PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- There is plenty of evidence that this is a Ryder Cup year.
The U.S. players are starting to earn points from regular PGA Tour events, with Kyle Stanley atop the standings based on his runner-up finish and win in consecutive weeks. Davis Love III walks onto the range and players call him “captain.”
AT&T PEBBLE BEACH
Sam Snead won three of the first five editions of what is now the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Love, however, said the race to make the team really doesn’t start until late May. That’s when two dozen or so players begin getting fitted for uniforms.
"When I always played, you went to the Memorial, got measured for clothes, and you started choking on points,” Love said Wednesday. “So that’s probably the time that it’s serious, when you get measured for your clothes and the points start settling out.”
Love still hasn’t announced his assistant captains, saying he will work with European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal to find a good time when they can do that together. He thinks four assistants is a good number.
Love said he would consider past captains, and especially longtime friend Fred Couples, even though Couples could be a distraction because the players like him so much. Couples is 2-0 as Presidents Cup captain.
“I’m looking to get the guys to play more relaxed and have fun,” he said. “Obviously, we want to win, and it seems like Fred has put together a formula where they came out firing and relaxed and made some great pairings. So he and I have already talked a lot, and he would be high on my list.
“I’m going to rely on my friends that have played a lot of Ryder Cups, and Fred is definitely one of them.”
Love said, however, that Couples is a candidate to be Presidents Cup captain for the third time.
HARRINGTON HOPE: Padraig Harrington has played on every Ryder Cup team for Europe since 1999, and he barely made it on the last team as a captain’s pick. This year might be particularly difficult for the three-time major champion.
Europe is so strong at the top that many feel it will be the toughest team to make in history. That’s especially true for Harrington, who is coming off such a poor season that he has fallen to No. 93 in the world. While is two majors in 2008 keep him eligible for the four majors, he is not in the two World Golf Championships over the next month.
Those are the short fields that, in short, offer free points.
“There’s no doubt I’m behind the eight-ball at this stage,” Harrington said. “I haven’t got very many points. It’s not going to be a year that I can play well and get into it. I’m going to have to play great to get into the team. I’m not going to be able to pick up easy points and qualify that way. I’m going to have to actually really play well to force my way in.”
FAXON’S LAMENT: Brad Faxon never missed the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when healthy, playing 26 times until he moved over to the 50-and-over Champions Tour. He is in Boca Raton, Fla., this week and missing Pebble in a big way.
Faxon said he thought about asking for a sponsor’s exemption, but he had done that the last three years. His hope is to prove himself on the Champions Tour by winning -- he already has one title -- so that he’s not a “pitiful” exemption.
How fond is he of the tournament?
“When I’m with friends, I tell more great stories about Pebble Beach than any other place,” he said.
On cue, he delivered one of his favorites.
Faxon was playing at Cypress Point in 1985 in nasty conditions, with wind so strong that play eventually was halted. It was so bad that Ed Doughtery took 11 putts on the 17th green and made a 14.
Faxon hit driver on the par-3 16th into the wind onto the green and nearly made the putt for birdie. Then came the 17th, which played about 360 yards, but into the wind Faxon knew he couldn’t reach in two. He hit a good drive and had 198 yards left.
Then, play was suspended until the next day.
“I got back out there and the wind was blowing 30 mph, but from the opposite direction,” he said. “I hit 6-iron to the green and made par. Then on the 18th, David Frost had hit 5-iron and wedge (with the wind) the day before. I hit driver and 5-iron and made birdie to make the cut on the number.
“And the next day,” he said, “I was paired with Jack Nicklaus for the first time.”
MR. ANTI-GADGET: Spencer Levin might be considered old school when it comes to technology.
He has an email account, but he hasn’t checked it in about eight years. And he doesn’t’ have a cell phone. He dropped his phone in the water during the offseason and hasn’t replaced it.
Levin is not exactly losing sleep over this.
“I just haven’t bothered to get a new one,” he said. “I have no desire to. My girlfriend has got all my buddies’ numbers, so I can talk to my friends through her phone. That’s how I do it.”