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April 20, 2003

Davis Love III


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Congratulations on your fifth MCI Heritage Classic title. Also, your third win of 2003, joining Tiger Woods and Mike Weir. If we could get some opening comments, it was certainly an exciting playoff for us and exciting for you as well.

DAVIS LOVE III: Exciting is one word. It was a little too long and it's unfortunate, both for Woody and myself that we didn't hit a good putt or a good shot when we needed it and finish it earlier. But somehow, that's the way playoffs seem to go. They tend to drag on more than you would think. I would give anything to go back and hit that 6-iron I hit it the third time around the first playoff hole. I just hit some bad shots in the wind and didn't hit the good ones when I needed to, either putts or whatever. Just didn't hit them quite solid enough all the way around until that last one.

But, you know, I hung in there all week. I hit a lot of funny shots and uncharacteristic shots for me in this tournament and I got away with it and you never know, you never expected Ernie to finish like he did and never expected Hal Sutton. He had been hitting his irons good all week, to miss the green from 18 in the fairway. With little greens and tricky winds, you never know what's going to happen.

Q. It must be humbling making putt on the final hole, almost a 70-footer and then what happened in the playoff?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it was a chip. Yeah, it was a bad shot in, obviously. I knew that I needed to make par to have a chance for birdie which is really what I needed if I wanted to win the golf tournament and close it out. I just hit it -- I was shooting it in the middle of the green instead of shooting at the pin and just didn't finish my swing and knocked it out there to the right. I did tell my brother when I walked up to the chip, I said, "I'm going to chip this one in." We've been saying, you know, hit it close or try to chip it in or whatever but I told him emphatically, "I'm going to chip this one in." That's why I was so excited when I made it because I finally put my mind to it rather than I was wishing everything up to the hole it seemed like, whether it was putts or chips.

Even the second time around, I had the exact same chip and didn't hit it as freely as I did in regulation. Yeah, it was kind of a disappointing playoff after that because neither one of us really did anything great until my second shot, the last hole.

Q. Did you think both the second and third playoff hole, did you think Woody was going to make those putts and be over?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I thought for sure he was going to make the one at 16. I kept telling myself, concentrate on your putt because you never know what's going to happen. When I missed that little one at 17, I really did feel like it was over; that it was time for him to hit a good putt. I don't know, there was a lot of conversation before he putted that putt. It was kind of, the longer he stood there and closed his eyes, I said, you know what, I've got to be ready to play more golf because you never know what's going to happen and sure enough he missed it.

It kept feeling like I was going to win but I just never could hit a good shot to pull it off. I know he was feeling a lot more nervous than I was. I was just excited and trying to hit a good one and I kept trying to be too precise and too smooth and too relaxed and finally on 18, I just said, I'm going to hit it at the hole and quit screwing around and I finally hit a good one.

Q. What do you mean by you when said there was "a lot of conversation"; noise in the gallery?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. He and his caddie got close together and it didn't look like they were talking about reading the putt. It looked like they were, you know, trying to calm down, psyche themselves into making the putt rather than just going through the normal routine.

Until that putt, he looked pretty comfortable but didn't look comfortable after that.

Q. In situations like that, is that -- when you think you're going to lose and wind up not doing that, do you get energy off that, is it draining to have to come back from that?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, no, it's nice to still be in it. I've missed that putt and had that feeling of, oh, gosh, could I have ended it, and you feel like you're behind when actually you're on equal footing. I don't know if it's momentum; that's a confidence thing, you're not playing with the same aggressiveness. Even though he hit good shots at 18, I felt like I had gotten back on the upper hand.

Like I said the first time around, he hit it in the marsh and I should have made par and it should have been over. I gave him a chance and he gave me a chance and I gave him a chance. You know, we just were back and forth and it was not a pretty playoff, but it's a lot of what you see around Harbour Town. You see a lot of balls off the edge of the green. The wind was switching back and forth, different clubs than I hit the first time around and it was very tricky. In a situation like that, sometimes it's hard to relax and play.

