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March 26, 2003
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Davis, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center. You've had a lot of success over here on the Florida Swing, a T-12 and a T-2 in the first few events at the beginning of the Florida Swing. Why don't you make a couple comments on your game and the golf course.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, my game is pretty good, I'm feeling good, except for a little cold I think my son gave me this weekend. I'm feeling pretty good and hitting the ball better and better, excited about my game and excited about this week and the potential for me for this year. It seems much better than the last couple of years as we've discussed, feeling better. It makes you more confident and play well, so I've been enjoying the start.
The golf course is surprising. I heard so many stories and disclaimers about how wet it was down here that it's nice to get here and find it in very good shape, very playable. The fairways are still obviously not as firm as they want them, but they're very playable, very good, and the greens are surprisingly fast. Not firm, but they're fast. As long as we get lucky with this next storm, they're drying out pretty good day by day. I think it's not where Fred wants it but it's getting close. The scores might be a little lower than he wants. I guess they always are. Between Fred and Tim they want them always a little bit higher, but it's in good shape. It looks like they're ready. I think they'll have it tweaked this afternoon.
Q. You probably wouldn't mind if the fairways weren't as firm as possible, would you?
DAVID LOVE III: I don't want it where Fred wants it generally or where he gets it. Let's put it that way. Fred Clark does a great job with the golf course, but when this golf course gets really firm and the ball bounces out of the fairway into the rough or it bounces off the green and into the rough, it's very, very difficult. You know, this is an easy golf course to push to unfair when the wind dries it out in the afternoons. I'd rather the good Lord or mother nature keep it toned down just a little bit. You know, it gets away. Sometimes you get a forecast like we did last week on Thursday that it's going to rain, so they don't water, and then it gets away from them and nobody can hit a green. That's the fine edge, one with the technology of maintenance doesn't get talked about as much as the technology of golf is they can do certain things to a golf course to make it play difficult, but then if they get pushed over that edge, it becomes a little too hard or unfair. I think it's a little softer than they want, but I'd rather see them err on that than too hard.
Q. Throughout the Tour season to this point a lot of the courses you guys have played have allowed for a lot of aggression on the greens and taking a lot of shots and making a lot of birdies. Can you talk about the patience that is required on this course as compared to the others that you've played to this point in the season?
DAVID LOVE III: I think except for one player last week you saw it was a little more of a patient game when the greens get firm and fast and the rough is deep. It's certainly the case this week and at Augusta that you're going to have to put the ball on the green is your first task and get yourself a putt that you know you don't have to struggle to two-putt. Secondly, and then if you're fortunate enough to hit enough good drives and enough good iron shots you get enough birdie putts where you can get some makeable putts but it's difficult here to get 10 or 12 makeable birdie putts like you do some other places. You have to scramble around a little bit more. You're going to hit shots that end up in funny places off the edges of greens. They're small greens, and no matter where you look on the green you can still see the pin over there, and it's tempting. You know, the third green, for example, ought to be five yards on the front, bounce it in the middle of the green every day, but it's tempting. You want to shoot it up on that level or the fourth green you want to shoot it at that pin down to the left and you know how dangerous it is, but it's tempting. Patience is definitely rewarded around here not only on the greens but off the tees. You have to say I'm going to put it somewhere in the fairway, that way I have an iron shot I can hit on the green and not make a big number or not put myself where I'm scrambling hole after hole after hole.
Q. You were eyewitness of course to Tiger's first win, and over the years you've been a guy who has praised him highly, not that others haven't, but sort of realistically he can do this and he can do that. This was a year supposedly other players were catching up with Tiger and it certainly seemed that way the first month of the season. Can you sort of analyze what's going on? Do you think he's as good as ever, better than ever? The other players aren't as good as we thought they'd be or is he just on a hot streak?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think you answered it yourself. I mean, Ernie is on a hot streak except he's been hurt the last couple weeks, and Tiger is on a hot streak. Certainly Justin is playing very well and I'm playing very well, so I don't know who decided before the year started who was going to do what, but certainly Ernie decided he was going to be ready to play every week and I decided I was going to be more prepared and waited a little later to start. Apparently Tiger is doing the same thing he usually does. You know, I think you've got to be honest with yourself when a guy is winning by however many he won by last week. He's hard to beat. That's the beauty of it. Jack Nicklaus was hard to beat, too. I've set said it a million times - Arnold Palmer had a pretty good career with Jack Nicklaus around and other guys did, too. You knew Jack was going to be hard to beat when he teed it up and you'd better be ready to play with him on Sunday if you want to read and see his name on the leader board.
