THE PRESIDENTS CUP
Love III ready to lead U.S. Presidents Cup team in 2022World Golf Hall of Famer’s ties to North Carolina run deep
January 26, 2021
By Helen Ross , PGATOUR.COM
Davis Love III named U.S. Team captain for 2022 Presidents Cup
He got the text right before Christmas. I need to talk to you, wrote Tiger Woods.
Davis Love III told him to call anytime. That wasn’t good enough for Woods. He wanted to talk immediately.
“So, I called him, and he just said, ‘Hey, congratulations. You’re going to be the next Presidents Cup captain,’” Love recalled recently from Hawaii, as he watched whales ride waves in the Pacific Ocean.
Then came the kicker. “And I’m going to make your team,” Woods told him firmly.
Love remembers finding a place to sit down and let the news sink in. He was thrilled to accept, even if he’d half expected -- and would have been happy for -- Woods to return to lead the team in 2022 after his victorious run as a playing captain who went unbeaten in his three matches in ‘19.
When he and Woods ended their phone call, Love went into the house and found his wife Robin.
“You’re not going to believe what Tiger just said,” he told her. “Are you ready for this? We’ve been through a lot in the last year, certainly in the last 10 years, and the first thing is, I can’t do it without her. So, I said, ‘Are you ready to do this again?’
“She thought about it for a while, and she said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘No, are you excited about doing this again?’ And she said, ‘Yeah.’”
So the decision was made. And the 2022 Presidents Cup is a perfect fit for the 56-year-old Love.
It will be played at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, where Love was born. And while he moved to Atlanta well before his first birthday, Love has deep roots in North Carolina. He was a three-time All-American at UNC and a three-time winner of the Wyndham Championship, most recently in 2015 at the age of 51.
The World Golf Hall of Famer has a pedigree that makes him uniquely qualified to be captain, too.
Love played in the first six Presidents Cups, compiling a record of 16-8-4, and served as an assistant in three more. He also played in six Ryder Cups and is a two-time U.S. captain, as well as a three-time vice-captain, including for the matches this fall at Whistling Straits.
Once Love knew he had his wife’s support, he talked with PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. The conversations about who would be the next U.S. Presidents Cup Captain had gotten underway early in 2020. Then COVID-19 hit, and priorities shifted.
The Ryder Cup was postponed until 2021, which meant another year’s delay for the Presidents Cup, too. The TOUR was able to return to competition safely in June, though, and the conversations about a potential captain resumed last fall. Once the decision was made, Monahan let Woods do the honors.
“Jay said, ‘I just thought you guys are running the show now and I thought it'd be cool if Tiger was the one to tell you,’” Love recalls. “So then when I call Jay, (he says), ‘Congratulations,’ and I go, ‘Aren't we even going to talk about this?’ He goes, ‘No, it's done. You'll be great.’
“And I think that's neat of Jay to give us that responsibility of, hey, it's your guys’ team and we'll make this decision. And once we do, we'll let Tiger hand it off to Davis and Davis hand it off to the next guy.”
2022 U.S. Team Captain Davis Love III reacts to a letter from Tiger Woods
Love is part of a nucleus of players – Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk, among them – who became part of a task force in 2014 to develop the kind of dynamic leadership that would help reverse the fortunes of the Americans, who had lost six of the last seven Ryder Cups.
“This is what's driven us, and me especially, since 2014 reset, is Phil said we have to give these guys the best chance we can to succeed every year,” Love says. “And that's what's fun. So, if I'm captain or assistant captain or cart driver, I don't really care.
“I just want to help give Dustin (Johnson) and Brooks (Koepka) and Tiger and all the guys on the team, a chance to win.”
The Americans have fared much better against the Internationals in the Presidents Cup, which began in 1994 when Love went unbeaten at 4-0-1. But a year ago, the U.S. had to rally in Sunday’s Singles to seal the win, and Love knows the narrow defeat had to be a confidence-builder for incoming Captain Trevor Immelman’s team.
“They have an up-and-coming, excited, we-came-close attitude,” Love says. “So, we’re not going to sit back. We're going to try new things and try and get better and obviously build on what we've been building on since '14.”
Charlotte is already showing signs of major support for the Presidents Cup, too. Corporate sales are extremely strong with all 12 of the highest-priced hospitality venues sold out. Ditto for the VIP tickets for the Green Mile Club that are priced at five figures.
“I'm like, Holy Cow, this is going to be massive,” Love says. “So, I'm getting more and more excited for our team about the possibilities. ... We’ve been on an upward swing. New York (at Liberty National in 2017) was great. But this is going to be as much of a home game as I think maybe we've ever had for the Presidents Cup.
“You know how excited North Carolina is going to be. And we’ll throw a little Carolina blue in the outfits every once in a while. ... I'm going to get one of (UNC basketball coach) Roy Williams's plaid jackets to wear.”
