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July 26, 2016

Davis Love III

Springfield, New Jersey

JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for joining us at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club. Joining us today is Ryder Cup Captain, Davis Love III. First of all, Davis, congratulations on your recognition last night with the Metropolitan Golf Writers Gold Tee Award. That was very fun to see.

Had you been playing this week this, would have been your 30th PGA Championship. You're not playing this week because you had hip surgery not too long ago. How are you feeling? How is rehab coming along?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I did. I had hip surgery, tomorrow will be three weeks. It set in this week when I arrived here and got my courtesy car and got a parking spot and had a locker in the champion's area and I opened my locker and there were no golf balls. Titleist guys didn't put any balls in there, so that means I'm not playing. So the reality did set in, unfortunately not getting to play in my 30th PGA Championship.

And obviously the last round with Phil the last time we were here didn't come out in my favor, but I enjoy playing Baltusrol and I enjoy playing in the Met Section where my dad got his start in golf, so it's disappointing.

I'm ahead of schedule, feeling great. I told my doctor: I wanted to obviously play golf as soon as possible, but I wanted to be walking, jogging, probably the first of September, so when the Ryder Cup came around, I didn't have any issues and I was able to go, keep up with these guys watching them play. I'm feeling good and excited about it.

JULIUS MASON: Speaking of Ryder Cup, this week, Ryder Cup points are doubled. There have been some interesting movements in the Top-25, some pretty attractive jumps. Can you talk a little bit about how your team looks, how comfortable you're feeling.

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, obviously the team is playing very well, really, from 1 to 25, you keep getting solid play out of a lot of guys.

Obviously J.B. jumped up at The Open Championship, 12 to 5. Phil obviously played an unbelievable Championship. Would have won -- I talked to him this morning, 141 of The Open Championships played. He just ran into a hot player.

Scott Piercy at Bridgestone, 18 to 11, so you can see how fast you can move. This week is double points. Guys could make some big changes this week. So we're starting to think about the list a little bit more, but obviously after this week, we can solidify it a little bit better, start thinking about who might be picks and look to the Playoffs.

JULIUS MASON: So forecasting a little bit, if an American doesn't win this major championship this week, does Europe go 3-up going into Hazeltine? Does that concern you? Would it concern you?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. I don't think who wins the Masters has any effect.

I think our guys seem to be, like I said from 1 to 25, even farther down, consistently playing well. We might not win every week, which is hard to do on the PGA TOUR these days. We have four, five, six guys right up there every week. Brandt missed the 18th green last week; if he hits the green, who knows what the difference would have been for him. But obviously he had a great week. Dustin had another great week. Jim Furyk played well last week. So many guys just week-in and week-out, just keep playing good.

So I'm excited about the top to bottom play and I think that's what's most important is we have a lot of players that can make the team and a lot of players to choose from.

JULIUS MASON: August 29 is when eight players off of the points list on the American Team will make the team, and on September 12, Captain Love will make three captain's selections from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Q. How much will you take into account the Olympics, and from that, you've got some guys right toward the bottom of the standings who are effectively giving up a couple weeks that other guys will be playing. Do you count that?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I think the assistant captains and I are going to be challenged, because we have so many factors like the Olympics that we haven't really dealt with before. You've got guys, Rickie just told me, he's going to be down there for 11 days. You have to factor in that there's two weeks he could have played here.

The Olympics, injuries; Brooks was out for The Open Championship. Berger has been out for at least two, three weeks. Jim Furyk was out for -- he probably missed ten, 12 tournaments. Every time he plays, he plays well.

So we are going to have to factor in a lot of stuff, including the Olympics. The unofficial points list that's running in our heads, guys that are really playing well but just don't have as many starts is going to be a factor.

From my experience, starting back with Corey Pavin in Wales, watching the way the captains work and the assistant captains work, we know who is playing well and who is not playing well. And we know who our team wants as their teammates or their partners. We have a longer list maybe than you would think.

When you look at it, you look at, remember Jack Nicklaus saying, I'm just going to take the Top-12 and make it easy. When we look past the Top-12, we are probably looking a little farther than people think.

Obviously Phil last year for The Presidents Cup was in the 20s maybe and was picked and was the star of the team. He played unbelievably well in Korea. I don't know how far Rickie down was in 2010 in Wales, but he got picked because his putter was hot and everybody wanted him on the team.

I think we are going to look a little farther down than people are thinking.