Q. Going back six and a half years when you lost to him at the playoff in Vegas, did you see anything special? Did he look like he's going to be this good?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, we've known because of Butch Harmon since he was 15 how good he was going to be, and we've all watched him develop -- well, most of us out here have seen him play. I hit balls with him beside him at L.A., his first PGA TOUR event as an amateur, so we've seen it coming and we understood how good he could be at a young age, and he's obviously not only taken that youthful ability and worked hard and developed it, he's an incredible player, and I don't think we can downplay that by saying he's been fortunate or he's gotten lucky or we can say anything other than he's worked really hard and has a lot of talent. It's fun to try to play against him and guys like Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, they're wonderfully talented players and it's fun to try to run up against them.
Q. Moving on to another subject, when did you first hear the name Martha Burke?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, another subject we don't want to talk about. Probably when you did. It popped up in the media.
Q. How are you preparing yourself for the cataclysmic situation that may arise at Augusta?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, unless it's a very distinguished reporter that I've known for a long time, I probably won't answer the questions. I'm just going to keep my head down and play golf hopefully for the next couple weeks and talk about golf. I'm certain that as you know when we get inside the gates at Augusta National it'll be the Masters as usual unless you're in the media room or under the tree. You don't want to try to avoid either place, but you want to try to play well enough to change the subject is about all I can hope for.
You know, certainly the war and this week THE PLAYERS Championship I think has taken some of the focus away from the extra goings on around the Masters, and hopefully good golf this week and the reality of playing the Masters will probably bring some focus back to the golf.
Q. What prompted you to buy the mobile home and I see you're parked out there by Daly. What's he got that you don't have and what do you have that he doesn't?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, he just tried to trade up. We got into it because of the question you asked earlier, horse shows. My daughter shows six, seven times a year, and we enjoy going to the shows but we didn't enjoy not having a place at a horse show to hang out, so we ended up with a motor home for that reason, and then started asking John questions about like how does this thing work because he lives in one all the time, and we're getting some advice from him on things to do, and he goes why don't you bring it out on Tour, so last year at the Masters finally I did. I've upgraded to one like he uses. This is my third tournament, my fourth week of the year in it. I didn't take it to the west coast, but it's a lot of fun. Like I said, I've got a little bit of a cold, and I practiced and went back and took a nap and came back up to finish off my day, so it's nice to be living like a racecar driver, staying in the infield near the action, and if something happens -- I remember last year Bob May and John Daly in a rain delay ran over and put their clothes in a dryer and we're watching satellite TV and we're all piled up on top of each other on the benches and they're laying on the couch having a snack at home, so that was a pretty good indication that they were one up on us.
Q. Where did you park that thing at the Masters? Not in the lot where the protesters are going to be?
DAVIS LOVE III: We can clear them out. I'm just down the street from the club, private parking. A gentleman has got a spot for John and I. Hopefully he'll slip in somehow. I've got two spots now.
Q. A double-wide?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yes.
Q. How do you get from there?
DAVIS LOVE III: I'm literally a block, so I can drive or walk. That's the farthest I've been from the clubhouse.
Q. How much in advance do you have to know where you can park it? Do you have it clear it with parking lot people?
DAVIS LOVE III: Brian goes this week set up a little spot between two parking lots for us. John has been doing it for a while so he's already paved the way. I talked to Rick George from New Orleans, he says John parked on the tennis courts last year, just park in there behind him. My mom was the biggest detractor. She said I can't believe you're going to stay in that thing. I said 40 NASCAR teams can't be long (laughter). You see the blimp shot. They're all lined up right behind the garage, and really the way we live and travel, it's a nice change for me instead of being in a different hotel every week.
Q. Did you ever envision yourself asking John Daly for advice?
DAVIS LOVE III: No, but I got a lot of it last night when I was trying to get my satellite dish where it would work.
Q. What's the longest you'll drive between tournaments?
DAVIS LOVE III: It used to be real long. Somebody else has been driving me. I probably -- to New Orleans I probably won't drive over there, I'll have somebody drive it over. From here to home, I'll do all those big trips like that.
