February 22, 2015 / 8:48 PM / in 3 years

Ryder Cup Love a dominant theme at Riviera

Aug 6, 2014; Louisville, KY, USA; PGA golfer Davis Love III tees off with an iron during practice for the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Davis Love III may have missed the cut at this week’s Northern Trust Open but the PGA Tour veteran’s presence has loomed large over the entire tournament at Riviera Country Club.

The United States Ryder Cup captain in 2012, Love is widely expected to be given the role on Tuesday for a second time and lead his country in the 2016 edition at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.

Hardly surprisingly, Love remained tight-lipped on the subject at Riviera but many of his peers have expressed their delight that the 50-year-old American could have the chance to gain redemption for the U.S. meltdown at Medinah in 2012.

“If it’s true, I am super excited for him,” Brandt Snedeker, who won last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and made his Ryder Cup debut at Medinah under Love’s captaincy, told Reuters.

”I think everybody that played for him in 2012 wanted him to get the job because, in my opinion, he did a great job at Medinah, and we all had a great time.

“Unfortunately we lost it for him and he could not have done anything differently or better than he did.”

At Medinah on the outskirts of Chicago, Love orchestrated a commanding 10-6 lead for the U.S. heading into the final day before Jose Maria Olazabal’s European team stormed back to win by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2.

“If it’s true and Davis is captain for 2016, the team will have extra motivation to win one for him just because of what he has meant to American golf, what he means to all the guys on tour and how much we respect him,” said Snedeker.

”He took it very seriously at Medinah. He did a lot of research, he had great assistant captains and he really empowered the players. He really made it a team effort.

“It wasn’t about him being the captain, it was actually about everybody else but him. Everybody on the (2012) team will tell you, that’s why the loss was so bad ... because we all wanted to win one for him.”

VERPLANK ENDORSEMENT

Scott Verplank, who represented the U.S. at the Ryder Cup in 2002 and 2006 and served as an assistant to Love III in the 2012 edition, agreed.

“He’s a great guy and it would be hard to find someone who would say anything bad about Davis,” said Verplank who, like Love, missed the cut at Riviera this week.

“My first thought afterward (Medinah) was that Davis should do it again. I would’ve asked him on the spot to do it again.”

Love, who would become the eighth American to serve as Ryder Cup captain on more than one occasion, refused to be drawn into any talk about the 2016 Ryder Cup while competing at Riviera.

“We agreed that until the PGA of America announces something, we wouldn’t talk about the captaincy or any other plans,” said Love, who is part of an 11-member task force set up after the U.S. lost the 2014 Ryder Cup to Europe.

“But we’re excited about the direction we’re going in, for sure. Going forward, we can help future Ryder Cup captains, because we’ve had a lot of great discussions about it.”

The Americans were beaten by 16-1/2 points to 11-1/2 in last year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland where five-times major winner Phil Mickelson was scathing of the approach used by U.S. captain Tom Watson.

Love and his good friend Fred Couples, who has led the U.S to three successive victories over the Internationals at the Presidents Cup, are believed to be the only two candidates for the 2016 Ryder Cup captaincy.

Editing by Steve Keating

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