Captain Davis Love III was blunt when asked whether supporting the PGA Tour was more important than having the 12 best players on the United States roster at this week’s Presidents Cup.
“We have both,” Love said.
It was among the bevy of questions related to LIV Golf asked of Love and International team captain Trevor Immelman during Tuesday’s opening press conference — although the Saudi-backed breakaway league was never referred to by name.
Love has been one of the most outspoken supporters of the PGA Tour — and critics of LIV Golf — over the past several months. However, he insisted that Dustin Johnson, two-time major champion and former World No. 1 who is one of LIV’s marquee signings, would have taken the spot of a player in better form had he been available for the Presidents Cup.
“On current form back a couple of months ago, Dustin would have been a (captain’s) pick from wherever he was in points — pretty far down. But he would have been a veteran pick,” Love said when specifically asked about Johnson. “Obviously, he was the hero of the (Ryder Cup) team at Whistling Straits. He was a great partner for (Collin) Morikawa.
“So, yes, we miss him. But I think, on points, we’ve pretty much got the guys we wanted to get. We would have had to make a spot for him as a pick further down, unless he got on a huge roll in the FedEx Cup,” Love added. “There’s no talk in our team room about anybody missing.”
The quality of the competition has been a primary topic this week. The United States has an 11-1-1 record in the event and Immelman’s roster includes eight rookies. He is without the likes of Australia’s Cameron Smith and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, who have joined LIV.
Immelman said it was made very clear to those players ahead of time that signing with LIV would mean losing out on playing in the Presidents Cup.
“Every single player that ended up going, and not going, knew what the situation was. It was part of the decision-making process for all of them,” he said. “Am I disappointed they’re not able to be here? Yeah, absolutely. But we have the 12 guys here that we love and that wanted to be here. And now we get to go.
“We’re looking forward.”
Both captains took veiled shots at LIV Golf during the 45-minute session.
Asked about being the huge favorite this week, Love said, “It doesn’t really matter who the favorite is in match play. That’s why in the regular season (on the PGA Tour) we only play it once, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
The LIV Golf format consists of four-man teams competing in 54-hole, no-cut events with shotgun starts.
Immelman said it was like “Christmas morning” for his eight rookies, who get to spend the week in the team room with former major champions Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama.
“Our team is a team that plays by the rules,” Immelman said. “We’re a team of our word, a team of honor. And so, that’s where we’re at.”
Love closed his portion of the media session by addressing one of the biggest talking points in the battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. Multiple players who have made the move to LIV have said part of their decision was to help grow the game of golf.
“There is a little bit of tension and strife in the game right now,” Love acknowledged. “But not amongst the golf organizations. They’re working hard to do everything to grow the game. We need to take the momentum from the pandemic, and everyone getting outside and there’s no tee times and not enough golf balls. We need to take that momentum and continue to grow the game. And that’s what the PGA Tour does.
“Nobody else does it better than the PGA Tour.”