Q. Not that you're dying for a controversial question after all that, but can you talk about Shoal Creek? Can you look back at that and see -- what the sentiment was like during the controversy there and how it may feel different than what's going on now at Augusta?
DAVIS LOVE III: I don't think it really feels any different. I mean, we're not members of any of these clubs. Well, the Players' clubs, we own them, but we're not members of any of the clubs we go to play at. We're going to play golf and raise money for charity and play our game. You know, I think it's not really an issue for the players, it's an issue for privacy and clubs and people who want to argue and protest what's fair and not fair, and we're going to play golf. I think it's very similar. It's disappointing that whatever the issues are, you bring it to an athlete or an entertainer like we saw the other night sickeningly at the Academy Awards or the Oscars or whatever they were, that that's the platform to protest rather than through government or through legal issues. Where else would you want to protest? Wherever Tiger Woods is will get the most attention. Back at that time wherever Fred Couples was trying to win a PGA, that was where they jumped up to protest. It's no different. We want to go play golf, and this game is a great game and does a lot of good for a lot of people, so I don't think there's really been any sentiment not to play the game. That's kind of where we come out.
Q. The players felt no greater pressure then?
DAVIS LOVE III: I'm speaking for myself. I was a young player on the Tour just ready to play.
Q. You felt no greater pressure than in this case?
DAVIS LOVE III: No. I didn't feel any pressure then, I don't feel any pressure now.
Q. Do you feel there's a wide variety in the different types of courses that you play during the year, long, short, so forth, or do you feel that they generally favor the long hitters?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think there's a wider variety than people perceive. There's more big courses than there used to be, but there's still a wide variety. You've still got courses that require a lot of precision off the tee; courses that require a lot of layups off the tee; courses that require a lot of long driving, so I think there's a good variety. Our field staff does a good job of mixing things up, even if we get three very similar courses in a row, they don't say, all right, well, every par 3 is going to be 220 for the next three weeks. They'll shorten one up if a course has all of them the same.
Obviously the game, no matter whether you play short courses or long courses, you play more of them or less of them, the longer hitter is still going to have an advantage in the long run, but there's a nice variety.
Q. Why do you think there are more long courses than there used to be?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think you see a lot of clubs panic because they hear about this technology burst and guys are hitting it too far and the game is too easy so they panic and lengthen the golf courses. If you look at Tour averages, they're right to lengthen a golf course some. We're sitting in the meeting last night and I had this huge printout, the new stat packages we get from Shot Link with more information than we can digest usually, and y'all probably get the same thing, but it had five or six years, maybe more, of my driving average and what it had done, and since '97 I've picked up an average of 12 yards basically. It goes up and down, but I went to 297 one year and back down to 285 and back to 296 this year. Basically it looked like I had picked up 12 yards over those years. You factor that in over the whole golf course, then maybe you ought to back up every tee ten yards or 15 yards, but what we're seeing is two quick examples, Riviera backed up a relatively short hole 90 yards and La Costa backed up a very short hole 90 yards. That's where we're seeing an overreaction, and being in the golf course design busy overreact, too. I say okay, this course has 6,500 yards, we've got to get it to 7,000. That's a bit of an overreaction. If you took this course and added ten yards to every hole it wouldn't be extreme for us. It's like Augusta. There's members that have seen the tee keep getting farther and farther back on a hole but they haven't played any of them. They're still playing the front one. They're not allowed to go back. Same thing at St. Andrews. If you show up you can't play the open tees at St. Andrews. There's no point in it because it's still hard from where they originally built it. I think if we gradually lengthen golf courses, it's fine. Hilton Head does not need to be lengthened 500 yards. It needs to be lengthened five yards here and five yards there and keep up with athleticism, which Tim was very adamant last night. Athleticism is a big reason why guys are hitting is so far. We didn't have like Charles Howell coming out on Tour when I came out, good athletes, people like Tiger Woods on the list. Hank Haney looks like he can do anything in sports and he bombs a ball out there but I bet he throws a football or hits a baseball. Chris Smith hits it way out there. We didn't see guys like that, we saw guys more like that when I came out to ply golf. We're seeing not only technology but athletes and we need to keep up with that and not overreact.
Q. The complaint last week at Bay Hill was several players stayed away because they said the course was too tough. I don't know if how they knew that because they hadn't played it.
