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Love III calls young group of tour players ‘very exciting’

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KOHLER, Wis. (WFRV) — 2016 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III talks about playing in his 29th PGA Championship and the young players on the PGA Tour.

JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Happy to welcome the 1997 PGA Championship champion and the 2016 Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III to Whistling Straits.

Davis, I guess a couple of questions to start off first, before we get into some Ryder Cup stuff. How is your game and how is your foot these days?

DAVIS LOVE III: Foot is getting better. And game is coming along with it. I’m hitting the ball very well. I’m just rusty. I need to play a few weeks in a row and get some momentum going. I’m hitting the ball well. I’m excited about playing Whistling Straits this week.

JULIUS MASON: Davis is playing in his 29th PGA Championship, that’s a few of them on the record book.

Q. I just wonder if you can recall what it was like winning the PGA Championship in ’97 and specifically what are the memories of the trophy. It’s very obvious big and heavy. What was it like lifting it at the end of the tournament and can you recall having any memories of what you did with the trophy when you had it?
DAVIS LOVE III: It’s one of the iconic trophies in golf and in sports. You’re right, it’s very large. In fact, we tried to steal it that night after all the interviews and post-championship ceremonies, it got left in a TV room in the clubhouse, and a friend of mine was tagging go along with me, he said, oh, Davis left the trophy. So he just took it out of that room and took it to the car. And the security man came running after him and said, no, he doesn’t get that trophy. We send him a little one. We tried to get away with the Wanamaker.

Incredible memories, obviously the way it finished, with the rainbow, with my brother caddying, my whole family there. It was kind of a surreal finish.

And to win playing against Justin Leonard who had won his British Open and was playing so well that year and a good friend. It was a great story. I say it all the time that Jim Nance could tell the story about my dad one more time to the golfing public and get his legacy out there one more time for people to hear about.

Q. The trophy, is it surprisingly heavy?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, surprisingly heavy. I think the replica we had was maybe 90 percent and it’s still really heavy. It’s one of those you have to think about it when you pick it up and hold it up and kiss it. It’s very large.

JULIUS MASON: A bit of history there for you, it was in the early 2000s where the champions were getting a smaller-size replica trophy. And it was after Padraig Harrington’s win at Oakland Hills where we started giving the 90 percent replica. What you’ll see on-site here is a silversmith engraving the name on the actual band on the trophy that the champ will be able to take home. And you can ask him how heavy it is, and maybe he’ll let you hold it.

DAVIS LOVE III: What do you think, 20 pounds, 25 pounds?

JULIUS MASON: Yeah.

Q. How excited are you about — you’ve got this crop of 20-something Americans coming up, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, right down the line, it’s really going to be a new group of guys that you’re going to have to take a look at for next year. What do you see as far as your chances with that group coming in?
DAVIS LOVE III: Very exciting. We have a lot of new guys playing very, very well. And even some veterans, like Jim Furyk, consistently playing very well. I have guys that have played a few Ryder Cups telling me they want to be on a winning Ryder Cup team next year.

So we have got guys with experience that are excited about it, young guys that haven’t played that are on a roll and want to make a team. It’s a very exciting time for American golf.

Q. Just talk about how you hit in the practice round today. You’ve played with Tiger, right, how was he playing?
DAVIS LOVE III: I played nine with Tiger on Sunday and today. And he looks good. He looks strong and fit. It’s just interesting to always watch somebody who’s won so many golf tournaments, watch them prepare for a major championship. It was fun to watch him on Sunday, talking to Joe about where the pin is going to be. And remember, it was like this last time and in ’04 it was like that. So I learned a lot.

And he and I have been talking about how do we get prepared for Hazeltine next year. And it was interesting to watch him. But he looks strong. He looks fit. Looks like he’s hitting it better. I know he’s been putting a lot of work in. Looks like it’s paying off.

Oh, and I hit the ball really well. As I said, if I could have a golf cart I could be playing every week, because I’m hitting it really good, just my foot hasn’t reacted the way I wanted it to, as far as being able to walk, basically 50 miles a week.

And here, this is a — I didn’t play the last two weeks, because I knew this was going to be a challenging week of walking and I wanted to give this one a good shot; and next week in Greensboro is one of my favorite tournaments. I’ve been kind of saving it up.

