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June 10, 2003

Davis Love III


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to be joined now by Davis Love III. Davis is playing in his 15th U.S. Open championship. Davis, this has arguably been one of the better years in your career. Can you tell us a little bit about what's been the difference this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think this winter I started feeling better. The end of last year and over the winter I felt better and I could practice more, and I kind of reset my goals and reset my practice schedule and kind of got after it a little bit more this year than I have the last two, which has been a little bit substandard for me, obviously not winning, but also not being able to practice and really compete like I wanted to.

So this year I just got off to a great start and waited until late in the Tour schedule to start, waited until I was good and ready. And I obviously came out my second week and won. And it's been pretty good, even when I haven't played a hundred percent or like last week, when I was a little rusty, I played pretty well. And I've snuck in the top 10 even on my off weeks. I've just been real happy and real steady with the progress, not only physically, but mentally, and the way I'm scoring.

RAND JERRIS: As a veteran of 14 previous Opens, can you give us insight on how you prepare physically and mentally for a championship of this caliber?

DAVIS LOVE III: You obviously know coming in you're going to get a hard golf course. The conditions are going to be tough, both physically and mentally. So you just prepare yourself to be very patient, prepare yourself to get some tough holes, some tough lies and some funny breaks, and that you're not going to be six under par the first eight holes. You're going to have to play patient golf and steady golf. It's a fun tournament to prepare for, because you know everything that you're going to see pretty much before you get here. The golf course has changed, but pretty much the conditions are the same every year. It's just very tough and a real, real challenge, both to your mental game and your physical game. I think that's what separates the champion for the week and the -- really this tournament seems to identify the best player, because it does challenge every aspect of your game and your mental toughness.

Q. We all know how difficult it is to concentrate out here for five and a half, six hours every day in the round as you have to. Tiger was talking how much tougher it is when you have to deal with distractions and things going on with your family and your life. How tough do you think it's going to be to deal with that this week, when you have to concentrate so much and you can't let your mind wander?

DAVIS LOVE III: I did a good job last week. I think the only thing that held me back last week was three weeks of not playing. I was disappointed that I didn't score better. I hit the ball better every day and made lots of birdies. I made seven birdies yesterday and I didn't get a good score out of it. I'm pretty confident that I can. Off the golf course is not as easy on the golf course for me right now, so I think as Freddie always says, the most fun four or five hours of our day is inside the ropes.

So I think that will be -- it's a welcome challenge for me to get out and play a golf tournament that keeps me distracted for a while. I think -- it was good for me to play last week, and obviously I wanted to get ready for this week. And if the U.S. Open doesn't get you concentrating, nothing's going to.

Q. Have you ever heard of a course, whether it's on Tour or not, with no par-5s on the back, and how is that going to affect the nature of anybody trying to make a comeback on the back nine on Sunday?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, as I said, the last few U.S. Opens, even the par-5s they have, if they have two of them, one on each side, they're either unreachable or they make them where you can't get on in two, anyway. I don't think it really makes that much difference. As I said, it's more of a patience test -- I can't remember the last easy par-5 in a U.S. Open. You drive it somewhere in the fairway and knock it on the green and 2-putt for birdie. So I don't think it makes that much difference.

No. 9 is a par-5, too, it just says 4 on the sign up there, but it's par-5 tough. So I don't think -- I think we just throw par out when we get here, and not worry about four or five. The first hole, really, if you hit a good drive there, you can knock it on. But I think 6, I don't see a whole lot of guys knocking it in on that one, either. I think it's a typical U.S. Open that it's just going to wear people down by the end of the day. And you just have to hang in there and keep it in fairway after fairway after fairway. There's a lot of hard holes, long par-3s and long par-4s. And like I said, I haven't seen a layup, easy par-5 coming down the stretch of a U.S. Open ever, really.

Q. I wanted to ask, they're talking about Olympia Fields as being a throwback to the classic course design. Now, you won your PGA on another classic venue at Winged Foot. Can you compare and contrast the two, similarities?

DAVIS LOVE III: Of Winged Foot and Olympia Fields? I think a lot of similarities in the greens. There's not any flat places. I think the greens here obviously are a lot bigger than Winged Foot. But Bethpage, even though it had been -- I don't know if renovated is the right word, but brought back to great condition, Bethpage is a very traditional golf course. There's a few greens that maybe didn't fit. But that was what I would consider a very classic architect, fit the land and they didn't move a whole lot of dirt to make a hole fit into a hill, they went over the hill or on top of the hill or across the ridge. But this is a classic. I love the shape of a lot of these greens. When we're building greens it seems like the authorities or the people who know better than us come and say, that green has too much slope in it, you can't build it that way, and I say what about Winged Foot, what about Augusta National, what about Pinehurst, and now I see Olympia Fields. Their theory is you can't have more than two percent grade and you can't have them so slopey, but every course we love, Seminole, they have slopey greens, they have out-of-control greens. So I think that's part of it. It's building a green big and having a lot of movement in it, where it's interesting, but it's still at the same time fair. We enjoy seeing golf courses like this because we see both extremes. We see a few good ones like this, and a lot of modern, very brand new golf courses. We're thrilled to get to a course like this, especially one that not really anybody in this field really knows this golf course. So it's a fresh, new thing for us, and it's very exciting.

