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March 9, 2005

Davis Love III


JOHN BUSH: Davis, thanks for coming by and spending a few minutes with us. Back at the Honda Classic two, straight runner-ups. Are you ready to get it right this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: I'd like to move up just one position, yeah. I've played pretty good here and at some of the other venues. I've had some good rounds, but as I was saying outside, I haven't really ever had four great rounds, had hot starts or good finishes or whatever, but it would be nice to put four straight really good rounds together and win this thing by two or three so I don't have somebody sneak up on me at the end.

But I'm excited to be back. This tournament has been good to me. Obviously the reason why Fred Couples or Davis Love at this stage in our career plays here is because of relationships and friendships and we enjoy being here. Certainly now at Mirasol, Mike Lane and his staff take really good care of it, and it makes you want to come back.

JOHN BUSH: Talk about your season so far, Davis, and how you're progressing and your outlook for this week.

DAVIS LOVE III: I think progressing is the right work. I started out this year working on some stuff with my golf swing and trying to slow down my change of direction and get under control. And I was working hard on that, thought I was making progress until Thursday last week, I hit it in every lake they had, didn't hit it terrible, but I just kept hitting it in lakes. Missed the cut and actually got home and worked on it some more.

I feel really good about the way I'm swinging the way I'm putting. I had some good matches at The Match Play. I've off to a slow start as far as starts. I just haven't played that much, and that's by design, trying to be ready and get to The PLAYERS Championship and Augusta and be rested rather than worn out.

Q. The first round last week was the first time you had been over par in competition all year, hasn't it?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, yeah, that wasn't very many rounds, though. I started off with a birdie and just hitting some pretty good shots; and missed the fairway at 3 and tried to hit an 8-iron at the pin rather than playing safe and hitting it in the lake. And then 4 I hit it in the lake with a 3-iron. And next thing you know, you're 4-over, and 25-under is going to win, you start pressing a little bit. Then I made a triple on 10 and just -- one of those, you say it's just one of those days, but unfortunately in the last six or eight months, I've had three or four of those days where I made two triples or a double when you're playing good; and just, you know, having a bad day, a bad round has certainly put a damper on four or five tournaments for me.

I've been fairly consistent with the way I'm swinging and hitting it and putting it. I'm just scoring have to go back in there and see Dr. Rotella and have him get me back focused on the things I need to be doing. I feel good about my game and my health and I'm excited about this year.

Q. Does this course favor any certain style of player, and what do you think the weather is going to do in terms of impacting the course?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you know it's usually wind that makes it play hard, and the greens last year were pretty firm and fast and the ball went off the green. I didn't play yesterday but in talking to everybody, they said it was a little softer, even before this rain. So I think maybe it will play different. It certainly is long enough, and if it's soft, you know, I think you will be able to hit more shots on the green or close to the hole. So I think that was the battle last year was trying to get enough birdie putts. Kept rolling it off the green and having to scramble for par. So it should play -- in theory, it should play a little easier.

Q. What about length, do you need to be a bomber to play well this week?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, no, I think this course has shown a variety of players play well here. The fairways have run pretty good, though, in the past, so maybe length will be more of an advantage. But again it seemed like short game was very important, scrambling was important and being patient in the wind. The greens superintendent did say that the wind was supposed to blow the first three rounds pretty good. So if it does that, I think you might see kind of the same, Justin Leonard did real well here; you've got to play the wind still and I think that brings a lot of guys into it.

Q. Coming so close to winning two years in a row, is that frustrating encouraging or both?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think both. Obviously when Justin won, I hit a few bad shots and he hit a few good shots coming in. You know, even either one of us could have won, and certainly last year either one of us could have won. But it's always better to be three or four ahead with one to go because then it takes a little bit of that suspense out of it. I would like to put four good rounds together here and go ahead and win, rather than waiting to see what the other guy is going to do. That's where I've left it the last two years is I've kind of left the door open for somebody to do that. You know, through my own fault just hitting a couple of bad shots here or there on Sunday and not finishing off a win.

