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July 18, 2003

Davis Love III


STEWART McDOUGALL: Davis Love, 72 today, with yesterday's score 69, 141, 1-under par.

Davis, leader in the clubhouse now. You had a very good score going the first nine, and let it fall away perhaps on the back nine. How do you feel about your total today?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, all in all, I guess it's a good day. Too many 5's obviously on the card on the back nine, but it just got tougher and tougher. The wind never let up. And the greens got firmer and faster as we went along. And as I said outside, some of the hardest pin placements I've ever seen, and it's just hard to get the ball close to the hole. It's hard to even put it close to the hole on some holes, if you're far away on the greens. So I'm very fortunate to have gotten in. I made a couple of great up-and-downs and obviously got a great break at 14, saved me a stroke or two. I felt like I threw away a lot, but also saved a lot. It was just one of those days to grind it out.

Q. You're not the first guy obviously that's talked about the pin placements. Would you describe them as difficult or dodgey?

DAVIS LOVE III: They're very, very difficult. I've never seen pins so hard. But if you play in the middle of the greens, which I couldn't find the patience to do on some of the holes, you can just put it up there and make a par. And holes like 17, I wasn't -- I wasn't aiming in the right place. I should have been aiming in the middle of the green and if I pushed it, pushed it closer to the hole rather than in the bunker, I turned a great drive into a bogey there. I tried to get cute with it at No. 12, rather than just hitting the green and taking a 20-footer, I was trying to bounce it over a ridge and through a hollow and up on a shelf, and you're just not going to get that good a bounce, and we're not that good that we can control four or five bounces and rolls.

So I think that was my mistake today, is I fell into the trap that the pins are very hard. If you get birdie chances, you have to not try to get tricky.

Q. Can you tell us about your father's involvement. He came over a couple of times, and is that how you got first interested in the championship?

DAVIS LOVE III: He did. I remember vaguely him coming over and playing at Lytham when I was, I guess, four or five years old, and playing well, and just his passion for the tournament. Any major, really. But he really had a feeling for this tournament. He always brought, I guess, 12 or 13 guys over, a bunch of foursomes, and they would play all the great courses in Scotland and England, sometimes before the Open and sometimes just on a fun trip, members from the club. He just loved golf over here. And I think I got a little bit of my love for it from him. And obviously once you come over here you fall in love with it yourself.

Q. It seemed to take you a while to get the hang of links golf in your record. But now you've strung a lot of top-10, top 15 places together. Do you feel you've got the hang of links golf?

DAVIS LOVE III: It took me a while to get the hang of any major golf, like a lot of people. But you can tell on the bigger tournaments it takes more mental fortitude than it does physical. You have to learn that and get experience. And obviously there's some special players that get it real quick. Some of us have to take a while to learn how to do it. And obviously I'm still learning and trying to get better at it. But that's kind of been the progression of my career. It was hard in the beginning, and I've learned how to play better at Augusta and links golf and all the Majors. I felt the bigger tournaments I've gotten better and better at.

Q. Given the prevailing conditions, Davis, would it be fair to say you wouldn't be surprised to be the only player below par today?

DAVIS LOVE III: I wouldn't be surprised at all. I felt like when I got to 4-under par, it was like when I got to 2-under yesterday, through the front nine. Now you've just got to hit fairways and greens and get it to the clubhouse, because scores just aren't going to be very low with the pins. And as you've seen, the course gets harder as you go, especially in this wind direction. It gets harder as you go along. Your swing gets faster and your patience gets thinner, and your grip gets tighter. And I think this is just a great test. It let's you get away with it in the beginning and maybe pick up a few easy birdies, and then it gets harder and harder. I would not be surprised at all.

Q. A lot of players would obviously curse at some of the bounces. In the same way, how much was your joy at that luck on the 14th? Did you see it happen from the tee?

DAVIS LOVE III: I didn't see it happen. I saw it kick right. When it's into the wind and into the sun and the brown grass, sometimes it's hard to see the ball. And I saw it, it kicked right and I thought, oh, no, that's a big kick to the right. And the guy put his hand up and then he went that it was good. And I went, I don't know how that happened. When I got up there, I hit my second shot and afterwards someone told my caddy that it had hit the out-of-bounds stake and come back in. We're all going to get crazy bounces in this championship.

Q. For every bad one you deserve a good one?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you would think it would work out that way, sometimes it doesn't. But I think that was three good bounces all used up in one hole, probably.

Q. A lot of guys don't have that shot, either?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. You mean a big, high slice?

