JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Davis Love III can’t have a conversation these days without talk turning to the Ryder Cup.
Love is the American captain, who a year from now, will be charged with picking the final four spots for the U.S. team that will try and win back the trophy from the Europeans. The Ryder Cup has definitely been a hot topic at the Atlanta Athletic Club, where Love is teeing off in the PGA Championship on Thursday.
Love said he chatted with Tiger Woods this week and, sure enough, the Ryder Cup came up. Same thing with Scott Verplank. Love said that’s the way it has been when he crosses paths with players he hasn’t seen in a while.
He gave few clues about the makeup of the American team, saying too much can happen between now and when he has to make his four captain’s selections for the 12-man squad following the 2012 PGA Championships.
“It might be Scott Stallings and Gary Woodland and all those guys might’ve knocked my (Jim) Furyks and my Stewart Cinks out,” Love said. “You don’t know where we’re going to be.”
Love just hopes he’s in the mix then, too. Love stands eighth in U.S. Ryder Cup points with Woods ninth and Rickie Fowler 10th – both less than 2 points behind.
“I think we should cut (qualifying) off after this week, especially if I play good,” Love said, laughing.
Dustin Johnson leads the U.S. standings heading into this week with Phil Mickelson and Stricker right behind in second and third. Then come several Americans unaccustomed to Ryder Cup play like Bo Van Pelt, Kevin Chappell, Robert Garrigus and Ryan Palmer, all who’d make their first team appearances if things ended now.
Love thinks next season will be a major chase to the finish line for several young golfers eager to play for their country. “It’s going to be pretty volatile I think because there’s so many guys,” he said. “We have so many good young guys that will be bouncing around the points list.”
COOKED GOOSE: Germany’s Martin Kaymer brought a touch of his country’s Christmas to the PGA Championship.
Defending champion Kaymer was host of the yearly dinner for past PGA winners on Tuesday night and shared a traditional German holiday meal of goose, red cabbage and a dumpling-like side dish called knodel. Kaymer said the meal was well received by the dozen or so former champions who attended, including Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
“Even Tiger, he came up to the range to me and said, ‘It was a very nice dinner,’” Kaymer said Wednesday. “He enjoyed the goose.”
Kaymer goes for a second straight PGA Championship when he tees off Thursday at the Atlanta Athletic Club. He won his first career major at this event a year ago, beating Bubba Watson in a three-hole playoff at Whistling Straits that’s remembered as much for Dustin Johnson’s two-stroke penalty on the 72nd hole that took him out of contention.
Johnson had wrongly grounded his club in a bunker that he thought was a footpath for spectators. Johnson would’ve been part of the playoff, but instead finished tied for fifth.
Kaymer, 26, made birdie on the second of the three holes to move in front for good. He discovered one of the nicest parts of victory this week. “My parking is right next to the clubhouse,” he said with a grin. “When I arrived here on Monday, it was quite convenient.”
Kaymer has adjusted to the celebrity that comes from his win, especially in Germany where golf does not enjoy the status of other sports. Kaymer spoke with several German soccer players about handling the attention. “So it’s just a new role that I have to get used to, to be that German golf face,” he said.
Kaymer was also grateful to serve as dinner host. Like any good Christmas, there were gifts and wonderful stories. Kaymer gave the men a Swiss army knife “that I always wanted to have as a kid.” The women who attended received what he described as a “beauty case.”
Kaymer asked David Toms, the 2001 PGA Championship winner the last time it was played here, to speak along with 2005 PGA winner Phil Mickelson.
“It was a very nice night,” Kaymer said.
THE PHIL FANATIC: David Toms won’t ever forget his 2001 PGA Championship triumph – or the super loud woman in the gallery who wanted final-round playing partner Phil Mickelson to win.
Toms won his only major at the Atlanta Athletic Club, site of this year’s championship. Toms was best remembered for laying up on the difficult par-4 18th hole to make a clinching par, defeating Mickelson by a stroke with a record-setting 265 – the lowest total score in major championship golf.
Toms, though, recalled a woman who, hole after hole, made sure he knew she wanted him to lose.
“She was just a rowdy fan,” Toms said. “A rowdy Phil fan.”
Toms shared the story at a dinner hosted by defending PGA winner Martin Kaymer this week. Kaymer said Toms told his caddie, “Next hole, you’re going to take her out with the umbrella. I just don’t want to see her anymore.”
Her efforts didn’t work as Toms held on to the victory with his well-planned par on the final hole. Toms, not the longest hitter on the PGA Tour, said he considered the situation early in the week and stuck with his decision that if a par was necessary, he’d take no chances with a heroic approach to the green. “I’ve always tried to play the percentages,” he said. “When you’re not a power player, you have to play that way.”
Still, Toms rolled his eyes, shook his head and laughed when reminded again of the Phil fan. Even during a Monday morning practice round, Toms said, “It was almost like I could still hear her voice when I was going from green to tee.”
DIVOTS: There were several hundred people filling every available space in the PGA Championship’s interview room for Tiger Woods’ news conference Wednesday morning. There were only a couple dozen people spread out for David Toms’ session three hours later. “Packed house,” the 2001 PGA winner wisecracked. … Talk about long. Dustin Johnson, after he was asked what he hit into the par-4, 507 yard 18th hole during practice, answered, driver, 9 iron. … An American has not won a major since Phil Mickelson took the Masters in 2010. The last U.S. winner at the PGA Championship was Tiger Woods in 2007.