But it's also encouraging because I've enjoyed playing here and I've played well here in the past and you get good feelings about it.

Q. Has the evolution of distance as it's gotten longer and longer off the tee in the last few years, has that changed players attitudes in terms of the importance of being in the fairway off the tee? Is it a case where you just feel like guys are strong enough now, just hit it as far as you can, and if you are in the rough, at least you have a shorter shot?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think I've done that ever since I came out on TOUR. All right, this week, there's no rough, we can just hit it. You know, certainly you don't do that on some courses like at the Bob Hope because there's out-of-bounds everywhere. But it just depends on the golf course.

Certainly next week at Bay Hill, I would imagine there's going to be a lot of tall, dark green ryegrass around, so you're not going to want to do that.

Last week they struggled to grow bermudagrass both on the greens and in the rough. This week, the rough is probably not as bad as it was last year. So it just depends on the course. But certainly, you're better off if you hit a 1-iron and an 8-iron; you're better off hitting a driver and a sand wedge if there's no rough, given the greens are receptive. That doesn't work at the U.S. Open and that doesn't work at the PGA and doesn't work a lot of places, but some places it does work.

That's why being on the board and on all of these committees about golf course setup, we need a variety. We don't need deep rough every week. That's boring; chopping it out is boring. La Costa was just, if you missed it in the rough, you were lucky to find it some holes. So I think you've got to have a variety. You know, you need to have a Colonial for every Bay Hill.

Q. As somebody who has been on the policy board, what's your take on this IMG situation? What do you think is going to happen?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I know what's going to happen as far as the TOUR because we've been talking about it for, I guess five days, six days. You know, that is against the TOUR's policies that have been around a long time. The TOUR is going to talk to IMG and talk to the players.

The important thing to realize, it didn't come from the players, and any negative light on the players is unfortunate because this was not -- it didn't have anything to do with the players. The players weren't asking for anything, weren't promoting this. There's players on that list that are not represented by IMG that didn't know that they were being represented in that way, myself included.

I'm going to demand that somebody go back and tell all of these tournament directors that I had nothing to do with it because I was not aware of it and did not authorize it, and certainly would not ask Cliff Danley or any of my friends to do something for me to get me to play in the tournament.

The players are very -- that I've talked to, are very upset about it, because one, they don't want it to happen; and two, they didn't like the way it did happen. There's policies and the TOUR is on top of it, and they will also let the tournaments know that not only the players and IMG need to know that this isn't going to happen. The tournaments need to know this isn't going to happen.

As far as last week, those four guys were playing. They were going to play anyway is my understanding. There was an event created to entertain -- I played with some of the guys that played in that outing and they were very excited about it. It was great for Ford.

You know, Ford can do anything they want or Honda or any sponsor, but they need to do it the right way, and if you want to have an outing have it the week after or down the road somewhere, if you want to get a guy to do something with your clients, that's what the Wednesday Pro-Am is for and the Monday Pro-Am is for.

I think our rules are very clear and they are just going to be reinforced, restated to all of the parties. I don't think -- there's not an issue except that somebody was misrepresenting the players and somebody over stepped their bounds and that wasn't anybody with any association with the TOUR.

Q. How does your agent feel about that?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, we're upset. I'm upset -- we're friends with a lot of the guys involved at IMG, the managers. But, you know, it's a business that is a hard business. I mean, they are trying to create business for their players and trying to create events for them to manage to make money and they are trying to run a business. But if you're going to use somebody's name, you need to make them aware that you are going to use their name and ask permission, and they didn't do that. That's overstepping their bounds.

Our company, our management company would certainly not go use Fred Couples name without asking Lynn Roach. We would not go sell -- we are building a golf course with Fred, and we would not go sell Fred Couples golf courses in the marketplace without asking Fred if we can do that, without his consent and without his agent's consent. I think that's where the players are upset.

And there's other IMG players that are upset that this happened because their name wasn't involved in it and they are embarrassed by it. If anybody made a mistake in this, to be clear, it was not the players and it was not the tournaments. It was somebody else.

