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June 1, 2005

Davis Love III


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Davis, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at The Memorial Tournament. Great finish last week, sets you up for coming into this week. Why don't you talk about the course a little bit.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I played the course obviously in the Pro Am yesterday. It's in immaculate shape, as usual. The fairways are a little better than last week, and the greens are just as good. Jack and his staff do a great job here at this tournament, so it's always a pleasure to come to this tournament. It feels like a major and looks like a major, and they try to treat it like a major, so it's a lot of fun to play.

I'm playing better and I'm happy to be here.

Q. Why are you playing better? Is there anything specifically?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I'm feeling better. You know, that was my goal when I came out at the beginning of the year was to get healthy, pain free and stronger. I thought I could do that before The Masters and it didn't really work, kind of flopped around, had some decent finishes but never really got to where I felt like I was playing great. You know, places where I was comfortable I seemed to play okay, and the bigger tournaments I didn't play as well.

But now I think in the last month I've gotten to where I'm really feeling good, stronger, hitting the ball good and can start to see signs of some real golf shots under tough conditions rather than every time it was a tough shot I would seem like I would miss it or every time it was a par drive I would miss the fairway and now I'm starting to hit the ball better and gaining confidence. It's always what comes first, the chicken or the egg, and my confidence has come back. I'm starting to hit some good shots under pressure on hard holes, and that just breeds more confidence. I'm just getting better and better.

It's the first time I've really come off an injury that I felt like was holding me back last year. It's been a slower process than I wanted, but I'm feeling really good now.

Q. Is that your back?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, my neck and my arm. I withdrew during the round at the TOUR Championship. It was kind of a low point where I was really forced off the golf course, off the driving range, where I just couldn't I felt like I couldn't do what I wanted to do health wise.

I rested probably more than I should have rather than being aggressive, but now we're being real proactive or aggressive or whatever you want to call it, with the injury, trying to go around it rather than wait it out.

Q. What was it diagnosed as?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I've had it since 2000, just a bad disc in my neck. I've let it progressively get me weaker, and now I'm progressive getting stronger. It's funny, when I walk off the golf course, I think about, now, do I have time to hit balls and work out or am I just going to work out, rather than I'm going to go hit balls and try to figure it out and then go rest. I seem to swing better if I'm in the gym and stretching and working out rather than hitting balls. That tells me I've done enough ball hitting the last couple years, I just haven't done enough strengthening.

Q. Can you describe what the how does the pain manifest? Is it down your arm or in your neck or your back?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's just tight, lack of strength in my shoulder and my arm. We've bounced back and forth between neck, shoulder, is the shoulder torn up? I've been to see Jim Andrews twice in the last two years over in Alabama, and we go over there and he keeps telling us it's not your shoulder, go find something else.

But when you're guessing and there's nothing broken or torn, it's hard to figure out where this lack of strength is coming from. But it's getting better, and like I said, last week, save four or five tee shots, I could have been right there with David and Justin. So I'm real close to playing good.

Q. What's that rehab work entail? Is it just upper

DAVIS LOVE III: A lot of stretching in specific areas rather than just stretching your hamstrings and the same old boring stuff, a lot of real aggressive kind of new stretches for me, and then a lot of strengthening, rubber bands and weights and ball work and stuff like that, the stuff you see 20 guys in there doing now every afternoon. It's a more modern approach, a lot of stuff on the ball and rubber bands and light weights and high reps and stuff that guys like the Titleist Performance Institute and Randy Myers and Joey that works with Vijay and Chris Noss and you see those guys around, they've got a bunch of neat new stuff that they're working on.

Q. Obviously with the injuries you haven't been able to be up there as much as you'd like. When you read all this Fab 4, Fab 5 stuff, do you ever sort of, "wait a minute, just because I'm injured doesn't mean I'm not there in the picture" and use that as kind of a motivating thing?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I hear it. I try not to read it (laughter) because it's the same as the "Tiger is the only one" for two years we went there, and there's nobody else. It's always just a spin on the latest new thing, latest new there's a rivalry of two guys or four guys or no guys or when is the next Jack Nicklaus coming. I'm just trying to get back to the top where I want to be. Obviously right now I'm trying to win a golf tournament, trying to get ready for Pinehurst, trying to make Jack's Presidents Cup team. There's a group of us that really want to make the team and to win for Jack. He deserves a Presidents Cup win after going around the world twice and not getting one. That's a big motivator for me. I'm just trying to get back up to the top, and I've got to go through about 15 guys to get there. It's more than just four or five for me.

