The Hot Seat: Davis Love III
In a move that came as a surprise to absolutely nobody, Davis Love III was named 2012 United States Ryder Cup captain on Thursday, the 27th different man to hold the position.
He's hardly a stranger to the biennial competition. Love competed in six editions of the Ryder Cup as a player, compiling a 9-12-5 record while being part of two winning teams.
Speaking from next year's host venue, Medinah Country Club, Love discussed his friendly rivalry with counterpart Jose Maria Olazabal, potential changes to the competition, allowing his players to use Twitter and what he learned as an assistant captain last year.
Q: Congratulations. But you do realize this was the worst-kept secret in golf, right?
A: Oh, yeah. Starting back, even when Corey [Pavin] asked me to be the assistant captain [for last year's Ryder Cup], he said, "I really need your help. I want you to help me put this team together and I know you'll do whatever I ask you to do while we're in Wales." Then he said, "Plus, you're going to get the job eventually and I want you to be ready for it."
I had a great experience with [fellow assistants] Tom [Lehman] and Paul [Goydos] and it really helped. But this was hard for me. You know me well enough -- it was hard for me to not tell the truth or put off friends and relationships that I have built up through the media and in golf. It was kind of a strange situation for me, so I hid in Idaho for a while.
Luckily, I was away from the golf scene a little bit over the last month, but it was hard, because players were congratulating me and I'd have to say, "Oh, it's not official yet. It's the PGA of America's announcement, not mine." It was hard. But at the same time, it gave me a month to gather my thoughts and emotions and get a little prepared for the big deal -- actually coming to Chicago.
This is where the big news is right now, with the club and the city and the local media and the sponsors that are signed up. It's getting those people excited. And we wanted to make an announcement in Chicago. We didn't want it to be from Sea Island or Hawaii. We wanted to be here, so we kind of had to wait for the right time and with the Bears doing good, it's a great week to be here.
Q: How long have you known officially?
A: We talked a lot at the PGA Championship, just beating around the bush. So I kind of knew it was coming. We set up a meeting in early December, after Thanksgiving, so I've known since then. And my wife Robin is really the only one I could talk to about it.
Obviously, close advisors and friends -- people that are smart -- they know I went to Palm Beach and I came back, and something had happened while I was there. Several media outlets knew what was going on. But again, you want to do the right thing and announce it here in Chicago. It was tough. There were very few people I could talk to about it. Obviously there are some players where I've talked around it a little bit, just to get some advice.
Corey knew what was going on. He knew all along. The captains' group is a small fraternity and he's given hours and hours of advice since the Ryder Cup. It has been tough, but it's been fun. I'm glad it's over with, though. That's why -- and I'm not good at jokes -- but I told my joke about sending a tweet to everybody to tell them I'm the captain now. It's been a weird month. I'm glad it's over.
Q: I did hear you say that. I'm sure it was difficult enough not being able to tell friends and family, but now if you get an itchy trigger finger -- or at least itchy thumbs -- you can send it out to the world at a moment's notice. Are you going to be interacting with fans on Twitter throughout the process of being captain?
A: Well, people keep asking me, "You've lost interest in Twitter, haven't you?" There's a reason why I wasn't doing it. I just didn't want to take a chance on getting dragged into conversations. I've got to learn more about social media. I want to promote all of the things that we're doing and let people know what's going on with my new golf clubs or my tournament at Sea Island or how good I'm getting at snowboarding or whatever little Twitter things you're going to throw out there. It's become a huge part of how we do business now.
I watch my friends like Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson and [auto racer] Kyle Petty and see how much fun it is to read about what they're doing, so I'll be glad to get back on it and keep people updated on what's going on. Everybody from Bridgestone to the McGladrey Classic, they want me doing it. They want people to see how I like my new golf ball or what we're doing with the tournament -- things like that. So I've been off of it just because of the story that was going to get broken.