Q. With the Ford outing, you're saying that it was okay what they did, but maybe in the future they should not have those kind of outings same week --

DAVIS LOVE III: You don't want to give the appearance of an appearance fee, and that's what -- as a board and as staff of the TOUR, we are going to say, hey, look if you are going to do something like that, you need to run it by the TOUR first. Not just go do it and let's make sure that it doesn't smack of appearance fees.

You know, Ford can pay somebody $1 million to do an outing in Detroit. They can do that whenever they want all year long. They could do it every Monday of the year. But they shouldn't do it during an event to where there is an appearance that they are trading something for your commitment.

You know, there's a lot of competition for these events to get players. They do a lot of things socially and hospitality-wise and driving cars and taking wives on trips and all of these things to try to get players, and I think they are trying to find any way, and I think this company was trying to show them a way that they could influence players to play, but, it's funny, it was all for their clients and they were all four already playing, supposedly.

Q. Ford said they did run it past the TOUR; that they had approached them before they set this thing up.

DAVIS LOVE III: Maybe the tournament. If they had come to the board and said we are going to create an event and we're going to pay players to play in this event and exclude other players -- I mean, y'all are looking at it like it's appearance money. That's the way we would look at it. That's why this all happened is because it wasn't appearance money, but it looked like it was, and it was something out of the ordinary. And the TOUR is going to go back -- you know, we could, between now and the next board meeting, we could come up with even stricter rules because of this.

We talked about, we had our board meeting Monday, there's all kind of scenarios now on the table. You don't want to restrict a player's income, but you also don't want there to be any appearance of something funny going on to try to get guys to play in tournaments.

Q. If it's above board and it's not done in a secret way, what is it about the perception that bothers you about appearance money?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think when you look at tennis and the appearance money problems they had on the European tour and the rest of the world, the tournaments become not an important competition if you think, well, they paid these guys to play in it, and then the guy misses the cut and you say all he came for is his appearance money. You don't want any -- these are big-time, for-real golf tournaments. You don't want it to be perceived as something other than that.

We knew what was going on, these guys were going to play, anyway, and Ford took them across the street to play. Was there anything wrong with is it? No, there wasn't really anything wrong with it except for the appearance to the other players, to the other tournament directors because they all got a letter saying, hey, here is a way for you guys to improve your field. And again, it doesn't have anything to do with the players or the tournaments or the Tour; it's all from -- it all came from an idea from outside of the PGA TOUR.

So, you know, we end up looking like -- our event, that event looks like -- that was the best event of the year, maybe one of the best in the last five, and what we're talking about is four guys playing golf with a bunch of car dealers on Monday. You know, that's the problem. We've got, what, a 5.8 TV rating and an exciting finish, and articles are in the paper about four guys playing golf for $100K on a Monday, which we do all year long. Just so happens that that one didn't look right.

But, it won't happen again and you know, there's going to be some hands slapped and some guys with some bad feelings about it. But, you know, the players -- what's encouraging to me is the that players stand up and say, this isn't right. We won't stand for this, we want to make this right. And it didn't come from -- it didn't come from the staff or from the Commissioner. Hey, the players don't like this and we don't want it to happen.

Q. From like a Ford standpoint, for two straight years they really had bad fields and they are going against the Dubai tournament where they do pay people. How is that tournament supposed to -- because that's the one week obviously where a lot of guys do go over and they get big appearance money.

DAVIS LOVE III: But Tiger came down on Tuesday and played and won. That's the thing. Tiger has the right to come there and win, and Ernie has the right to go to Dubai and win.

You know, the way you compete is what Ford has done. Let's leave the Monday thing out of it. They have raised the purse, they have improved the golf course, they have got a great hotel part partner now that helps out a lot. They do everything possible they can from a hospitality standpoint, new tournament organization, they have done everything they can to make that tournament better. And you guys all know, there was a time when it was going this way (pointing down), now when you go there, you can feel it, it's going this way (pointing up). That's what the difference in the field is.

Doral was the best tournament in Florida before THE PLAYERS Championship then it became one of the worst tournaments in Florida. They changed the course, the purse was average, the hotel went downhill, all of those reasons. So I think their field -- if you take that Monday outing out, those four guys play, you still have a great tournament. So I think they are doing things the right way.

