Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III relying on team to help make picks
NEW YORK -- Now that mathematics has determined the first eight members of the U.S. Ryder Cup's 12-man team, captain Davis Love III possesses four more selections of his choosing, which are due in September before the patriotic match-play event against Europe arrives at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
Love said he will listen intently to the first eight players already selected before he announces three more players at Hazeltine National on Sept. 12 and one final pick during "Sunday Night Football" on Sept. 25.
"I can't say it enough," Love said at an Aug. 29 Manhattan news conference in which he discussed the eight players who qualified automatically from a two-year points system that ended with the final round of The Barclays. "It's their team."
In 2008, U.S. captain Paul Azinger allowed players to choose teammates as part of his "pod" system that broke the team into four-player groups, believing players would feel ownership and investment. The Americans beat Europe, the only time they have done so since 1999.
Love said he went to all his automatic qualifiers when he was captain in 2012 and asked each with whom he would like to be paired during the first two days of four-ball and foursomes (alternate shot) play.
Love plans to do the same this time around with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson.
European captain Darren Clarke finalized his team last month in England. He added Martin Kaymer, Thomas Pieters and Lee Westwood to the nine automatic qualifiers, which includes five Ryder Cup rookies, Masters champ Danny Willett among them.
Love said he and his eight chosen players have more options filling out their team.
"They [the Europeans] need experience," Love said. "You look at our team: We can pick more rookies because we have a lot of experience."
Love's first eight players include 11-time Ryder Cup player Mickelson and have, among them, 11 major championships, an individual distinction that hasn't brought the Americans recent success in team competition. Love said he will consult statistical analytics the PGA of America has hired -- just as the Europeans have done -- but ultimately he will listen to players' preferences as well as the opinions of vice captains Tiger Woods, Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.
"Those eight players and the four assistant captains, they are pretty good golfers," Love said. "They know what's going on. They know the players. They know who they want to play with."
The PGA of America changed its rules after the 2014 loss in Scotland and moved the timing of captain's picks from early September and allowed Love freedom to name his final player the night before his team flies to Minnesota. Love said that change brings into the conversation anyone -- Justin Thomas, Sean O'Hair, Ryan Moore, Gary Woodland to name just a few -- who gets hot here in the four FedEx Cup playoff events at season's end.
That's where he'll listen to his players' opinions on whose talents best complement the team already chosen.
"If my team needs a quarterback and I draft a running back, they're going to be mad at me," Love said. "Golf is different than other sports. The mental side is huge. If they go in there believing they have the best team, they are going to play well. We don't want to start off with any question marks. ... We need to give these guys a feeling of security. If Patrick Reed says, 'I want you to pick this guy because I want to play with him and we won't lose a match,' then we're going to take that into account."
The Americans have branded the motto "12 Strong" -- an emphasis on team -- on apparel and equipment they've ordered for next month's Ryder Cup.
"That's what we want these guys to be," Love said. "It's time for this top eight to take ownership of this team."
This article was written by Jerry Zgoda from Star Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.