Q. Off the stake.

Would your experience today of going for those shots on the green and not being rewarded change your strategy tomorrow, or are you going to be looking more toward the middle of the green or does that depend on the pin placement and conditions.

DAVIS LOVE III: I think on the green obviously if the pins continue to be this difficult and the greens keep getting harder and faster, on the green is going to be very, very good. Obviously on the fairway is the first challenge. Here it's not a given if you get a good tee shot it's going to go in the fairway. So it makes hitting the greens very hard. Anything on the greens is going to be good tomorrow or all weekend.

Q. Strange question, given you're leading the Open. How much, if at all, do you view today as a missed opportunity to put a bit of daylight between you and some of the other players?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I may have a little at the end of the day. But I felt like yesterday I may have given away one or two, and today I may have given away one or two again. Obviously the course gave me a couple back at 14. So I'm not going to go walk out of here and complain. I'm putting extremely well. I hit maybe two or three putts that I didn't like in the last two days and I've been very fortunate that I've made quite a few. I made, I guess, 3-putts for bogey today. So I'm holing them when I have to. I'm going out of here thanking my lucky stars. I'm going to go to the driving range and slow my swing down just a tad and be ready for the weekend and no complaints.

Q. You're one of the great high ball hitters in America. How does that marry with leading the Open at the halfway point on the truest links course around?

DAVIS LOVE III: I'm trying to knock them down. I've gotten a few up in the air with my irons. But for the most part, I've done pretty good with the irons. But today the driver got away from me a little bit. I shot a few way up there high. But that's the great thing about links golf, is you have to play shots or, just like I tried to do at 13, just hit an iron off the tee and knock it -- punch it and run it down the fairway. If I hit a good 3-iron at 13 I'd have had a 7-iron in. Darren bombed a driver in there and drove it in the cross bunker, 345 yards down the fairway. We're talking about the pins are tough, but there are ways to play it and get around. It just takes a lot of patience to hit a 3-iron off a 460 yard hole. But I've got to do it sometimes to survive. I got too close to the second green today. I hit a driver over the bunkers, and I got down there where I had no shot. I was 70 yards from the hole and had no shot. I'm going to have to do a better job with strategy. But I can figure out a way -- the high ball worked on 6 when I drove it on the green or over the corner on 7. It can help you, just use it to your advantage.

Q. How many times did you hit iron when you would have hit driver, if it wasn't a windy, links type of course?

DAVIS LOVE III: If you could hit it and have it just hit and roll five yards, I probably would hit two or three more drivers.

Q. Can you talk about the shot you played into the 18th green and what that did for the way you feel about your round today?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I wanted to get a putt at it. There was some taller grass over there, so it was a hard shot. I couldn't bump it along the ground. I had to get it up in the air. No matter where you hit it, to the right of the hole or past the hole, it's going to come back down and you'll have a 10- or 15-footer at worst. It came out a little right and bounced right and got up on the ridge, and then I knew it was going to be really good.

I was laughing with Darren, it took a lot of nerve for me to hit it up there, but I had to push it and bounce right to get it up there in reality. But it was a great four, rather than having to make a 10- or 15-footer, I had an easy tap in. Again, you've got to play the bounces. And it bounced good for me. I got a bad lie on my drive, but then I got a good bounce on my third shot.

Q. If the wind stays where it is, and the rain doesn't come to soften it up, can you see level par being a winning score on Sunday night?

DAVIS LOVE III: If it blows like this and doesn't rain, yeah, under par is going to be very, very good. I think you'll see guys go out two or three under and come back at two or three over and end up even and maybe be happy. I'd sure like to get off to a couple good hot starts and be 4- or 5-under par at the end. And I think that would be good enough.

Q. You talked about when you won the Players about some notes you took at the start of the year, about not catching other people but pursuing your own excellence. I'm wondering, no matter how this weekend unfolds, how it shapes up, if this course is different than any other major, and that you've got too many other problems to worry about to consider who's behind you or next to you?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, this is one that gets you focused at the task at hand, because you can't think ahead. You really shouldn't be thinking behind. If you hit a shot and it bounces funny or you can't get close to a pin and you have to take a par, you wish you could have gotten close to a birdie, and you start thinking about those things, you can kind of go crazy. And as I said, the course gets harder. You need to have a clearer and clearer head as you go along, not a jumbled up head. So I think it keeps you from looking at the leaderboard, keeps you from thinking about other players. That's the task. That's why this tournament is going to be so hard to win. It's not going to be just a golf shot or a putting contest, it's going to be a big mental test, and not look at the leaderboard or pay attention to your playing partners or pay attention to their good bounces and your bad bounces, you've just got to play each shot and grind it out. Persevere, I think, is a good word.

