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May 23, 2006

Davis Love III

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Members of the media, thank you for joining us for today's PGA TOUR conference call. We are joined today by Davis Love III, winner of 18 PGA TOUR events, including the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club. Thus far this year his best finish has been 2nd at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. Good afternoon, Davis.
DAVIS LOVE III: Good afternoon.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could begin today's conference call with a brief review of your 2006 season and we'll follow it up with your comments about returning to Winged Foot next month for the U.S. Open.
DAVIS LOVE III: A brief review, you've done it. 2nd at the Match Play. I played very well there, a missed putt here and there on the weekend, could have easily won that tournament and had good luck there, but just haven't had, whatever, the strength or willpower or stamina to win all the matches. I've come awful close. That was a good week, and I've had a couple other pretty good weeks.
I feel like I'm playing very, very well, getting a lot out of my game. I'm working harder than I've ever worked on my game, and I think that might be part of the problem, that I'm expecting a little too much out of every shot, trying to be perfect.
Last weekend in Fort Worth was another good example; every time I got something going, I made a mistake trying to win, trying to make Ryder Cup points and all those things were getting in my way a little bit. But I'm pleased with my game, I'm excited about the way I'm playing. I'm excited my daughter is graduating from high school this weekend, but I'd like to be playing because I feel like I'm right on the edge and I'd like to play one more, maybe two, before the U.S. Open.
I'm excited about Winged Foot. There's obviously a great interest in how I'm feeling and how I'm doing and what I'm thinking because other than Phil and Tiger, there's not another real story to latch onto, so I'm excited to get the attention because I've told some of my friends in the media the fact that we're bringing my father up and bringing up the rainbow, I'm excited to go to Winged Foot. I've got a lot of friends there, both before and after the PGA Championship, and I'm excited to go back.
Q. Two questions: First, since you brought it up, a lot of people don't like to be constantly asked about the signature moment of their career. It's like, I have so much more to my career, but you seem to have little problem with that. Can you go into that more and how every time people bring that up, and your dad and the rainbow, that actually is good and not like, let's not live in the past?
DAVIS LOVE III: You always like to live a little bit in the past when you do well. I love to be on the 1st tee at Colonial Country Club and hear, "He's an 18-time PGA TOUR winner and winner of the '97 PGA Championship," because the two guys you're playing with they don't say that about. It's very nice to hear.
I have great memories of my win at Winged Foot and the way the tournament played out. Obviously Justin and I had great years that year, both won our first major back to back and being good friends and it was very exciting, and under the rainbow, and it was very exciting.
The greatest thing about the rainbow is it was significant to me, it was significant to a lot of people who have had rainbow stories in their lives, but Jim Nantz made the connection on national TV to my father, so every time the story comes up, it's, well, Davis' father watched over him.
Here we are close to approaching 20 years away from his passing, people will still be -- Davis Love's dad, Davis Love, Jr., taught him to play and he's a great teacher, and I think that story continues on. People say what's the best thing about winging the PGA Championship, and it's carried my dad's memory on. Maybe winning the U.S. Open under a rainbow that year wouldn't have meant as much, but the connection with the PGA, my dad as a PGA member, and not that many PGA members' sons have gone on to win the PGA Championship.
Q. I guess just to totally change course, you mentioned Phil and Tiger. Do you think Phil has closed the gap, and do you think in general the field has closed the gap on Tiger?
DAVIS LOVE III: They've closed the gap. If you go back and read what we were saying around 2000, around that period, we were saying, this ain't going to happen forever; this is the best golf that's ever been played. All those things we said about Tiger, but he played -- for his whole career he's played better than anybody has probably ever played, but for that one period, like the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, nobody has ever played golf like that. He's had a two-, maybe three-year period where we said, look, the standard is now being set. You're seeing it being set. Nobody will ever approach this.
You can watch Barry Bonds catch Hank Aaron that we thought was never going to happen, and he's saying, look behind me, look at this Pujols guy; he's on a much better pace than me. You never know. We never thought Jack's records would be approached, but Tiger is the one to have a chance.
