Hate to be Rude: Olazabal, Love worthy leaders

Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal

Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal

Jeff Rude’s “I Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.

The beauty of a no-brainer is you can’t go wrong. So it is with the newly selected captains for the next Ryder Cup, in 2012 at Medinah.

Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, 44, was appointed European captain on Tuesday. Davis Love III, 46, the 1997 PGA champion, will be announced Thursday as U.S. leader.

Each selection makes sense for so many reasons.

Both care. Both are liked and respected. Both are passionate about the game. Both are gentlemen. Both have won majors. Each has played on numerous Ryder Cup teams – Olazabal seven, Love six. Each has been an assistant captain – Olazabal the past two times, Love in 2010. Both have gutted it out through back injuries.

Over the years, Olazabal has been one of a few golfers whom I’d pay to watch play. He has played golf, not swing. He has worn his emotions on his sleeve. His short game has been otherworldly.

I recall he and partner Seve Ballesteros getting up and down from everywhere – bushes and trash cans, it seemed – at the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island. Little wonder the two Spanish magicians went 11-2-2 together in 1987-93.

I recall Olazabal missed 28 greens in regulation at the 1999 Masters – but won his second green jacket because, remarkably, he got up and down 21 times (75 percent). On Augusta National’s slick, sloping greens.

Love, a 20-time Tour winner, is one of the most affable superstars in sports, as grounded as a multimillionaire sportsman can be. Don’t be fooled by the fact he doesn’t smile much when competing. He tends to go out of his way to be nice.

I recall Love winning the vital Ryder point in 1993. I remember him blowing a U.S. Open by three-putting the last green from about 18 feet in 1996. But my main memory is of his finishing kick at the PGA the next year at Winged Foot – a closing 66 for a five-stroke victory punctuated by a rainbow on 18.

Before that day, some people thought he was soft. He proved otherwise by dominating one of the world’s most difficult courses.

Who will be a better captain?

Who knows?

Captains generally get too much credit and take too much blame. So it will depend on how well their team members are playing at the time.

Like past U.S. captains, Love’s main job will be to make sure his top players feel comfortable. That means Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. It helps his cause that Medinah is a rugged, tree-lined course where Woods has won a pair of PGAs.

Olazabal’s job is to maintain the status quo. Europe knows how to win these things, having taken six of the past eight meetings.

In recent years, many have perceived that the Americans care less about the Ryder Cup than the Europeans. So it was interesting what Love told the Associated Press the other day about the main thing he learned as a 2010 assistant.

“We try too hard,” he said. “I’ve talked to a couple of players about how we can treat this like another tournament. But it’s hard. It’s the same thing at the Masters and U.S. Open. How do we figure out how to treat it like another tournament and be more prepared to just play golf?”

The good news is, he has 20 months to figure it out.

• • •

Rickie Fowler, 2010 Tour Rookie of the Year, makes his season debut next week at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines with a few goals in mind:

  • “Get my first win out of the way.”
  • Be more patient. Lack of it led to struggles in a few events last year.
  • Keep the dirt-bike mentality. “Having the motocross background, I’ve always had a little different edge to me than most country-club golfers.”
  • And keep the orange color scheme going. Fowler not only wears orange on so many days not named Halloween, he even painted his garage orange. “And it looks good,” he said. No word on car color.

• • •

Latest evidence that it’s a good time to be a golfer, considering all the deals out there: For the second year in a row, every paid attendee at the Chicago Golf Show will receive a free 18-hole round of golf.

GolfVisions Management is making the offer at the Feb. 25-27 show. Attendees can choose to play one of the dozen courses it operates in the Chicago area. And some of the courses are very good, such as Ravisloe in Homewood, Oak Grove in Harvard, Foxford Hills in Cary and Whittaker Woods in New Buffalo, Mich.

Of course, it’d be a better deal if Chicago’s golf season ran longer than six months, but no one should ever gripe about free.

• • •

Considering everyone seems to have ADD and there are 9 million websites and 1,400 TV channels and nobody seems to have as much time as before, I’m fairly confident that if golf were invented today, it would consist of 14 holes.

Front seven. Back seven.

Time management, my friends.

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