Q. Is there something about this golf course that's produced the winners that it has over the years, and as long as you've been playing here, have you thought that you should be on that list?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think I could this could be a good golf course for me. It's a tough course. You know, I was thinking that same thing yesterday in the Pro Am, what's it going to take differently for me to win here, and I think for me it's more the tricky the big, breaking putts. You see certain players are good these are like Masters greens when they get fast. The ball is always having to come around and die in the hole a lot. You don't get a whole lot of easy straight uphill flat putts.

I think that's going to be my goal the next couple of days is to get used to the speed and the pace and trying to die those putts in, rather than last week on Bermuda grass it was pretty flat where a not of the putts were straight, putts that I'm used to. These greens are tricky and I think that's the difference. If I putt well, I can certainly win here.

Q. Somebody mentioned that the reason the winners are so good here is because they're all here playing, but other people say it's something about the course that identifies those people. What is it to you?

DAVIS LOVE III: When you get all the best players in one place, it's more likely that they're going to win. Obviously some fields don't have the Top 5 guys in the world.

But again, it's more like a major championship style of golf course where you're penalized if you miss the fairway, you're severely penalized if you miss the green, if you short side yourself and make mistakes, this course is going to make you pay for it. That's not to say if you don't hit a lot of fairways and hit a lot of greens you can't score. I made six birdies and an eagle yesterday. I can get it done here. We've seen some low rounds, especially when it's soft. But this course will make you pay if you make mistakes and I think the best players come out on top more the harder the golf course is.

Q. What do you think of guys showing their temper, showing their emotion after a shot? Is it okay for the game, considering it's such a gentlemanly game?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's hard to control your emotions in any sport, but I think we do a better job than most. There's a few guys that cross over the edge and they get reprimanded. But I see my 11 year old son smack his club on the ground when he hits a bad shot. He wants to hit a good shot in a tournament just like we do, and sometimes it's hard to keep it in, but I think you have to set an example, and sometimes some of our guys get away from that. I do, too. I was banging my club down the cart path last week when I hit a bad drive. I got some "oohs" from the gallery but the driver needed to be punished a little bit. Sometimes you can't keep it in.

I think we do a pretty good job, and language is my biggest concern. It's hard to be playing for a big tournament down the stretch and hit a bad shot and not want to smash your tee or something. But as long as you as long as the club doesn't come out of your hands and bad words don't come out of your mouth, then I think people understand that there's a lot of emotion and passion, and if they were mechanical out there and boring and never showed any emotion, I think people would wonder if we're being suppressed a little bit.

Some of the language I hear is the thing that disappoints me.

Q. Speaking of emotion, Chris DiMarco has emerged the last couple of years as a real force, particularly in majors. He doesn't have a teacher, he is sort of self taught. Does it surprise you that a guy like that would be doing so well?

DAVIS LOVE III: No, I think Chris playing on some teams with him the last few years, he's just passionate, he's got a lot of energy and he wants to do well, and you can tell he doesn't have classic mechanics, but he gets the ball in the hole, and that's what makes a great player. When you go back and look at a lot of the great from Lee Trevinos and guys like that, Arnold Palmer doesn't have a classic game or swing, it's just a desire to do well and get the ball in the hole. He has a great mental approach to it, and I love the way he plays, the passion he plays with. That's why when you get to the bigger tournaments, Chris seems to do well, because he's in that mode all the time.

Q. How serious is your son as a golfer? Are you his teacher? What did you learn from being taught by your dad that you either use with your son or maybe change and do differently?

DAVIS LOVE III: I try to do it exactly the same as my dad did and make it fun, just let him go. Jack Lumpkin, my teacher, has been really good at telling me, "just leave him alone, he's doing real well." Jack will watch him hit balls, pop him into my lesson and video him a little bit and tell him "I want you to turn through it, keep your feet on the ground, do what your dad said, now go have fun, go play with Billy." That's the biggest advice I've gotten from Jack Lumpkin and my dad is "Don't take it too serious." He's getting serious, he's shooting in the 70s from the forward tees, and he's wanting to learn, but we're trying to feed him more. I'm not his teacher, Jack Lumpkin and Todd Anderson and everybody out on our range, I just point him there and let him learn from them.

