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March 10, 2004

Davis Love III


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Davis, thanks for joining us. Enjoying a solid 2004 so far, and coming back to the Florida swing where you had a great swing last year, you finished second here at the Honda Classic and won THE PLAYERS Championship. If we could start with some opening comments.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I am glad to be back on the Florida swing and back I always like coming back on bermudagreens and everybody starts saying, "Which way is the grain going again." I'm looking forward to three in a row and getting back to THE PLAYERS and hopefully continuing the good play I've had so far this year.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: It's your first start since the Accenture Match Play Championship where you drove the ball exceptionally well. Talk about the overall state of your game and specifically how well you're driving the ball.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I did have a week off and the only really golf I played was around what my son wanted to do, which is more than I want to do usually. So I hit some balls and I putted a fair amount to kind of get my confidence back with my putter because I really didn't putt great all week.

So I am happy with the way I'm driving it. You have to drive it good on this golf course. It's long and you've got to be in the fairway to be able to get on the greens. So I was real pleased with the way I drove it. I think I missed one drive out of the fairway with a driver against Tiger and drove it a long way. Other than a couple 3 woods that I missed the fairway with that ended up, really didn't cost me, I drove the ball perfectly, so I was very happy with it.

Q. This is your first event since The Match Play. Of course we all know about the fan incident. What's been the feedback from your fellow players about that incident?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, obviously, there's been a whole lot of talk about it. Fortunately, I didn't read the papers all week. That hurt me a little bit in the middle of the week because I haven't read the papers and didn't know what was going on.

Only thing I would say about it is the players have been very gracious in their remarks and their comments to me. The fans, not only the last couple of days, has been incredible and not a lot of them out there. But they have all made a point to come up and speak to me and the especially the members here to support me. The cards and letters and e mails I've got have been overwhelming and I'll never answer them all. As I said, if there was 20 of them, I would probably never get around to answering them all, but there's so many of them that I would never get around to thanking everybody for their support. What it boils down to is the real golf fans understand the game and have been very supportive of me.

Obviously in hindsight and going forward, if I have a problem with a fan or if another player has a problem with a fan we are directed to, hey, back off and let our people handle it. We have marshals and we have security, let them handle it. Would the situation have been any different, it would maybe have gotten less attention. It very, very rarely happens and we want more fans, we want a lot of fans. We want them to come out and cheer loudly for golf. But that 1/10 of a percent of them, they want to disrupt play; we have to identify them and educate them. Hopefully going forward, we won't have that happen again, but if we do, the Tour is certainly well aware of the impact it can have.

Because there was a lot of great golf that week, and it's been overshadowed and that's unfortunate, because Tiger, Darren, Phil and myself, everybody, Stephen Leaney, everybody played a lot of great golf. It's unfortunate that the focus was taken away from that.

Q. By this time last year, you had a victory. Even though you don't, do you feel your game is on about the same upward peak leading into these events in the next couple of months that you were last year?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, I think I'm actually playing better. But at Pebble, I kind of scrounged it around at Pebble and got the ball up and down a lot and made a lot of putts.

I think ball striking wise, I'm playing better than I was last year. I'm just not really finishing whatever it is a round or a match or finishing off a day like I could if I was really putting perfectly, which I did on the West Coast last year. So I feel good about it, I'm excited about the direction I'm going with my swing and the way I'm hitting it.

I haven't won but I've come close a couple of times. Obviously playing good to get to the finals in the Match Play.

Q. What do these greens remind you of?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, I've been trying to come up with it. A little bit Pinehurst No. 2. Maybe like a combination of Winged Foot and Pinehurst No. 2. A lot of them are up high and a lot of them have a lot of roll offs. You know, every time I look at, they are not as big as St. Andrews, but they have a lot of these severe drop offs like St. Andrews.

So I can see the style that they wanted is they wanted the ball, if you don't get on the green in the right spot, they want it to run away. And the fringes are so fast that the ball is getting away from the green. So you see a lot of guys playing shots like we saw at Pinehurst when the ball would roll off the green and they would take a 3 wood or a putter and scoot it back up the hill. If you're in the short grass, you're probably not going to see a whole lot of pitch shots as we were talking out there. It's very tight. So it reminds me of the severity maybe of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst is probably the closest thing I can come to where if you're the wrong side of the pin, it just runs right off the green.