DAVIS LOVE III: Some of them played it last year.
Q. Same setup?
DAVIS LOVE III: It was hard, hard last year. They rebuilt their greens and they became extremely firm, which is natural, but they didn't go through a whole lot in a two-year period to soften them back up to where they were. They're just extremely firm. That dismayed a few guys because that was a great old golf course that we loved to play, and over the years it's gotten very extreme. I had a horse show to go to last week, so I had maybe not a good excuse but an excuse. Hopefully they're going to -- comments and playing reports and stuff will get back to them that -- I mean, that was always a great tournament and it's sad to see that guys are coming up here and complaining about it rather than -- it was that one and Memorial were really the two finest conditioned, most enjoyed courses of the year, and they've kind of lost that a little bit down there. I'm sure Arnold's friends and the guy he plays with in the Skins game down there let him know.
Q. At least it's not 7,600 yards anyway.
DAVIS LOVE III: I hit the green at 17. He said he didn't know what everyone was complaining about. It must not be that hard. He was one of seven people I think on the day.
Q. What are you going to do to Greensboro? How did you apply your philosophy there?
DAVIS LOVE III: We tried to add a little length on some holes that had gotten shorter, but there really wasn't a whole lot of room. Todd has been through there with us a bunch, and we wanted to back the tee up at 18 but there was a guy's yard there and he really didn't want a tee in his yard, so we didn't have a choice. We tried to max it out and we added some length here and there, 10, 11, 13, but there was no room at say 14, 15. We added a little length at 17. The first hole we didn't do much to. We might have added a little length, and 3, but we tried to balance it. There was no really good set of forward tees for the ladies or the beginners. We tried to push some farther up, and as my mom says get the ladies' tees higher so I can try to get some roll and do things like that to cover both ends. The spectrum of building a golf course these days, if you think about playing a golf tournament on it at 7,000 plus and having a beginner, and the game isn't getting any easier for beginners no matter how much technology we give them. You give me the best big-headed tennis racket, it's still going to be a tough start. We're trying to get enough forward tees, enough freedom to also let the beginners play and also challenge the expert. It's a wide range of yardage. We really tried to make the course more playable, more traditional like it was back in the days when it was designed. It was one of the best courses on Tour. We're just trying to bring it back to that.
Q. Have you checked with John Burke to find out if he's related to Martha?
DAVIS LOVE III: No, E. We've determined that so he doesn't get protested.
Q. The growing length that pros are hitting it, is that a harm to the game in any way or is it just the changing nature of sports that they get bigger, longer, stronger?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think we're all catching up with the way Jack Nicklaus hit it. He hit it 300 plus yards when that was unheard of and he hit it way by everyone else. He was a superior athlete with a superior talent, and we're just catching up as a group. I came out, I was an extremely long hitter and I haven't really gotten any shorter. Now there's just -- you don't hear of anybody coming out now and saying that guy hits it really straight and he's accurate. You don't hear that anymore. Everybody hits it long and some of them hit it straight. You know, I've got a nine year old and he plays with all the kids at home and they're all teeing it as high as a tee will allow and they're swinging as hard as they can. There was only one person on the range growing up that was doing that, and that was me. My dad taught me the way Jack was taught, just hit it as far as you can and then we'll straighten it out, I think partly because he hit low hooks and he wanted to see that ball go high and straight, but my brother, he hits it a long way but he didn't grow up with that free power swing that I was taught. He was interested in other things, but I was lucky, I was just taught that way. I watch Butch Harmon teach that to Tiger and Adam Scott and to a bunch of other young players. I see Jim Lumpkin teach that every day at Sea Island. He's teaching kind of to wind and turn and width and power. Everybody that's taught that way is doing it and can take advantage of technology. You give the average guy an X ball, he's really not going to take advantage of it, but you give it to Phil Mickelson, he'll put his club head speed on that X ball and he's going to get a lot out of it. I always make the comparison you give me Dale Jarrett's race car and I'm not going to do a lot with it, I'm going to go slow in the turns, but he's going to get every ounce of speed out of the car and he's going to tell you what's wrong with it so make it so faster. That's what we can do. We can say if you had just a little bit more flight in that ball or if you had just a tiny bit more spin I could get another two or three yards. Phil is the best. He can hit a ball, and Tiger will say it doesn't sound like it's going -- it doesn't sound right to me. They can build a golf ball to hit Tiger Woods, Davis Love, Phil Mickelson, right down the list. It used to be you played a McGregor, a Titleist or you played Wilson. It wasn't which of the 20 balls that Titleist makes do you like or fits your game. I think that's a huge difference, too, in the distance.
