Team USA Captain Love picks Couples, Hulbert to serve as assistants
Team USA captain Davis Love III has turned to two of his best friends to help him and his team win back the Ryder Cup, choosing Fred Couples and Mike Hulbert to serve as his assistant captains for the matches at Medinah Country Club.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III broke news in a press conference at Congressional Country Club ahead of the AT&T National on Wednesday afternoon, revealing the names of two of his four captain's assistants, as well as announcing the order of play for the 2012 matches at Medinah Country Club, Sept. 28-30.
Fred Couples and Mike Hulbert, longtime friends and fellow competitors of Love, will serve as assistant captains. Love said there's no timeline for when he'll announce his other two assistants, but he's planning to appoint two current PGA Tour players.
"I have a few guys still playing a lot of golf and I might need to let them play a little more before I come to a decision," Love said. "Announcing Fred and Mike today, as well as the order of play, buys me some time. [European Captain] Jose Maria [Olazabal] hasn't made any announcements yet, other than he's going to have four assistants.
"I also want to talk to Mark, my brother, so we can figure out what his role is going to be. I need him there for advice," Love explained. "Corey Pavin had Dr. [Richard] Coop with him in the cart at Celtic Manor and that was his guy to rely on for advice. If I could have my brother and Dr. Bob Rotella in the cart with me, that'd be great. We have to figure out Mark's schedule, though, because he has a lot of business responsibilities, as well as planning for our McGladrey tournament on Sea Island."
As for order of play, foursomes will be contested first on Friday and Saturday, followed by fourballs. Sunday will, as always, feature 12 singles matches.
Traditionally, the United States has fared far better in the foursomes -- alternate-shot -- format, leading the Europeans 139 1/2 to 109 1/2 in foursomes through the 2010 matches at Celtic Manor.
Since 1985 -- when Europe won the Ryder Cup outright for the first time since Great Britain & Ireland turned the trick in 1957 -- the Europeans have been stellar in fourballs matches, leading the U.S. 62 1/2 to 41 1/2 in that format.
Love said he actually requested to play the foursomes back-to-back on the first day, but the powers that be said that wouldn't be allowed.
"We felt like going to alternate shot in the morning would mean we could pick our teams at night," Love said. "The guys would know who they were playing with. With best ball (fourballs) in the afternoon, we'd be able to make changes on the fly. Everybody I've talked to was comfortable going with alternate shot first.
"Logistically, it makes more sense. I don't know what the reason is, but our guys feel confident in the foursomes. I would think we would be better in best ball, because we're really, really good at golf," he added. "I guess the record shows we're not. Whatever they're comfortable with, we go with. They know the record. That's a big deal for us, get out and get ahead early. I never saw one reason to do it the other way around. We even asked if we could do two of the same format the same day. They said no."
Couples, 52, the 1992 Masters Champion, is a veteran of five Ryder Cup Teams (1989, '91, '93, '95, '97), posting a 7-9-4 record. Couples also served as an unbeaten captain in the Presidents Cup, guiding the U.S. to wins in 2009 and 2011, and returns to that position in 2013.
Hulbert, 54, served as assistant to 2002 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Curtis Strange, and has not competed in a Ryder Cup.
The appointment of Couples wasn't all that surprising. Back in May just after the Memorial Tournament, Couples let the cat out of the bag during a press conference where it was announced -- ironically -- that he would be the captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team for a third time in 2013.
Couples said, "I'm going to help Davis, I think. I don't know if that's out there yet, but I believe he's pretty much put that out there."
Julius Mason, the PGA of America's Senior Director of Communications and Media Relations, quickly told GolfChannel.com the next day that Love hadn't yet made a decision on his assistants.
Well, now it's official.
Couples and Love were teammates during the 1993, '95 and '97 Ryder Cups, and teamed to win four consecutive (1992-95) World Cup of Golf titles.
"You know, Fred did a great job of keeping it quiet as long as he did," Love said. "He's known pretty much all year and it's tough to keep a secret on the PGA Tour. Initially, we were going to make the announcement in Charlotte, but I had to withdraw with my rib injury. Then we wanted to wait until Commissioner Finchem announced Fred would be the captain for the 2013 Presidents Cup team. Fred and Mike were automatics for me. I need their advice and friendship."
Hulbert and Love have been friends for years. In Love's first round on the PGA Tour as an amateur, he was paired with Hulbert and the two have been friends ever since. At times they've been roommates on the road, and Hulbert has also caddied for Love on occasion.
"Mike has been a great friend for a long time," Love said. "We've been friends through golf and life -- the whole thing. He's been a big supporter of mine. If I ask him to caddie, he caddies. If I'm bored and need someone to go to dinner with, he's there. He's one of those true friends you want around. He's one of the best guys out here. He always wants to hang out with you. He's a good friend to a lot of players out here.
"Curtis Strange called me after I was named captain and said, 'The only piece of advice I can give you is to have Hulbert as an assistant. He's your man.' Freddie said the same thing. That's a testament to the guy he is. Mike will be for us what Paul Goydos was to Corey in Wales -- he'll keep it light, he'll be entertaining, and he'll have advice when they guys need it."
Eight members of the 2012 U.S. 12-member team will be determined following the 94th PGA Championship, Aug. 9-12 at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. Love will announce his four Captain's selections to complete the team on Sept. 4, in New York City.
This September, the U.S. will attempt to win back the Ryder Cup, which it relinquished in 2010, following Europe's 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 victory in Wales. The U.S. last won a Ryder Cup in 2008 with a 15-11 victory at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., when Paul Azinger was the captain. It was the first time the U.S. had won the Ryder Cup since its historic comeback at Brookline Country Club in 1999.
Olazabal will complete his 12-member team on Aug. 26, with two Captain's selections following the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, Scotland.