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January 6, 2004

Davis Love III


THE MODERATOR: Davis, thanks for coming by. Welcome to Kapalua, Mercedes Championship. Obviously, coming off one of the best years of your career, No. 4 on the Money List. Talk a little bit about last year and where your game is right now.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, obviously last year was an exciting year for me. Played consistently well all year. I had a couple bad tournaments, but not very many. Obviously had my most productive year winning. Other than the majors, played pretty well in all the big tournaments that I was kind of pointing towards. Made The Presidents Cup team, was in the Player of the Year race. I did a lot of things I wanted to do.

For this year, it was a quick start. Short off-season. Only played two tournaments in the off-season, but it felt like more than that. Beginning of the year started quick. I'm excited to be here.

State of my game: I guess until you start playing, you don't know. But I'm feeling pretty good about my swing; obviously like playing here. I'm pretty comfortable with starting off here. This is a great place to start off your year, a golf course that I've had some success on.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Considering what you did last year, is this an easy year for you to be motivated to come out and do maybe more things?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think -- just seems like last week, I know it was a few weeks ago, but I played in Tiger's tournament. I've been working on my game pretty steady all year rather than the last few years. '01 and '02, I really couldn't work that hard on my game.

I feel like I'm ready for this year. Obviously you got to reset your goals every year, stay focused, make your plans. But I think this year I'm going to be a little bit more determined to stick with my schedule. I obviously had a lot of things happen last year that were unexpected, changed my schedule a little bit. This year I'm going to try to stick with my schedule a little bit, play more golf at home with my son, maybe even my daughter and my mom, you know, my whole family, just enjoy preparing for tournaments a little bit more.

I think the last few years, it's really helped me that my son's played more golf, and I've been out at home, instead of just practicing Saturday, Sunday, going to a tournament, I've actually been playing golf at home. I'm going to look forward to doing more of that, being prepared for every week like I was last year.

There is no real off-season. It's not like I put the clubs away and I got to figure out what I'm going to do this year. It just kind of continues right along. Obviously an earlier start this year for me. Last year I started at the Hope. Obviously, this year get off to a quicker start. I'm pretty fresh. So just play better in the majors is really my only change from last year's plan. I just need to, I don't know, be a little bit more patient, relaxed when I get to the majors like I was at a lot of other tournaments that I played well in.

Q. How do you do that?

DAVIS LOVE III: Obviously I was on a roll when I got to the Masters. It just didn't really happen that week for me. I think at the other ones, I was, you know, trying to force it or prove something to myself, that I could make it happen. I had won some tournaments, I and I felt like, "You got to go win it." It showed in early rounds that I was not good, early in the round even at the British Open where I played pretty well, early in the rounds I just sputtered, made mistakes. Once I got away from the lead, I would play very well and get back to it, then I would do the same thing the next day starting off. Just a little bit of lack of patience, I think. That's the hardest thing. There's only four of them where I got to play good those four weeks, got to win one of those four weeks. It's hard to peak, you know. That's the trick of saying, "How much is too relaxed? How much is working too hard? How much is trying too hard? How much is being too focused?"

I think I start off here thinking about Augusta, and by the time I get to Augusta, I need to forget about Augusta and start thinking about the US Open; just play Augusta rather than building up to it and then trying to do something different, which is what it's all about.

Q. What did you do at Wingfoot?

DAVIS LOVE III: I was playing bad coming into Wingfoot. I missed a cut at the Buick, Jack Lumpkin came up, we were working on my swing trying to find something. That's something we've talked about before. When I played well before in majors, it's not been the week after winning THE PLAYERS Championship. It's been when I've been working on something, trying to find it, and I'm concentrating on playing the game rather than, "Holy cow, I'm playing well enough to win. Now I got to try to win."

I think consistency: play the same way I'll play here on Thursday, play the same way Thursday at The Masters, you know, just trying to compete and play and shoot a good score, not think about what the tournament is or means.

