Davis Love III is not the kind of guy who likes to make waves. He’s a rules follower, Ralph Lauren-wearing, shake hands when the golf round is over, play the game the right way kind of guy. He’s the son of a noted golf professional, and so he learned golf manners early and well. That means when it comes to rocking the boat, Love is not the guy who is going to do it.
However, he’s going to have to make a few ripples with his captain’s picks.
The team is currently Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson (rookie), Jason Dufner (rookie), Keegan Bradley (rookie), Webb Simpson (rookie), Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson squeaked in with enough points at the PGA Championship to earn his spot.
If there was a way to take his four picks right from the points, he’d do it. They are Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.
But that may not be the best way to win, and Love, despite his nice-guy tendencies, is all about winning. He has 20 PGA Tour victories to prove it. He has been on Ryder Cup teams that won and Ryder Cup teams that lost, and because Europe has won so many times in the last 15 years, he needs a victory.
Love is faced with a couple of problems and some opportunities.
Number one is taking care of Tiger Woods and his golf ball. While that sounds silly, Woods has played a very soft golf ball for many years, and in his early Ryder Cups, it was very hard for any captain on any cup team to find anyone else who could play it during alternate shot where you have to keep the same golf ball in play.
Jim Furyk was the solution for a couple of seasons until Woods and Sticker got paired together during Fed Ex Cup in 2009. Stricker became comfortable with Woods, and Woods was impressed with Stricker’s putting. A team was formed that lasted until the Presidents Cup last year, when Fred Couples had to split them up because they weren’t winning. That still means one pick probably goes to Sticker.
Number two is picking the hot players.
Neither Jim Furyk nor Rickie Fowler have been hot recently, although Furyk threatened a couple of times. Hunter Mahan has been in reverse since winning twice earlier this year. They know it, and Love knows it.
Nick Watney has been hot, but he’s not in the top 20 on points. He would be a risk for Love. But he has a wonderful putting stroke when he's on.
One who has come on in recent weeks is Brandt Snedeker. If he can keep his ball on the planet off the tee, he is playing well enough to qualify as a solid pick. He's a great putter, something that is important in Ryder Cup.
But it does expose another problem: Rookies.
Number three is picking someone to help the rookies. The current team has four of them. That’s a high number, certainly compared to the European squad.
One player who will check both the veteran and playing well boxes is Dustin Johnson. He may also be favored because he hits a long ball and Medinah Country Club, it is said, requires that.
That’s three picks, and Love has four.
The need for veterans could work in Jim Furyk’s favor. Furyk has played on every Ryder Cup since 1997 and every Presidents Cup since 1998. Davis Love may want and need Furyk’s experience and to pair him with someone like Bubba Watson, who gets nervous under ordinary circumstances, never mind Ryder Cup. Watson will need someone who has been there and can potentially calm him down.
However, the need for youthful exuberance and the ability to rise to the occasion plus some experience may allow the light to shine on Rickie Fowler one more time. Although he did not hang around leaderboards quite as often this year, he did get his first PGA Tour victory the same place Rory McIlroy got his: Quail Hollow at the Wells Fargo.
The final pick may come down to conversations with Love’s assistant captains or input from the players who have already made the team. One thing is certain, Love will be placed in an uncomfortable position tomorrow when he takes the microphone and says, “My picks are…..”
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