That period was so good. I think Phil is playing up to his potential. If Tiger plays to his potential and Phil plays to his potential and Vijay plays to his potential and Davis plays to his potential, they're going to win big golf tournaments. I just think that Tiger obviously is just a little bit more special than everybody else, maybe like Jack was. If everybody played to their potential, Jack was still going to win probably more majors and golf tournaments than the rest of them.
Q. I know you've talked about this a million times before, but I'm just wondering if you could share again freshly, if you will, when you saw the rainbow, what it meant to you when you saw it, and which hole as it relates to golf do you remember the most, be it 16 and the 6-iron you hit in there or whatever? It's a mouthful of a question, sorry.
DAVIS LOVE III: I didn't see the rainbow until walking up to the green. People were saying, look at the rainbow, look at the rainbow, to us and to other people in the gallery, look, there's a rainbow. As people do, hey, look, there's a rainbow, and everybody looks, the crowd was doing that and obviously they were pointing it out to me, to the group playing, and it was an exciting moment. But we didn't really see it until we got up to 18 green kind of away from the trees in the fairway.
One of the biggest shots for me was the putt at 3, the long par 3, putting it in from just on the front of the green. Jack Lumpkin and I talked for months leading up to the tournament, when you're hitting a hard shot into a green you always need to put it on the front of the green, don't try to put it way back into the green, don't try to go for the pin, you just need to put it on the front or the front middle and try to make a putt and always putting uphill. I put, whatever it was, a 4-iron right on the front of the green, I think it was just off the front edge, and I putted and putted uphill and made the putt for a birdie. I think Justin might have already made a bogey. That one made me feel like, hey, I know what I'm doing, I've got the strategy, I'm playing solidly and I'm starting to build a lead.
There was a great chip on the back 9 on the other par 3 and some great tee shots and a birdie on the par 5, 5, things like that. But that putt always sticks out to me as the one that kind of got the momentum going.
Q. You kind of followed instructions there.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I did. He told me to hit a lot of fairways and hit greens. That's pretty good advice any time. You know, Jack, obviously growing up and working for Claude Harmon, and he was an assistant at Winged Foot and knowing Claude so well, Claude kind of showed him how to play Winged Foot. Claude was a quite a major championship player in his own right, but he was a great player because he learned how to play Winged Foot and how to hit high bunker shots and how to play hard golf courses.
Jack felt like he had insight to help me with the golf course. Everybody saw how hard the course was; you had to put it in the fairway and put it in the middle of the greens. But it's a good strategy, something that I really need to work on between now and then, a good patient game plan. I think that's, as I said earlier, has been my downside earlier is expectations. Every time I see Tom Lehman, I start looking at the list of points and trying to make a Top 10, and I'm turning what I usually make, a 5th or 8th or 10th, somewhere in there, I'm making that into 17th and 25th just because I'm thinking about it.
I haven't really felt like I've been ready to win every week, but I felt like I've been playing my usual Top 10 golf when you're not really on form. I'm hoping for Winged Foot to bring that focus back a little bit and be a little more than patient.
Q. It will be a good connection. I think you were on the bubble for the Ryder Cup in '97, weren't you?
DAVIS LOVE III: Pretty much. I was in a position where I could get knocked out but probably not, and with Kite as captain, I was kind of counting on the fact that I've played Ryder Cups before in '93 and '95 and I was comfortable but not a lock, and maybe if I did happen to fall to 11th I would get picked. But I'm in the same boat I was in.
I don't want to be a pick. I don't want to be 11th or 12th, put that pressure on the captain. I want to earn my way onto the team. Like Tim or Brett Wetterich, let's see if we can win one and jump way up in the rankings.
Q. I want to ask off topic. I think you've got the longest active streak of majors played at about 63 right now. Jack was at 146 when he stopped, so my question is do you think Jack's record of 146 straight majors will ever be broken? And which do you find more impressive, the number of majors consecutively played or Tiger's cut streak?
DAVIS LOVE III: I would say majors played just because obviously Jack had exemptions almost for life there for a while. His record might not be broken. I'm trying to think of the rules. Can you get more than a ten-year for winning a major now?