Q. Speaking of the majors, we were just asking Ernie about the sites this year. What are your opinions of the various sites outside of Augusta, obviously?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, Troon we know very well. I think the only one we don't know what to expect at Whistling Straits. Not many guys have even been there. So that's going to be obviously a course you have to learn. Weather could be a huge factor. If the wind blows out there, they say it's going to be extremely hard. I know a little bit about it just there talking to Herb. My brother's been out there. I know a little bit about that golf course. But that's going to be the unknown.

This year the rest of them we pretty much know. Played Shinnecock a lot in US Opens. Played Troon a lot. They're great. I mean, the two we know, I mean, obviously outside of Augusta, they're just great, Top 10 in the world golf courses. It's going to be fun to go back to places you're comfortable with. Shinnecock will be longer, obviously. Troon, I guess there's a couple longer holes at Troon, but we're getting used to that.

Q. Whistling Straits, did they tell you anything about a long commute for the press?

DAVIS LOVE III: We've been real concerned about that (smiling). You can camp out at the motorhome if you stay late, right.

Q. You talked at the end of last year about your need to be in better shape during this year. Have you focused on that in the short off-season you've had or is that something that is an ongoing thing you're working on here in this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: I snowboarded for about 12 days in a row. I'm feeling stronger. I can get up and down these hills maybe a little better this week.

But I am going to, we're working on some things. There's the Titleist test site in Carlsbad or whatever town, North San Diego, is even more now. It's a Titleist Performance Institute they call it now. They have a huge fitness facility, Greg Rose is their fitness guru. Talking to him and a couple trainers on tour trying to put something together. What I need is consistency. I go up and down, do some, get bored with it, start feeling bad.

I talked to Tiger about at his tournament when we played. I work out fine until I get hurt or feel bad, then I quit. He says, "It's the other way around. You need to work out when you're feeling bad, get back to feeling good. Work your way through it, get stronger."

I've been on these ups and downs. Obviously, last year I did a better job of it and I played better. I need to even take it up another notch. So that and, you know, more consistency with what I'm doing in my practice at home. Like I said, not take 10 days off and then try to make up for it in two. Play a little more golf when I'm at home. I get easily distracted when I'm at home. When I'm on the road - I'm better now - I used to go fishing a lot or things while I was at tournaments, and now I'm more focused while I'm at tournaments doing the things I need to do to play well. I just need to do that a little better at home. Obviously you can always get stronger and more fit. Some of the behind-the-scenes things I'm definitely going to be doing.

Q. What is it like when you play with your son? What kind of player is he at this point?

DAVIS LOVE III: He's pretty good. He plays a lot like I used to play. He hits it a long way and hits a lot of greens; doesn't score real well. He's learning. But he's having fun with it. He's playing a lot of golf and spending a lot of time on the driving range. He's eager to get out there. He's dragging me out there a lot, which is good for me.

They built a new private club at Sea Island, I joined. A place to get away, reenergize my golf. "I've got my own private club to go play at where nobody is." They had the Walker Cup at Ocean Forest. I think Drew playing a lot has given me another boost, another reason to get out and play at home, not be lazy, go hunting, fishing. I spend a lot of time in our golf design office. Things always pull me away from what I should be doing. Out playing golf or practicing.

I think his excitement is spilling over a little bit to me. I like the fact that he saw me win a bunch of golf tournaments last year. It's good that he sees me out working hard and having success. I think he's feeding off of me and I'm feeding off of him some. Like I say, even my daughter went out and played with us the other day in an alternate shot tournament. She hit the ball really good. I think she's going to start playing a little bit more, too.

Q. When you play, are you focusing on his game, what he's doing?

DAVIS LOVE III: I'm trying to leave him alone, is what Jack Lumpkin tells me to do, just let him play. I'm trying to do what my dad did: give me all the access I wanted, teach him more about, you know, how to act at the golf course, you know, how you act playing golf, etiquette, rules.