Q. What are your feelings about winning for the fifth time in a tournament like this? That doesn't happen very often to too many people?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's a thrill, obviously. To win on the Tour, it's a thrill to win a golf tournament and to win this one five times, I hear a lot of jokes around the locker room saying, "You're automatic here," or whatever, but I feel like I'm comfortable here. Maybe when I get in trouble or when I hit a bad shot, I'm not as -- I don't lose my patience quite as fast here as maybe other guys do. It's a tricky little golf course. I think once you have success on it, you can play good. I know Hal Sutton said he felt comfortable here. When you feel comfortable, when you're not steering it off the tee, you can play it. But to win five times on a tour is pretty awesome but to win five times in the same place, pretty incredible. I've said this every time I've won here, it's something. I got my first win here and a win after not winning for a while at one time and now a win for the third time in a year, this is a big step for me. Back to '92 probably since I won three this fast in a year. So this place has always been good to me. Just like that chip, you never know. That chip could have broke out of the hole or the putt I made on 11 for par, could have broke out of the hole and it would have been a whole different story.

Q. How come Mark is on the bag this week?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's just his one week of the year. We always tease him that it's the shortest, flattest golf course on TOUR to walk. So if he's going to do one, he might as well do it here.

He caddied for a long time. He got me through a lot of years and we had a lot of success. He won here with me '92 and maybe one other time. It's just close to home, a lot of friends and family. We had a ton of people up here. It's just a good week for him to be out.

Credit to my caddie, John Burke for willingly giving up a week. For a guy that's working for a living, it's hard to give up a week, especially when I pop up and win, but he's understood that Mark got me where I am through basically the middle of my career and he's happy -- he'll give him a hard time about stealing a win from him.

Q. Talk about your mental process in the middle of the round where it looked like Els did have the tournament in his pocket for some time?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, he really did. I birdied 9 and was 12-under and in position, really to, play a good back nine and win the tournament. But then I hit my bad tee shot at 10 and hit it in the lake. I said after I had finished the hole, I said, "You know what? It's probably been 10 years since I've hit it in that lake." Just extremely disappointed when I was driving the ball well, hitting right down the middle of every fairway, to hit a drive like that. That was very disappointing.

Then I went back to 11 and then I had a beautiful tee shot at 11, had mud on my ball and hit a 9-iron and it hooked in the bunker and I had no shot and hit it about 30 feet. I said, "You know what? If you're going to win this golf tournament, you're going to have to make a 30-footer so you might as well make this one." I made that putt and made a nice birdie at 13 and got myself back in the tournament.

You know, after that, I didn't give myself enough short birdie putts to finish it off, but the middle of the round, I hung in there. I never got frustrated, never got upset. Gave myself a chance. You never know what's going to happen. As I said, it's tricky around here. You never know. Certainly you don't expect a player like Ernie Els to finish like that. But, that's why Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and the great players win a lot of tournaments, because they are there a bunch and I've had my share of tournaments that I've let slip away from me so it's nice to be hanging around and grab the chance when you get it.

Q. On the back nine, was there any point where you felt like you didn't have a chance to win?

DAVIS LOVE III: I kept playing. I figured Ernie had made a bunch of birdies and it was going to be hard for him to make two or three more coming in once he had gotten the lead and the guys chasing him were still going to be chasing him. I just felt like I had to birdie. In fact, after I parred 11, I said I'm going to birdie every hole coming in. I only hit it close once after that, maybe twice after that.