Q. Not like snowboarding?

DAVIS LOVE III: I stay away from stuff like that. I like real flat I like it steep but I like it smooth. It reminds me of what David Duval jumps with when he snowboards; what I stay away from.

Q. How was the wedding, by the way?

DAVIS LOVE III: It was very nice. David is obviously very happy and been working hard on his game. So I think when he gets through this whole he's giving it the biggest priority, the kids and his new wife. I think in a couple of weeks he'll probably be back ready to play again but he has been practicing a lot. It was a very nice wedding. I was very, I guess honored is not the right word, but Robin and I were very happy to get invited and see it because it was a special union of two big families, so it was very nice.

Q. An offbeat topic, but the integrity of golf, it's what separates, you guys appreciate yourselves, cheating is not tolerated at all. Could, if one was so inclined, could somebody cheat in golf on the PGA TOUR?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't think so. We have too many fans that understand the game and are watching the game, too much golf on TV.

I mean, sure, yeah, a guy that maybe is off in a group by himself and doesn't have a whole lot of fans, is not on TV, he'd have to have a whole lot of people looking the other way because, you know, you've got ShotLink, you've got marshals, you've got two other players usually and two other caddies. So you'd have to put a heck of a lot of effort into it and you wouldn't get away with it for very long.

But the difference in golf is that doesn't cross anybody's mind, you know. It's make sure that the rules are upheld. Most guys, there's no benefit of a doubt well I'll just let him drop. It's not 100% right, we're going to go the other way, take more penalty than we might deserve rather than go across the line and take less penalty than we deserve.

So I think the players out here all play by that and stand up for the rules and stand up for the game whenever they can.

Q. If a rule is broken, it's mostly because it was just a misunderstanding or misinterpretation?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's usually just a procedure error. That's generally what we see is, well, I should have dropped one club length and then I I should have taken one club length and then dropped. Because we are not it's like if you're in the water, you're in the water. We usually do that right, except Tiger screwed it up at his tournament one day. We laughed at him. (Laughing).

But that was a procedure error, strategy error, not more rules error. But you see guys get frustrated when they hit the ball in the water or hit the ball out of bounds and takes them a minute to figure it out. But usually had they make a mistake, it's something under a grandstand or a cart path and then you've got a tent in the way and something like that that's not normal, not just out on a normal day of golf where you can usually remember all of the rules and understand all of the rules, but we play kind of a different game so it's a little harder.

Q. When you're inside the ropes and playing, do you have a specific mindset about how much, if any, interaction you're going to have with fans in terms of either conversation or even just eye contact? And I'm also wondering if what happened at The Match Play has caused you to rethink that.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, Tom Kite told me right when I first came out on TOUR that I needed to smile more and be more friendly to the fans and I've tried to do that.

But I think after almost, whatever, 19 years of playing out here, I think the fans know who I am and know that I'm playing hard. I've said it before, one, I'm nervous. One, I'm trying hard. And two, I care and three, I care a lot. I'm trying to do my best. It doesn't matter if I'm, you know, leading or if I'm in the first group on Sunday morning, I give it the same effort. I think fans sometimes see a guy maybe one day, he's yucking it up and having fun and the next day he's concentrating and playing good. I try to be real consistent.

You know, I'm sure that there's a lot of fans that don't like the way I act or play on the golf course because I'm trying hard. I try to play the best I can because my job is to go out and win. I'm not Fuzzy Zoeller, certainly. I'm just trying to play.

I think my mistake is I try to make up for it when I come in the press room or when I'm in front of the camera. I'm a little too I explain things maybe a little too much. I'm a little too affable and I need to be a little more on the golf course than off the golf course.

But then I go back to my No. 1 job is to shoot the best score I can. I don't think the way I interact with fans, caddies, other players is hurting my golf game. It might be hurting you know, I don't have a problem with anything that goes on out there unless somebody is yelling at another player and I might stick up for them or stick up for myself.

You know, if you watch me or Fred Couples or anybody play, if you watch the 20 seconds where we hit ball and you watch the rest of it, like people came up to me after the Match Play and said you and Darren Clarke looked like you're having so much fun, but you don't see that on TV. You really only see the actual golf shots. I don't know, perception is sometimes different than reality. A lot of guys that people really, really like, sometimes aren't as nice to the fans as other guys.