At THE PLAYERS Championship I had him watching Adam Scott hit balls. That's how I grew up, watching great players play. He's got a great group of kids at Sea Island he plays with, so I'm just trying to get him out there enough.

Q. Do you think he's got the bug to play the game?

DAVIS LOVE III: He's got it for sure. He announced the other day that when he got to high school he was going to break all my records, but then Jack told him they've already been broken twice. Our team has won like 17 state championships, so he's anxious to get into the junior and high school golf. He's ready to go, and we're just trying not to let him get ahead of himself.

Q. Yesterday Mr. Nicklaus said that Pinehurst No. 2 was his favorite course, but he doesn't like the way they set the pins up, they were on knobs where they didn't belong. What do you think about putting trends as a designer and as a player, are greens getting too tricked up or too hard where it sort of overtakes skill?

DAVIS LOVE III: I've heard and used the term that Pinehurst is Donald Ross on steroids. It's a little bit more extreme than anything else you see by him. But the difference is, I played with a Stanwich Golf Club member, and Fazio is redoing Stanwich, and he's trying to keep the same design but take the slope out because those greens were designed for 6 or 7 on the stimp meter and now the greens superintendent can get them to 11 or 12. So the difference at Pinehurst or Winged Foot or Seminole or the great old courses with the severe greens is just the speed has picked up so much. So now when we go like the Tour redid The Players Club at Memphis, they took some of the slope out when they redid the greens because they can get that Champions Bermuda so much faster than they could on old bentgrass. That's the challenge now, making interesting greens with a lot of different pins and slopes and stuff but not getting them too fast because the greens superintendent, if you tell him to put them at 10, he's not going to do it, he's going to put them at 12 if he can get them to 12.

I know when Jim Furyk won the U.S. Open they were trying to get the greens superintendent to slow the greens down because they didn't have any flat places, and these greens were built 40, 50 years ago, and that's the challenge now.

Augusta, they have so many slopes there that you almost can't play if they get the greens really fast. That's where Jack has done some work on these greens, made more pins over the years, and we just have to watch out for green speed rather than the design.

Now, Pinehurst, they have to stay away from the edges or they're going to get crazy, and Nick Price and myself and a few other guys have talked to them about their setup, about what they did right the last time.

Q. Do you think there's too much of a premium on putting now?

DAVIS LOVE III: Ben Hogan said there's not enough premium on hitting it far; putting shouldn't count so much. Just depends how you look at it. Fred Funk thinks we need more putting probably. It's more a balance, and I think you see the USGA has let a couple courses get away from them, and I think they've learned from that.

Putting is an important part. You shouldn't be able to putt it off the green if you hit a bad putt. And Pinehurst is one course you can do that. Augusta you can get it a little too much, and the R & A seems to set up the golf courses very, very well. They don't ever let it get away from them, maybe once or twice in the 18 years I've been going over there because they err on the side of we'd rather have it be too slow or too easy than too fast and letting wind or sun conditions make it impossible. They'll do a good job this year at Pinehurst. They've got incentive from last year not to let it get away from them.

Q. When you guys go back to Pinehurst in a couple weeks, how much are the memories of Payne Stewart going to come back for you guys?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's great that it's been talked about so much the last six months leading up to it. You know, we miss him at Pebble or Hilton Head or places you always identified, the Honda Classic. We go to Disney, they have a nice locker and things like that. He'll be missed. That's what I always said about my dad, places where people bring him up, we look forward to that. We think about Payne a lot, but this will bring Payne right back to the forefront and we'll remember what a great player and a great guy he was again.

Q. A lot of players have won one major and have had a hard time trying to get the second. Do you find that it was harder it's harder to get your second major than to get your first?

DAVIS LOVE III: Definitely (laughter). The second one hasn't come yet. I've been close in a few and let a few get away from me, but I think they're hard to get no matter what. I might have won a little ahead of where I should have, looking back. Maybe I wasn't quite as ready for it as I am now, but now they seem to be harder to get.

You know, we had a streak there where a lot of us played pretty well and Tiger was dominating them. They were hard to get. Now there's a big group of them. They're getting harder and harder to win, but I feel like Pinehurst this year and the next couple of years I'm going to be in good shape to contend, and I'm looking forward to trying to get myself in position where I can win them. I know experience wise, length wise, swing wise, I can do it, I've just got to get in the right frame of mind and healthy, and I think I can compete for look at Jay Haas, for quite a while, if I can stay healthy.

Q. Just to follow up, you talked about courses where you're comfortable. Is Pinehurst a course where you feel comfortable?

DAVIS LOVE III: I've played there a lot over the years, not in the last six or eight years, but growing up I played there a bunch. It suits my game off the tee fairly well. I've just got to hit the irons, be patient, and it's more of I think more of an attitude there than how well you're playing because you're going to get some funny breaks and bad bounces.

I think it would suit my game. If I am playing like I am right now, I think I'll be in good shape.

Q. What's your fondest memory of Payne Stewart?

DAVIS LOVE III: Probably playing a match with him at the Ryder Cup at Brookline. I was flipping through pictures for some project my son was working on a month ago and found some pictures of him smoking a cigar and celebrating in the team room that Tabitha Furyk had sent us all, and that Ryder Cup really was our last time together it turned out. I remember a match I played with him, I think it was on Saturday, that was especially meaningful for me because we had our biggest connection really. We had had some ups and downs in our friendship over the years, and that was definitely a high point, getting to play with him and then learn from him. He taught me a lot in about six hours of being with him that day, and it was a lot of fun.

Q. What was the highlight of that match, do you recall?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think the night before it even started, and the next morning him trying to motivate me to play well. You know, he didn't want to lose, and he wasn't going to let me make him lose a match. I had always sat back and waited for something to happen, kind of let the other player be the leader and just try to help out a little bit, and he was more like, "We're going to get together on this and we're going to play hard. I'm not going to let you just let it happen. We're going to go out and beat these guys, and I want 100 percent from you from the first tee." It was a lot of excitement. It was the most exciting match.

It got me to when I played with Kenny Perry or Fred Funk or whoever in the future, where I felt like maybe they would be waiting for me to say something or do something, I came out and said something. Stewart Cink I've had a lot more fun and a lot more conversations with my partners since then. It's certainly helped me and helped you know, Chad Campbell we had a lot more meaningful, even though we didn't win all the matches, a lot more exciting, meaningful matches because I learned from Payne how to have a conversation with your partner, how to motivate each other and hang in there. That was a lot of fun.

Q. Was there a shot or a stroke in that match when you guys played that stands out?

DAVIS LOVE III: A lot of them. The 17th we had to win that hole. We were playing alternate shot, which was difficult. I hit it in the bunker and I told him just to get it on the green and I'd make the putt, and I made the putt. He poked me in the chest saying, "that's what I'm talking about; you need to be confident." I was motivating him to hit a good shot and motivating myself at the same time, and we ended up winning the match. That might have been the one we tied. Anyway, we had a great moment there on 17 before Justin's great moment the next day.

Q. A lot of times we criticize the teams since then for thinking that they don't have enough heart and they're maybe not as aggressive. Do you see that, that if there were more experiences like you had in '99 that maybe we would be wrong and you would all be right?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. I think we learned a lot in '99, and we just haven't applied it as well. I think what Tom Lehman is trying to do, get the guys more together and talk about things like that, you know, we've done something wrong obviously. We haven't played well, we know that.

I've enjoyed the last few teams since '99, and everybody has tried to do something different and tried to make us play better. The captains have done a great job, it's just the players haven't. Hopefully between now and The Presidents Cup and then the next Ryder Cup, we'll figure something out that helps us get off to a better start. I think just a bad start is what's been hurting us. Certainly we'll figure it out, maybe RTJ where we've done very well will get us back on a roll.

Q. Mr. Nicklaus has been somewhat vocal about his concerns about the golf ball and the hot golf ball. As you look back on your career with Titleist from the time you were a kid playing the old balata 100 compression through the last few years with Pro V1 and Pro V1X, could you compare the generations of balls and do you think it's a problem and something maybe the USGA will be addressing in the future?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, the great thing is the USGA did address it a few years ago. They set an overall distance standard. They changed the way they test. They have gotten into the modern era of testing and understanding what's going on with the golf ball. They have a better relationship with the Tour, with the manufacturers, and overall distance standards, if you come out with a new driver that hits the current ball 20 yards farther, we're not going to allow it. If you come out with a new ball that goes over the distance standard, we're not going to allow it, other than stuff we can't understand like ball speed and launch. They've done a good job. Now, should they have done it before the Pro V1 or the professional ball? Probably, but they don't have the resources that the manufacturers have. But can you go backwards? I think if you went out and did an exit survey here and said how many people play golf like these guys you just watched today, nobody is going to say they play golf like us. If you ask them has the game gotten easier over the last ten years with equipment, they'll tell you it's become a little more fun, but no, it hasn't gotten any easier.

So unless you're going to have the pros play one game and the amateurs play another game, which I don't think would ever work, it's like if the NBA played 12 foot baskets and college played 11 and high school played 10, we couldn't compare, and you couldn't move to the next level very easily.

I think it's hard to say that we've ruined the game when you go to Memphis and 12 or 13 under wins and you go to Colonial and one guy shoots a great score, everybody else shoots a relatively high score, and Hilton Head 7 under par wins by 2. I don't think the game is ruined, and the average guy really understands that no matter what you do with the ball, if you roll it back 20 percent, Tiger Woods is still going to be pretty good and he's still going to hit it a long way and he's still going to hit it longer than anybody else. I don't think you're really going to affect anything other than maybe make Tiger hitting a 6 iron in rather than a 7, and I don't think that really changes anything. We'd have to back up a heck of a lot of golf courses, a lot of the ones I've been building. We play 7,500 yard golf courses and 490 yard par 4, so if you roll the ball back 20 percent you're going to move the tees up. There's a lot more to it than just saying the golf ball goes too far.

Q. Along those lines, do you think one thing that links the different eras of golf no matter how much the golf ball has improved and swing coaches, when you get right down to it the game can be maddening, challenging, and no matter what you do the essence of golf is still befuddling?

DAVIS LOVE III: That's the thing, if you go back and say they played with hickory shafts and you guys play with steel shafts, you can't compare Bobby Jones to Byron Nelson, that's not fair. We've done that for 100 years. We've compared one generation to the next. We can't say that the athletes in the NBA today aren't 100 percent better than the athletes from 50 years ago just because of training and physiotherapy and understanding your body and how to get better, plus there's just more and more people playing the game.

So yeah, it's hard to say, who's better, Shaq or Wilt Chamberlain because they're from different eras and different backgrounds, but we can compare all the players in the last 15 years because we've all been playing with the same stuff. I think we all get the same equipment. It's not like Tiger has something different than Ernie. You know, we're all getting the same stuff and we're all playing the same stuff that you can go right down go in the pro shop here and buy. I think that's the beauty of the game is the average guy can go out and get a driver, a putter, a wedge, a ball and go see if he can do what Tiger can do, and he can figure out pretty quick that he can't do it.

I've said this all along, give me Jeff Gordon's race car, I can't make it go as fast as Jeff Gordon. He can get more out of it because he's one of the best in the world. We're just taking great equipment that helps people play better and we're getting the most out of it. Sure, we can figure out a way to make this ball go farther than the USGA and Titleist want us to because we're good at it.

I don't think you can bring the best player in every club here and not every one of them can get the most out of the golf ball like we can. You can compare the last 15 years pretty easily, but you can't go back and say, "well, that's not right because Jack had a crappy ball and a crappy shaft. You can't compare your records." Yeah, you can. He dominated his era with equipment that everybody had. It was fair at that time, it's fair in this time, and sure, we don't want the ball to go 400 yards but the USGA has got it figured out. It's not going to go any farther. Is that fun for the average guy? Maybe not.

The two big jumps we've had aren't going to happen again. You have to get into the modern era. It's like any sport. It's just gotten better and better. The game, again, hasn't gotten any easier for the average guy. I think we're in great shape because people love playing. We don't want to keep people from playing and seeing birdies. We need more birdies (laughter). All of us.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Davis, for joining us.

End of FastScripts.

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