That was my attitude: That, you know I've just got to try to birdie every hole because I don't know what's going to happen. In fact, somebody yelled out of the gallery, "You're in the lead," which I don't think was right. I said, look, "I'm not keeping score for anybody but Woody Austin" and I just kept on going and just tried to birdie my holes and play my golf ball. It was a struggle. I mean, I hit a bad tee shot at 15 that kept me from having an easy third shot in and I had to get it up-and-down there. I had to get it up-and-down at 17 and, hey, you never know. It didn't look like I was going to win the golf tournament when I was in that left bunker on 17 in regulation. Just the perseverance of trying to get the most out of it every hole. I walked up there and didn't even -- I started to look at the leaderboard at 18 in regulation and I started my head looking over there, I said, "no, don't even look, just go chip it in." When I chipped it in and looked over and realized Woody, if he made par, we would tie but I don't think I would have chipped it in knowing I was behind.

Q. How much harder would it have been there to hang in there than from say, Pebble, your first win in over a year?

DAVIS LOVE III: If I had not won since Pebble it would have been a little harder. This tournament was a lot like Pebble. I was not 100% sharp and didn't hit -- I drove it pretty good except for a couple of drives but just wasn't as sharp with the irons as I have been. Maybe being a little too creative with the irons instead of just hitting them. It would have been harder, for sure to grind it out.

Q. You mentioned '92 and the run you were on then. How does this compare to that time; were you better and is this better than that was?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you look back, you think you were always better. I think I drive the ball much better than then and I putt better, but it seemed like I was on a roll a little more with my iron game. When I was playing pretty much every week like at THE PLAYERS, if I putted decent I was going to win. I think now I'm putting more consistently and when the ball-striking is right on, like it was at THE PLAYERS, I could win in any field and when it's a little scratchy like it was over the weekend, I can still hang in there better. I think I'm a more patient player.

But that was an awfully good streak for me, like L.A., all the way through Greensboro.

Q. Do you still have all the jackets at home?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, it's funny, I saw in the corner of my closet, I saw a bunch of them before I went to the Masters and I was thinking -- you know, I'll come back here and I'll give this jacket back to Steve Wilmont, it says, (looking inside jacket), and I am coming back and they will give me one and I'll come back next year and I'll forget it and they will give me one to wear at the ceremony and I'll end up with that and I literally have a bunch of them at home, more than four, for sure. (Laughter.) When you shoot the Canon off, you have to have the jacket.

I was wondering how much green it would take, how much it would take to get a green jacket, to get one to wear to the Masters. Obviously I'm thinking too much about the Masters, but I do have a few of them.

Q. What is the range of sizes?

DAVIS LOVE III: They are all the same size. The pants are tighter but they are still the same size.

Q. We were talking about the jackets earlier in the week. You said on Sunday you pick a shirt that either goes with the jacket or against the jacket. Which one is it?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's definitely against. (Lime green) My wife picked this shirt out because she said it was Easter and she said it was a good shirt for Easter. I guess contrasting worked.

Q. Was there a time-out there where the so-called home-court advantage here really helped you?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, the fans were great, obviously. They are always pulling for me.

But, you know, I want to say that I usually have an advantage on these greens, but this week, they frustrated me. I didn't read them as good. I didn't get a good pace on them. I made some nice putts today but overall for the week, I didn't -- I never really got a great feel for the greens. Even that putt -- I missed them one of the times around on 18 when I chipped up and missed it, missed the putt, I didn't get it hard enough downhill and that was -- I was just a little off with the greens. So I don't know if the home court -- but I think my confidence coming in definitely was what got me through.

Q. What do you say about this community that pulled together to keep this tournament alive?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's great. I know behind the scenes, MCI was working hard to get back in and the Foundation was working hard. But the community really is what the golf tournament is all about. That's why a sponsor like MCI wants to come back because they see their community working so hard and what it does for the community.

Not only Hilton Head and Bluffton and this area, but the whole low country really supports this tournament and it's popular all the way down to obviously where I live. We bring a lot of people up here. It's great to see this tournament survive because it does have a tradition that a lot of tournaments don't have, and I think that MCI recognizes that.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Davis, congratulations.

End of FastScripts....

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