Q. There is a theory that more players have a chance this week than last year, where they said it was mostly a bombers' course. This wouldn't necessarily apply to you as it would to other people, but do you think it's possible that guys would psych themselves out or talk themselves out of being competitive when there's so much talk that it's only a bombers' course?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think -- yeah, you definitely, if you don't hit it a long way and you show up at Bethpage, you probably don't feel real good about it. But I think we've seen over the years in the U.S. Open a lot of places like Oakland Hills and all over, golf courses that the guys that aren't the longest players in the field seem to end up doing well. Curtis Strange won back-to-back, and Andy North and Scott Simpson are not the guys that are necessarily the longest, but guys that are the steadiest and most patient and good putters and competitors. So I think this course, to answer your question, yes, this course lets more people in the game than Bethpage. And I think for that reason -- there's a lot of choices off the tee here. You can hit 1-iron or 3-wood or you can hit driver, and I think it is a course where you can challenge -- you can challenge the hole if you want or you can lay back. And that puts more players in the game, probably.

Q. Given your season so far, do you think that this is your best chance or best preparation you've ever had coming into an Open?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. I felt like maybe the last couple I wasn't as prepared as I could have been, physically. But back into the early 90's, maybe from '90 on, I was pretty much ready to play well, and after winning The Players in '92, I felt like I could win any tournament. So the confidence-wise and peace of mind-wise, yeah, maybe this is one of my better chances to play well. But the U.S. Open, you can be toughest that one week, and it doesn't really matter what you've done the year prior. I think anybody that stands up and has -- plays their best golf and is patient can win. But I feel like I've been preparing for it real well this year.

Q. Several years ago you had the label of one of the best golfers to never win a major. What was the difficulty in dealing with that and did you have to trick yourself into thinking majors weren't that important?

DAVIS LOVE III: No, I don't think you can do that. But I just took it as it seems like most players do, as a compliment that you're a great player and people expect you to win. But I always felt that my expectations were much greater than anybody else's. It's definitely a category you want to get into and out of quickly. But getting into that category is a heck of a lot harder than getting out of it. And I think that's what most players that have been in that position realize is if you're good enough to win a major, that's a hard position to get into, where people expect you to win one. Then it's a matter of getting out of your own way.

Q. Are you at all curious as to how you're going to be treated by the Chicago fans, given the incident at the Western last year, or is it bygones be bygones in your mind?

DAVIS LOVE III: I've always been treated well by the Chicago golf fans. I wouldn't consider the people that yell across the ropes Chicago golf fans. I don't think -- I think Chicago sports fans are generally very, very good. I don't think it matters who the player is if somebody's been overserved in the gallery. And usually that doesn't happen as much at a U.S. Open.

Q. You're among a number of players this year who have sustained a very high level of play and success, and different answers come out of each guy, but I was wondering how you explain your run this year? Is it a mindset, is it getting out of your own way, a practice routine?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, as I said earlier, I think I'm just healthier this year, and I got off to the year with a good plan and a good feeling and a good -- I was just in a good place at the end of last year and at a point in my career where I had to get to work. And I could finally, after two years, really get to work hard over the winter, which I hadn't been able to do over the last few seasons.

But I don't think it's anything other than I'm healthy and Scotty Cameron started me putting better last fall and I worked hard this winter, and I'm reaping the rewards so far this year.

Q. Is there any Tiger effect to what guys have been doing or is this just a collective decision that a bunch of guys say I'm better --

DAVIS LOVE III: I can't speak for anybody else, but I didn't play the way I wanted to last year, no matter what Tiger did. I still finished 20 something on the money list and didn't win. I'm just working my way back to where I think I ought to be. As I've said a bunch of times, I'm sure Tiger didn't worry about me this winter, so I didn't worry about him. I just worked hard and got ready to come out and play.

Q. What is your prediction of a winning score this week?

DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, I didn't -- I don't know, it depends on how hard the wind blows and how much it rains and things like that. I have no idea, with no history here.

Q. You get to get away for about four or five hours and play golf. What about the rest of your family? Do you feel -- the fact that there's really no escape for them?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, they're actually right now all together on a big vacation down in Florida. They got away. They're amongst family and friends, and I feel guilty that I'm not home helping or doing something, but they keep assuring me they're fine. They know that my place is to be, one, out here at work, and two, out here with my friends. And I have friends from in this room to in the USGA to on the driving range and on the golf course and out there in E lot where I'm parked in my motor home.