Fred Couples and I were talking about his stepson Oliver playing, my son playing, keeping score, being fair about keeping score, being honest about the rules and keeping score are the things we're trying to a teach them right now. Fred and I want to go play in the father-son, but they're only 10 years old. They can play the game good enough, but can they go out in front of people and play? Can I leave him on the driving range for two hours while I work with Jack Lumpkin, not worrying about him turning around and hitting one backwards?

I'm trying to teach him that stuff and let the professionals, the teachers like Jack Lumpkin, the guys at Sea Island, we have a great group. My son picked up with a game with Mike Shannon, the putting guru at our club. I'm trying to give him that opportunity, put him in that atmosphere that my dad put me in, let him find his way.

He needs to fix his grip, do a couple things. But I don't want to push him, because he's having fun.

Q. Does that help you just being out there, the fact that it's with him? It helps that he gets you out there to play, but is it extra because you're out there playing with him?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, it's more fun. Certainly I grew up playing with my mom. That was fun for me. It's fun for him to get out and play with dad. But it helps me because, one, I'm at the golf course rather than somewhere else. "Let's go hunting today." He's like, "No, let's go play golf." But if I go out and play, when I drive in the gates of the golf club, a switch turns on. I forget about everything else that's going on and I start working and playing golf. If he just gets me out there, then we get a lot done.

It's fun to help him and play games with him and teach him, play golf with him. But it's also important. You know, he told me the other day, "Why don't you hit the ball close like Uncle Mark is doing?" He knows. He's watching. When I don't hit a good shot, he's watching me, and he wants to know why. Dad is supposed to hit it good every time. It's not only motivating, but it's a little bit -- he inspires me to still play hard because he wants me to do well. Like Fred was saying, Oliver was giving him a hard time of missing the putts at the Skins Game. Things like that is what I did to my dad. It was fun to be out there with him and watch him play and learn from him. I think it motivates me to keep working hard because he enjoys the success and enjoys watching me play. I want to keep after him.

Q. How old is Drew?


Q. Do you play next week?


Q. How drastic is the change?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's night and day. When you go over there, you don't beg to ride a cart in the ProAm. It's a mountain course versus a Links course basically. It's much easier to walk.

But here, you know, it's almost like the International versus Hilton Head. You're playing these shots off of hills that you can't judge the distance. Then you go to a flat course where all you're really judging is the wind, how much wind is there.

The grass is similar. I think there, they're almost -- there must be some kind of a microclimate up here, 500 feet up, 400 feet up. It's a different type of grass. But it's grain. You get used to that grain. But those greens over there seem to get pretty slick - even as flat as they are, they get pretty fast.

It's a completely different thing except for playing the wind.

Q. We're coming off a year in which Ernie won the most times around the world, Vijay won the Money List, Mike Weir probably had the best performance in the majors. It wasn't a Tiger, Tiger, Tiger type of a year. How much does that change the outlook and optimism going into this year as opposed to, perhaps, last year or '02, '01?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, somebody yesterday, Carl, said, "Obviously Tiger is the best player, but now everybody has their share of something from last year." I won four times. Vijay won five times, won the Money Title. It got spread around a little bit.

But you still know potential, who the guy to beat is obviously Tiger Woods. We've said stuff like, "He's hard to beat when he plays his best." We get beat up for being honest, but he is the guy to beat, no argument.

Can he be beaten? Yeah, he knows he can be beaten. He didn't win 20 times last year. You know, there were some big tournaments, five big tournaments that got away from him, that he really wanted to win.

Q. Are you including Williams?

DAVIS LOVE III: That was the fifth one (laughter). He didn't win some of the bigger tournaments. He won a great percentage of the ones he played in, but he didn't win one, two, three, four, five on his list, and six, THE PLAYERS Championship. He hates getting beat at his own tournament, I know. That's probably where he's -- top of his list.

You know, it's nice to know personally that I'm playing well enough to win when I go play, and I don't have to sit back and go, "Man, I've got to do something or I can't beat the No. 1 player in the world." I think Ernie Els certainly knows that he can win, that he can beat the No. 1 player in the world. He's that far from being in the No. 1 player in the world - maybe not just in points, but if he starts putting good, has a great year, next thing Ernie could be the best player, hardest guy to beat.