Q. It's basically up until 65 for the three, and then you get a ten-year exemption for winning the U.S. Open, so that's kind of the trick to it.
DAVIS LOVE III: He was competitive in probably 120 of them, so that's what's so amazing, his longevity, the number of 2nds in majors, that number will probably never be broken, either. He certainly, as I said before, he was in a class during his time, and if he was on in a big tournament, he won, and if he wasn't on, he came awful close.
Q. Given how well you played that week in '97 and knowing what you do about some of the changes they've made to that golf course, do you imagine that anyone would come close to 11-under par if that golf course is firm the week of the U.S. Open?
DAVIS LOVE III: I doubt -- if you went back and played the same course again, it would be hard to get to that score. I think Justin and I got kind of on a roll there and were pushing each other. It would probably take a similar situation, two guys playing well and leaving the field and focusing on each other, pushing each other. Sometimes you see that, that two guys will separate themselves, feel like they're chasing the rabbit a little bit and getting away.
But I would doubt it. It sounds like the course, from what I've heard from amateurs that have played there in the invitational, is extremely hard. We have to prepare ourselves for that in most majors now, that it just gets harder and harder, gets more difficult. With the minor advances we've gained in equipment, the golf courses are certainly more than making up for that.
Q. Just as a follow-up, what was your reaction to the USGA's decision to introduce this sort of graduated rough, or the further off the fairway you are, the higher the rough will be?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think that's been a pretty good argument from some guys, especially recently like David Toms saying, look, I missed the fairway by just a little bit and I keep getting in a foot rough, and guys hit it wide and get away with it. I've seen the ropes get wider. That certainly helps that. It'll be interesting to see what it looks like.
I certainly like it because when I miss I don't seem to miss by much in a major. Maybe that will help a little bit. But I don't think it's going to be very playable if you miss the fairway, no matter how far you miss it.
The only thing I don't like is it just ends up being a chip-out tournament. I think we see a little too much of that, that everything is just -- if you hit it off the fairway you have to chip it back in the fairway. If the course gets firm and fast, it gets to be a putting contest and then pros putting for par is not as good a theater as birdies every once in a while.
Q. This is the one course in recent years, the past 10 or 11 years, as far back as I can check, where they've had a PGA and a U.S. Open. Given the design philosophies of both, under which philosophy do you think this is a better course?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think they'll be real similar. I think the USGA and the PGA of America have certainly tried real hard to go to more classic versus -- you look back, they've really hit some big-time classic courses the last 10 or 12 years, and I think they've had a similar setup. Steve Elkington told me after I won the PGA, you wait, next year people will be congratulating you on winning the U.S. Open, and he was right. Sometimes the casual fan, they can't really differentiate between the PGA and the U.S. Open because they look so much alike now. You played Winged Foot in a PGA or a U.S. Open, it really shouldn't that be different. I think the difference this year will be just the length of the golf course that they've changed. I think it'll look a lot like the PGA Championship did when it was there.
Or like when you go to Medinah, it's hard to tell the difference between a U.S. Open and a PGA when you have a classic course like that.
Q. And strictly in terms of how you played that day, obviously the peripheral things like your finish at Winged Foot and the rainbow and memories of your dad, but strictly in terms of how you played golf that day, compare that to the final round of the 2003 Players, how you played.
DAVIS LOVE III: I would say fairly similar. Both courses you had to be very precise off the tee and you had to hit the right shot to get in the fairway, have to hit the right shot to get close to the hole. Very similar. I was very much on my game.
I had a few hiccups one day at Winged Foot, but I did it the same at THE PLAYERS. Both times I won THE PLAYERS, I've been on my game and gotten ahead on the last day and had an easy time of it the last three or four or five holes, and I felt the same way at the PGA. I got it rolling and kept it going -- they were very similar.
Q. If I could speak to a couple FedEx Cup questions, where are we at as far as trying to come up with a points system that not only will work but also won't be like the BCS where people are confused as far as what's going on and that will be easy to follow? How difficult a process has that been?
DAVIS LOVE III: It's been a long process. I've been on the board the whole process, so it's a lot longer than even like the Player Advisory Council, and now this really got a lot of players involved this year. But that was the number one thing that the players stressed to us was it has to be simple, we have to be able to understand it.
