One of the sub-plots of the 2012 PGA Tour is the season-long auditions for spots on the 12-member Ryder Cup team, to be held Sept. 25-30 at Chicago’s Medinah Country Club.
The top eight money-winners automatically make the U.S. team while this year’s U.S. team captain Davis Love III also can select four additional players at his discretion.
Could one of those captain’s pick could be the captain?
Love sure looked like a Ryder candidate Thursday in the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Love, just two years away from eligibility for the 50-over Champions Tour, matched the course record Thursday with a 6-under 64 to take a two-shot lead.
That’s remarkable for the 47-year-old in this field loaded with talent. All four 2011 ‘majors’ winners are playing as well as Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and developing talents half Love’s age such as Keegan Bradley, Kyle Stanley, Ben Crane, John Huh and Rickie Fowler.
Love held them all off. It helped that he had an ace on the fifth hole – par-3, 195-yarder, with a five iron. Also, because of a series of showers over the past week, players were allowed to lift, clean and place.
The last time Love shot lower than 64 was a 61 during the third round of the 2005 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. This comes in his 647th PGA Tour start in which he probably will make his 500th career cut.
There has been no buzz that Love would be a viable candidate for the Ryder Cup. His role is clear. He’s the guy in charge, not the guy with clubs. Having said that…Love knows about team work, part of six Ryder Cup teams and six Presidents’ Cup teams. He has 20 career wins, including the 1997 PGA. He also seems to pop up at the the big events, recently 9th in the Open Championship and 11th in the U.S. Open last year, and tied for 6th in the U.S. Open in 2010.
But even with an exceptional 2012 campaign, there’s no way he’d select himself. Would he?
Then there’s also the other way to make it. If Love goes on to win the tournament, that would shoot him near the top of the money-winners and make him eligible for plenty of other tournaments this summer.
He has indicated that if he is among the top eight in Ryder Cup points, he’d consider playing on the team. Now wouldn’t that be a story.
Race to the top
There’s an excellent chance that a new No. 1 player in the world will emerge from this tournament. Current No. 1 Luke Donald did not enter while the two players just behind him, Rory McIIroy (No. 2) and Lee Westwood (No. 3), are just percentage points away.
McIlroy finished two shots behind, in a eight-way tie for second at 4-under 66. Westwood is tied for 40th with an even-par 70.
McIIroy is motivated. This was his best round in his fourth try at the Honda event. His previous finishes were T70th last year, T40th in 2010 and T13th in 2009.
Hank Kuehne’s back
Hank Kuehne, told by more than a dozen doctors that his chronic back problems would prevent him from playing high level competitive golf again, made his first PGA appearance in four-plus years and shot a even-par 70.
Kuehne, whose last start was the 2007 FedEx St. Jude Classic, hopes to make enough money through medical exemptions this season to earn his Tour card.
The former U.S. Amateur champion finally found temporary relief from his ailing back through experimental treatments from Germany doctor, Peter Wehlin. Wehlin has successfully treated Fred Couples and Vijay Singh.
Tiger Woods, who opened with a 1-over 71 Thursday, is the subject of conversations and columns more for off-course issues than his play.
Woods and Golf Channel’s Alex Miceli had a bit of a testy exchange Wednesday during a news conference. Miceli kept pressing Woods on a reference made by Hank Haney, ready to release a book on his time as Woods coach. Haney – and others – have said that in 2007 Woods was contemplating quitting the Tour and becoming a Navy SEAL.
Both individuals looked a little sympathetic as well as foolish during their exchange. Here’s my take:
On Miceli: As a former reporter who has been in those situations, I admire him for taking on Woods. Most reporters walk a fine line with the big stars, not wanting to offend them for fear of being shut out. This can lend of suck-up tendencies. But Miceli didn’t care.
The problem was it appeared to me that he went to the mat over a frivolous matter. Who cares if Woods considered the SEALs? It’s what we all do, we dream about doing things in life, climbing Everett, swimming the English Channel, or joining the circus. He can consider all he wants, but he wasn’t about to end his career. Yet Miceli kept pressing him and, in the process, degraded his credentials with no tangible journalistic benefit.
On Tiger: You actually felt sorry for Woods, who had to deal with a series of irritating questions that wouldn’t haven’t amounted to much of anything no matter how he answered. But then showed visible irritation with a couple smart-ass remarks that, fairly or unfairly, reflected poorly on his already damaged character.
He’s in the long process of repairing his reputation. Millions in restored endorsements are at stake. He needs to show that he’s a different person than the one that made all those sordid headlines two years ago. When he reacts as he did, when he keeps the window shut tightly on his life and when there continues to be stories of rude behavior, he does himself no good.