A year ago, Love pulled off a stirring final-round comeback at age 51 to win this event for the third time. He can’t defend his title because of mid-season hip surgery, but he’s on the grounds at Sedgefield Country Club with a keen eye on the Ryder Cup standings.
Two events remain before eight players earn automatic berths onto Love’s team at Hazeltine. While five or perhaps six of those spots are essentially clinched, there remains a fierce competition around the bubble for the final automatic spots.
While the race will be determined by on-course earnings, Love will also take into account his own “unofficial points list” when doling out his captains’ picks: three on Sept. 11 and a final one on Sept. 25 after the Tour Championship.
“Everybody is getting credit on that list when a guy wins a golf tournament or plays well,” he said. “It’s not always reflected in the points.”
Among those Love singled out for consideration were Jim Furyk, who shot a 58 two weeks ago at the Travelers Championship, Olympic bronze medalist Matt Kuchar, last week’s winner Ryan Moore and Daniel Berger, who has battled injury for part of the summer.
For Love, though, the focus remains on fielding the best possible squad.
“Darren (Clarke) right now is probably looking for experience. I’ve probably got enough experience,” he said. “I’m looking for who is hot.”
Love also emphasized that possible pairings and matchups will be a factor in who he picks, one that he will examine more closely once the eight automatic qualifiers are determined.
“You don’t want to pick a guy and go, ‘OK, now what do we do with him?’” he said. “I picked a quarterback. Wait a minute, I’ve got three quarterbacks. Why did I pick a quarterback? We’re planning ahead for pairings.”
With Furyk potentially playing his way from an assistant captain to a team member, Love has continued to rely on his other assistants, notably Tiger Woods.
“Obviously he’s a great tactician, if that’s the right word. He’s planning out his game plan for the week,” Love said of Woods. “He’s very accessible and always willing to help. And he stays up late, so he gives me a lot of late-night texts.”