It feels good. I’m hitting the ball well, rolling it good. I just need, probably like Tiger, I need to play some tournaments and get my confidence back.

Q. Do you have plans to visit Hazeltine by the end of September, just to see the golf course in the same conditions like you’re going to find it next year?
DAVIS LOVE III: Darren and I have a year-to-go event at the end of September that is already on the schedule. I was just there three weeks ago for three days. And I plan on several more visits there next year. We’re getting very familiar with it.

The membership has been great. They made me an honorary member a few weeks ago. Not only can I go play, I can charge food. So I’m excited about that.

I’m going to spend quite a bit of time there. Tom Lehman and I have got a plan to really be ready for whoever we send in next year to help them with the golf course. We won’t know until the middle of summer, three or four or five guys that have made it for sure. When we have guys go in there and play practice rounds, Tom and I really want to be ready to be able to help them. So we’re spending a lot of time getting to know the golf course.

Q. Is it encouraging at all that with all the Americans playing so well this year, you mentioned Furyk, but also obviously Spieth, Zach, there just seems like obviously it’s a great year so far for Americans playing.
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, and Dustin, and as we said earlier, the young guys. They’re playing very well. And if I was Jay Haas, I’d be really excited, because he’s got a good lineup getting ready for Korea. And I’m his assistant over there, so I’ll get to watch those guys play. And hopefully we’ll have a lot of the same guys next year.

It’s exciting. They’re playing well. I’m watching a lot more golf on TV. Watching these guys play has been a lot of fun. To see Dustin come back and play well, and Justin Thomas that I’ve known since he was probably 15 or 16 years old playing well every week. And Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, guys that played for me are playing well. So it’s fun to watch.

Q. How would you describe Tiger and Phil’s place in American golf right now with all those rising stars coming up?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, they’re like Arnie and Jack, eventually the guys are going to chase them out of the game, like we did to Arnie and Jack. You get older and you have to move on.

But I expect big things out of both of them, really. I think this year a few more tournaments left for both of them and I expect they’ll play well. Phil always, when he gets to the playoffs, he has a couple of good weeks.

I would expect that next year is going to be big for both of them. I think they’re far from done. They’re excited about it. I know Phil still has a lot of energy and a lot of passion for it. And obviously Tiger is working very hard on his swing and his game to get back to form.

And I would expect them — Phil’s up there in points, already, but I would expect both of them to be in the running next year at this time.

Q. We’re going to get hopefully a glimpse of the rivalry with Jordan and Rory playing together. How do you see their rivalry?
DAVIS LOVE III: I hope Rory’s ankle, I hope he continues to get healthier. It’s exciting. It’s two of the most exciting players in the game. And it’s the new faces — obviously talking about Jack and Arnie, you thought, well, when they’re gone, the game is going to go downhill. So you think, when Tiger Woods is gone, the game is going to go downhill. But, now we’ve got Jordan Spieth, we’ve got all kinds of young players that will take their places.

It’s fun to watch them. Rory is an incredible talent — got sidetracked a little bit this year. I don’t know about rivalry, but it’s fun to watch both of them play, very exciting.

Q. This time next year there’s going to be somewhat of a pileup with the Olympics being squeezed into the calendar, the race for Ryder Cup points, that means the French Open and the Bridgestone are on top of each other, too. How do you see players navigating the golf calendar this time next year?
DAVIS LOVE III: It’s going to be strange. With the PGA Championship early, then the Olympics, then the playoffs, we’re just going to have to work through it. But it’s still going to be golf tournaments, they’re just going to be in a different order. We have to watch how guys play. The points will play themselves out, but a little bit later. Obviously our last pick is going to be very late. Just have to watch how they’re playing.

I’m still wondering what’s going to happen with the Olympics, what guys’ schedules are going to be like before and after. But basically you have to look at the Olympics as, it’s a World Golf Championship event or a small field event the guys are going to play in, so it’s a one off. The playoffs is really where we’re going to tell where our team is going to be made of, make our three selections after a few playoff events. And then we’ll kind of know where we stand.

JULIUS MASON: Davis Love III, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

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