(Reuters) - United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III says he will take a leaf out of 2008 skipper Paul Azinger’s book before he announces his four wildcard picks for this year’s competition against holders Europe.
Azinger, the most recent U.S. captain to achieve success against Europe, wanted his players to have “a vested interest” in their team at Valhalla eight years ago and he relied on the input of the automatic qualifiers for his wildcard selections.
Love, who will choose three of his captain’s picks after the BMW Championship on Sept. 11 and his final selection two weeks later after the Tour Championship, plans to follow suit for the three-day event at Hazeltine, Minnesota that starts on Sept. 30.
”Paul (Azinger) has been a great help,“ Love said on a conference call on Monday. ”He was successful (in 2008). There’s guys that played for him, like Phil Mickelson, that knows what went on.
”That’s what I did in 2012 is I went down the list with everybody that made it (as automatic qualifiers) on points and I said, ‘What do you think, who do you like, who do you think you would pair well with?’
“I can’t say it enough: It’s their team. Golf is different than other sports. Mental side of it is huge.”
This will be the second time Love, 52, has led the team in the biennial event as he guided the U.S. to a 10-6 lead heading into the final day in 2012 but lost by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2 in what is known to European fans as the “Miracle at Medinah.”
“If they (the U.S. players) go in there believing in what we are telling them, that they have the best team, and that they are ready to go, then they are going to play well,” said Love.
“We need to give these guys a feeling of security. If Patrick Reed says, ‘I want you to pick this guy, I want to play with him, we won’t lose a match,’ then we’re going to take that into account.”
Love’s eight automatic qualifiers, confirmed after The Barclays ended on Sunday, are: U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Mickelson, Reed, PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson.
Among those in contention for captain’s picks to round out the 12-man team are twice Masters champion Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Justin Thomas.
“Guys that get hot the next two weeks are who we are looking at,” said Love, who is bidding to end a dominant run by the Europeans who have won three consecutive Ryder Cups and eight of the last 10.
”Anybody in the top 100 has to be on our radar, because a guy could get hot the next two weeks and move himself to the (season-ending) Tour Championship and be in the running for the FedExCup and I get to pick him on that Sunday night.
“A guy could move up 60, 70 spots by winning ... we call it the ”Billy Horschel rule“ ... for that Sunday night after the Tour Championship. If somebody gets hot, Billy Horschel wins the FedExCup again, we can take him.”
A change in the U.S. selection policy was made to ensure a player on a hot streak does not miss out on the team. Two years ago, Horschel won the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship but missed the Ryder Cup as the team had already been finalised.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue