Full throttle for Ryder race

Davis Love III hits his tee shot on the third hole during the second round of the Honda Classic at...

Davis Love III hits his tee shot on the third hole during the second round of the Honda Classic at PGA National on March 2, 2012 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP)

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:11 PM ET

After all the talk about the decline of the American game the past two years, the U.S. seems to be back on the upswing.

That resurgence is putting a lot of pressure on the players, Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III says.

With so many Americans playing well right now, some of those on the fringe are pushing a little more than they maybe should to get a spot on Love's squad that will face the Europeans in September at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.

"I know there are some guys who are trying too hard," Love said Monday. "Hopefully the next couple of months will calm them down a little bit and keep them from trying (so hard) to make the team."

The top eight players in Ryder Cup points will gain automatic spots on the U.S. team, while Love will have four captain's picks.

The eight players currently holding down the top spots are, in order, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Keegan Bradley.

That leaves players such as Rickie Fowler (ninth), Ben Curtis (13th), Mark Wilson (16th) and Bo Van Pelt (19th), on the outside looking in.

"I've been playing with a lot of guys," said Love, who played Monday with Curtis. "I played with Bo Van Pelt. I played with Mark Wilson last week. I've played with a lot of guys this year even though I haven't played a lot (on the PGA Tour) because I've been hurt. I've played with a lot of guys (who) probably will be on the team.

"Mark Wilson said something about, 'Are you guys going to go down to Chicago?' I said, 'We?' He said, 'What?'

"I said, 'Say we, don't say 'You guys.' "

Asked what he's looking for, Love said he wants players who can finish.

"If you look at it -- except for Rickie's round on Sunday (a disappointing 84 at the Memorial) -- our guys have been playing great on the weekends, finishing tournaments off, making putts. So that's what we're looking for ... to get that confidence going.

"We've got a lot of guys who are playing really, really well."

WHAT A FLOP

It was the shot heard around Ohio, if not North America.

Tiger Woods' dramatic chip-in on the 16th hole Sunday at the Memorial was a milestone moment in the embattled golfers' comeback and a great sign for golf in general, but Love had more important things going on.

Love had already finished his round at the Memorial -- finishing in a tie for 16th -- and was at the nearby Ohio State Scarlet course on the driving range preparing for Monday's U.S. Open qualifier when his Ryder Cup team member pulled off the great shot.

"I was actually over at OSU practising and I was watching the NCAAs (golf) on my phone while I was practising and my son kept messing up my coverage because he'd call me. He says 'Tiger just chipped in!'

"We were watching the Alabama-Texas match pretty closely. But I was excited."

When asked whether he could hear the roar from several kilometres away, Love joked that he "felt the ground shake a little bit."

"That's three or maybe four of those he has made at that course. There's something special about his chip-ins there."

The veteran Love, 48, was inspired to attempt to pull of some magic of his own Monday at an incredibly tough setup at Scioto Country Club during the qualifier.

Love recounted the 10th hole there:

"I drove it right down the middle on 10 and it rolled into the first cut and then I hit it right over the flag," he said.

"I tried the Tiger lob shot. I did what Jack (Nicklaus) said but I went and hit it too far and then three-putted (for double-bogey)."

Love went on to qualify for the U.S. Open.

THANKS, PAL

Every weekender has a buddy who annoys the heck out of him by trying to analyze their game while they're on the course, but sometimes the odd nugget can make a difference.

The same holds true for PGA Tour players.

Kevin Streelman suddenly found his putting game over the weekend and qualified Monday for the U.S. Open, going four-under in the 36-hole event, which included a fantastic 30 on the front nine of a challenging OSU Scarlet course.

"I hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens and putted great," Streelman said.

When asked what had sparked his putting, Streelman admitted it wasn't anything he had found or that had been noticed by a coach or guru.

"I got a little putting tip from a buddy at The Memorial," he said.

"He took one look at me and kind of squared up my hips and that's all he did and all of a sudden I just started rolling it."

tim.mckay@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @TimMcKayGolf

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