Ryder Cup: Love talks Captain's Picks, unprecedented preparations
CHASKA, Minn. -- And then there was one.
Ryder Cup USA Captain Davis Love III added Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes and Matt Kuchar to his roster as Captain's Picks in a press conference at Hazeltine National on Monday, 18 days before the matches begin.
That leaves just one Captain's Pick to be made on Sept. 25 to complete the 12-man team, looking to win the first Ryder Cup for the Americans since 2008 and just its third overall since 1995.
After the picks were made, we caught up with Love for a Q&A to discuss what went into the picks, how they'll help the team and what the excitement level is like now that the matches are so close.
PGA.com: If it didn't feel like the 2016 Ryder Cup was close before today, it sure does now. Is it nice to get three of your four picks out of the way?
Love: It's nice to get that over with. They talk about the first tee nerves. These guys haven't had to sit up here and announce three Captain's Picks before and think about all the other guys that are out there watching it. It's nerve-racking. The only time I've ever really gotten nervous in this process the two times is this press conference, so I'm glad it's over. I'm glad those guys are excited. We've got to do it all again in two weeks for that last pick, but this is a big step for our team.
PGA.com: What's it like to pick up the phone and make that call to let a player know he's going to be on the team?
Love: Calling the players is just incredible. Obviously, we always get people who want to know and they want to film it and talk about it, but I'm like "No. This is a private moment for those guys." It may be the one time that they get a call that they've been selected by their peers to play in the Ryder Cup.
I love it. I get emotional when I call them and they get excited. It's fun.
The tough thing is calling a few guys and telling them they're not on. That balances out the good with the bad.
I'm thrilled for the three guys we picked today. They fought hard to get on the team and I think it hurt them. It hurt them in points and it hurt them in their play in the FedExCup. Rickie had a big schedule with a lot weighing on him and he missed the Tour Championship by a half a point. I know this kind of made his day, his year. It was a disappointing finish and then if he hadn't made the Ryder Cup team, it would have been a very disappointing end of the year, so to hear his emotion and to read his text after about how excited he is to be on the team was special.
We've been around and around it, but these guys have been high on our list for a long time.
PGA.com: Is Phil Mickelson a psychic? He has said multiple times in the last week that the first three picks were obvious.
Love: The reason Phil says he knows this is the way it's going to go is because he's been very much involved in the process. If you ask Tiger, or you ask Tom Lehman, Jim Furyk -- they know we were close to this for a long, long time. We did do some waffling at the last minute, as you would in any decision right at the end, but we kept coming back to the fact that we have one more pick to make in two weeks and these are the three guys we want right now. That gives us a lot of flexibility going forward.
PGA.com: We won't know until after the matches how these delayed picks worked out, but so far, have you liked having more time to decide? Has it been more stressful with more to think about?
Love: I think it has caused more stress for the players than me, because it has just dragged out further into the Playoffs. It's a new system, but it's what the players - the top players -- asked for. We want to take the best team and that means we want to wait as long as possible to pick our team.
Darren -- they've changed their system a lot over the years. We've changed ours a lot over the years. Is this the best system we've ever come up with and are we going to use it forever? We don't know that. We're already talking about that and asking, "What happened yesterday? Could we have handled that a little bit better? Could we have done it differently? How's this going to look for the future?"
We like where we are now, but it's a learning experience for all of us.
PGA.com: J.B. Holmes has represented the U.S. on a Walker Cup team, A Palmer Cup team, Ryder Cup team and a Presidents Cup team. I'm sure it isn't lost on you, but all four of those teams Holmes was on went on to win. Is he potentially your lucky charm here at Hazeltine?
Love: Everybody had their reasons to be picked. One of J.B.'s reasons is that he's a great match-play player. He's a guy that every guy on the team wants to play with. We saw him at Valhalla, we saw him just last year in Korea, where he popped in for an injured Jim Furyk at the very last minute and he was a great teammate. He played great. He just looks like he's ready to run somebody over all the time. He's a great match-play personality -- he's got a great attitude for match play. We kept saying -- do you want to play that guy in singles? I don't think so.
What we're looking for is guys we think are going to handle this stage and fit in with the group, be ready to play under that pressure and J.B. is definitely one of those guys.
PGA.com: Speaking of that "stage" what was it like for you pulling into Hazeltine today and seeing how much it has transformed?
Love: The last time I was here on the golf course, it was nice and quiet. We were just having a fun round of golf. But now it looks like the Ryder Cup. It's amazing seeing the build out. It gets bigger and bigger every time we play it. To see that big red bridge going over to the first tee and thinking about guys walking over it... it's not that far away. Soon it'll be filled with fans and be loud, crazy and a lot of fun.
PGA.com: As Captain, with admittedly much more preparation for these matches than in 2012, are you more excited than you were then for these matches to tee off?
Love: There's been a lot more work this time around. There's been a lot more time spent with the assistant captains and planning and strategizing. It's also been a lot more rewarding because of the relationships and spending time with all these captains and the players. It's been a lot of fun.
We're building this team to be competitive in 2016 and then into the future. So, it's a lot bigger process this time around.