Davis Love: Talks Golf and Love for Tiger Woods

At this year’s US Open, Davis Love III gave us some veteran, golf magic. Love played 68 holes better than the rest of the field, finishing just four shots off the lead; one stroke behind world number one and two golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

For 20 years he has demonstrated remarkable ability, posting top 10 finishes in golf’s major championships including six at The Masters. In 2008, Love recorded his 20th victory earning a lifetime exemption on the PGA Tour. He’s been on the tour’s top 100 money list ever since he took his first drive as a professional.

When it comes to golf history, aficionados like to point to Love’s final round of 64 at The Players Championship in 2003 as one of the best rounds ever seen. He went on to win that tournament. However, you would have to go back 13 years to find Davis’s one and only major title, the PGA Championship at Winged Foot. Today at 46, Love believes he has another major left in him and that nothing is impossible, particularly after the recent string of successes of 60 year old Tom Watson.

As far as all the quasi-attention around golf over the last eight months, Love believes the PGA Tour needs Tiger Woods and that everyone makes mistakes. Davis has been on tour since the start of Wood’s career and remembers how the phenom always knew what he wanted to accomplish. As for Love, he will continue to surprise when we least expect it, with possible future runs at major championships and tournaments across the world.

He’s currently a spokesperson for the American Express Championship Tees Program, which you can find more information about at www.americanexpress.com/golf.

Listen to the Davis Love III CYInterview:

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Chris Yandek: This past weekend you made a run at the US Open. You finish four shots off the field of the winner, one shot behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. At the age that you are today, what did you learn about your game this past weekend, and does it give you any kind of extra boost of confidence that you can compete with the best Tiger and Phil and anyone else on any given weekend still?

Davis Love: “Well, it certainly gives me a lot of confidence you know. I think both Tiger, Phil and myself and of course Dustin Johnson who finished just behind me, we’re all kicking ourselves. We know we were two or three holes away from winning a US Open, but also you have to take confidence in the fact that I played 68 holes better than the rest of the field and I can still do it and certainly watching Tom Watson the last few years compete in majors at 59 and 60 years old that the golf ball don’t know how old you are. You just gotta keep hanging in there and I’m excited about the rest of my year. I seem to be growing in confidence. I’ve had a couple top finishes in big tournaments this year and am excited about the rest of the year.”

CY: Everyone on Sunday seemed to be having trouble with the putting, you included. If you made a few more putts you could’ve been right there in a playoff, maybe you even win. Does this prove the old golf adage that says drive for show, putt for dough?

DL: “Well, it definitely does and especially in a US Open when the greens are really hard and fast and bumpy the best putters are gonna show. Graham McDowell is a great putter. Obviously Tiger and Phil are known for hitting it a long way, but they’re also known for being great pressure putters and that’s what you have to do to win a major championship. In extreme conditions, the best strokes and the best mental attitudes on the putting green seem to come out. I was a few putts away. I was also a few swings away. I hit a couple balls in the ocean that I’ve never done at Pebble Beach before. It’s a tough week and mentally, certainly Graham did the best job on the greens and around the course. We feel sorry for Dustin, but he still had a great week and learned a lot I’m sure and be a factor in majors to come.”

CY: So with what you saw this past weekend from yourself, do you think you have another major left in you?

DL: “Well, I certainly feel like I do. You don’t see a whole lot of majors won in late 40s, but it’s not to be said that you can’t do it. Tom Watson, like I said, he was one swing away from winning at Turnberry last year. He really putted better than anybody in the field and just hit one bad shot there on the last hole that cost him. I certainly feel like I can compete. I’ve got the length. I still hit the ball really well and if I can just stay patient, stick with my game plan and like you said, make a couple more putts here or there I can still be competitive.”

CY: Tell us about this Championship Tees program and the opportunity to play at some of the most historic and featured golf courses across the country.

DL: “Well, American Express has created a new program called Championship Tees and you can go to their website www.americanexpress.com/golf and check out major championship courses where they play PGAs, US Opens, Ryder Cups where the American Express card holders can play these golf courses that we’re gonna play in upcoming major championships like the upcoming PGA at Kohler Wisconsin on a Whistling Straits course is the next course that American Express card holders can play. They can beat us there. They can play there before we play there and see what we deal with in a major championship on these great courses.”

CY: For someone who has won a major, what can you tell the general public about your winning philosophy and being able to win 20 tournaments?

DL: “Well, I think that the biggest thing is it’s a mental battle. There’s a lot of players that can hit the ball really well, can hit it a long way, a lot of players that can putt well. But under pressure you have to have a good solid mental routine, a good solid mental game plan when you’re going out there. I think that’s what we learned from watching Jack Nicklaus play, what we’ve learned certainly recently from Tiger Woods is they’re just stronger mentally when the pressure’s on. I think any fan can pick up a sports psychology book or learn more of how to approach the game and the little things. We work on alignment. We work on setup. We work on chipping and putting, the mental side, the details that most average players don’t work on. They just work on hitting it farther, hitting it harder or work on their iron game, but the details is what separates the pros from the rest of the world.”

