Monday, October 09, 2006

David Love ends three year drought

Excerpts of Davis Love's post-victory press conference in Greensboro...

TODD BUDNICK (PGA Tour): Davis, congratulations on your 19th career PGA Tour win and your first since 2003. I know a big relief for you.

DAVIS LOVE: Yeah. After '03, I thought we were on a roll and just, unfortunately, hadn't happened for awhile so it's exciting, it's a big relief and, you know, hopefully the start of bigger things to come, and I told Tom Lehman about I guess a month before the PGA that I was going to play good before the end of the year, I just couldn't promise him when it was going to be.

He took that to heart, I guess and, you know, I knew I was close. I knew when I got on my way I would play well and, you know, it took, you know, maybe sometime off and some reflecting and getting my patience back but certainly grinding for the Ryder Cup was it was a detriment and also I did it the wrong way and, you know, you've been out 20 years, you're not too old to learn new tricks.

I certainly learned a big lesson this year because I wanted the Ryder Cup so bad that I let it get in the way of everything else I was doing so it's nice to be back, you know, challenging for the lead and pulling it off rather than, you know, finishing 15th all the time.

Q Davis, when you got the lead, what was your mindset, did you just think you had to do more or what
DAVIS LOVE: I was just trying to birdie every hole. I was peaking at the leaderboard off and on. I wasn't staring at it as much as I usually do.
I looked early and saw, you know, that somebody was, you know, 6 under, I can't remember, which is good.

I didn't pay as much attention to what everybody else was doing and I talked to my daughter and her horse trainer about the way they were riding their horses at the Nationals, we went to a few weeks ago, and I kept thinking, "Wait a minute, that's what you should be doing."
I was telling them they were worrying about the other horses too much. That's what I've been doing. I've been worried about what everybody else is doing and expectations and things didn't matter.
Once I saw that after I birdied 13, I saw that I think I had gotten tied and I said, "Alright, just try to birdie every hole and don't look again" and I really didn't look again until 16.
I caught a glimpse that I was two ahead, and just tried to obviously tried to birdie the last two holes but play them conservatively. I hit a little too much club at 17 and obviously played right in the middle of the green on 18.
I even asked my caddie on 18 green, "We definitely are two ahead, right?" And he said, I was and then just to double check he went and asked Chris's caddie just to make sure.
I really blocked it all out that I was leading and just trying to play every hole and birdie every hole.

Q Davis, when you are a couple behind at the tournament and you haven't won in three years, is it hard not to get down on yourself and say, "Here we go again, another close call?"

DAVIS LOVE: Yes. Every time I thought about that I reminded myself just to play one shot at a time, one hole at a time and it's I spent as I said, I was out there a lot of time with Jack Lumpkin and Todd Anderson on my golf swing.

I spent a lot of time with Bob Rotella, especially this week talking about you're playing well, you just got to be committed to doing the things that are simple and straightforward that make you play well, and obviously thinking about being two ahead or three down or that you haven't won in a while or you want to go to Kapalaui or the Tour Championship, those thoughts don't do you any good while you're playing.

That why it's hard to win and to block out the negative thoughts, the expectations and if I would have been staring at that leaderboard and found out that I was three shots behind, I probably wouldn't have won and I was committed today to just playing my own game and keeping my head down and, you know, people say you should smile more, you should pump your fist more when you make putts.
I really through the middle of that round didn't know what was going on because I was trying to stay focused on what I was doing.

Q Davis, did you hear the fans saying, you know, he needs this, he needs this to win, just that you need a win? Do you hear that from a lot of fans?

DAVIS LOVE: Not really from the fans while you're playing. You hear it, you know, all the time. I heard it for six months: "You need to make the Ryder Cup team, the U.S. wants you on the team. You need another Top 10 here."

You hear all that stuff and, you know, your friends and your family in trying to help you, they get more and more nervous, you know, because they don't know well, is he playing bad, something we're doing or should we ask him why he's playing bad or ask him what we can to help?

When you're successful for a long time and you're not successful, people don't know how to act. I told my wife earlier this year, I said, "You know, nobody asks me any questions when I was playing great. They didn't ask me how I did it or why I did it or what are you doing to play so well." Just took it for granted, basically.

Then you start playing poorly, then you start getting the questions, what's the matter with you. Not that way, but, you know, what should you do different? Don't you think you ought to do this or that you get a lot of advice when you're not playing well.