Q. You talked about how everybody wants to be captain until you have to make some tough decisions recently, talking about the captain's picks coming up. Do you feel any less pressure considering how much later you get to make those picks now, not so much second-guessing with it so much closer to the event?
DAVIS LOVE III: It's a new system this year. Obviously we are used to, after the PGA Championship we get our team, and used to be the team and the picks, basically would all happen at once.

Now, we're going to wait a few weeks after the PGA Championship, pick three, wait a few more weeks and pick another one. I feel like we make those three picks, we're going to know who the next two are, probably, and we're just going to watch them basically play one more week.

I don't know how early we should tell a guy, you're on the list or you're on the plane, or wait until Sunday night to tell him at The TOUR Championship. But it is going to be different. I like having some leeway and some time. You don't want to miss out on a guy that's hot. A guy can get a hot putter the last two or three weeks, and you might just want to throw him in there at the last minute.

I've even been on that end of the stick. The team is made and you go out and play well between the PGA Championship and The Ryder Cup, and you feel like you could have contributed.

It's nice the way we have it set up. The only tough part is going to be calling the guys that don't make it. Like I said, we have so many guys that are playing well. If I was 25th on the list, I would be thinking I was going to be making it, too, or at least have a shot. It's going to be an interesting couple months.

Q. How do you factor in a guy like Brooks Koepka, No. 3 when he got hurt; got the injury, still not 100 percent, and he's never played in a Ryder Cup. How do you evaluate a guy like him?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, that's what I was, again, saying to Doug is we are going to have to look at all that. We've got guys that played well in the fall. We've got guys like Jim Furyk that went out last year during the Playoffs and didn't play until really the week before the U.S. Open.

Guys like Stricker who haven't played that many times, but just keep playing well every time he shows up to a big tournament.

And then Brooks, Daniel, you've got to factor in. They were hot and then they got hurt. I told both of them: Don't push yourself to try to make Ryder Cup points. Get healthy. You've got a long career. There's going to be more majors ahead of you, more golf tournaments ahead of you. We want you to be ready for the Playoffs and The Ryder Cup. That's the most important thing. Playing one more start or two more starts too soon is the worst thing you can do.

So we'll factor all that in there. We want to see them back and healthy. We started the year talking like that about Tiger; if we could get him back on the golf course and playing well, we wanted him on the team. Same thing with Brooks and Daniel. If we can get them back on the course and playing well, they are heart and ready to go. We are definitely looking at that.

Q. Two of your assistant captains are playing very well, and have a lot of points, although they have played limited schedules. How does the assistant captain's pick factor into your potential picks?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it might mean that Tiger and Tom Lehman and I have a conversation and leave them out of it, is probably where they would end up.

Like I said earlier, we have at least three guys, and I would include Phil probably in the hundred percent bracket. Last week we'll probably have four or five that we can sit down with and say, all right, who are we going to pick, who are we looking at.

My experience, again, is the assistant captains and the team, they know who the best players are and who they want on their team. It won't be -- the first two or three won't be that tough a decision. The last guy obviously will be a little trickier. But we will factor that in there; that Jim Furyk missed a lot of tournaments that he really played well.

I'll have the stats crunchers go back and run 10,000 times if Jim Furyk played his normal schedule, where we have finished, and he'll probably pop right back up into the top five or six.

But really we need to put that behind us. What I'm telling Brooks or whoever, just go play. Just get healthy and go play and we'll know if you're playing well or not. Try to win the PGA Championship, try to win the FedEx Playoffs, and if you're playing well, you'll be on the team.

Q. With the modified schedule this year, because of the Olympics, will you be able to use that as an advantage for the guys who aren't going, for Jordan and Dustin, other guys, to be able to get them to Hazeltine than you might otherwise have been able to to look at the course that second week of August?
DAVIS LOVE III: We do have some plans for practice rounds, yeah. The main thing we have been stressing with this schedule and the PGA being earlier, two majors real quick, and then the FedExCup Playoffs, and then immediately after THE TOUR Championship, The Ryder Cup, we've been stressing being rested and prepared. I know Jack Nicklaus got us started off with that back in March. He said, you guys just need to be prepared better than the other team. So I give them a lot of credit for sticking to their schedule, doing what's best for them.

You know, Rickie is really, really excited about the Olympics and that's what I want him to do. If the other guys want to take a break and rest, that's what we want them to do. We want them to be as prepared for every event they show up at as they can be and healthy.

Our guys know, I told them, let's do exactly what you did for the Masters and exactly what you did for the PGA Championship in preparation. If you need two practice rounds or three or four, let's get that done.

Phil is methodical about his preparation. He knows how to prepare for a major championship. I don't have to worry about him. He knows the golf course already. Dustin and Jordan, you might need to get them there for a couple more rounds. But they are excited about it. We've talked about it and making plans to get out there.

