- - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

If Congressional’s par-3 10th hole isn’t tough enough to face first thing in the morning, Dustin Johnson and Hunter Mahan have to deal with it under the gaze of Captain America.

No pressure, guys.

“It’s just nice to be out here playing with them, watching what they’re doing,” said Davis Love III, the 48-year-old captain for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Love will play the first two rounds of the AT&T National with Johnson and Mahan, two of the top young stars expected to play big roles in American team events for years to come. As much as they will want to make an impression on the captain, Love is a little more concerned about trying to beat them instead.

“I’m right now focused on my game,” said Love, who is playing a full schedule since returning in May from a six-week layoff to let a cracked rib heal.

The AT&T National held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda begins Thursday. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
The AT&T National held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda begins Thursday. ... more >

Love won his 20th career event four years ago, but he still has the talent to qualify for majors almost every time he tries. Other than a few absences at the limited-field Masters, he has missed only one other major (2009 U.S. Open) since 1990. He hasn’t missed a British Open since 1986 or a PGA since ‘88.

On a major-caliber course such as Congressional, the captain still has plenty of game. He tied for 11th in last year’s U.S. Open on the Blue Course a year after tying for sixth at Pebble Beach.

Love finished 16th the last time the AT&T National was played at Congressional in 2009. He was runner-up to Sergio Garcia on the same course in the 2005 Booz Allen Classic.

After finishing third three weeks ago in Memphis and 29th in the U.S. Open, Love has climbed to 42nd on his own Ryder Cup points list. He would like to keep that performance trend going through the PGA Championship at the famed Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, S.C.

“I’m sure when we get to Kiawah, I’ll be watching it as much as playing,” he said.

Even this week when he’s trying to be just one of 120 players trying to win, his role as captain is never far from the surface.

“I get asked something about the Ryder Cup every day,” he said.

With only 92 days until the balls start flying at Medinah for the 2012 Ryder Cup, Love has to have some kind of blueprint in his mind already for how to fill out his 12-man roster.

Eight players will lock up spots based on points at the conclusion of the PGA. After that, Love will have three more weeks to assess guys before announcing his four captain’s picks Sept. 4 in New York City.

“Two [picks] are going to be clearly obvious, I think,” he said. “Two of them will be really hard. That’s what I saw with the last couple of teams.”

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