MEDINAH, Illinois – U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III wants a golf-style shootout, not the battleground of ill-tempered wills that marked memorable matches in the past between top U.S. and European players.
Genteel sportsmanship shifted to the ‘War on the Shore’ at Kiawah Island in 1991 and the 1999 ‘Battle of Brookline’ that turned the Cup into grudge matches among players and fans after Europe seized the upper hand after decades of U.S. domination.
Players accused one another of gamesmanship. U.S. home crowds heckled the opposition. European assistant Sam Torrance called the behaviour of the U.S. side ‘disgusting’ for celebrating on the 17th green at Brookline when the match was not yet officially over.
Love, true to his name and demeanor, wants a gentler, kinder competition, but that will not keep him from striving to give his side the best chance at winning.
“I never liked the ‘War on the Shore’ title,” said Love, who made the first of his six Cup appearances as a player two years later. “This is not a war. It’s a golf match.
“It’s a friendly golf match that’s grown a little bit since they started it, and it continues to be a friendly golf match. It’s definitely not a war or a battle.”
This does not douse the competitive fire inside Love, who has mowed down the rough to allow his big-hitting team to cut loose from the tee and set up birdie chances.
“When we go over there (Europe), the fairways go like this at 280 or 290,” Love said, narrowing his hands. “I’m not real clever, but I would just do the opposite of them and have it go the other way.
“It’s more my personal preference for the style of golf I like to watch and I like to play. I’ve just never been a fan of driving it in the rough and chipping it out.”
Europe’s top players used to complain about having to deal with heavy rough that lined fairways and surrounded greens at the majors in the United States, but with more of them on the U.S. tour, the playing field has been leveled.
“We want it to be fun for the players and we want it to be fun for the fans,” said Love.
Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, who claimed the clinching point in Europe’s narrow home win in Wales two years ago, said ‘fun’ for Love would be a roaring home crowd at Medinah.
“The only thing that Davis can do this week is to set the golf course up for scoring to get the crowds on their feet, and to get them charged up from the word go,” McDowell said.
“I really think that’s their tactics.”
McDowell pointed to the 18-1/2 to 9-1/2 rout in 2004 by Europe over their hosts at a quiet Oakland Hills.
“The golf course was quite difficult, and the crowd didn’t really get behind their guys the way they would have liked them to because scoring was tough and it wasn’t that exciting.
“I think Davis wants birdies and eagles made to get the crowd fizzed up and charged up and make sure that they are 120 per cent behind the guys,” said McDowell.
“It’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be loud.”