- two very different courses -- and he played really well at both places. He makes up on strokes gained with the wedges and putter all the time. He's not short, but he's not going to overpower a course. He will outthink it though.
You go down the list, we could talk about 15 guys. Jason Dufner continues to get more and more solid. There's a pairing in Zach and Dufner. You see Zach on the list and you look down to see where Dufner is (currently No. 13). There's so many guys pressing, playing well and moving up.
There's Kuchar too -- solid and playing well every week. It's good to see so many playing well. We've got a lot of big stuff getting ready to happen. Bridgsteone, The Open, the PGA, the Olympics. There's a lot of stuff happening fast here. Now's the time to start thinking about pairings and how we can truly get into point-watch mode. Now it's for real. We can see the end approaching quickly.
PGA.com: You mentioned the Olympics there. What are your feelings on the players who have already pulled out and the ones now who seem reluctant to go?
Love: If I was Dustin, or Rickie, I'd think hard about it. Anybody that's young with a family or thinking about eventually starting a family needs to think about it. I'm not giving advice on what to do one way or the other. It's a tough decision. Aside from the health concerns, it's also in the middle of a big season where guys are very focused on winning majors and making the Ryder Cup team.
You want to represent your country, no doubt. But guys did that last year at the Presidents Cup in Korea. Guys are going to do that later this year at the Ryder Cup too. Guys have a game plan and that's to win majors and Ryder Cups. I don't think that has changed. If the Olympics were in Chicago, it might be a different story. There are just a lot of factors to consider before heading to Brazil.
PGA.com: Is there any concern -- playing-wise -- for Fowler after missed cuts in the Masters, Players, Memorial and U.S. Open? Or even Spieth who didn't have his best week at Oakmont?
Love: Obviously Jordan is not going to win every week like he did in his great year. You've got to take the good with the bad. Do I worry about them missing a cut? No.
The only thing I worry about with guys like Jordan, Rickie and Dustin is wearing themselves down. They're traveling a ton. We just want them fresh. A couple of missed cuts isn't anything to get too worried about. If you're only satisfied when you win, man, you're going to be disappointed most of the time.
PGA.com: Any plans for a visit up to Hazeltine anytime soon?
Love: I'm sure we'll do something, but there's not much need for me to go unless some players are going right now. We're looking at when the next possible team guy wants to go. I would just say whenever anyone on the team wants to go, Tom Lehman or I will go up and host them.