Tuesday, July 26, 2016

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Love prepared to go deep to find picks with chemistry


SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — It’s getting close. The U.S. Ryder Cup team will start to come together in a month’s time, after The Barclays kicks off the PGA Tour playoffs. The top eight players on the points list will automatically make the team.

Then is when captain Davis Love III’s job really begins. He’ll need to pick four players to round out the 12-man team bound for Minnesota at the end of September, hoping to end a skid of eight losses in the last 10 matches in the biennial series. It won’t be easy to make those picks.

Several potential captain’s picks have been injured for significant stretches this year, including the recent injuries to Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger that have put them on the shelf.

“They were hot and then they got hurt,” Love said Tuesday at Baltusrol Golf Club ahead of the PGA Championship. “I told both of them: Don’t push yourself to try to make Ryder Cup points. Get healthy. You’ve got a long career. There’s going to be more majors ahead of you, more golf tournaments ahead of you. We want you to be ready for the Playoffs and The Ryder Cup. That’s the most important thing.”

Then there’s the matter of the Olympics. With four Americans in the 60-player tournament, Love has to keep track of the U.S. quartet — Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed — while in Rio. Love, who was also captain in a losing effort on home soil in 2012, recognizes that those four players will lose out on Ryder Cup points by taking two weeks off the PGA Tour to compete for gold.

“We have so many factors like the Olympics that we haven’t really dealt with before,” Love said. “You’ve got guys, Rickie just told me, he’s going to be down there for 11 days. You have to factor in that there’s two weeks he could have played here.”

Perhaps the most interesting conundrum of all for Love is that two of his vice captains, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, could wind up making the team or meriting a wild-card selection. After all, Furyk finished T-2 at the U.S. Open and T-13 at the Canadian Open as he makes a return to a full-time schedule following an extended absence to recover from a wrist injury and surgery. The 49-year-old Stricker was fourth at the Open Championship and finished T-2 in Memphis before the U.S. Open to earn that spot. He might be knocking on the door of PGA Tour Champions, but he’s still got plenty of game left in him on the PGA Tour.

“Guys like Stricker who haven’t played that many times, but just keep playing well every time he shows up to a big tournament,” Love said.

Love figures that, if it comes down to it, he still has a pair of vice-captains in the sidelined Tiger Woods and Tom Lehman to help make decisions on captain’s picks that might include Furyk and Stricker.

“Well, it might mean that Tiger and Tom Lehman and I have a conversation and leave them out of it, is probably where they would end up.”

While Love doesn’t know the final makeup of his team, he knows that he’ll likely have the higher-ranked squad. However, that hasn’t borne out in the Americans’ favor in the last 20 years.

“I haven’t looked at the World Rankings but on paper, we’re usually the better team,” he said. “But doesn’t always work out that way.”

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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