So many of my friends go, "You know what, that guy right there, I really don't like that guy."

I said, "I play with him every day. He's a lot of fun." Your perception of a person off TV and who they are is hard. I can't say that I don't like John Kerry. I've never me John Kerry. All I've seen is him on TV. I can't vote or not vote for him because I say I don't like him. I've never met him. He might be a super nice guy.

I think it's hard to judge people. But I am aware that people might not like might think they don't like me because of the way I play. But I'm playing hard and I don't make any excuses for that.

Q. Did the TOUR give you an explanation of why the security people didn't intervene and you had to intervene instead?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you really can't we don't need to talk about this anymore. But you can't blame anybody because a fan wanted to get in the way of the competition. You can't blame anybody other than the people who cross over the line. It's like saying, well, that guy was speeding and it's the policeman's fault because he didn't stop him and he got hurt. It's not the policeman's fault. It's the person that's speeding's fault. The guy who is disrupting play should be at blame and not the Tour or not the it's hard. You've got 20 however people being 15,000 or 20,000 people watching two groups. It's hard to manage.

So, I don't blame anybody. As I said, the golf fans and the golf media and the golf players, whether it's amateurs or pros, they have all been very supportive of me and I thank them for that. Going forward, I'll just let I'll point out to security if I have a problem and hopefully there won't I haven't had a problem like that before. I don't think during Colin Montgomerie has had problems and other people have had problems, but it's not trying to disrupt their play. It's more like: I don't like you so I'm going to say something to you. I have that. A lot of guys have that.

In between shots, walking from tee to green, comments are made because people don't like other people for some reason. But disrupting play is a whole different issue and that's why in the heat of battle, playing the No. 1 player in the world, sometimes you can't think, all right, what's the logical thing to do here. I should let somebody else handle this.

But going forward, trust me, that's how I will handle it and other players will handle it.

Q. Do you find that those comments, not disrupting comments, but the general comments have become more prevalent over the years?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. I think there's always been we keep saying, 99.9 percent of the fans watch golf. There's one percent, 1/10 of one percent that don't understand that it's a job and we're trying to win, and every shot means something and we were trying to do our best and play the game. Whether it's from too much drinking or too much excitement of, I want to get involved because that's what I do at the football game or the basketball game, I want to yell at the players. Especially the ones I don't like or I don't want to win.

So it very rarely happens but it has not really changed, and we just have to keep doing a good job of having the fans we want them to enjoy their day and it's just as important for the fans that are watching not to have to deal with that, not to have to deal with fans that aren't following the etiquette of golf.

But it's not a big problem. I mean, that's what's so disappointing about this. It's not a big problem. It's not a problem. It's an isolated incident that I wish had not gotten so much attention.

Q. One year later, what's your perspective on the final round of THE PLAYERS and the conditions and from where you had to come and can you how close is that to the best single day you had on a competitive round?

DAVIS LOVE III: That probably is, given the situation. I've had some really good rounds to finish tournaments but I think at that point in my career and that day, certainly it was a big challenge to come out that far ahead. You know, I hope I have some more days like that, but there was that was certainly, if not the best round I've played on a Sunday, one of the top two.

Q. Can you talk about how also tell the story again about the date you had with Robin at one of the early PLAYERS Championships there, was that your like first official date with Robin?

DAVIS LOVE III: Pretty close. First time I definitely had taken her to a golf tournament other than, you know, a movie or something around home with friends. I took her out of town, watched golf, showed her what I wanted to do, kind of a for real date, and the first time either one of us had seen THE PLAYERS Championship on that golf course. I had seen it at the other course but the first time to see it. I was excited want one to be with her and two to watch guys play this golf course because I had heard so much about it.

Q. Who was the winner that year; do you remember?


Q. Did she heckle him?

DAVIS LOVE III: Should have for the orange ball. (Laughs).

Q. And what kind of affection do you have for that course and that tournament, and would you still feel the same way if you had not won it twice?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, I would because it's the closest tournament to home for me. I have more fans and support there. It was the first time I played in a really big tournament. That was the first one of the year, obviously and first one I played in.

