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April 17, 2003

Davis Love III


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Davis, thanks for joining us. You're a four-time past champion and you're in the right position, 5-under. If we could get some opening comments on your round, 66, good round.

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I hit the ball real well today, especially off the tee. I don't think I missed a fairway. I didn't miss a fairway and I hit a lot of good shots into the green and I rolled it pretty good, not great, but enough to make a few putts and made one very nice putt for par at No. 7 on my back nine. So all in all, it was real good ball-striking day. If I could take 4-over, I would only take two swings over, maybe three. It was a good, solid day.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: With two wins already this season and coming to the golf course where you've won four times, how confident do you feel coming into this week and how good do you feel about your game.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I feel real good about it. I've one bad round, basically -- well, only one really bad score in a while. So I'm real confident in my game and I'm hitting really good. That's even better, coming to a place where you know the golf course and you know the tournament so well.

So, I'm excited about it, and as I said, I'm glad to get off to a good start and not be behind the 8-ball like I was last week.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Can you talk about at the Honda, being able to hit high 2-irons and high 3-irons and being able to shape the ball; were you able to do that compared to a couple of years ago when you suffered some injuries? Is that something to advantage of this week?

DAVIS LOVE III: That really helps off the tee here because one hole you're hitting 2-iron, next hole 3-wood, next hole driver and you have to shape it on a few holes so I feel more in control of my game, certainly than did I tell the last few years here. It's showing in the way I'm hitting it.

Q. You said you were behind the 8-ball last week; don't I remember a 62 --

DAVIS LOVE III: Last week?

Q. Last year was a hot start.

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, the year was a good start. Last week I had a couple bad holes on my first nine and that I was just playing catch-up like a lot of guys, even Tiger, we were all playing catch-up after that first day and it's hard in a tournament like that, or any tournament. You just don't want to get behind and I got behind.

Q. One of those shots, No. 9, did you drive it into the trap?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I got it a little bit -- I got a little bit fooled there. I had a couple other bunker shots where the bunkers were real firm and I was so close to the lip that I just didn't pay any attention to how soft it was. The bunkers were perfect and I thought it was going firm and thought I was just going to hit it and it would jump up and run down the hill. I really didn't pay enough attention to what I was doing. I was just getting it and thinking all I've got to do is get it up there and if it flies, it's going to fly out and if it doesn't it's going to land on the hill.

Q. Is that your strategy all week to drive it in the bunker?

DAVIS LOVE III: Only when it's downwind and the pin is back. So I have only maybe one other shot at it if the pin is in the back left. If it's in the front -- you hit a bad drive, you're dead. If it's downwind I can definitely hit it in the bunker. Somebody behind us ripped it right up there in the bunker, too; it's a good day to do it.

Q. Is that a relatively new play? It seems like even three years ago, guys were not doing that.

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, some guys try it, figure out that it doesn't work very good, and then stop for a while. You know, it's too tempting. Every once in awhile, I'll do it just because it's so tempting. You know, I know that maybe my regular caddie, John Burke, probably would have been pushing -- well, today maybe he would have let me do it, but he would push not to do it. My brother, he knows it's fun to do and it's a great advantage. I could have -- more often than not, I'm probably going to hole that rather than not get it up-and-down.

You know, it was an easy bunker shot, so why not take a chance at it.

Q. So the thought is to putt in the bunkers and not drive the green?

DAVIS LOVE III: No, you can't drive the green. You're not going to drive the green. I won't say you can't, but you'd have to get extremely lucky to drive the green. But put it in the bunker where you've got an easy shot. It's no bargain even if you hit a 5-iron off the tee and you have a 110-yard shot, there's a lot of trees hanging and little bitty greens and stuff.

Q. You know every year we talk about the winds and everything like that. Do you take it easy or do you play it just as hard as you did when you were new to the course? Is it easier for you now or do you have to be just as careful?

DAVIS LOVE III: No, I think it's still tricky. You may have seen enough shots over the fourth green to know that it's never going to be a 7-iron that's never going to be a 3-iron, no matter how crazy the wind is.

But I got tricked at 8. I thought it was left-to-right and in and it was maybe left-to-right or left-to-right and I hit it over the green. You still have to be vary careful and very decisive. You can't be up there thinking, I wonder what it's doing while you're hitting. The greens are so small, you can't get away with much.

I've got a pretty good memory of shots hit into 17 that I know when I walk around there, the tents are about to blow over, how to play the hole. If it's dead calm, how to play the hole -- it helps, but you're still going to get tricked, as small as the greens are.

Q. You've sat here and told us before how you gear your game up towards Augusta and the residual effect, you play well here. But is this one of these courses now where you can drive here on Thursday morning, get your clubs out and put up a good score?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. A couple guys were teasing me in the locker room saying, oh, you were working hard on the range yesterday for a guy that just shot 64 in THE PLAYERS. I said, you know, you've always got to be ready and so I worked at it yesterday to make sure that I was going to be comfortable with my driver and my 3-wood, as well. I was just hitting drivers, but it's going to be comfortable hitting it through these trees. I think that's the biggest adjustment for me, coming from Augusta; I mean, the fairways are not wide but a lot of space. You feel like you can smash it on every hole, and you have to. And then coming here and trying to narrow it down, and not hit a driver -- if you just don't hit a tree, it's impossible. I think I can maybe here more than other places, I can get around and excited but I think this is one those courses where if you're hitting it good, you can shoot a good score if you're not -- I saw a lot of guys just not get anything going today because if you're not right on it -- well, I am more come comfortable here probably than anywhere else.