Q. Given your last answer, I probably should not ask this question, but though we're just halfway through, your love for the links golf and for coming over here, as was addressed earlier is on record, what would it mean to you to win this championship, if you can just -- obviously that's getting a little ahead.

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, a little ahead, but it would mean a lot. And obviously it was the goal for the year, to win majors. But we'll go into that in depth if we have to later (laughter.)

Q. Just as a follow-up, in '97 when you were at Winged Foot, the popular theory was it was going to liberate you to win more. And as time passes, does that thirst for a major almost become like you haven't won one, as time passes?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it does. It makes it -- once you taste it and once you win other big tournaments and get the feeling that you can do it -- you would think after I had shot 64 the last round at the Players, all my next few weeks were going to be perfect. And it just doesn't turn out that way sometimes. But you learn to appreciate when you're playing well and what it feels like and try to get there again. And that's why I've worked hard this year to get in that position. I have been disappointed in my majors since '97, but I'm also pleased with my improvement in my game overall, and coming back from some injuries and some adversities and hanging in there and being able to compete. So I'm -- I still feel like I'm getting better and I've got a long road through the Majors still, got a lot of chances. I think experience is valuable, so I'm banking on it.

Q. The approach shot on 15, it looks like you were trying to hook shot. Why did that happen, and why did that play with your head at all?

DAVIS LOVE III: It plays with your head where you want to aim a ball, because sometimes you hit it and it knuckles, a flier, and then it goes straight. And the wind won't get it. And then sometimes, like Darren did from a pretty good lie at 15, he got his up and turning just slightly with the wind and it was gone. And that's where it's hard to commit to a shot out here, because you swing and after you hit it, sometimes you don't get the result you think you're going to get, so then you tighten up and protect, and you overcut one up into the wind or you overturn one and it goes flying with the wind.

When you're not in the middle of the fairway in the tight, tight grass it's a guessing game. Sometimes it's going to knuckle straight. Sometimes it's going to take off with the wind and be a flier and not come down until it hits the grand stand. I think that's why you see some tentative swings, like I made at 10. Up the hill into the wind, crosswind, out of a questionable lie, whether it was going to jump or not. I didn't swing at it and it hit on the hill and rolled back into the bunker. If you're in the fairway, you can be more aggressive. And out of the rough you don't know what it's going to do.

Q. Two things, can you compare the wind and the conditions to Sunday at the Players and just go with the bunker at 17, what happened?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think the Players was difficult, but you could hit the fairway. If you hit a good drive you could count on it being in the fairway. The greens there are more receptive than they are here. If you hit the fairway and hit a really good shot and land it in the right place you're going to get the ball on the green. So I think golf over here is not always as predictable. You don't know -- I hit -- just pounded it right up the middle at 17 and I got 20 yards off the tee and asked my caddy, "Do you think it's in the fairway?" And he said, "I don't think it is." Is that the power of negative thinking? If you don't think it is, it's going to be in the fairway? You hit it right up the middle and it kicked right. If you hit it right down the middle of the fairway at 18 at Sawgrass, it's going in the fairway, it's not going to kick out. And I think that's the difference. It tests you mentally to say how many times can you hit it down the middle and have it not go where you want it before you lose your cool.

And I think the conditions Sunday at the Players was very difficult, but they were a little more predictable than they are here. And the bunker at 17, I was right up against the wall, and trying to get it out and run it down there. I didn't hit it quite hard enough. And I had a little bit better chance at it the second time, where I could get it out.

Q. For a Georgia boy, why is this your favorite major?

DAVIS LOVE III: Because April is past. Early April things change. But I think if I had only one, it would be hard to pick which one it would be. But as I said many times in here, that I've gone and listened to Sir Michael Bonallack hand over the trophy to several players, and call them the Champion Golfer of the Year, and I don't think there's any line in sports like that. And maybe somebody getting the Stanley Cup or something like that, but that's a very special moment in sports and history that's never really changed for a long, long time. And it would mean a lot to me to be standing up there.

Q. You said this is going to be a test of golf but a test of the mental game. Are we going to find out this weekend pretty much who the toughest mental guys are or just the toughest mental guys this weekend?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yes. I think we know that Tiger Woods has proved in the last six or eight years that he's the toughest mentally. But you've got to do it all. You can't go in and whack it around and be strong mentally, you've got to hit good golf shots, too. I think this is going to test the complete package, probably more than any tournament we've seen in quite a while.

End of FastScripts....

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