Rocket notes: Presidents Cup captain Davis Love III gets up-close look at young guns in Detroit

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Hall of Famer Davis Love III doesn't play much competitive golf anymore.

But he came to Detroit for this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic to see where his own game stands these days, but also — and perhaps, more importantly — to watch up-close the games of others.

Love, 58, is the Team USA captain for the Presidents Cup in mid-September and will get six captain's picks to round out the roster of 12, which will take on Team International (everywhere minus Europe) at Quail Hollow in North Carolina. This week, Love played with two of the players squarely in contention for a pick: Cameron Young, who took the lead halfway through the second day of the Rocket on Friday, and Will Zalatoris.

Cameron Young, left, walks with Davis Love III on the ninth green after completing the second round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Friday.

Neither has a PGA Tour win, but they should, and perhaps soon. Both have been knocking on the door all year, and in Zalatoris' case, the last two years.

Those are just two of a swarm of up-and-coming American golfers.

"Yeah, it's on the rise," Love said after his Friday round, a 1-under 71 to finish at 5 over. "I've heard so many times from the Europeans, they're coming and the rest of the world's coming, and American golf, we don't have the superstars anymore.

"And they keep coming. It's unbelievable.

"It's great it's coming that way."

More: Liftoff: Get all your Rocket Mortgage Classic coverage here

Just consider the top 10 in the Presidents Cup standings: Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa and Zalatoris.

Not far outside that top 10 are the likes of Young, Maverick McNealy and Davis Riley, notable young names that stand out amid a sea of still-plenty-competitive veteran players. Sahith Theegala, in contention at the Rocket, is another name that stands out, despite being farther down the points list.

While Young, 25, surged into the lead, Zalatoris, 25, was at 3 under, making the cut on the number.

Both are alums of Wake Forest, where they played a lot of team golf. They could make a formidable team at the Presidents Cup.

"They like to play together and they like to hang out together," Love said. "If they made the team, they're a natural. It's like Xander and Patrick, they're like peas in a pod. … They seem to get along great. You can see it when after I hit and they take off running down the fairway, they're chitchatting the whole day, comfortable with each other and giving each other a hard time."

The Presidents Cup will take place for the first time in three years. It's an every-other-year event, alternating with the Ryder Cup (Team USA vs. Team Europe), but the Ryder Cup was pushed back from 2020 to 2021 because of COVID-19, pushing the Presidents Cup to this year.

Because of COVID, and the shuffling of the PGA Tour schedule, the PGA of America went to six captain's picks for the last Ryder Cup, and decided to keep that number for the Presidents Cup.

It was four captain's picks in 2019.

This will Love's third time as a captain — he captained the Ryder Cup team that lost in 2012 and the one that won in 2016 — and it's a fun gig, even if making the captain's picks isn't his favorite thing. Specifically, telling people no isn't his favorite thing, and there'll be a lot of noes going to quality players this year.

"I hate it," he said, noting the captain's picks won't necessarily be obvious selections on points, but may go to players farther down the standings who've been playing more good golf more recently. "Our first 12 is really good, and our second 12 is really good and our third 12 is really good, so it could from anywhere."

Team USA has dominated the Presidents Cup, winning the last eight and only losing once (1998) and tying once (2003) since the event was founded in 1994.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic was the sixth PGA Tour event for Love this season, and first since April. He's also played in five Champions Tour tournaments this season. Love won 21 times in his career on the PGA Tour, including the PGA Championship in 1997. He almost won the U.S. Open in 1996 at Oakland Hills in Bloomfield Township, but lost to Steve Jones by a stroke after making bogey on the 18th hole.

Going streaking

This could be a big week for Charley Hoffman, 45, who is not in danger of losing his PGA Tour card (he's got medical exemptions, plus a career exemption as a member of the all-time money list), but entered the week well outside the top 125 for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Hoffman entered the week 181st on the official list, though it's a bit better once you remove the players who've left for the LIV Golf tour.

Hoffman is one of just six players who've made the FedEx Cup playoffs every year since it started in 2007.

Two of the players will see the streak end, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, because they've gone to LIV, though neither was anywhere close to the top 125 (Watson has been out since May with injuries, and Mickelson took a months-long self-exile.) Adam Scott is safely in to keep his streak alive (he's 9 under this week), as is Matt Kuchar (who missed the cut at 2 over) Brandt Snedeker, who pulled out of this week's tournament, is outside the top 125 with one week left in the regular season after this week.

Hoffman followed an opening 67 with a second-round 69, and was at 8 under entering the weekend.

"I'm thinking about it," Hoffman said. "But I'm not stressing about it. … Obviously you want to make the playoffs every year, that's a goal, but I also understand this game is getting younger and I'm getting older and there's going to be a year that I don't make it. Hopefully it's not this year. I feel like I've got a handful of good more years inside me, but it's going to come to an end eventually."

Big first step

KK Limbhasut figures he's tried about 45 Monday qualifiers in the last three years, since leaving college at Cal. He got through two of them. And, now, he has made his first PGA Tour cut.

Limbhasut, 26, was at 6 under through two rounds of the Rocket Mortgage Classic after a second-round 68. He got into the field as one of four players to qualify at The Orchards in Washington Township on Monday.

The only other PGA Tour event he played, the Farmers Insurance Open in 2020, he missed the cut by a shot.

"I think once I Monday'd in the last time, I felt like I already accomplished something, like that was a goal," Limbhasut said. "This time was different. Right now I have conditional status on Korn Ferry, so I need something special to not go to Q-School.

"So the goal was different this time; not just Monday in, but to play well this week."

Limbhasut already has guaranteed to make more money this week than he has all season on the Korn Ferry Tour — $2,978 in six events. The last two years, he just topped $100,000 on the Korn Ferry.

Chris Naegel, another Monday qualifier, made the cut at 3 under.

Wyatt's journey

Wyatt Worthington, 35, the club pro from Ohio who got into the field as the winner of the second annual John Shippen Invitational, finished at 9 over after a second-round 74 to miss the cut. He still earned a paycheck, $2,000 for winning the Shippen, created to open up opportunities for golfers of color and founded in Detroit, the nation's largest predominantly Black big city. Worthington still had a nice crowd following his round Friday, earning a nice ovation when he made birdie at No. 2.

Last year's Shippen winner, Timothy O'Neal, was 3 over to miss the cut by six shots.

Woodland's exit

It was a crushing finish for Gary Woodland on Friday, when he lipped out on an 8-foot birdie putt at the par-4 18th to miss the cut by a stroke. This is the third time Woodland, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, has played the Rocket, and he's missed the cut all three times.

The champ stays

Cam Davis, last year's winner in a five-hole playoff, broke the curse of defending Rocket Mortgage Classic champs, making the cut at 3 under. The first two winners, Nate Lashley and Bryson DeChambeau, missed the cut in their title defenses. Lashley made this year's cut, at 3 under, as well.

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984