So we're all right there. There's a big group that are chasing him. He knows it. He likes it that way. He prefers it that way.

Q. How has it changed, now that we're a few years removed from 2000, which was somewhat mind-boggling?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it hadn't changed any. That's the standard. That's the Jack Nicklaus record that might never be beaten or equaled. He was pointing that out even in 2001, saying, "Look, that was exceptional." We were pointing out, "You don't realize how good that is. You don't realize how good his record is, period, until you sit back a little bit and think about it." His scoring average over the last five, six years is just incredible. Cuts is kind of hard to judge because we play so many tournaments without cuts. He hasn't missed any cuts in the tournaments with cuts either. But scoring average is an incredible record.

When you sit back and look at 2000, you say, "That's the fantasy, the ultimate goal." Sure, you want to win the Grand Slam, but if you didn't win the Grand Slam, that's as close as you're going to come, is what he did, or holding all four titles at the same time. The stuff he's done is incredible.

But the standard he's held to is the gold standard of 2000 or winning every major, three out of four. I don't think anybody can keep that kind of a pace up.

Q. Along those lines, do you think some of the younger guys are held to his standard, the fact that he came out at 20 or whatever, won as often as he did, and now you have either Charlie, Adam or Scott, whoever, and if you're not winning a lot like him...

DAVIS LOVE III: I think it's just like how many times did we hear, "The next Jack Nicklaus."

Q. A 10-year-old in Seattle.

DAVIS LOVE III: He's going to be the next Tiger Woods. That's my point. They're going to compare to, well, what's the best we've seen in a while? Well, it's Tiger Woods in 2000, '99, 2000, 2001, 2002. So what is Oliver or Drew's goal when they come out on tour? "I want to win. I want to win before I even get my tour card. I want to win four amateurs in a row because he won three in a row." That's what they look up to.

If I'm a young basketball player, I don't really look to do what, you know, the Celtics did in the '60s and '70s, "I want to be Chicago Bulls or LA Lakers with Michael Jordan, LeBron James." You have to look just ahead of you. That's what these kids are doing. "I want to be Tiger Woods." We were talking yesterday, there's 100, 150 people yesterday watching golf out here. Used to be there were 150 people on Thursdays at Kapalua. There are just not that many people around here. Golf has just boomed because so many people want to be Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els. It's really, really changed.

I think his standard is an incredibly high standard for anybody to be held to. We're just going to see more and more people compared to him, "This guy hits it like Tiger Woods, hits it as far. He could beat Tiger Woods because he's shooting 40 when he's seven." That's going to be the comparison rather than Jack.

Q. We have four first-time major winners here. Do you remember what it was like for you in the immediate aftermath of you winning your major? What do they have to be careful about as far as extending themselves too much, certain mistakes you can make after you win a major?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, I was in a situation where I'd already been through the traveling around the world. I was a little bit older definitely than all those guys.

But they just have to watch out for trying to live up to being a major winner. I think you try to do things differently. You try to become somebody else rather than the guy that played good golf and then won a major. You try to all of a sudden, "I got to win them all now. I got to win every tournament." They introduce you as the 2003 PGA champion on the tee for a whole year. You've got that pressure of trying to live up to something.

We've seen it with a lot of players, that they win a major championship and then they kind of fade away a little bit because they try to be something greater than what they were. It's just a club you get into. You've got to accept the fact that you're going to be looked at differently. You still have to improve and play hard and work hard, stay focused on what got you there.

The question is, just like when you shoot 61: what are you going to do tomorrow? Well, I'm going to try to do the same thing I did before when I shot 61. That's the hard thing. "Hey, I won a major championship. I just got to keep doing the things I've been doing, stick to my goals and try to keep getting better, not get distracted." There's a lot of distractions around now. When I won in '97, there were a lot. But there's a lot of distractions out here now. You can get pulled in a lot of different directions.