You know, there was some controversy about Twitter at the last Ryder Cup, so I wanted to get that over with today, too. Hey, it's part of our life now. I'm not going to take a player's iPhone away from him so he can go play the Ryder Cup. I don't want to take him out of his routine. Ian Poulter had a great time at the Ryder Cup. We don't want to tell Poulter, "Hey, you can do it at the Masters, you can do it at the PGA Championship, but now all of a sudden you can't do it at the Ryder Cup." That's part of his life.
I think Corey had a great strategy, but we have to say: "Look, guys. You can do whatever you want with social media, but you're representing the United States team. That ought to factor into whatever you say, whatever you do publicly and whatever you put on your iPhone. It's all representing the U.S. team and it doesn't matter if it's Facebook, Twitter or talking to ESPN. You're representing the United States, you're not just a golfer. And that's a big responsibility."
President Bush talked to us about that at one Ryder Cup and that's the way my team is going to treat it. We're representing the United States in everything we do for that week. It doesn't matter if we're talking about Twitter or the way you carry yourself on the golf course. We're going to represent the U.S. well.
Q: You mentioned being an assistant under Pavin. What did you learn from that experience?
A: Well, I learned how much work actually goes into being a Ryder Cup captain. It's not sitting down with a couple of guys and figuring out who's going to play together. There is a massive amount of details. My wife is downstairs right now looking at the locker rooms, trying to pick which one she thinks the players and the wives and the official party are going to like the best.
Last night at 10 o'clock, we were looking at ballrooms at the hotel. There are a lot of details. There are a lot of things that we get to influence and I want to get those things right, so the team has everything they need to relax and go play golf. That's going to be a lot of fun for us. We like doing that. I'd prefer not to be sitting in the front of the bus; I'd rather sit in the back of the bus and do the work. But I'm going to have to do both. Robin and I will really enjoy being leaders and facilitators for this team to get them what they want and have it be the ultimate Ryder Cup experience, like so many captains have given me in the past.
Q: Does one of those details that you have to iron out have to do with rainsuits?
A: Yeah, well, they need to be ironed and they need to be waterproof [laughs]. We had great rainsuits over [in Wales]. I can send you a picture of mine hanging in my closet that I show to people all the time. It's one of my neatest, coolest Ryder Cup pieces that I have.
I've got my '99 Sunday shirt hanging in my closet and I've got my 2010 "Love III" rain jacket, because it's cool. What happened over there was the perfect storm of a ton of rain, really fast. We all had to run inside and get dry socks, dry shoes, dry everything. I've never wrangled so many towels and rainsuits and dry hats and stuff as we did those couple of days. It doesn't really matter, though. As professionals, we would have had another rainsuit in our locker, but it was just too bad.
We were fortunate because we could go get more rainsuits. The fans were the ones who were soaked. We could go use hairdryers and things to dry us off. The simple answer is, we're going to have the best stuff we can find for these guys, so when they go to play, they don't have to worry about what is going on with their golf bag or their golf shoes or their pants. I've played on 12 international teams and we've had really good stuff. We're going to have really good stuff for this one, too.
Q: Recent captains have seen a downturn in their own game while serving in the role. Are you prepared for that or do you believe you can balance the two jobs?
A: I've been thinking about this for a year-plus, because of Corey asking me. I watched what he did, how it affected his game and I've said it several times: It's not going to take away from my golf time, it's not going to take away from my family time; it's going to have to come out of my free time.
I've already asked the questions, "How many days does it take the first year? How many the second year? What are my responsibilities?" I'm going to have to be a lot more organized than I usually am, but frankly, it's going to come out of snowboarding days, it's going to come out of hunting days, it's going to come out of days that I take for my own personal time. It's not going to take away from my family. It's not going to take away from my career.