Q. Think every year that you've played at least one round here, you won except last year when you led after the first round. Can you revisit last year and what happened after the first round?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, I don't remember that well except that I was a little surprised at how easy the first round was. And then after had, it was a little scroungy the rest of the way.

Last year I was not hitting quite as good as I am this year. It just seemed like I was grinding a lot through the weekend, but I don't remember my scores. It seems like I was kind of grinding a lot last year.

Q. So the first round was a little anomaly?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I think that's the way I kind of describe my whole last two years. Before this year every once in awhile, I'd have a good round and it would put me on the leaderboard, whether it was Thursday or Saturday, but I really wasn't playing 100% where I felt like I was winning or I was on top of everything. I would gut out a good round every once in awhile but I was scrambling a lot and scrounging, using my experience to get me around the lead but I really wasn't leading, you know.

Q. Is that a function of your health and this year maybe having a little more -- I know you've talked before about getting back on the practice range.

DAVIS LOVE III: I think health and confidence. Confidence is obviously a great thing. It's a terrible thing when you don't have it; it's hard to define. When you've got it, you don't even ask why you've got it because you're afraid it will turn the other way. I think that's the biggest difference. Like yesterday, I hit a couple bad drives in the Pro-Am. I didn't hit it all over the place but I hit them not quite that solid and I could stand there and hit a bag and a half of drivers and get mad and work hard and straighten it out and start hitting them the way I wanted to hit them whereas maybe last year or the year before, I'd hit five and say, well, I'll figure it out and I'll have to live with it.

I can come right out today, hit every fairway after a practice session and I didn't wear myself out, I didn't hurt myself, and that's a big, big advantage. I feel like right now, I need to go hit 7-irons for two hours, and I can do it and not feel the effects the next day.

Q. Is it exciting as playing well as having Roy Williams as Carolina coach?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I can't wait to see the recruits, who he gets.

Fresh start and exciting. I wish we'd have had him the last, whatever it's been, eight years, six years. Like he said, he can't turn it down twice.

Q. Any back trouble? Everybody is talking about back trouble today coming in here? Are you suffering?

DAVIS LOVE III: My wife asked last night, she says, "Does everybody in the world have a herniated disk?"

I said, "Well, in your world, they do."

You know, the explanation I always get is if we took everybody in here and had an MRI, we'd all have a bad place on our spine somewhere. It's just the fact that we try to take a weighted stick and swing it around our body 180 miles an hour, it makes it worse.

I think you're going to see -- I've been saying it. Nick Price is talking about the future of the game a lot and what's going to happen with guys trying to hit it so far. Well, just the fact that Ty Tryon at his age has hit more golf balls than me at his age and my son, who is 9, it's had more golf balls than me now, just pounds them, and he's trying to hit it -- the thing I asked Nick: "What do you expect these kids to do? Learn to hit it short and straight? They are going to hit it long, that's what the winners do."

It's a snowball, sure, but my son is going to try to kill it so when he gets to be 40, he may be on his way down. He may wear himself out. I think we're really going to have to watch that. That's the danger is, I think injuries and shorter careers are going to be, we're not going to have a whole lot more Arnold Palmers, Gary Players, Jack Nicklauses that play and play and play and play.

I honestly look forward to the day when I don't have to get up and stretch for 20 minutes just so I can go hit golf balls. That's one of the reasons Tiger, David Duval and all those guys are really working out hard, to see if it can make a difference in the long run, and who knows, but it's tough. It's a tough sport on your body. Gary Player, I mean, he was the perfect example. He worked hard, traveled a lot, ate right; it made him last.

Q. Something a little off-topic, MCI signed back with the tournament yesterday. For you guys out here, does it really make a difference about who the sponsors are?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, it makes a difference. We want them. We want them. (Smiling) We're thrilled that MCI, they are back in and that they are going to keep this tournament going. They are excited about it and willing to jump back in. They feel like it's that important to the future of their company that they keep this relationship going.

You know, we work hard, especially the top players, board members, they had Fred Funk go in to meet somebody yesterday before he teed off in the Pro-Am to say hello, just for sponsorship reasons. We are aware of it. We want to make sure -- our biggest thing is making sure that the sponsor feels like they are getting valid, so, for MCI, we'll do the same thing we do for all of the other sponsors, try to do a good job, put on a good show and do a good job in the Pro-Am and keep them happy.

We hate to see switches. We like to see people stay and not jump around; it would be better for us and better for them.

Q. Do you fret more than the average guy about this tournament not having a tournament?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I felt real confident that this was a tournament that wouldn't have to struggle too much. Obviously, it's hard to fill a sponsor gap but we've had good success the last 12, 16 months, bringing groups in that we thought should have been in golf or should have had a tournament, like Ford, some Wachovias, some really top, solid, blue-chip companies. We are really on a roll and I think the strong companies are realizing that this is where they need to be. The ones that is want to get strong, it's worth it. Even if it's a bigger investment for them, it's worth it for them.

Q. Could we go through the round?

DAVIS LOVE III: Started on 10. 3-wood off the tee, an 8-iron just in the fringe about 35 feet and made that.

18, 3-wood off the tee and an 8-iron to about 15 feet.

2, driver and a 6-iron to about 25 feet and 2-putted.

3, drive and 9-iron to about 12 feet.

6, 1-iron off the tee and an 8-iron to about six feet.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Davis, thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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