Ryder Cup scares players to death, says captain Love

LYTHAM ST ANNES, England Wed Jul 18, 2012 12:41pm EDT

Davis Love III of the U.S. hits out from a bunker on the 11th green during the first round of the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Davis Love III of the U.S. hits out from a bunker on the 11th green during the first round of the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland June 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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LYTHAM ST ANNES, England (Reuters) - The pressure on the opening day of the Ryder Cup "scares players to death" and it is the only competition they really cry about, United States captain Davis Love III said on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old American, who will lead the U.S. team against Europe in this year's matches at Medinah Country Club near Chicago, said he would try to deflect some of the pressure away from his players in September.

"You are scared to death on the Friday morning of the Ryder Cup," Love told a news conference on the eve of his 26th consecutive appearance in the British Open.

"It is way too much pressure for golf, just brutal."

Love played in six Ryder Cups, losing on four occasions, but he experienced the elation of securing a vital point with a singles victory over Costantino Rocca to help the Americans win the 1993 match 15-13 at the Belfry, England.

"The last putt of the Ryder Cup is the worst, you have this fear of letting down all your team mates and the crowd," he said.

Hunter Mahan was the American player whose missed putt handed Europe victory in the last Ryder Cup in Wales and Love said he would have no hesitation in putting the 30-year-old world number 10 out in the last match again.

"Hunter handled the situation really well," Love said. "He's been there before and I think he would want to have the chance again and not to put the pressure on one of his team mates."

INCREASINGLY UNLIKELY

Love said he still hoped to win a place in the team for the September 28-30 contest, though he accepted that was looking increasingly unlikely.

"Maybe I can still make the team if I keep playing well," he said. "I'm excited about the way I'm playing and I'd dearly love to play in the Ryder Cup but the closer it gets I realize I'm probably not going to."

Love said if he did make the team he would be delighted to hand the captaincy over to Fred Couples, one of his deputies who has led the U.S. Presidents Cup team to two wins over the Internationals.

"Fred and I have been through a lot together on the tour," Love said. "He has been an inspiration to me. He is relaxed but he is a great competitor. I would be only too happy to play in the team and hand the captaincy over to him."

Love said he was very pleased the Europeans would be led by Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal.

"Jose Maria was a great Ryder Cup player and we had some good matches although I'm not sure if they were fun because he and Seve Ballesteros were a great pair and didn't lose too many matches.

"I enjoyed playing against him and there will be no problems between us. It will be easy, friendly but tough competition."

Love played under American captains Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw but he is not planning to copy any particular style of leadership.

"Crenshaw was good because we won under him but all those captains had a theme for the team and we need to work on that one," he said.

"All the players will take care of their own games and it will be my job to make sure they are relaxed and go out playing their best."

Love said the American crowds would be a significant factor.

"We expect the crowd to get excited if we are doing well," he said. "The crowds at the Ryder Cup are really important, more important even than in a football or basketball game."

Tiger Woods, the 14-times major champion who only made the team in 2010 as a wildcard, has emerged from a disappointing few years to win three times this season and he is a certainty to be among Love's 12 players.

"I was pretty confident if Tiger played enough tournaments he would make the team pretty easily," Love said. "His record of winning tournaments is incredible."

Love also expects the former world number one to mount a strong challenge in this year's British Open at Lytham starting on Thursday.

"This week will be all about whether you can hit the fairway," Love said. "Tiger's strategy around the Open courses has been incredible over the years."

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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