After losing to the Europeans in 2018 in Paris, the U.S. team is hoping to reclaim the Ryder Cup with the tournament back on American soil this year. The head-to-head competition will be held at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wisc., Sept. 24 to 26 when the U.S. fields Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas alongside Patrick Cantlay, who beat DeChambeau in an exciting six-hole playoff on Sunday at the BMW Championship to secure a spot.
The European team is not yet set but top points getters right now are Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Rory McIlroy.
In the U.S., longtime Ralph Lauren Golf ambassador Davis Love 3rd is vice captain of the team, working with captain Steve Stricker. Ralph Lauren will once again be providing the team, captains, caddies and spouses/partners with uniforms, outerwear and tailored clothing for the event in a palette of red, white and blue with United We Stand and USA 20 branding. (Like the Olympics, the tournament was canceled last year and still refers to the event as the Ryder Cup 2020.)
This year, the uniforms will include a variety of technical features, and sweaters from the Polo Ralph Lauren made-to-order program that will feature each player’s name on the back. A collection of official Ryder Cup merchandise for the public will be available both on site and online where shoppers can create their own sweaters. A percentage of the proceeds will benefit the PGA’s 41 Sections to grow and teach the game of golf.
Here, Love talks about the U.S. team’s chances, provides a peek into the strategy it will employ and how to manage the feud between DeChambeau and Koepka.
WWD: The U.S. team didn’t win last time. What do you think its chances are this year?
David Love 3rd: We’re defending champions at home, which you always want to be — we won in ’16. There’s a huge fan advantage being on American soil. Right after the tour championship, we’ll be bringing the entire team to Whistling Straits to play practice rounds. Europe is on a different tour schedule so they won’t get that. In Paris, they were on a course that they had played an event on so they were ahead of us, knowing the golf course. And this time, when we just walk on the first tee, the crowd will go nuts. And when you start playing well, the crowd really gets into it. You can hear the roars and cheers all over the golf course, which is a huge advantage.
WWD: So fans will be allowed on the course?
D.L.: It changes week to week but right now, it’s full-on full fans. There will be a team bubble so we’re going to have to test even if we’re vaccinated to get into the bubble. And then during the week, we won’t interact with the other team. But as a team, it’s what you want because we’ll all be in the same room and hang out together for a week. Like Captain Stricker says, we just want to get to Friday to play golf and keep everybody healthy. The NBA and the NHL did a great job with their little bubbles. So we’re just going to kind of mirror that.
WWD: Bryson and Brooks together in the bubble and on the course, that should be interesting. How do you deal with situations like their ongoing feud and create a cohesive team?
D.L.: A lot of guys in my generation — Stricker, Tiger — we’ve been around Bryson a lot. I actually watched him play in college because they said, “Hey, that kid on the SMU team has clubs that are all the same length.” He’s willing and friendly, a great teammate, but when he’s competing, that’s kind of when he goes off and gets very emotional sometimes and very demanding. But that’s also why he’s great. Then Dustin is the opposite. He just wants to go play and have fun and he needs somebody that will fire him up. Bryson needs somebody that will calm him down as a partner. But I’ve been saying since before Paris, if you don’t want to play best-ball with Bryson, something’s wrong with you. We can all get along even though our approach to the game or our personality might be a little bit different. Now matching them up for an alternate shot, that’s a whole different ballgame. I see Bryson as a best-ball specialist and a great partner — maybe not for Brooks. But it’s like Tiger [Woods] and Phil [Mickelson], you get a bunch of big dogs. And it’s hard to put two big dogs in the same pen. Justin Thomas, for some reason was comfortable playing with Tiger. And Tiger is hard to play with. It’s intimidating because you don’t want to mess up the big guy or let him down. Justin rose to the occasion, but other players just can’t handle that playing-with-Tiger kind of pressure. So that’s what’s fun about this. We’re going to pick six guys and we’ll try to match them up with the other six so we can make good pairings.
WWD: Do you like this new role you’ve begun playing? You were Ryder Cup captain in 2018, you will be captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team, and you’re still competing yourself in your spare time.
D.L.: It actually goes back to 2010 when Corey Pavin was captain, he asked me to be an assistant. Corey kind of knew that I was going to get to be the captain in 2012 and he wanted to help prepare me. I started playing Ryder Cups in ’93. I was almost brought into the bubble for the Kiawah Ryder Cup when Dave Stockton was captain in ’91, I just barely missed the team and he explained to me that it’s hard to pick a rookie, blah, blah, blah — all the same lines that I’ve used on other players since then. But I think we’ve learned that sometimes a rookie — and we have a bunch of rookies this year — have more passion and energy and exuberance that spills through the whole team. We had some guys that like Rickie Fowler, you would have never known he was a rookie Ryder Cupper. Jordan Spieth was a rookie on tour and a rookie Presidents Cup player in 2013, but he looked like a veteran. So sometimes that helps. But I love being captain, or assistant captain or cart driver or whatever. I love being around the team and helping them out.
WWD: You recently had a second hip replacement. Are you back to playing?
D.L.: I played two weeks ago in Seattle and then played again in Flint, Mich., and I’m going to play a bunch of Champions Tour events until their season runs out and then I’m going to switch back to some regular tour events to get ready for the RSM Classic at Sea Island the week before Thanksgiving. So I’ve got two or three trips to Wisconsin in the next three weeks, I guess. And then other than that, it’s mostly playing.
WWD: What do you think about the Ryder Cup uniforms this year?
D.L.: I love them. Tom Lehman was captain in 2006. And he came to me and said, “I have a great idea. I’m going to get Polo to do the clothes.” I said, “That’s a terrible idea.” He said, “Why?” And I said, “Because that’s my idea.” Since then, they’ve outfitted the team a lot. The pin-striped pants they made in 2016 remind me of Patrick Reed. For the whole rest of the year, Patrick was wearing the pin-striped pants from the Ryder Cup out on tour. I know guys take the rain gear and put it in play when they leave the Ryder Cup. We were fighting over the puffy coats in Paris because it was cold and the players had nicer puffy coats than the captains. I’ve been wearing Polo on the course for over 25 years and I love it for the team, they’re very comfortable with it. Because you know we’re taking away what Dustin Johnson, for example, wears and giving him new clothes. It’s more than just the design. It’s the fit, and it’s the custom tailoring. This year they’re even going to put the players’ names on the backs of the sweater. That’s what’s great about the Ryder Cup: We get clothes that say Team USA. The rest of the year, we’re just doing our own thing. And then for one week, we’re a team and we’re representing our country and the flag is on your clothes. It just makes the experience even more special.