CY: So is it fair to say that a golfer who stays on their game really has no sell date?

DL: “Right. I think the golf ball doesn’t know how young or how old you are. You see 18 year olds up to 50 year olds winning PGA Tour events and I think as long as you have the right mental approach and put the time in. That’s the great thing about golf. You can have a long career and we’ve certainly seen it from Arnold Palmer to Lee Trevino and Greg Norman and now Kenny Perry’s still competitive, Fred Couples dominating The Champions tour and still competitive on our tour. There’s no reason that you can’t play late in your life and this game and certainly for the amateurs as well. Not too late to pick it up and not too late to get better at it.”

CY: Yeah we were talking about Tom Watson and it was really amazing what he did at the age of 59 at The Open Championship. Do you plan to play on The Champions Tour and maybe in the coming years when you get to the Champions Tour we’ll see you continuing to surprise us maybe in a way like Tom Watson did contending for majors?

DL: “Well, I hope that I’m still beating up on these young kids on the regular tour when I’m 50 years old and still playing in the big tournaments. But certainly The Champions Tour, that’s where most of my friends are now. I’m 46 and I have a lot of friends out there. The Jeff Slumans and Joey Sindelars and Fred Couples have moved on and left me so I’m looking forward to playing a few tournaments with them when I turn 50.”

CY: Definitely technology has without a doubt had an impact on the game of golf. Earlier in your career one could say you hit the ball as long as anyone and you had one of the most solid iron games. Do you think all the new technology has neutralized these strengths and other players through the technology maybe have caught up with people like you?

DL: “Well, I think certainly the technology levels the playing field a little bit. Back in my day and Jack Nicklaus’s day, we figured out how to hit it a long way with old equipment. So we really didn’t, I didn’t gain much distance, but I think it’s leveled the playing field a little bit, but now the difference really is that the golfers are more athletes. When you look at Dustin Johnson, when you look at Tiger Woods and now Phil Mickelson is in incredibly good shape. We have athletes playing golf now rather than just the leftovers from the basketball court or the football field were the golfers. We’re getting superstar athletes playing our sport, a lot of training. As I said, the mental side of it we have mental coaches, physical coaches, swing coaches and I think there’s a lot more going into it. We’re just getting better and better athletes and more kids are interested in playing golf than there were when I first came out on tour.”

CY: It just wouldn’t be an interview with Davis Love if we didn’t bring up your final round of a 64 to win The Players Championship in 2003. Best round of golf you’ve ever played?

DL: “Well, I think it’s certainly one of them. That was a cool, breezy day and playing with Fred Couples near the end of the tournament to shoot 64 and come away with a big win. We always joke, the guys that have won The Players Championship we hope that’s counted as a major one day cause it’s certainly one of the most important tournaments on the tour and one of the biggest. It’s a round I’ll always remember.”

CY: The game of golf has gotten a lot of quasi attention in the last eight months. Do you think it has been positive or negative for the game?

DL: “Well, I think it’s been maybe positive for the game, certainly not positive for Tiger and for his image, but it certainly shows that we’re all human and that we can all make mistakes and I think Tiger certainly learned from that and it’s great to see him back playing. But any time that we lose a major star whether it’s through injury or some personal problem it hurts our game and we missed him, but we’re glad to have him back. He’s the number one athlete in the world and certainly Phil is trying to take that number one golfer title away from him, but he’s still recognizable all around the world and we need him out on tour and we need him leading the charge for us and drawing fans to the game.”

CY: You’ve been on tour since his first year. What can you tell anybody about this guy that’s an outsider not in the golf world?

DL: “Well, I knew Tiger as a junior and as an amateur. I was working with Butch Harmon while Tiger was working with him coming out on tour. He certainly was the most confident and positive kid that I’ve ever met. He was a star in training and he was confident he was gonna come out and beat up on us. He told me in a practice round before he had ever won a tournament he said, ‘You’re one of the guys I want to beat coming down the stretch.’ He knew what he wanted to do. He knew what he wanted to accomplish. You very rarely see greatness at an early age and we could certainly see it in him and he certainly has proven to be one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen. Certainly, if not Jack Nicklaus, he’s one of the best golfers ever.”

CY: Finally, take me back to your 1997 PGA Championship win at Winged Foot. What do you remember about winning your only major and is it anymore special today?

DL: “Well, it’s certainly special after we’ve just come off of Father’s Day at the US Open. It was a great tribute to my dad and he was remembered well as me winning the tournament. It was certainly a time to remember what a great influence he was on my life and certainly winning a major puts you in a special club. I thought I would’ve gotten another one before now, but that still gives me confidence that I know I can do it and hopefully I can get another one.”

Davis Love III’s official website is at http://www.davisloveiii.com/

You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/love3d
Photo Credit: PGA