I think we are 98 percent there. Obviously it has to go through our next board meeting to have the whole system finalized, then we move onto payout, how that happens the rest of the year.
I think ever since the Pebble Beach, we have a Player Advisory Council meeting four or five times a year -- I think we've had four this year because of the points. We had a special one last week at Fort Worth to go over some changes that we talked about at the Wachovia tournament. We're close, but I think everybody is happy. It's a lot like politics; there's some guys wanting what their faction want. There's obviously issues like points for opposite events, points for the majors, do they get a bump and do the World Golf Championships get the same bump and things like that that are little details that obviously are going to be big.
The simple answer is they've run every scenario possible. All the options we've had have come out where when you run the numbers, it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference how you weight the U.S. Open versus the NEC World Golf Championship versus the Western Open. Unless you have double points for a tournament, just having 5 percent more or 10 percent more in the outcome doesn't really matter.
Anyway, we're 95 percent there. It'll be very simple to understand. It'll be simpler than NASCAR, and I'm a NASCAR fan, and I can tell you most of how they get points, but I still can't figure out why the guy that wins doesn't win the most money in the week and how exactly it works, but I know that my guy is 6th in points and he needs to win a race and he needs to stay in the Top 10.
I think even the casual fan will be able to understand our system. They can understand the Money List where not every tournament is the same amount of money, not everybody plays the same amount of tournaments, but they can follow it through the year and say, holy cow, Vijay Singh played 24 tournaments and won $8 million and Tiger played 20 tournaments and he won $8 million, they can understand that. So I think they'll be able to understand that Tiger got X amount of points and he needs to play the week before the PGA Championship to get some more to try to get himself into No. 1 seed. It'll be a lot of explaining, and obviously there will be some weaknesses.
I'm excited about it. I think it went a lot smoother than we thought, and everybody is pretty much on board. They're more concerned with -- now they're moved onto how we're going to get paid, so that's a good sign.
Q. If I can ask a provincial question, you've played the Western Open and had a lot of success here. Are you surprised by the concept or the proposal that once it becomes part of the Championship Series that it will rotate out of Chicago every other year, that there would be years when the Tour doesn't come to Chicago?
DAVIS LOVE III: A little surprised. I think that the Western Golf Association has had a wide reach, its whole history with all kinds of different tournaments, and their caddie scholarship program has a big wide reach. Hopefully that will tie in. They're a great organization, and I think that we'll get behind their tournament no matter where it goes.
I know the Tour definitely wants to be in Chicago but they also definitely want to be in some other big markets. It's a good opportunity for the sponsor and for the WGA and obviously for us to hit some of the bigger markets but also stay in Chicago.
We'd love to move all of them around. There's a big push for players wanting to play some of these tournaments in the south, and we keep reminding them that Atlanta is in the south and the TOUR Championship is in Atlanta. I think we've got a good variety of tournaments. I think it's going to be exciting.
Q. You mentioned earlier about working harder than you ever have. Can you kind of elaborate a little bit on what exactly you're doing, any changes you've made and how those things are translating into what you're doing on the course?
DAVIS LOVE III: I'm certainly feeling better, feeling stronger. You know, being near the whole time in Sea Island, Randy Myers and the fitness, working over a year with him, I feel better and feel stronger. Jack Lumpkin has recruited Todd Anderson off the other end of the driving range here to help me since Todd travels out on Tour a lot more than Jack does, and he's really -- they've put their heads together to give me some drills, practice programs, really give me -- as I said, can you teach an old dog new tricks, and they really have.
They've put together, kind of like my dad did, they put together a list of things they want me to do and some drills that I'm working on, which I haven't stood on the driving range and done a drill for an hour in a long time to perfect a move, partly because I haven't been as healthy as I would like.
As far as getting it to the golf course, I think that's the real problem is I've spent so much time working hard on my game that I haven't really transferred that to scoring, and Tom Kite was always the best at hitting a lot of balls and asking a lot of opinions and working on his swing and then turning that off when he walked onto the tee.