Q. What do you mean by "distractions"?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, from when I came out on tour, there's easily 20 times more tour. From when I won in '97, 10 times more media. More things going on. You know, they've got four little shows going outside of the telecast this week. They all want the major winners to do Live from Peter Jacobson's thing, The Golf Channel's thing, all these little shows going on. They only want to talk to certain amount guys. They all want to talk to the British Open champion. Got to be careful to manage your time. It's very hard. Everybody wants the British Open's champion's autograph. For one year, he's the only guy that is the British Open champion. He has to pace himself.

Q. You talked about your goals. How difficult was it to come up with new goals after last year? Reverse of that, how have you been able to adjust not only on the course but off the course from everything that happened last year, deal with that, make the adjustment for this year so that it doesn't interfere with your game?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think I did a very good job of not letting the off-the-course stuff interfere with my game, except maybe two or three weeks. It just so happened that a couple of those were important weeks. But I did a real good job of that. I think we've gotten through the holidays and a new year, and it's still trying at times.

But golf-wise, I know what I have to do. Like I said, I'm getting better of when I go to a golf tournament of turning everything else off and competing. It's the same thing we were talking about the major winners from last year, dealing with distractions. You have to turn those off and go play. I spend a lot of my time when I'm at home dealing with those other things.

I'm fortunate. My sister-in-law is taking care of her two kids and my two kids for these two weeks. She says that helps her. That helps obviously my wife and I be able to enjoy two weeks in Hawaii. They're putting a lot of effort into helping me continue to play golf, and I'm putting a lot of effort into them helping them to continue to move on in their lives. I think we've got that pretty much handled.

As far as setting goals, you know, I have the same goals I did last year: show up ready to play every week, just explore how to play a little better in the majors than I did last year. Every year is a learning process. I learned an awful lot this year, this past year, about my game and how to play, how to manage my career, manage my progress.

I'm not saying I'm going to win eight times this year or four or two, but I'm going right on top of it like I was this past year.

Q. Far from the future, but it's a Ryder Cup year. Seems like last time a Ryder Cup came around, we were all in a tizzy about what had happened in '99. With this upcoming Ryder Cup, does that seem like it sort of faded and we're back to almost normal with that?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think the captains, now it's '02, and the last Ryder Cup did an incredible job of putting that behind us, moving on. We had a very amicable Ryder Cup. It was hard-fought. We didn't like the way it turned out, but they did a very good job with that.

This time, there's not as much anticipation because we've been through a weird time with 2001 getting canceled, playing it a year later, and a Presidents Cup in South Africa with a strange ending. We got to get a few months in before we start really getting ahold of The Ryder Cup.

I'm hoping I'm in good shape for the team already. I dearly want to play for Hal Sutton. I think that's going to be a lot of fun, having him as captain. I'm looking forward to it. That's part of my scheduling. I'm not going to be -- I don't want to be -- well, I said it right the first time. I'm not going to be tired when I get to The Ryder Cup this year and asking to sit out a match here or a match there. I'm going to be ready to play, give Hal whatever he asks me to give him. I think it's going to be a good, fun home Ryder Cup match. We seem to do better at home. I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Your daughter is how old?


Q. Can you relate at all to next week with Michelle Wie, 14 years old, playing on your tour?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I can relate. She wants to ride in a horse show every other weekend. She wants to be older than she is. You know, we hold her back and try to keep her focused on that she is a 15-year-old. So I can definitely relate that it's very, very hard situation for her to be put into.

I hope, like Ty Tryon, it's not too much too soon for her and she gets to enjoy. At almost 40 years old, you sit back and think, "When I was 15, I wanted to be 25. When I was 25, I wanted to be 14." It's hard to get that perspective when you're 15 years old. You always want to be older than you are and do things that older people do. When you're older, you always say, "Why was I in such a hurry to get older? Why was I in such a hurry to do things that were beyond me?"