It makes it hard. You hear things and, you know, people try to be positive but when they do that, they're actually reminding you of a negative and it really doesn't help and that's why I say, you know, Rotella and Jack Lumpkin have been such a big part of bringing me back because I'm working everyday on alignment, my feet and my set up.

Simple things just that I have to get back to basics and if I do the basic things well, I'll play well. I was in some bad habits physically and immediately tally.

Q Does doubt in the past three years enter your mind and you think maybe it's not mechanical, maybe it's a mental thing?

DAVIS LOVE: I've thought a lot. I've been dealing with this neck thing since 2001 and so I've been on kind of an up and down rollercoaster on the way. I felt sure, you think, you know, Jerry Pate or Johnny Miller or a lot of great players that their careers are cut short by an injury, and you think that, what if my back doesn't get better, what if my neck doesn't get better?

Lot of these guys that go out and have surgery like Scott Verplank, it has to creep in there because you have to be, you know, fit physically and mentally and you have to be a great player to win out here and that doubt certainly creeps in I don't doubt that I can play out here and stay exempt and make a nice living.

You doubt that you can beat a guy like Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods if you're not a hundred percent and I think your swing adjusts when you're not feeling well and then the doubt creeps in even more because you're not hitting the way you normally used to hit it.

And there's no reason at 42, you know, that I can't drive it as far as anybody else or putt as well as anybody else but when you're not feeling well, it certainly you feel like you're at a disadvantage when you go to the first tee with Tiger Woods and he's feeling great and you're not feeling good.

Q Were you making the Ryder Cup team so important that when something like that happened then you would say, "Here it goes again"?

DAVIS LOVE: Again, I'm going to blow some points.
You know, I made making that team such a big deal that it took over, you know, my golf life, you know? It became bigger than what it really was.
Whereas if I would have just said I don't care if I make it or not, I played 6 in a row, it's not a big deal.

But I was playing for the record, you know? I was playing for I want to make 7 so I can make 8 and rather than just playing the game and trying to be playing well when I got to the Ryder Cup I've never really been in that situation since all the way back to Dave Stockton's team where I was grinding it out then and didn't make it but I just made it too big a deal and, you know, again, it doesn't really matter what it is, winning or making the Ryder Cup team or a 900,000 dollar check or a free Chrysler car when you win the tournament, whatever it is you think about it gets you thinking about something other than playing the game is what kills you.

Q Over the years there have been golfers before the advent of the Champions Tour maybe along about this time start drifting away from the Tour in club pro jobs, et cetera.
If you stay competitive, is that something you aspire to play with your old buddies out there or will you go more toward your golf design company?

DAVIS LOVE: I don't want to leave my old buddies. You know, I want to play out here for a long time, you know? I want to stay healthy and continue to work hard and try to win golf tournaments out here.
I had a great talk with Walter "Uline" from Titleist Tuesday night. I spoke at a thing for them in Rhode Island, had a great talk with him.

Told him, I want to play on the PGA Tour like Fred Funk and like Jay Haas, play to win up into my 50s and then I'll make that decision.
I want to play my way out of being a Ryder Cup Captain. I want to be on the next three, four teams and, you know, when I was coming out on Tour I watched Jack Nicklaus win the Masters at 46. That's the way I'm thinking, you know, that I can stay competitive and, you know, when I get to my 50s hopefully I'm sitting around like Fred Funk trying to decide which Tour I want to play. That would be the best case scenario.

Q Davis, you talk about how you just want to win, period, but now that you have won here, is that one a little bit more special?
DAVIS LOVE: Definitely special. When I sit back and think about it, you know, how many times I've come close to winning, how many times I've had, you know, good Saturdays and bad Sundays or bad Saturdays and good Sundays and just was one round away from winning a golf tournament and what it does mean to win out here.

I was rolling right along looking like I was going for 30 Tour wins and hit a dry patch that is going to keep me from getting, probably getting to 30 but if I can, you know, continue working hard and continue the passion I have for it, hopefully I can still get there but this one will definitely be one I always remember.

Like I say at Hilton Head where I one won there a bunch. Everyone is different no matter if it's the same golf course, the same town. Everyone is different and everyone means something and this was one that I conquered, you know, more inner demons than anything, great players that shot some good scores but, you know, when there's tournaments when you're leading and you're supposed to win and you're the top ranked player going in and those are the ones that Tiger Woods wins, you know, when he's got the lead and he's supposed to win, he goes on and wins.
That's the difference I think between a top player and the rest of the golf world. So it's nice to have those kind of rounds every once in a while.

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