I've got a goal in the back and the front of my mind that I can play on this team. If I'm good enough in 2012 to make the top eight, then I want to play. I'll have it even more organized that my assistants and the PGA of America can handle a lot of the responsibilities, so I can play. It's been done before. I think it would be a pretty safe bet that either me or [Europe captain] Jose Maria [Olazabal] make it. He's very capable, he's excited about his golf, he's going to play a full schedule like me and if one of us gets hot with our putter, we can make it. I don't think we'd pick ourselves, but we can make it. We've got to factor that in there.
We'll see in 2012 how I'm playing. I'm focused on giving these guys whatever they need and if they need me on the course, then I want to be on the course. If they need me driving the cart, then I'll be driving the cart.
Q: You against Jose Maria in a Sunday singles match could be pretty fun.
A: That would be really exciting. If it got all the way to both of us making our teams, maybe we could talk them into rigging that for Sunday. It's going to be a lot of fun with him. He's a great friend and competitor. Obviously, we're on separate tours and we don't spend a lot of time with each other, but we have a lot of respect for each other.
He's always been kind to me. He's always been gracious to me and a great competitor. I played my first three Ryder Cup matches against him. We have a long history. So it's going to be great. It was fun to be with Darren [Clarke] as assistants last year; hopefully he'll be an assistant again. He was hoping that we would be captains against each other, but that might have been too much fun. I think it's going to be great with Ollie and I look forward to working with him closely.
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Q: He played in seven Ryder Cups; you played in six. What is your favorite memory -- or maybe least favorite memory -- of playing against him?
A: My favorite memory is my first match [in 1993], where we [along with Tom Kite] beat him and Seve [Ballesteros]. Then we drew them the next two matches and we lost, so [Tom] Watson sat Kite and I out, because we got beat up so bad for two straight matches. That was one of Watson's big pairings -- he put the long-hitting kid with the veteran Kite and said, "They're going to go out and kick some butt." We ended up drawing Seve and Jose in three straight matches and we only got one point from them.
I always remember my first shot. I was hitting off the odd holes and I led off against Seve and Jose. What an introduction to the Ryder Cup. For us to come full circle -- him the son of a greenskeeper and me the son of a pro and we're both major championship winners leading the Ryder Cup, I don't think people could write a story like that. It's going to be an exciting time to be with him. It gives me great confidence that this is going to be a well-played, respectful matchup, because we do have so much respect for the game, we know where we came from, we know what the traditions of the game mean and we know what it takes to be a Ryder Cup player.
It just gives me confidence that this is going to be an easy matchup between two captains. We're going to have a great time the next year-and-a-half of working together, not against each other.
Q: You're a two-time winner of the Players Championship. Currently, the system offers points for off-year majors and double points for same-year majors. Any thoughts to including the Players in this mix?
A: Well, I think eventually the Players needs to be counted as a major and then I'll have three. No, I think we always want to look at how we can identify the best eight players on our points. We want the guys who play well in big tournaments. Now I've got to sit back and give some thought as to how I identify the team. It's probably late for this time to change it, but we've always got to be looking at what's our best way to identify our best eight. They're thinking about little changes, as well. So we want to get our best eight, then our best 12 on the course, for sure.
Q: There have been rumors about extending the Ryder Cup to four days. Would you be in favor of that?
A: I kind of like the way they do it at the Presidents Cup; they give you a little bit more flexibility that way. But there's so much tradition, so much history at the Ryder Cup, it would be hard for me to say, "Let's change it." But I'd always be open to what the PGA wants to talk about.
Q: I know you've only officially been in the role for a few hours, but so far what's the best thing about being Ryder Cup captain?
A: It's you saying that I'm the Ryder Cup captain. I like hearing that title, it has a nice ring to it. It's a lot of responsibility, but having your name associated with the Ryder Cup is quite a thrill and I'm going to love hearing that the next 616 days.
Q: And the worst thing? Is there a downside?
A: No, there's nothing bad about it. There's going to be a lot of responsibility and effort, but it's great. I'm excited to do the work and be helpful to this team in trying to get the Cup back.
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.