She's got a lot of challenges ahead of her in college golf, high school golf, the LPGA. She's biting off an awful lot, I think, trying to play. She's been everywhere.

Q. Have you seen her play?

DAVIS LOVE III: I played a little shootout with her there two years ago, you know, before anybody really knew that much about her. Certainly she's an incredibly talented player. I just hope she doesn't run herself around too much before she learns where she's going with her game.

Q. Do you think it would be difficult when someone has an enormous amount of ability, wants to keep playing, for a parent to say no?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's hard to say no. Until you're 18, you ought to be able to tell them no, you know. You ought to be able to help them make good decisions. I know when I was 20, I made a decision that wasn't popular with my parents, but I was 20. I'd been to college for three years. I was pretty good at what I was doing. It wasn't a question of whether I would have success or not, as to whether I should stay in school and finish school.

Obviously, she's six or seven years away from that kind of age and decision, like Tiger Woods. I just look at Ty Tryon. He had a couple good tournaments and he got billed as the next Tiger Woods. It was very hard for him. Sometimes it's easier if you work your way up little by little.

Q. Does it reflect well on the PGA TOUR to have women playing in tournaments?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think it reflects well on both, you know, that we're open to that, that the sponsors like Mercedes are happy to have Annika here. I've heard more excitement about a Wednesday ProAm this week than I have in a long time.

I think it's great. It's obvious that the LPGA players and the young players are getting better and they're feeling like, "Hey, I want to compete with the big boys rather than compete just with peers."

I think it's good for both. Maybe someday down the road, you know, when the game's another 20 or 30 years in, maybe the best women players, they can't compete, there's not much competition amongst their peers, they have to come here and try to play to find out how good they are, like Annika tried. Right now, I mean, it's very hard for them to compete.

Q. Do you think there will be a big commotion next week, media attention, all that?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. I'm learning as I'm sitting here what's going on. I don't know. Like I said, I've been snowboarding for two weeks, then home for my wife's birthday, came over here. I haven't really heard what's going on.

I think there's a lot of good players out here, and it's hard for a rookie to compete out here, much less, you know, a teenager like Ty Tryon or a teenager like Michelle Wie, or even for Annika. Annika learned a lot. From 150, 200 yards in, she can beat anybody. But when you start playing the game we play, it's very, very hard to compete. I mean, I have good friends that have left the tour not because they couldn't chip and putt or compete, it's because they couldn't hit it far enough to play week in and week out and survive.

Is that fair? No, it's not. But that's the name of the game. You got to have it all out here. If you can't chip, putt, mental, everything, and hit it a long way, you don't have to hit it like Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, but you better be able to hit it pretty far or you're not going to compete. That's the only thing, the only difference.

I don't want any part of Annika Sorenstam from 175 yards and in, you know. There's a lot of guys out here on tour I don't want any part of. But let's play the back tees for four days. There's not many guys that want to play me for four days.

From a wedge game in, there's a lot of guys that will play me for a lot of money, you know.

Q. Distance doesn't seem to be her problem, does it?

DAVIS LOVE III: No, not Michelle. Distance is not her problem. Age is probably her problem. It's hard enough to compete out here after you've been through amateur golf and college golf, all that.

Brad Faxon and I were playing in that nine-hole or six-hole thing two years ago, and we were arguing whether Michelle's swing was more like Beth Daniels' or Mickey Wright's. We finally decided, it doesn't matter, she's got a hell of a golf swing. She has probably one of the best golf swings I've ever seen, period. She's got a lot going for her. Plus she's tall and strong. No telling what she's going to do when she gets a little older. She might get a little taller. She's definitely going to get stronger and wiser.

But, you know, you're talking about potential of a kid. Like when we watched Tiger hit balls at 15, at the LA Open, "This guy can hit it a long way, he's unbelievable." Butch Harmon says, "He has to learn to control his distance, learn to hit it straighter." And he did. It's a matter of: Does she learn those things in the next four or five years?

It will be fun next week.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming by. Hope you play well this week.

DAVIS LOVE III: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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