I got paired with Ben Crenshaw the last day because I was playing pretty good and shot a good round playing with him. Kind of felt like all of a sudden I went from playing some regular TOUR events and trying to establish myself, and then I got paired with Ben Crenshaw and I played a good round and I had a good finish. I probably remember it better than it was, but I played, maybe shot 67 on Sunday or 68. You know, I left there thinking I can play on Sunday in a big tournament with Ben Crenshaw. And from then on, I was a little bit more comfortable with myself on the golf course and big tournaments. Certainly took me a while but that was a big step for me.

Just getting in it as a rookie was a big deal. From then on, you know, it's obviously grown and it's gotten more and more important.

You know, would I say it is my favorite course on TOUR? No. But I would certainly say it's in my top, you know, three or four favorite tournaments on TOUR.

Q. After The Match Play final with Tiger on THE PLAYERS Championship conference call, you seemed to have a little frustration over a perception of standing up to Tiger. I was just wondering, guys like you and Ernie and Phil, is there a frustration, maybe what you accomplish was overshadowed by Tiger?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, no. I think you beat Phil Mickelson, you beat Darren Clarke, but you don't beat Tiger Woods, you have three matches in a row and you say, "Well, didn't play very good, did you?" It's the perception of, well, if you don't beat Tiger, you can't beat anybody else or you didn't have a good week.

And it's not just you guys. I left there, went to the airport, and somebody at the airport said, "Dang, next time you'll get him. He's just hard to beat." I'm like, wasn't I just here in California and beat him in his own tournament? But they think nobody ever beats the guy. That's the perception is that he wins every tournament and we never win. We don't win enough, certainly and he wins more than we want him to, but we're out, whoever it is, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, working hard and playing hard and trying to win.

You don't get a whole lot of credit you shouldn't get a whole lot of credit for finishing second a time, but you should get credit for finishing second if you win some. Certainly it is frustrating, the perception that nobody ever wins. Man, that was an incredible event last week. Mark O'Meara won in Dubai. But then, you know, Tiger wins Bay Hill and everybody will say, nobody ever beats Tiger. But he got beat in Dubai by four or five guys. But the perception it's not frustrating. It's almost like it's hard to explain, what's the feeling. We're like, well, I've just got to say I'm doing my best and I appreciate what I'm doing even if other people don't appreciate it.

Q. You are going to hit a 40th birthday, not that your career is going to be over, but just an assessment of your career?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I'm going to be as old as I feel when I hit 40. When I came out, the guys that were winning the big tournaments were 38 to 44. Even Jack Nicklaus at 46 won in the Masters. You think, golly, I have to work hard to where I have enough experience that I can win those big tournaments.

Now the perception is, well, you've got to win them at 25 because that's when everybody is winning them. These guys are so good when they are young. But I still think experience means a lot. It's going to mean a lot this week. It's going to mean a lot at THE PLAYERS Championship. It's going to mean a lot obviously in the majors.

So, I'm excited about it. I want to work hard until you guys and I all say, you know what you can't win them anymore. You're not doing any good. Hopefully that's six or eight or ten years away. I think I'm right where I want to be. Experience, I've got the length, I've got the confidence and I've played all of these tournaments. I've won some of them and all I've got to do is go and win the ones I haven't won, catch the right weeks. So, I'm excited about it.

Q. Considering this tournament has moved around five times in the last ten years, is it imperative, do you think, for the reviews of this course to be favorable by the end of the week or could it sully the reputation?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think a big factor down here is the wind. I think guys get frustrated the golf courses because the wind blows hard and they play hard.

So I think Honda is a great sponsor. They keep playing whatever you think about the golf course, they keep playing this is a nice facility and you're treated very well. So I don't think it will change much. Their field is going continue to be the same I think no matter what.

Everywhere you go, there's guys that like courses and don't like it. Just as in anything, like we've been dealing with the last week, the ones that like to complain are the ones that get heard the most. They are the loudest. So I think I don't think it's imperative. I think this is a golf course that guys are going to have to get used to.

Q. Have you ever not really cared for a course and done okay and still felt not good about the course?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yes. There is golf courses that I've played well on that I didn't like and still didn't like them and played well on them again.

