According to 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, any questions over the leadership capabilities of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are out of bounds.
Love came to the defense of both players Wednesday on "Morning Drive," praising Mickelson's leadership last week at the Presidents Cup and confirming a report that Woods contacted him during the event about a potential assistant captaincy should he not make the Ryder Cup team next year.
"Tiger was really interested in the pairings and what was going on," Love said. "Because of what we did at the task force, because of him being on the Ryder Cup committee, because of him being such a great advisor to me since I was announced (as captain) back in March, he's like, 'What are you guys doing over there? Why are you putting this guy with that guy?'
So he was talking to me, talking to Fred (Couples), talking to (Steve) Stricker about what was going on at the Presidents Cup. That led to conversations about what we are going to do at Hazeltine."
Mickelson was a controversial addition to the team by captain Jay Haas, but he more than validated his selection by going 3-0-1 in South Korea. Last week, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee questioned whether Woods or Mickelson should receive future captaincies based on their perceived passion for both the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup during their playing careers, saying that neither "deserves" to be a captain.
According to Love, both players have already earned the respect of the team room and would be well-suited for captaincies at some point.
"If you've been paying attention to the last few Ryder Cups or Presidents Cups, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have become respected leaders of this team," Love said. "Whether you're playing in Korea or Medinah, these guys have stepped up to the plate and been leaders. So now the players respect them, they look to them for leadership and they're expecting that in the future."
It was a sentiment echoed by Haas, who spoke just days removed from leading the U.S. to a dramatic Presidents Cup victory.
"From what I've seen, they certainly have the passion," Haas said on "Morning Drive" on Wednesday. "I couldn't disagree more, not necessarily with Brandel, but with anyone that says Phil and Tiger don't like these team events."
Love also refuted the notion that their relatively mediocre individual records in the team events should preclude them from someday taking the helm.
"Ryder Cup record really doesn't have anything to do with being a leader, because Paul Azinger and Ben Crenshaw both had losing Ryder Cup records but they were great leaders as Ryder Cup captains," Love said. "Being a leader and winning matches don't always go together."
"There's world-class golfers at these events, both Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup," added Haas. "In an 18-hole match, it's a short series so to speak. It doesn't take much. A guy gets 1- or 2-down, and he's fighting an uphill battle ... It's not just a tap-in that these guys are going to go 5-0 every time."
Despite Woods facing another road to recovery after a second back surgery, Love expects to have the 14-time major champ helping the U.S. cause at Hazeltine next year - in one form or another.
"I'll tell you this. Tiger Woods wants to play for me at Hazeltine," Love said. "He wants to be on the U.S. team. He wants to win points, and that's his main focus. But he also said, as did Phil, Strick, Jim (Furyk), Tom Lehman, 'We will do whatever it takes to help you win.'"