Love, who is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, may or may not be kidding about that dubious piece of sartorial splendor. But he has relationships with sports figures across the state like Williams and NASCAR great Jimmie Johnson and Carolina football coach Mack Brown and even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who spoke to the U.S. Team prior to the 2018 Ryder Cup, that he hopes to leverage to make the week a special experience for his team.
“And you just think about Michael,” Love says of NBA great Michael Jordan, who is his old friend and golfing partner from when the two were in school together at Chapel Hill. “He loves coming to these matches.”
Love says he relies on his long-time sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella, for most of his coaching advice. But he thrives on the opportunity to pick the brain of people like Williams and Krzyzewski and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who met with Love twice in 2016 when he spent time at the team’s practice facility.
“That was really cool,” Love says. “And you tell a player, you tell him look, trust me, you just do your job and don't worry about what the other guys are doing. That's what Coach Belichick does. Do your job and trust that guy's going to do his job.
“I watched Roy give a speech to the Carolina golf teams and boosters one time. I'm like, holy cow, this guy loves his school, and he loves his team, you know? And if you can express to your players, hey, look, I'm going to do whatever it takes to make you guys successful. Just come to me.
“Coach (Dean) Smith was the same way his players. His players weren't players for him for four years, they were family. I think that the relationship I have with Dustin to a new guy, like Kevin Na, that I don't know that well, that's where we have to be better as captains is getting to know guys and letting them know that we've learned from other coaches. This is how we're going to be successful if we just do these things.
“They're really, really good golfers. We don't have to worry about that part of it.”Davis Love III has plenty of experience with international team events. (PGA TOUR)
Love may say he doesn’t like to get up and give speeches. But he’s much better at it than he thinks – listen to the one he made at his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, for example -- and he’s extremely passionate about the opportunities he’s had to represent his country as a player and a captain.
“I remember Michael Phelps saying to Fred Couples and I in the middle of the fairway in Chicago one day during the Ryder Cup, this is the coolest thing I've ever done,” Love recalls. “Well, wait a minute, you are USA sports. You're gold. You're our guy. You're who we want to be.
“And it made me realize we are Team USA. That's the way he's looking at it. We're part of Team USA. We're just the golf team. And we've taken that approach every year. We don't get a three-year break between Olympics. We're Team USA.
“I watched from when it was amateurs to pros in basketball and the approach that Team USA Basketball has to take now to build a team. They just don't show up in their private jets. They're thinking about it all year long. How are we going to build this team to get ready to go to the Olympics? And that's what we have to do, but we have to do it every year. We have to be ready. We have to be motivated.
“We're thinking about it, talking about it. We get to do it once a year. You get four majors, but we get one team event a year and we love getting on the bus, competing and hanging out.”
And Love, for his part, has made plenty of memories at the Presidents Cup. One started out to be imminently forgettable, though, when he was locked in a tight match with Robert Allenby on Sunday in 2003 at the Links at Fancourt in South Africa.
It was the final match of the day, and Love held a 1-up advantage when he teed off on the par-5 18th. Maintain that advantage and the U.S. would retain the Cup, so he was understandably nervous – and the pressure increased tenfold when Captain Jack Nicklaus came out into the fairway to speak to Love.
Love proceeded to miss the green with his 4-iron, chunk a chip and lose the hole. The match halved, the score was tied 17-17, and Woods and Ernie Els embarked on a thrilling three-hole playoff that ended when Nicklaus and International Team Captain Gary Player decided to share the Cup in the name of sportsmanship.
“Jack, still, if we sit down and have lunch at Memorial, he goes you remember that 4-iron? Why didn't you hit that 4-iron on the green on the last hole?” Love says, laughing. “And I go, because Jack Nicklaus walked out there and told me to hit the ball in the green. I panicked. I hit four crappy shots after you walked out there.
“But to say that I played on the Presidents Cup team and Jack Nickaus coached me is worth it. And I made Tiger the hero. So, I created one of the great Presidents Cup moments. If I'd have just finished off Robert Allenby it would have been boring. Right?”
Another favorite moment came in 1996 when Arnold Palmer was Love’s captain.
“Arnold made this speech one night about what it meant to be a TOUR player and what it meant to play on a U.S. team and how you supposed to carry yourself and all this stuff,” Love recalls. “And he stopped, and he pointed at me. He goes, ‘Davis gets it.’ And I've told people that a lot, that's the ultimate compliment I got handed down from Arnold to my dad to me -- how you're supposed to act -- and not only to play for him and to be around him and be friends with him.
“But then for him to say something like that, I don't care if anybody else heard it. I got to play on a Presidents Cup team for Arnold Palmer and Ken Venturi and Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin and guys that I grew up knowing as a little kid. You see Arnold walk by some little boy and he'd rub the top of his head. Well, I was that kid at Atlanta Country Club out on the putting green with my dad, and then ended up playing for him and Jack.
“And that's why we love the Presidents Cup because it’s our tournament and all of our guys that we looked up to were captains. Plus, I played in the first six. So, I have a lot of great memories of it.”
He’s ready to make more in 2022 in Charlotte, too.
Davis Love III’s best shots on the PGA TOUR