Davis loves his Ryder Cup options

Davis Love III was on the sidelines for a while recently because of a rib injury, but it’s safe to say the US Ryder Cup captain enjoyed what he saw on TV during his time off.

That’s because American golf, which has taken a back seat to the Europeans the last few years, seems to be very healthy once again — and, as luck would have it, in a Ryder Cup year.

Love might be giddy inside, but he’s playing it straight.

"It goes in cycles," said DL3, who will see most of the candidates for his team this week in the Memorial Tournament. "Last year Rory (McIlroy) was so hot at the U.S. Open and the European guys had won three majors in a row, but if you watch the American tour, we have a lot of guys playing really well.

"We’re going to have a lot of good, young guys, which is nice, and they are going to fight it out. I hope they keep making the putts they’ve been making."

Sure, the Euros still stand 1-2-3 in World Golf Rankings with McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, but six Americans make up most of the top 10, and seven more Yanks are in the top 25.

On the PGA Tour, still the strongest circuit in the world, 19 of the 23 winners this season have been Americans. That includes the only two-time winners, Hunter Mahan and Jason Dufner.

"Two wins is going to put a guy into good position," said Love, who will have four Captain’s Picks after the top eight in the U.S. Ryder Cup point standings are determined in September.

Of the top 12 golfers in the U.S. standings, 11 have won tournaments on the PGA Tour this year, and the one exception is Keegan Bradley, the reigning PGA champion.

Not only is Love taking in all of this; the candidates are thinking about him and being at Medinah in September.

"I hope it gets Davis Love’s attention," said Dufner after winning the HP Byron Nelson Championship for his second victory in three outings. "Being a Ryder Cup year, that would be special to have on your resume and play in, even if it’s only for one time. That was one of my main goals."

Rickie Fowler, after claiming his first PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, said: "I really had three main goals coming into this year: First win, making it to the Tour Championship and making the Ryder Cup. Still focusing on those and have some fun.

"If I win, that gets me to Tour Championship for the most part, and play well from there, and have a chance at Ryder Cup."

In the two biggest tournaments of the season so far, Bubba Watson captured the Masters with a hook shot for the ages out of the trees to beat Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa in a playoff, and Matt Kuchar claimed the Players Championship.

Both figure to be on Love’s team.

"My son (Dru) and I ran home from the course Sunday to get in front of the TV to watch Bubba," Love said. "If there wasn’t a US player involved at the end of the Masters, and I wasn’t the Ryder Cup captain, Dru and I probably would have stayed on the course.

"But this time, I wanted to watch Bubba finish. What I saw was not just that he won, but it was also a wealth of information about how he handled himself in a tense situation.

"… I heard Bubba in an interview on Golf Channel. He said something like, ‘Even if I don’t make the Ryder Cup team on points, I think my Masters win should be enough to get a pick.’ "

In addition to the younger guns, it’s important that the American winners this year have included veterans Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods, whom Love has virtually guaranteed a spot on the team despite his recent struggles.

The Captain knows he will need their ability and leadership.

"For Tiger, it was good to win at Bay Hill," Love said. "He’s not driving it his best, but he proved to himself that he can still close it out and make the putts he needs to on a Sunday. I think that was important for his head.

" … It’s good for the fans, it’s good for the game and it’s great in a Ryder Cup year. People ask me, ‘Will he make the team?’ Come on. It’s obvious he’s going to play his way on the team. I’m not worried about that. He’s not all the way there yet — we saw that at the Masters — but he’s close."

The Euros are strong enough they aren’t exactly shaking in their boots, but the Americans’ rise from the ashes has been noticed on the other side of the Atlantic.

Wrote one golf writer: "Never mind the world rankings, the sleeping giant of American golf is awakening and could wrench the Ryder Cup out of European hands at Medinah in September."

Another wrote: "I have no wish to disturb the peace at this time of heavenly bliss in European golf, but it is only right to send out a warning — there is a Yankee army massing over the hill at just the wrong moment as far as the Ryder Cup is concerned."

It’s been years since the Ryder Cup has needed any hype, but getting some this early indicates this is shaping up as one for the ages.