Ryder Cup: Love Visits Medinah

Davis Love III’s selection as the 27th U.S. Ryder Cup captain on Thursday was no surprise, but he wasn’t ready for all the questions he faced during his introduction at Medinah Country Club.

Medinah, which has already hosted three U.S. Opens as well as the PGA Championships of 1999 and 2006, will be the site of the next battle between the golf stars of the U.S. and Europe on Sept. 28-30, 2012.

“We couldn’t ask for a better home-field advantage than Medinah,” said Love. “It’s withstood the tests of time, and has a hugely passionate membership. We’ll grab the Bears’ momentum.”

Being a Ryder Cup captain means dealing with a variety of unusual issues, and Love is glad to have some time to work on them.

“I couldn’t do this job by myself,” he said. “I need to go back to all our former captains — whether they won or not. They all did a fantastic job.”

Love wasn’t so sure about who his assistant captains would be or how he wants Medinah’s No. 3 course, which underwent another renovation last year, should be set up for the match play spectacle. He also became choked up when questioned about his late father, Davis Love II, who was a famous golf instructor prior to his death in a plane crash.

Though nothing’s guaranteed, Love indicated that Jeff Sluman, a PGA Tour veteran now playing on the Champions Tour, would be an assistant captain again and that Michael Jordan, a golf addict who has played supporting roles in several recent Ryder Cups, would be involved in some capacity. Love and Jordan became friends as students at the University of North Carolina.

Love’s credentials for the captaincy are unquestioned. He played on six Ryder Cup teams between 1993 and 2004 and was one of Corey Pavin’s assistants in the last staging in September, when the U.S. lost the Cup in a tense 14 1/2-13 1/2 shootout at Celtic Manor in Wales. The U.S. last won the Cup at Valhalla in Louisville in 2008.

“The Ryder Cup demands a strong leader, and we found the consummate captain,” said Allen Wronowski, president of the PGA of America.

Love, 46, had only a 9-12-5 record as a Ryder Cup player, but he has 31 tournament victories world-wide including the 1997 PGA Championship. He has hopes of being among the eight players who qualify for his Ryder Cup team on the basis of points accumulated in tournament through the 2012 PGA. The other four players on the U.S. squad will be selected by Love.

“I’d love to make the team,” he said, “and if I”m one of the best eight I’ll want to play. But I’d have a hard time picking myself.”

Love’s opposing captain will be Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal, which creates a unique matchup for this Ryder Cup. Love and Olazabal entered the professional ranks in 1985 and were paired in Love’s first three Ryder Cup matches. Love was also the runner-up when Olazabal captured a Masters title.

In its early years the a U.S. win in the Ryder Cup was considered a formality. That’s no longer the case, as European players have established themselves and their team on the world stage.

“In the seven Ryder Cups I’ve been involved in our biggest problem is that we’ve tried to hard,” he said. “Corey Pavin did me an incredible service by asking me to help him in the the last Ryder Cup and see how the even works from the inside.”