With a pencil in your pocket it's a different game, and I'm not doing a good job with a pencil in my pocket. I've got to just go out there and play golf and work on the driving range when I'm out there. When I need to do is play more golf away from the Tour and continue working on these things and just get back to scoring.
I'm making silly mistakes; I'm driving it in the middle of the fairway and making a bogey or a double bogey with a 9-iron or fatting one in the lake on a par 3 when I finally got within the Top 10 like I did Sunday at Fort Worth. I don't think I've ever hit it in the lake on the 13th at Fort Worth, and now is not the time to start doing things like that. That's more concern about my golf swing, concern about ball flight, concern about distance control and not just playing the golf course and trying to make a birdie.
It's always the little things, the little details that are the hardest to control, and your mind tends to wander and to do its own thing. I've just got to get, as my mom says, a little bit more focused and I'll be in good shape.
Q. Getting back to the rainbow and your father, the connection was made to your father's presence there. What was your feeling about that and your sense about that?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it was brought up a little bit when I won THE PLAYERS Championship the first time, that the sun happened to pop out through the clouds on the last hole, my biggest moment winning THE PLAYERS Championship, and that my dad was looking over me. It's great when that memory is brought back.
Obviously my dad was a big part of everything I did and will do in golf. I just appreciate that other people recognize that. Certainly my book with Michael Bamberger did a lot to tell people how lucky I was growing up and what a great coach and teacher and golf buddy and father I had. It certainly helps keep his memory alive. I really enjoy it for my son because he can go back and relive '97. He was four years old, and he can go back and relive my win and the rainbow and all that and hear all the stories. It means a lot.
I'm not a rainbow guy; I painted a rainbow on the back of my motorcycle after I won, and I thought, I don't know if I want to ride around with a rainbow on the back of my motorcycle. But it certainly makes me think of my dad when I see a rainbow, and people all across the United States have gotten in touch with me and talked to me about their rainbow stories. It's meant a lot to me personally, emotionally, and obviously on the golf course.
Q. Just a quick follow-up, with Tiger losing his father, the U.S. Open and Fathers Day, when you think back on what you saw between Tiger and his father, what you saw, heard, read about, what made the biggest impressions on you about their relationship?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I saw a lot of the same things that my dad gave to me, which was a lot of love and a lot of support, a lot of confidence. I think that's the thing that Tiger's dad understood that he wanted to instill in Tiger, that he could be the best and that he had to give it his all because he had the potential to do great things.
One of the best things my dad ever told me, and I've told this story in our book, that I hit it in the woods one day on a par 5 and I went over in the woods and he was standing behind me, and I saw a gap and I slashed a 4-iron out and hit a big high cut and knocked it on the green and had an eagle putt, and he casually walking to the green and said, you know, there's two players that are exciting to watch in this game, you and Seve Ballesteros. As a college-aged player, when a professional and a respected teacher, no matter if he's your dad or not, pays you a compliment like that, it gives you confidence.
My dad did things like that for me all the time. After my freshman year of college, he said you can qualify for the PGA TOUR now, you're that good. After my sophomore year he said, you would qualify for the Tour and you would keep your card. After my junior year he said, you could qualify, keep your card, you might be Rookie of the Year, and then next year you might win a tournament. I said, well, I'm going. Maybe he shouldn't have said that.
He always told me honestly what my potential was to keep me working hard and give me confidence. I really saw -- I knew Tiger from 15 or 16 years old, and it was that whole Butch Harmon time and he got to be around his dad a lot, and I saw that. He never told Tiger, you can't do that. If you work hard, maybe you can. It was always, you're going to be the best, you keep working hard, have a good attitude, stick with it and all those kind of things. He made Tiger believe, and I think that's a sign of a great motivator and a great teacher.
Tiger hasn't really had that much probably the last few years, but that will always stay with him. Obviously Tiger is going to be in the same boat as me; every time he goes to play golf, he'll think of his father. That's not going to change. It's going to be hard for a while, but it'll also be a positive for him down the road.
