U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love has the unenviable task of trying to reverse two decades of European Ryder Cup dominance, a run that has been interrupted only a couple of times since Europe won the 1995 Cup at Oak Hill. One aspect of Love's mandate for his team as it arrives at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago: Have fun. The U.S. seems to play better when it's looser, as was the case when an underdog group won the Cup in 2008. Here, Love talks about his formidable challenge, his strategy for his team and more.
Q. What do you make of the depth of European golf compared to American golf?
DLIII: Well, it's the depth of international golf. There's so many good players … That's why it's so hard on tour to win these days. That's why Tiger's (Woods) dominance over the last six or eight years is so incredible, because the field is so deep that it's tough to win these days; and when you see Rory (McIlroy) run away with a tournament … it's hard to win. There's so many guys trying to beat him. So it shows the strength of international golf right now.
Both teams are deep. There's no getting around that. You pick a squad from either tour, top 10, top 20, top 30 are going to be very, very similar.
Q. Can you talk about the message you have shared with your team?
DLIII: In 1986 I sat down with (sports psychologist) Bob Rotella and Tom Kite for my first real session of my career, and the speech has been the same since 1986: "One shot at a time, get into the process, not the result."
It sounds easy, but it's hard to do. Each shot is the same level of importance. Well, we are going to preach that at The Ryder Cup, but how are we actually going to do it, that's the trick. When you walk out on the first tee and there's 30,000, 40,000 people and they are chanting, all the Bob Rotella stuff goes out the window really quick when you get really nervous, and you start thinking about winning or losing.
The secret is going to be: How do you turn that off. We watched a lot at the Olympics of athletes somehow channeling that and into their personal best time or their world record time, or 15-year-olds and 17-year-olds handling that incredible pressure and winning Gold medals. How do we translate that excitement and energy and nervousness of three days of golf into incredible feats?
And we want to get them fired up and we don't want them to be nervous. We want to get them thinking about winning, but we don't want them thinking about results on the first tee Friday morning.
Q: How much involvement have you had in the setup of Medinah?
DLIII: Kerry (Haigh, PGA of America official) has done a great job of PGA Championships and Ryder Cups over the years, so we are going to lean on letting him help us with that. But I don't know that we figured out a way to make it suit 12 different guys. Medinah is going to be long and tough, and if the weather is bad, you know, it could be really long and tough.
So I don't know what our ultimate strategy is. Although I'm not a fan of deep rough. So we won't have really, really deep rough. I think Paul's (Azinger) setup at Valhalla (at the 2008 Ryder Cup) was fun for the fans, and probably leaned towards making it fan/TV friendly, some risk and reward, rather than U.S. Open style of just hit it in the rough and chip it out. I don't think that would be fun.
I think what's very important is having a variety of holes, a variety of scores, and you don't want it to be birdie every hole; although for our side that would be nice. You want some variety and some risk and some reward, and we certainly have got the opportunity with par 3s over water and par 5s; there's a lot of tee boxes at Medinah, and now with No. 15, I've played that hole a lot over the last two years, and there's a lot of variety there.
Q: If we get lucky in the singles draw on Sunday and we get Tiger and Rory, how do you see that match going?
DLIII: I'd want to go watch that one. It would be nice to be able to rig them, rig a couple like that for Tiger and Rory … he (Tiger) would probably like that. No, it would be a great match. I'm sure they both would relish that. We have got some guys on our team that I'm sure would love to take him on, because you want to play the best. You want to play a guy that's hot, and I know Tiger or Phil (Mickelson) or any of those guys would love to try it.
We don't see it as Rory versus Tiger. It's U.S. versus Europe, and we are all going to be friends before and we are all going to be friends after, just maybe not quite as close for those three days.
Q: Do you feel any extra pressure as captain?
DLIII: There's a lot of reasons to feel a lot of pressure as a captain. It’s a lot of fun. I think (European captain) José Maria Olazabal will tell you the same thing. It's a lot of fun, it's a lot of responsibility, and it's a humbling experience.
This tournament has gotten so big, so important, so internationally well-known that it's a lot of pressure. I heard Dave Stockton speak at the (PGA) Past Champions Dinner, and he said the best thing about being the captain in '91 was he got to watch everybody tee off and he didn't have to play.
That was a pretty good line. I don't have to hit any shots. I can just go out and watch. It is a lot of pressure. Just getting everything ready and being prepared and doing your best for these 12 players and making it a special week for them is probably the biggest challenge, the most pressure