Q. Are your team favorites or underdogs?
DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. We don't know who the team is quite yet. Darren will say they are the underdogs, I'm sure (laughing) they always say that.

Q. Does that make you favorite?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, that's what Darren's been telling me is that they are the underdogs and we're the favorites.

I don't know, on paper, they are pretty equal teams. Obviously like Julius said earlier, they are winning the major championships. I haven't looked at the World Rankings but on paper, we're usually the better team. But doesn't always work out that way.

Q. Beyond how the picks shake out, if you look at the top eight or ten guys in the standings and the points, you see a lot of familiar faces. So when people ask you, what's different or what's going to be different, how do you answer them?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think we have a completely different attitude and culture this time around. We've got our assistant captains have been invested in this since December of 2014. It's a little bit earlier start than we've gotten in the past.

I think it was December 4 or 5 maybe, we started these conversations, right after Scotland. The PGA of America sat down real quick. Instead of sitting down and talking about who the next captain was going to be, they started talking about the future of The Ryder Cup. I think Pete Bevacqua and Derek Sprague started a process right when they got back from Scotland; we lost three in a row, what's been going on here.

We've been invested in it for a long time. We've put a lot of thought into it. Phil and I talked this morning over some things that we talked all the way back in the first two meetings, goals that we set, plans that we made. So I think we are just a little bit more prepared. We are better organized and better coaches, better team managers than we were back in 2012.

I know my wife is going through the exact same thing with the dresses and gifts and hotel rooms, all those things seem to be the same. But I think as a team, whenever I see on SportsCenter, USA Basketball, it makes me feel good, because I feel like we have USA Golf now. We have -- Ryder Cup Team isn't the 12 players. It's a year-round coaching staff, organization, that's building for the future, so different; the fact that we have 12 great players that are going to go play, it's not much different. The back office is probably a lot more organized than it was the last eight or ten years. That makes us feel together and more prepared I think this time than last time.

Q. As things stand, there are five rookies on The European Team. I just wonder, if that is a number that would make you edgy in the same situation and on top of that, Darren has said he wouldn't pick another rookie. Would you share that reservation, as well?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think Darren and I think a lot alike. We are going to look at our list, and if I have a bunch of veterans, I need to pick some youthful enthusiasm or some rookies that seem to always play well. If I had a bunch of rookies and I didn't have any Phil Mickelsons or Jim Furyks, I would have to pick somebody for stability and for leadership.

So I've been saying all along, it's just plugging holes. If we don't have a quarterback on our team, I'd better draft a quarterback. If I draft another running back, I'm in trouble. If I was Darren right now, I'd be excited that I have a bunch of young guys that are playing well and I can use my picks on my Lee Westwoods and guys like that that I know are stable and have done it before.

That's the nice thing and I think that's why over the years, we've gone from two to three to four picks so that we have some flexibility to get what we need and to round out our team and make it not all rookies or make it not all veterans.

So a balance is nice, and I'm sure Darren is looking at it that way.

Q. When you talk about concepts like USA Golf, playing under that flag, I'm just wondering what you think about Olympic golf, if it's something that would have interested you had it been around, and if you can at all understand the struggle that obviously some of the guys have gone through in deciding whether or not to go.
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I understand the struggle. I think maybe Rory McIlroy said it best: We didn't grow up looking to be Olympic athletes. We grew up wanting to win the PGA Championship, win the Grand Slam, do what Bobby Jones or Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer did. We're trying to wrap our heads around it.

Like I said, Rickie is telling me about his opening ceremonies outfit, he's all excited about it. And then other guys are like, "But I don't want to mess up the PGA, I've got my schedule set, I have commitments."

So I understand both sides of it. I think it might be a lot like the other sports that have come in, like USA Basketball, for example, or the tennis. Let's see it a couple times and get a generation to say: I saw Rickie Fowler win a Gold Medal, I want one. So maybe the next generation will get it a little bit more. But I understand the struggle.

When you sit down and look at our schedule the beginning of the year, it's daunting without the Olympics in it. So we've got a home game Ryder Cup, and then every time it's a home game Ryder Cup, we're going to have the Olympics. I was wondering the other day, if we couldn't play golf in the Winter Olympics. Maybe not exactly by the ski hill. But if it was in the winter, it wouldn't be quite as much a conflict in our schedule.

But I understand the struggle and we're all going to enjoy watching it. But it is, like we play a lot of really, really big tournaments, and sometimes the top players aren't all there. In our sport, that's not unusual, but in the rest of the sports, it's kind of confusing. But I understand it.