I miss my dad when my son plays a round of golf and plays well, and I miss my dad when my daughter decides she's going to play high school golf and he's not there to teach her. I miss him not for the PGA Championship or for The Masters, I miss him for day-to-day life and day-to-day golf, but I'm always happy to enjoy those memories, and I'm happy to share them, especially this year leading up to Winged Foot, that I can go back and tell people how lucky I was. It reminds me of the job I need to do with my kids at the same time.
Q. A lot of my stuff has already been asked, but I'm curious, one of the things that people often bring up with Winged Foot is the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in '74, that was a year of +7; when you won it it was -11. With the added distance and everything the USGA does to it, do you have any sort of sense of where the winning score might be? Is it one of those things where the USGA is going to put it close to par again?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you know, they talk about technology. Technology hadn't made really the big jump in golf before the PGA in '97. I think there's just more guys -- obviously I had switched to a metal wood that year and Justin switched the year before. We were two of the last guys to switch, maybe in that same year. We had just made the switch and we were the last of the dinosaurs to get away from wood. That was a big jump, that and the professional ball and all that kind of stuff.
I think we're playing a very similar game on a -- apparently going to be a lot harder golf course. Will it go back to +7? I don't think so. Those were extreme conditions. Back then, they didn't play extremely hard course like Winged Foot very often. We've gotten good at it. They throw it at us all the time.
Last week was the most rough they've ever had at Colonial. Two of the days were the fastest greens I've ever putted at Colonial. They're throwing that at us more and more and more, and our agronomy staff and our course staff does a great job of setting up the golf courses to be as close to major championship conditions as each tournament will allow.
They just get harder and harder and longer and longer. Think we're more prepared for it. Will it be a massacre? I don't think so, but I would say it's somewhere between par and the scores Justin and I shot back in '97.
Q. The question I have for you is I know Justin said he has not played at Winged Foot since '97. Have you been back and played there at all or not?
DAVIS LOVE III: I've played a few times. Justin and I both played the other course, but he hasn't played the course that we played on.
I've been out there several times for dinner, and I haven't played since they lengthened it. I've played since the tree program went into effect, but I haven't played since they lengthened it. My brother has played there several times. I've gotten the reports. You know, sometimes you're not real anxious to go do something that's extremely hard.
I think we'll get enough of it the three days before. But there's a few holes that are different. I think maybe 13 or 14 holes are pretty much the same. It's got a few of the long holes that are even longer. I don't know how that will affect the way it's played. Those holes were hard already.
Like I said the last question, it just seems to get harder and harder every week, and we keep going, we don't gain distance or the hole doesn't get any bigger or we don't make more putts every week. It seems like it just gets harder and harder and harder. It's a testament to how many great players there are out there that the scoring average basically hasn't changed for quite a while, and it just shows you that there's more and more guys that are capable of winning and more and more guys that are capable of playing the power game.
I think if somebody hits a lot of fairways and the greens aren't extremely hard, there might be some good scores. Winged Foot kind of wears you down, and it's going to be very difficult.
Q. As a short follow-up to that, is it silly for us, meaning the media, to ask which aspect of a player's game will be the most important heading into Winged Foot? Does one aspect of a player's game stand out, or do you just say this is the U.S. Open and you've pretty much got to do everything well?
DAVIS LOVE III: You've got to do everything well. My misconception when I came out on Tour was I hit it farther than most people and hit more greens than most people so I'll do well in major championships because they're harder. But you play them and you realize, not only do I have to hit it really well, I have to chip and putt really well because I'm going to get in trouble and have to get out of it. I'm going to have to make my birdie putts when I'm going to get the chances because I'm not going to have as many as I thought. I'm going to have to putt well for par and control the mental side of it.
Even more than any other tournament, you have to do everything very well, and that's why you see a guy shooting one or two good scores, but it's hard for a guy to put together four really good rounds because they ask so much of you.
It really is the ultimate golf test because it's a patience test on top of a hard golf course. You hear a lot of guys say, it turns so much into putting for pars that I think if you said, all right, Davis, we're going to give you one thing to get 20 percent better, I would say I'd like to have my five-footers for par better.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you, Davis, and thank you to the members of the media for joining us today.

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