Certainly, you know, New Orleans taking guys fishing and all of these things that people are doing are influencing players to play more over here. The reason why Dubai has to pay that money or the Deutsche Bank in Germany or whatever is because they can't compete. Our tournaments are so much better. There's so much more money, there's so much more prestige that they just can't compete, so they have to do something to get just a few players. So their answer is, well, do I raise my purse $1 million or do I get two players to come play for $1 million. That's what they are doing and we just don't want to get into that because we want ours to be an above-board legitimate. You know, the tennis things, well they paid this guy to play and he's the only one in field and he lost in the second round and he went home. We don't want that.

Q. Can you talk just briefly about what improvements you've seen in Vijay's game that has gotten him to the top of the pack?

DAVIS LOVE III: He finally started working hard at it. Quit slacking off. (Laughter.)

No, I think it's confidence, always, with Vijay. You can almost see it when you play with him whether he's confident with the swing thoughts or he's confident with the putter. When you play with a top player a lot, I know that when I played with Nick Price last week, he's looking at me going, yeah, that's not quite there, you know.

So you can just see, it's more confidence I think than anything. When he's making putts and he's taking a big cut at it and playing with confidence, he's hard to beat. It's just like Tiger or Phil or Ernie or any of the top players, when their confidence is running high, you can see it and feel it and it compounds.

It's like Tiger, he had a great swing and he had a great swing, and now he's back on an upswing, he's starting to make putts and hit good shots, and you get more and more confident and you get on a big roll. I think Vijay is just coming into his own and he's feeling it and he's good enough, talented enough that when he feels it, he can run with it.

Q. Does the confidence come from all of the hours that he spends on the practice range?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think that's part of his routine, yeah. He says, well, I'll playing great and I'm going to keep doing the exact same things and working hard. I know that he feels like if he takes a week off and took up fishing or something that his game would fall apart. That's part of it. Like Tiger working out every day and everybody has certain things that they do that make them feel like they are ready to play. It's a balance and certainly Vijay's balance is to hit more and more balls and gain confidence, and it's certainly worked well for him.

You know, he says he's gentler and doesn't practice quite as much and all that, but he's figured out what works for him for sure.

Q. I'm going to make a statement and you tell me whether it's fair or not. Until recently you mentioned the top five or six players in the world, Davis Love, and that has not been the case in the past year. Is that fair, does that bother you, anything you can do about it?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, certainly you can tell in the rankings and Money List that I'm not playing where I want. I think, you know, you don't want to -- you make excuses, but I think a little bit of injury and kind of -- I was kind of worn down after a long couple of years where I was playing well and had a lot going on in my life. And I think that this winter I made some swing changes and started thinking more towards the future rather than what's happened in the past, and I am excited about working my way back up.

I think one thing that I've always been is consistent. I might not have always won as much as I needed to but I've always been consistent. That's one thing in the last six or eight months; that I've been inconsistent and working hard on getting back to swinging the club good every day when I go out there. You know, I'm in that chicken or the egg right now like Vijay, what comes first, the confidence or the good scores? So you've got to shoot a few good scores and get your confidence going and get on a roll.

I'm kind of starting down the hill to get on that roll. I'm trying to get the roll going by the summertime and you know, I'm approaching 41, so you can't wait a whole lot longer. You've got to be playing and be after it, but my plan is -- somebody asked me on the West Coast, they said, it looks like you're kind of taking a casual start. I said, I am, I'm trying to save my energy for the middle of the year, rather than I've been coming out hot winning Pebble Beach's and playing great in Florida and not really playing great from the Masters through the PGA. So I'm trying to shift the season around a little bit.

JOHN BUSH: I have to ask, did you catch the Duke-Carolina game Sunday?

DAVIS LOVE III: I heard it on the radio unfortunately. I didn't get to watch it. But that was a great finish. I'm ready for March Madness.

JOHN BUSH: Davis, thanks for coming by.

End of FastScripts.

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