Q. How big a blow is it to not have Tiger playing on the team, but how big a contribution do you feel he's going to make as a vice captain?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's a big blow to our sport. We're coming up on a year that he has not played a tournament. So that's the biggest blow. We miss seeing him and talking to him. He's our friend. We miss having him around.

He's made a huge contribution, like I said, from since that first meeting, he's been engaged, involved, allowed us to announce him as an assistant captain all the way back last November. That was a major step for him, for him to say, I will be at The Ryder Cup one way or another. He's fired up about it.

Like I said, he, Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk -- Jim is getting ready going tee off in the PGA Championship and he goes, "What can I do for you."

Met with Phil Mickelson this morning. He goes, "Okay, let me know, anything I can do."

I said, "How about you play this week and after Sunday we'll get back to work after The Ryder Cup." They are locked in and ready to go.

Tiger is excited about it. He knew he was going. He was obviously hoping, we were all hoping he was going to play. But maybe we can get a little captains versus captains match on Tuesday and Wednesday and kick off The Ryder Cup, because I think our assistants and our captain will be ready to play by then.

Q. I'm wondering what characteristics are you most looking to in your captain's picks?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, if I had to stop right now and make the captain's picks, I think we'd be wanting to make pairings. We've got obviously some guys that are playing great. But when I look outside of the top eight, there's right in there, there's some guys that are obvious match-ups for guys that are on the team.

So making our pairings, rounding out our personalities, both leadership and youth, and what I'll be looking for. But again, it will be plugging holes. If you can get one guy to be a leader and one guy to match up, make a perfect pairing, and one guy to fill in a blank, either veteran or rookie, I think that's how you use him.

So I'm looking more, it's right now I'm looking more pairings I think than anything. We found that with Paul Azinger's team and with our team in 2012, that looking past who is hot to who matches up well -- you don't want to pick a guy and go, now what do I do, who do I pair him with. You want to know that going in; I've got a good combination, if I pick this guy for this guy; if I pick this guy for this guy, that's a great foursome to go practice, they all really get along really well. My backup plan is to switch those four guys around. So using your picks to make sure that you have good pairings and good teams.

Obviously I've been lucky. I've gotten to watch Jay and Fred do it three times. I got to watch Corey do it. So I've seen how to skillfully make your captain's selections and how they pan out.

I think we, putting myself in the group of assistants and captains, we've done a pretty good job with our picks, making good pairings and good match-ups. That's the way I'm going to be looking at it, who is hot, who is putting well, who loves being on the big stage and then who matches up well with somebody else on the team, make an easy pairing. Pick Fred Couples to play with Davis Love, that makes a good pairing.

Q. How much have you talked to Tom Watson about what happened in Scotland two years ago, and how closely have you studied what Paul McGinley did in Europe's win?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think to start with Paul, who has been very -- obviously, you know, he's one of the all-time great golf guys. He's such a gentleman. He's been very open and helpful in just saying, this is what we've been doing, and taking a look at what we've been doing.

Darren's been the same way. Darren's a little more forceful; he's going, what in the world were you thinking when you did that.

And then Tom, leading up to 2014, talked to him a lot obviously because I was just coming off. I knew the players. He called me a lot about -- asking me questions about this guy or that guy or the team room, things like that. Obviously he did it in '93 and it had changed quite a bit the second time around.

And then afterwards, we've talked several times. I've seen him out on the Champions Tour some and he's sat me down a couple times and said: Look, this is what I saw, this is what happened, this is what you've got to look out for. He's been very helpful.

He has been so instrumental, for me and for Fred Couples, especially, over the years, being the guy that tells it like it is to us. And makes sure that we are on the right path, in more of a stern, fatherly way.

So at Bass Pro, he sat me down in the locker room and said, "Look, I really think you need to be aware of this and take care of this." So he's very, very helpful. And then I bounced some ideas off of him. He still wants -- he wants us to win very, very badly and put a lot of effort into it.

I'm going to rely on him, all my former five, other captains that I've played for for advice. I think that's one thing we didn't do well, 2012. When I say "we," that means me, that I didn't do very well. I didn't call Tom Kite and Tom Watson and Lanny Wadkins and say: What do I do now, give me some advice. We've already had a captain's dinner at Pebble Beach where we all got together and said, look we are not going to tell you what we are doing. You tell us what we ought to be doing. We need your advice.

So relying on Tom Watson and all the other captains has been a big part of this process, and making it a family and a coaching staff and a Team USA Golf concept has really been helpful.

JULIUS MASON: Davis Love III, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for joining us today.

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