To the surprise of . . . well, no one, Davis Love III will be named America’s 27th Ryder Cup captain just before lunch on Thursday and with that bit of housekeeping out of the way will come real speculation.
That Love would be Team USA’s next skipper was common knowledge to anyone who has not been hiding under one of those stones that was hurled in the direction of former captain Corey Pavin following America’s Monday loss to the Europeans last year in Wales.
A source close to the situation confirmed as much to GolfChannel.com on Dec. 16 and DL3 was the consensus selection long before that. Love has the prerequisite credentials, 20 PGA Tour wins with a major high card (1997 PGA), six Ryder Cup starts with a 9-12-5 record (he’s also 16-8-4 in six Presidents Cups) and was one of Pavin’s assistants last year at Celtic Manor.
But now, with the formalities out of the way, the real question looms – what kind of captain will the 46-year-old be?
Love has played for six different Ryder Cup captains, from the bold Hal Sutton in 2004 to the measured Ben Crenshaw in ’99, but it will likely be the influence of two friends and a departed father that will set the standard for DL3’s captaincy.
Fred Couples, whose laissez faire work at the 2009 Presidents Cup earned him an encore performance in Australia later this year, is the clinical extreme to Love’s legendary “type A” intensity. When Couples ventures to Sea Island, Ga., to visit his longtime friend the running joke is that it’s impossible to get one guy (Couples) off the couch and away from the TV while Love never met a distraction, from turkey hunting to paddle boarding, worth ignoring.
Still, the success of “Boom Boom’s” laid back schtick at Harding Park did not go unnoticed.
If Love were paying attention, and he was, he learned a few essentials: pair players comfortably, stock the team room with copious amounts of adult beverages and Ping-Pong tables and make sure the rain suits don’t leak (insert obligatory Pavin joke here).
America’s top dozen players need guidance and support at the biennial grudge match, not a babysitter.
The intrinsic value of a Ryder Cup captain, however, is often defined by the details, minutia that often influences the outcome of the matches and defines a captaincy but goes largely unnoticed.
Critics gauge Ryder Cup success from 30,000 feet, while good captains make a difference down in the weeds.
Captains like Paul Azinger, whose tireless handiwork led to victory in 2008 at Valhalla. From his behind-the-scenes tinkering with the selection process to an ingenious “pod” system and fan engagement, Azinger’s influence was less about what happened between the ropes than it was everything he did to make sure things ran smoothly off the golf course.
Love is a detail guy, cut straight from the Azinger mold, which means if there is an advantage to be had in 2012 at Medinah he will find it. Consider Love’s first-year stint as tournament host of the McGladrey Classic. Although he joked that he received a disproportionate amount of credit for the first-year event, brother/tournament director Mark Love told a much different story.
“He was always at the golf course when he was home making sure things ran smoothly,” Mark Love said in October. “And next week when we start taking things down he’ll be there. It’s just the way he is.”
Love’s Ryder Cup record also offers insight into what type of captain he will be. He’s had 12 different partners in 20 Ryder Cup team matches, including a 2-1 record paired with Tiger Woods, which suggests the University of North Carolina product was viewed as something of a swing man by former captains.
Good pairings are based on personality rather than playing styles, and a versatile utility player like Love will be drawn to likeminded teammates. Guys like Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink, who may not have the best team records but are easily interchangeable in any format, will factor heavily in 2012.
And finally expect Love to pull a page from his father’s coaching style. Davis Love Jr. died in a tragic 1988 plane crash, but the famed teaching pro’s legacy lives on.
In his book 'Every Shot I Take,' Love offered an interesting take on his father, and some insight into the passion he will bring to next year’s matches.
“I wish every golfer could have a kind of golfing education I had,” Love wrote.
To no one’s surprise, that education culminates late next year outside of Chicago.