U.S. captain Davis Love III wanted Medinah set up to favor the Americans next week in the Ryder Cup, and he kept to a simple philosophy. The rough is down. The speed of the greens is up.
”It’s going to look like a major championship because Medinah is a big old golf course, with big trees and obviously big tents,” Love said Monday at Sea Island Golf Club. ”It’s going to look like a major, but it’s going to play probably easier than a major. That benefits our team. We’re a long-hitting, freewheeling, fun-to-watch team. And I think it’s going to be fun to watch.”
Love returned from another scouting trip at Medinah, the course in the Chicago suburbs that has hosted the PGA Championship twice and the U.S. Open three times. He played Sunday with his son Dru, a freshman at Alabama, and Steve Stricker. Keegan Bradley, one of four Ryder Cup rookies for the United States, played Medinah a week ago.
Europe has dominated the Ryder Cup over the last two decades, going home with the gold trophy six out of the last eight times.
The Americans have lost only once at home dating to 1999, in 2004 at Oakland Hills, which was set up like a major with thick rough and narrow fairways. They had eight players among the top 20 in the world, but Europe trounced them, 18 1/2-9 1/2.
Love said limited rough and quick greens should benefit the U.S. team, and made it more enjoyable for spectators.
”We’ve set it up the way we think fans will like it,” Love said. ”People probably don’t believe that, but we set it up so that it’s fun to watch. You don’t want to see players chipping out and putting for par at the Ryder Cup. You want to see birdies. You want to see excitement. TV is going to like it. We had four players up there in the last week, and they loved it.”
Europe, however, has its share of big hitters in Rory McIlroy, Nicolas Colsaerts, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood. There were reports that the first cut, typically a yard wide, had been extended as many as seven paces, and Westwood only shrugged when told about that.
”I’ve yet to see a setup that favors one team or the other,” Westwood said two weeks ago at Crooked Stick. ”You can play on a field that’s 200 yards wide. It’s who holes the most putts.”
The PGA Tour typically plays on faster greens than in Europe, which would seem to favor the Americans. Then again, Europe has eight players on its 12-man team who have some form of PGA Tour membership this year.
”They putt better than us, it seems like, in the Ryder Cup,” Love said. ”That’s why I’m excited going in this year that our guys seem to be putting well, playing well. There’s a reason we picked guys that were hot with the putter.”
He used two of his four captain’s picks on Stricker and Brandt Snedeker.
Love spent Monday promoting the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island, where he is the tournament host. He did a series of television interviews leading up to the Ryder Cup, and then said he would spend the rest of the week working on his pairings. He said he planned a dinner Saturday night in Atlanta during the Tour Championship in which his 12 players would have a good idea who their partners were going to be.
He again mentioned likely pairings of Stricker and Tiger Woods, Bradley and Phil Mickelson, and Masters champion Bubba Watson with U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, and that his plan going into the week would not change unless the partnerships weren’t working.
His biggest issue was figuring out which four players would sit out in the four sessions leading to Sunday singles matches. There have been more big tournaments leading up to the Ryder Cup than ever before, which caused two players, Jason Dufner and Sergio Garcia, to skip FedEx Cup playoff events leading to the Sept. 28-30 matches.
Love said no one should be surprised if some of the biggest stars don’t play all five matches.
”We’ve got some guys who early in their career — Tiger and Phil — started out in their first Ryder Cup needing and wanting to play five,” Love said. ”Now that they’ve played a few, they understand that four matches in two days will wear you out for singles, and Sunday singles has 12 points. Everybody needs to have a winning record, and it’s whatever works best.
”What we normally do is play once a day,” he said. ”With the intensity and pressure of the Ryder Cup, you go in for your first one begging for five (matches), and you go into your third or fourth one begging for four or three. What I’m seeing from a lot of our guys is, `Play me in the right situations. Let me go out and rest and support the team at least once.”’