My biggest part of my family, my family of friends is out here, so I'm in the right place. They know that I want to win this golf tournament, and they're going to say they're fine even if they're not fine and that they're having fun in Florida and go play golf. It's a tough time, but everybody has to -- we have to show that we're strong and life goes on, for the kids, especially. If I was sitting around doing nothing, it would look like things aren't right. My kids were watching my golf scores last week, like they normally do, just casually (laughter), and how did you play, dad? Guess what we did today. And I think that's good for me and good for them, too, that they see that dad goes back to work, and as I said last week, it's a new normal, but life goes on.

Q. From a professional standpoint, with the victories this year, the top of the money list, you're rebuilding a PGA TOUR venue, we've categorized this as one of your best years ever and shaping up to be possibly your best. But from a personal side, with the difficulties, does it feel that way to you? Can you say it feels like this has been your best year?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, certainly up until the end of the Charlotte tournament I was having a lot of fun. And it shows you that career and your life of earning money or the business of life is not the most important thing, that family is the most important thing. So no matter how much success you have at your job or in your career, that family is most important and can change anything. So we've been reminded twice tragically in our family how important it is to stay close and take care of each other. Your family and your faith, and then comes golf. And sometimes we get wrapped up that golf is -- and I know certainly more in other family members' minds that golf is the most important, that it isn't, and this is just a game. We take it way too seriously. We can learn a lot from it to apply to our daily life. But it is a game and we're just lucky that we get to play in front of a lot of people and they clap and we get paid a lot of money to do it. But it's not the most important thing in the world. We need to appreciate that fact that we are lucky and continue to focus on our family.

As far as my year, we talked, Bob Otella and I talked and Jack and I talked that there's two or three parts to this year, and I'd already passed the first part real well, and getting ready for the U.S. Open, and the British Open was kind of the second part of the season, the middle part of the season which, even when I've had good starts, I've had slow summers, and then fast falls. So this was the year to say, all right, that's great, what you did in the first quarter. Now let's work on second quarter earnings and get refocused on what you have to do.

And if it doesn't quit raining in Greensboro, nobody is going to like us come October. But Ron can probably tell us how much it's rained there in the last couple of weeks. I don't even want to know, I guess. It's an exciting year. Our golf course design company is going great, my golf has been going great, up until right after Charlotte. But I'm excited about golf for the rest of the year.

Nothing is going to stop me trying to do my best. Last week people came up and said I can't believe you played so well. I said I can't believe I bogeyed three holes in the last round. So that's my attitude is I'll play golf, and maybe when I go home next week it won't be as much fun as a normal week off, but I'll still keep playing golf as hard as I can.

Q. When nobody has seen the course, at what point in the week can you get an advantage by adapting quickly or can you? Are you that much better on the course on the weekend than you are Thursday morning?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think you certainly learn things as you go. I think -- it seems like when you go to -- I've played 15 U.S. Opens. When you go to the British Open, when I go to St. Andrews the next time I'll have seen it a bunch, and when I go to Muirfield, you keep hitting the same places. Here they keep throwing these new ones at us that we haven't played before. And I think the best players adapt quicker. I think that's -- there's a million things that go into making Tiger Woods or Ernie Els or Phil Mickelson a better player than other people, it's just not one thing or two things. Adapting to different conditions, I think that's one thing that separates Tour players from really good players, really good amateurs or really good club players is that you can throw us on bent greens one week, Bermuda greens the next week, and it's not like we have to go spend hours hitting on Zoysia fairways to learn how to do it.

But learning[] the golf course, and the caddies are so good now, it's not like the old days, when you wonder how far it is. I better play the par-3s two or three times before I figure out how far it is. I had -- the caddy today had a little thing to tell what percentage grade it was uphill and downhill. The book this week has the green gridded in five yard little squares, so you can mark in where the hills are exactly. So it's getting more and more technical. There's more and more competition, and guys are getting better at adapting to new things, new golf courses.

As I said, the yardages, you could almost come out here blind with a good caddy, and if you hit the ball well and you could adjust to the speed of the greens, you could play pretty good. I remember in New Orleans one year Freddie and I didn't get a practice round, no Pro Am, and I won the golf tournament. And he played pretty good. So we can do it.

It's probably not the preferred way at a U.S. Open to be in Washington on Monday and play a rainy, windy day today. But we can do it. And I think hopefully by Thursday, maybe by Friday, you've gotten everything you can get out of learning the course.

Q. We're familiar with your role as golfer. But since mid-May in your role as husband and father, what's been the toughest moment?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think just dealing with the children, just making sure that we're doing everything we can for children who lost a father and an uncle and a friend, and that's probably been the hardest thing is explaining -- trying to explain to children why they lost a father or a friend. And that's the thing I think that keeps worrying me, if I have a worry, is just worrying about the children. Parents, even though they don't like it or understand it, they can deal with it probably better than children. We've got them from 15 to 4 that all in their own way can't quite figure this whole situation out. So I think that's nothing but time.

RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time. We wish you luck this week.

End of FastScripts....

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