Q. Still didn't like them?

DAVIS LOVE III: Still didn't like them. If you said, all right, give me your Top 10 courses that you would want to play, might not have very many on the PGA TOUR, you know. It doesn't mean there's not good courses. But some of my favorites we go to every once in a while. But, what I said to some guys yesterday, aren't we playing for $5 million this week, you know? It's a heck of a deal.

Last year's course did not suit my game. It's more suited Justin maybe than me. It didn't suit any of the long hitters. But you know what, I played and I almost won. That's the attitude you've got to have is I'm going to play. Sure, over the course of 48 tournaments, I can play around a couple of them if I don't like them. But the bigger tournaments and the right time of year, I'm going to play them whether I like them or not because they are good tournaments and big purses and you've got to compete where the best players are.

Q. Do you like Riviera?

DAVIS LOVE III: I do like Riviera. It's hard, it has not been a good schedule for me. I think Riviera is Top 3 on TOUR probably. Riviera, Pebble, Westchester. There's more, but it's up there at the top.

Q. Does the TOUR listen to you guys when it comes to course setup enough?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, there's probably a little bit, we should let the field staff handle it, stay out of their way a little bit more than we do. I think if you get 100 players in the room, we are not going to agree on anything. So it's hard to have the players tell the staff how to set up the golf courses.

But I think the general consensus is that we want it to be difficult and we want it to be different. You want some variety. We don't want long, hard, deep rough every week. We want to play maybe long and hard this week, and then we want to go to Hilton Head and have it be short and target golf and traditional and then play someplace with w rough and someplace without rough.

So I think you can cookie cutter too much and say we want every pin three feet from the edge of the green and we want every tee on the back. We don't want that. We want some variety. But the staff is aware of that. They came and said, "Well, we don't want to play this tee all the way back every day, do you?"

And I said, "Well, no, if you get a northeast wind, you probably shouldn't." So they are thinking flow of the tournament and things like that.

I think we need to set some guidelines and say look, here is what we want, hard are variety, this, this, this, now y'all go do it and we'll stay out of your way because they are professionals.

But the guys that are playing the course shouldn't set up the course. It's like the guys, we should say, all right, next year, we want you to go a little easier and a little softer greens because it was out of control, but we ought to just take what they give us.

Q. Is there consensus whether or not other players like the course or don't like the course, and you talked about the schedule; you don't think it's going to change that much, is that because of the field or schedule here?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I think the schedule is the foreign players probably you're not going to get as many of them as you would, say, the week before the players. Doral is kind of in that in between, well, after The Match Play, before you get to Bay Hill and PLAYERS. I think as long as they stay here, they are basically going to get the same field.

I haven't really talked to a whole lot of guys. I got here and played with a local sectional qualifier, young guy, with Kenny Perry. Other than that, I haven't really talked to a whole lot of guys about it.

Q. Do you like it?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, I think it's very challenging. I like it tee to green. I like it better today than I did yesterday. So I think maybe you can ask me Friday and then Sunday. But I think if the wind blows, it's going to be a frustrating golf course and I don't think that's all bad. I think Augusta is frustrating and so is Pinehurst No. 2. So I think it's going to be very challenging.

I talked to some of the people, the Mirasol people, and the members love it. They are booked from 8:00 to 3:00 every day and they have more guests playing this course than the other one. So that ought to tell you something.

When we are building golf courses, I always build for the members and maybe the members like they have got one that they think is a little shorter and a little easier and they have one over here that's really hard. So they like the variety.

It will be interesting to see the comments over the course of the week. I think the lower your score, the better your comments will be. The, as usual.

Q. 23 , 24 under last year, is there any way to compare what might happen this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think the scores will be higher. But you never know with these guys. They should be higher. It should play a lot harder. One, because of the length and two because of the it depends where they put the pins, too. They get them close to the edges that's what they said at Pinehurst, if you could move the pin three feet more to the middle of the green, we could make it a lot more birdies. So they kept it over by the edge. If they keep them on the edges of the slopes, it will be harder to make birdies. If they give us some middle of the green pins, move some tees up like on 3, maybe we can make a pretty good score.

But I think just like Eagle Trace and Heron Bay, it's going to really depend upon the wind.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Davis, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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