MEDINAH, Ill. — Davis Love III’s plan for winning the Ryder Cup back is simple: Do the work, and then get out of the way.
An emotional and enthusiastic Love was introduced Thursday as the next American captain of the Ryder Cup, an honor he said he’s been thinking about for years. The 2012 matches are still some 18 months away, but Love has already started thinking about the little details that could reverse the Americans’ recent Ryder Cup woes. Europe has won six of the last eight matchups, including last October in Wales.
“I’m a players’ captain,” he said at Medinah Country Club, where the 2012 matches will be held. “I’ll try to get them what they need to be successful. I’m not going to tell the best players in the world how to play golf. I’m not going to read their putts. I’m going to stay out of their way and let them show their talents. I think a good leader knows he’s got a great team and just gets them prepared and let’s them go play.”
The announcement wraps up a week that put the Ryder Cup in the news just as golf’s new season is getting underway. Europe appointed two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal as the captain Tuesday.
Love’s appointment was hardly a secret, and he joked that the first thing he wanted to do was Tweet the official news.
But he is quite serious about his passion for the new job. He’s already been talking with PGA and Medinah officials about course setup. He’s thought about the qualities he wants in his vice captains and who might be suited for those jobs. At dinner Wednesday night, he and wife Robin spent part of the time looking at the ballrooms and imagining how they could be configured for team meeting rooms.
As for those disastrous rainsuits that leaked, causing a distraction before the Americans even teed off, Love pledged that a big part of his job will be making sure his players feel as comfortable and prepared as they do at major championships.
“My main mission is to get my players prepared to play on Friday morning like they do every other week during the year,” Love said. “If there’s any problem the American team has ever had in the seven Ryder Cups I’ve been involved in, is that we just try too hard. I know that’s an over simplification, but you put together a game plan and you go try to execute it, that’s what we are going to try to do.
“I’m going to put the best players in the world with the best equipment I can get, and give them the best chance they can to win,” he added. “Whoever we need out here, trainers, great golf bags, whatever, we are going to have everything we can to give this team the confidence that they have when they go to the PGA Championship a month before. I want them to … (be) comfortable, they look good and they are happy and ready to play.”
Love, a 20-time winner on the PGA Tour, played on six Ryder Cup teams. His first three matches, with Tom Kite as his partner, were against Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros, the “Spanish Armada” that formed one of the most daunting teams in Ryder Cup history. Love won that first match, but never beat Olazabal again. They never played each other in singles.
Olazabal won his second green jacket in 1999, and while his duel that day was with Greg Norman, the Spaniard held off a late charge by Love, who was the runner-up.
Love recalled that Olazabal brought a special Spanish wine to serve at the Masters’ Champions Dinner that next year, and he gave Love the leftover bottles.
“I’ll always remember his generosity,” said Love, who said he has not spoken to Olazabal this week. “He’s always been a good friend. It’ll be a tough competition. On Thursday we’ll be friends, and Sunday night we’ll still be friends.”
Love said he would consider playing if he earned his way on the team, although a U.S. captain has never qualified for the team in recent decades. Love last qualified for the team in 2004, when Europe routed the Americans at Oakland Hills.
“We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it,” love said. “If we had good assistants and I’m playing great, that would be a great story for our team and for golf — as long as I get three or four points out of the deal.”
This was the second time Love has been showcased by the PGA of America, and both times he fought tears. The other occasion was in 1997 at Winged Foot, when he won the PGA Championship and broke down thinking about his father, Davis Love Jr., a longtime PGA professional who died in a plane crash early in Love’s career.
“Now to be named Ryder Cup captain is a thrill I never thought I would have,” said Love, his voice choking and eyes filling with tears. “I’d love to share that with my father. I know somehow I am. … There’s not a tour player out there that plays one tour event or six Ryder Cups that doesn’t have a PGA professional that led them to that position.”