What exactly is he looking for? Nothing can be set in stone until he sees who he has in his base eight, but Love already has a good idea of the prototype needs.
“We’re going to be plugging holes,” he said. “We’ll pick an experienced guy or two and we’ll probably pick a long hitter and maybe a great putter. We certainly want guys who are putting well. … We want one guy that’s hot. One guy that’s playing well and two experienced guys. That’s probably where we’re leaning.”
Experience always has been a major factor, and currently established international team veterans such as Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and David Toms are on the outside looking in with other emerging stars such as Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley and Bill Haas.
Love - who played in six Ryder Cups, six Presidents Cups, five World Cups and a Walker Cup - understands the value of having been there as well as anybody. But he doesn’t want to turn his nose up at fresh blood, either.
“Experience will play a factor,” he said. “But Rickie Fowler and other guys have proven you don’t have to have done it before to play well.”
Love is always looking when he plays with other Americans, but he doesn’t want anyone to get too stressed out when he’s around. He played two rounds with Toms in Memphis when the 2000 PGA champ missed the cut. A week later he played with him again at the Olympic Club when Toms contended to win the U.S. Open.
“I’m watching a lot of guys play,” Love said. “I don’t want David Toms coming off after two rounds thinking I have an opinion of him. I think how they’re playing from maybe the British Open through the Deutsche Bank is maybe more important than right now.”
Still, Love has to like what he sees from his prospective team. Two years ago, the running topic was how the U.S. was being outclassed by Europeans on a weekly basis and being thumped in the majors. This season, Americans have won 22 of 27 PGA Tour events (Europeans have won four) and own the past three major titles.
“Our players were winning lots of tournaments over here and around the world,” he said. “They were playing very well, they just weren’t winning the majors until Keegan won. He kind of changed the tide a little bit. It really doesn’t matter, each individual tournament six months before the Ryder Cup. It matters how everybody is playing. Everybody is playing well. That’s the most important thing.”
It’s not just players Love is concerned about. The host captain gets to decide how the course will be set up. When Love sees a potential roster filled with bombers such as Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Johnson and Bradley, he’s got an idea what Medinah will look like in September.
“We’re probably going to have a long-hitting team, so it would be to our benefit not to have deep rough,” he said. “They’ve cut down a bunch of trees, which is nice. It’s still big, long and tree-lined. It certainly suits guys who’ve won there recently like Tiger. And long hitters.”
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