Davis Love III: Captain America in the Team Room

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been watching the Ryder Cup for so long, I can’t even remember when I started. I’m not sure whether it’s lackluster early-years matches, my multi-tasking attention span or my failing memory.

But like everybody else, I hung on every pairing selection: which players would be paired together and who would be paired against them? If those guys played in the morning, would they be back in the afternoon? If they lost in the morning, would they be back in the afternoon or broken up? Who was going to sit on Saturday? How late would the least experienced player have to wait to get into the matches? You don’t want to just dump some poor soul into the Sunday singles matches without at least one team match.

And the more you knew about these sorts of internal deliberations and machinations, the more you wanted to know. The image of twelve of your countryman and their captain banded together, giving it their all, in a single purpose was so seductive you could barely turn away. You could barely allow yourself to miss a minute of the matches. You would never want to miss a single one of the broadcast packages put together on this topic or that, this player or that. How many times would you hang on Tom Kite’s or Raymond Floyd’s every word? Every time they would speak about their Ryder Cup experience as players and captains.

So you’ve been through all of that for years and you think you know a thing or two. Well, that’s nothing compared to what you don’t know about the behind-the-scenes events at the Ryder Cup.

How do I know? Because I know all of these things, but I was still blown away by Davis Love’s media room session again on Wednesday. The media would ask him a question, and not only would he answer that thoughtfully and fully, he would expand his answer into areas that he wasn’t even asked about.

For example, you would think that he would be giving away trade secrets by describing the team room and all its player activities, but you’d be wrong. The captains’ and assistants’ relationships have become so collegial, they freely associate with each other.

I could provide snippets from his transcript, but necessary editing for brevity would suck all of the rich detail right out of his answers. Trying to figure out what to keep and how to pare it down left me with the feeling that all that would remain would be just another banal report on the Ryder Cup that didn’t really add anything to what we know already.

So here is the link to Love’s Wednesday transcript so that you can go read the details for yourself. You’ll be glad you took the time.

Here are just some of the things you’ll learn:

  • Love actually brought in three ping-pong tables for recreation and Matt Kuchar is the king of the mountain.
  • They very carefully try to balance the players’ days so that they’re getting their course scouting in while conserving their energy.
  • The PGA of America which conducts the Cup matches gives the players gifts.
  • The captain gives the players gifts. Love wants it to be dangerous.
  • The captain compiles an inspirational “Captain’s Video,” and tries to make it better than all the ones he’s seen.
  • The biggest thing the captain grapples with is the pairings and who’s going to sit when and he does it with great collaboration with the players.
  • He goes into some rich detail about how Phil Mickelson has grown into a great mentor for rookies on the team like Brandt Snedeker. Speaking about it brought tears to Love’s eyes.
  • Dustin Johnson’s caddie was injured in Atlanta, but that was okay. Love already had two backup Tour caddies just in case something like that happened.
  • They have a gym and Love also arranged for a trainer and a backup trainer.
  • The players seem to be much more responsible about managing their sleep than the team Love was on back when Tom Watson was captain.
  • Assistant Captain Mike Hulbert was Love’s mentor when he first came out on Tour. Hulbert is so conscientious and loyal to Love, he would faithfully do anything Love asked him to do.

And lastly, Love tries to capture the intensity of the Ryder Cup for the players:

The Ryder Cup to me is the last nine holes of a major when you’ve got a chance to win, except it starts Friday morning on the first tee, and it never lets up.

And then he goes on to detail how that pressure affected recent players and even himself. In addition to that story, elsewhere he recalls his first match with Tom Kite against Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. They were playing foresomes (alternate shot) and Davis was supposed to tee off on the odd holes. When they got to the first tee, stricken by nerves, Davis tried to get Kite to switch to the odds. Kite wouldn’t let him and they went on to win the match.

If you’re a Ryder Cup junkie who wants to be thoroughly prepped for Friday’s first matches, this kind of quality doesn’t come around very often and you really wouldn’t want to miss it.

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