Love accepts Ryder Cup captaincy with tears

Davis Love III

Davis Love III

Davis Love III cried when thinking of his late father. And Love said he’ll be a Ryder Cup playing captain if he’s one of the eight automatic qualifiers on points.

Those are the two main things I took away from the news conference that announced the 20-time PGA Tour winner as 2012 Ryder Cup captain on Thursday at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club, site of the next matches.

Love’s father was a renowned PGA teaching professional who died in a 1988 airplane crash. The son broke up, speaking haltingly and crying for close to a minute, when referencing his dad.

“I won the PGA as a son of a PGA member,” Love said, the tears beginning and the speech slowing. “Now to be named Ryder Cup captain is a thrill I never thought I would have.” After more tears, he continued, “I’d love to share that with my father. I’m thrilled to represent the PGA of America and PGA professionals. I thank all the PGA professionals, including my dad.”

That was the raw emotion. The surprise, at least to this observer, is that he wants to qualify and play.

A Love confidante had told me that Love would love to make the team on points but would give up the spot and focus on being a captain. But that’s not the case. Love made it clear he would “love” to qualify and play.

“What I ultimately want is the 12 best players,” Love said. “And if I'm healthy and one of the best eight come the PGA Championship in 2012, then I'm going to want to play, because I don't want to leave a guy off the team that might help us win, and if that’s me, great.”

If he pulls it off, he’d be the first U.S. playing captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963. But the Ryder Cup then wasn’t the extraganza it is now. So being a playing captain would bring challenges. He’d have to lean on assistant captains and the PGA support team.

Still, Love didn’t seem concerned with the scenario, though he acknowledged it would require a shift in responsibilities and perhaps his playing only once a day.

“(The PGA) can run The Ryder Cup without Davis Love III for sure,” he said. “And if we had good assistants and I'm playing great, that would be a great story for our team and for golf, as long as I get three or four points.”

Qualifying won’t be easy. Love is 46 and his game has slipped in recent years, as is usually the case with players in their 40s. Love has finished between 48th and 96th in earnings the last four years after 17 consecutive years in the top 33, including 10 seasons in the top 10. He played on every Ryder and Presidents Cup team in 1993-2005 but none since. He has won two tournaments since 2003.

Touching on other parts of the captaincy, Love said he wants to pick four players who “want to have the ball (at the end) and face that (pressure) putt on 18.” He said he’ll be a “players’ captain” who gives his team what it needs and stays out of the way. He said he’ll try to get his players to relax so they don’t try too hard as in the past. And he thinks Medinah, a long and tree-lined course, suits the Americans.

“We’re going to have a strong, powerful team that wants to play aggressively, and I think this course sets up well for us,” he said.

Job No. 1, he said, is reclaiming the Cup. Nor will that be easy, for Europe has won six of the last eight meetings.

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