MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III said nationalistic pride fanned by the London Olympics would further fire up interest in the matches against Europe’s best dozen golfers starting on Friday.
“Our whole country is interested, because it’s the U.S. team. We just went through an Olympics, and this is becoming like the Olympics for America,” Love told reporters on Wednesday.
“They realize that our team is going up against an unbelievable team from Europe and they want to see what happens.”
U.S. golfers’ success of late, however, does not match results in the Olympics, where the United States won the most gold medals and most medals overall in the London Games.
Europe has won four of the last five Cup competitions.
Love said the tide could soon turn and with the teams so evenly matched, the outcome would likely hinge on putting.
”I think it comes down to putting,“ Love said. ”A chip‑in here or there maybe, but it generally comes down to which team holes the most putts.
“They always seem to have a few guys that putted so much better,” added the U.S. captain, singling out Britons Colin Montgomerie and Peter Baker over the years.
Love said the power of the putter also ruled in favor of the United States at times, such as 13 years ago during their extraordinary final-day singles comeback to claim victory.
”Sunday of Brookline, what did we do? We made every single putt,“ he noted. ”All you see is guys just making putts from all over the place.
“I think it’s whoever gets hot and confident with the putter. Valderrama (1997), you could not have seen a worse putting team than the U.S. had. Tiger (Woods), Justin (Leonard), myself, we putted so poorly.”
Love said he has one of the world’s hottest putters on his side, Brandt Snedeker, who used his flat stick to win the Tour Championship and claim the $10 million FedExCup bonus prize.
Snedeker, 31, is one of three rookies on the U.S. team, joining U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, 27, and 35-year-old Jason Dufner, winner of a pair of PGA Tour events this season.
“They may be rookies here at the Ryder Cup, but they’re major championship winners, they’re FedExCup winners, they’re veterans that are playing in their first Ryder Cup,” Love said.
He said he had an abundance of options for his pairings and that his biggest challenge was who to sit.
The U.S. captain said he had not given any thought to trying to match up duos to counter what Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal might do.
”I’ve been trying to focus on our team,“ Love said. ”Ollie is going to put them out, and I can’t really guess how he’s going to put them out.
“I don’t know if that’s worth scratching my head over. I didn’t go to bed until 2:30 (a.m.) already, thinking about my team. If I had to think about their team I wouldn’t get any sleep.”
Editing by Gene Cherry