Davis Love III captured the Wyndham Championship for the third time last year, and even though he will be at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., this week, he will not be defending his title.
The 52-year-old Love, a Charlotte native who was a three-time All-American at the University of North Carolina, is recovering from surgery on his left hip. He won’t play again this season.
However, as captain of the United States Ryder Cup team for the matches in five weeks at Hazeltine, he will be paying close attention to what happens at Sedgefield.
“Obviously, the team is playing very well, really, from 1 to 25, you keep getting solid play out of a lot of guys,” said Love, who was captain when the Europeans rallied past the Americans in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah to win for the third straight time and sixth time in the past seven.
“We might not win every week, which is hard to do on the PGA Tour these days. We have four, five, six guys right up there every week. … After this week, we can solidify it a little bit better, start thinking about who might be picks and look to the (FedExCup) playoffs (which start next week with the Barclays).”
There was speculation earlier this year that Love might put one of his vice captains, Tiger Woods, on the U.S. team as a captain’s pick, but Woods hasn’t played because of back surgery since tying for 10th in the Wyndham last year.
However, a similar question arose two weeks ago when vice captain Jim Furyk became the first player to shoot 58 on the PGA Tour to tie for fifth in the Travelers Championship.
Love already had him on his radar.
“We’ve got guys like Jim Furyk that went out last year during the playoffs and didn’t play until really the week before the U.S. Open (in which he tied for second),” Love told reporters at the PGA Championship, one of seven times in which he mentioned Furyk, who had wrist surgery early in the year.
“If Furyk played his normal schedule … he’d probably pop right back up into the top five or six.”
Love will know who his top eight players are when the Barclays finishes on Sunday next week, and as of now, they would be U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Zach Johnson, J.B Holmes and Patrick Reed.
The first three captain’s picks will be made on Sept. 11 after the BMW Championship, with one more coming on Sept. 25 following the Tour Championship.
Those on the bubble include veterans Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Bill Haas.
“When you look at it, remember Jack Nicklaus saying (as captain), ‘I’m just going to take the Top 12 and make it easy,'” said Love, who hopes to increase the Americans’ 25-13-2 lead in the series. “When we look past the top 12, we are probably looking a little further than people think.
“I’m excited about the top-to-bottom play, and I think that’s what’s most important, is we have a lot of players that can make the team and a lot of players to choose from.
“It’s a new system this year. Obviously, we are used to, after the PGA Championship we get our team, and it used to be the team and the picks basically would all happen at once.
“I like having some leeway and some time. You don’t want to miss out on a guy that’s hot.”
Love was hoping to at least have the option of choosing Woods, if he got back onto the course, but that didn’t happen.
However, the captain has been thrilled by the play of Mickelson, 46.
“Obviously, Phil last year for the Presidents Cup was in the 20s (in the points) and was picked, and was the star of the team,” Love said of Lefty, who tied for second behind Henrik Stenson of Sweden in the Open Championship at Royal Troon last month.
“Phil obviously played an unbelievable (Open) Championship. Would have won … 141 of the Open Championships played. He just ran into a hot player.
“Phil is methodical about his preparation. He knows how to prepare for a major championship. I don’t have to worry about him.”
That’s good, because Love has enough other concerns in the Americans’ bid to turn the tide against the Euros.