MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - When Davis Love III leads the United States onto the first tee at stately Medinah Country Club for this week’s Ryder Cup showdown with Europe he will be performing a role he always seemed destined to play.
As a player, Love has represented the United States at six Ryder Cups, including wins in 1993 and 1995, and has teed it up six more times at the Presidents Cup.
He was an assistant captain to Corey Pavin at the 2010 Ryder Cup won by Europe, and so when it was time to choose a successor the 48-year-old Love was the obvious choice to draft a winning strategy that could restore U.S. golfing honor.
Captaining an American Ryder Cup squad always seemed as if it would eventually find its way onto Love’s sparkling resume that features 20 PGA Tour titles, including one major, the 1997 PGA Championship.
The son of a respected PGA Tour teaching professional who contended for the 1964 Masters, and a mother who was a low-handicap golfer, Love comes by his golfing pedigree honestly.
Children of teachers do not always become top students but for Love the lessons learned from his father, who died in a plane crash in 1988, remain relevant well into the third decade of a career that shows no signs of slowing.
Following his dad’s death, Love wrote the highly acclaimed book ‘Every Shot I Take’ honoring his father’s lessons on life and golf and will try to impart some of that wisdom to his team.
”Not a lot of guys on that team know my dad or know who he is but there will be some Harvey Penick (deceased golf coach and top selling author) comments come out because that’s all I ever heard growing up,“ said Love. ”Simple, straightforward, no-pressure ideas are important.
“Is it better to say a little or better to say a lot? I don’t think we need to get these guys fired up. I don’t think we need to have a go-get-‘em speech every night.”
Love is aware there is only so much a captain can do. He will offer advice, be a cheerleader and fetch towels but in the end it will be up to the players to get the job done.
One of golf’s original big-hitters, Love says the Medinah layout will be set up to play to U.S. strengths; “We’re a long-hitting, freewheeling, fun-to-watch team.”
If, as Tiger Woods claims, Ryder Cup teams reflect the playing personalities of their captains, the 2012 U.S. squad will be characterized by attention to detail and focus.
”The way they’ve competed is very similar to how they captain,“ said Woods, who will be taking part in his seventh Ryder Cup. ”Some guys are -- let’s say the two extremes, one being Hal (Sutton), who is very emotional, and one being Tom Kite who is very calculating.
“I’ve gotten to know (Love) a little bit more over the years ... he’s very focused on what we’re trying to do.”
Love has never hid the fact he would rather be making shots than making matchups but expects to feel the same pressure that comes with taking part in golf’s blockbuster global event where every move and word will be scrutinized.
In a sport known for its etiquette, the Ryder Cup is a unique event capable of revealing national passions and turning normally polite and reserved spectators into a mob.
It is also an event that puts intense pressure on players who can normally drain a long putt to win a $1 million purse but crack when faced with a three-footer that could earn their team a crucial point.
”There are a lot of reasons to feel a lot of pressure as a captain,“ said Love. ”This tournament has gotten so big, so important, so internationally well-known that it’s a lot of pressure.
After he was named captain in January 2011, Love flirted with the idea of making the squad as a player.
That did not happen but Love made it clear that after his duties at Medinah he does not expect to be put out to the Ryder Cup pasture.
“Well, I’ve made 12 teams in a row and I’ve been frustrated ever since,” said Love. “I want to make another Ryder Cup team and if it’s not this one, I‘m going to try just as hard for the next one.”
Editing by Frank Pingue