Q. Aside from courses running out of land, there anyway that might be bad for the game and the way that it's played?
DAVIS LOVE III: As long as we stay legal, which I think we're working real hard on working with the USGA, the R&A, PGA of America and saying all right, how do we get our hands around this. This really is the limit of how far technology is going to take us, and we still have to keep improving again for the average player, they need something to get excited about and to help our game, and we need to make sure that we don't in that quest start pushing past the edge of rules or what was the intended rule. The CRR rule, maybe we're finding ways around that. Maybe the technology of the manufacturers is finding a way to push the limits of the rules in ways that were never intended. There's some things I'd like to see in the rules like length of clubs and anchoring putters and things like that that are making the game not what it was intended. I think we've finally got a good rapport with the USGA and the R & A and everybody instead of panicking and fighting we're starting to work together and saying what's in the best interest of the professional game and the amateur game at the same time.
Like we've been saying, if you roll the ball back 20 percent, Tiger is probably still going to hit it a long way and be the leading money winner and we're still going to be chasing him, so it doesn't really change what we're doing out here. You give everybody the same ball and the same player is a pro, they're going to figure out a way. Don't make it seem like technology is making us play good because in the end, no matter what equipment we have, the players out here are going to play extremely well. You saw all different kinds of low scores, short courses, long courses, good weather, bad weather. It takes a lot to keep us from shooting low scores, and even technology won't change it, either.
Q. In terms of technology, not so much for the golf ball or the golf club, but have you ever had any conversations with people in golf course design or with any of the bodies in golf with the length of the grass on a golf course? Is anybody talking about maybe having --
DAVIS LOVE III: It's a big topic for us. I mean, from our side people say well, y'all are shooting lower scores. We're saying yeah, we finally have good greens every week. If you want to raise scores, go back to the conditions we played under 15 years ago where every bunker wasn't perfect, where every set of greens wasn't perfect, where every lie in the fairway wasn't perfect, and then you take from 15 years ago Jack and Arnie say the same thing, and they say 15 or 20 years before that none of the lies in the fairways were good and none of the greens were good.
If we walk out on a set of greens and the ball doesn't go where we hit it we're shocked rather than the other way around. We used to say we couldn't wait to get to Augusta. Now it's every week. Bay Hill, Memorial, Colonial, Memorial, maybe the U.S. open if it wasn't hot, where the good greens are. Now it's literally every week. They're almost perfect. They were grainy at the Honda, but they were good. Justin and I were 15 under par combined. They were very, very puttable greens even though they were green in south Florida in the springtime. I think that's a big issue with scoring. You go to the Hope and every putt from 30 feet and in is makeable. It certainly makes it a lot easier and easier to be consistent, to shoot 67 day after day after day after day when the conditions are that good.
Q. Davis, you've got a unique perspective of being a professional golfer and also a designer. Is it possible to have a course at 64 or 6,500 yards and be a PGA TOUR golf course if you designed it and how would you design it?
DAVIS LOVE III: Oh, it's possible. I don't know how long the course was at Mirasol, but it played short because whatever the card was, all the yardage was really in the par 5s. But it's possible to build -- you can build it and the scores are going to be low. There's no real -- unless you make the fairways ten yards wide and the greens extreme. If you keep giving the best players in the world a short iron into every green, even if the greens are hard and fast, they're going to shoot low scores. That's the danger of the yardage is we feel like we have to get to where guys are having to hit some 6- and 7-irons into greens because a wedge is just -- they'll hit it right by the pin every hole. It's hard. We play some courses that are short like Colonial that are still hard golf courses because of the way they're built, but I think it has to be a great classic design like Colonial to survive at that yardage in this day and age.
Q. There was an interesting point made on the telecast of the Honda Classic and I wanted to get your take on it. The move to soft spikes away from metal spikes, what impact has that had on the way you guys putt and play your short game because obviously the plastic spikes don't take as much away from the putting surface as metal did?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think that's a big reason the greens have gotten so much better. We've always said since the metal and soft spike thing came up, if the greens are soft it may be bumpier with soft spikes, but now that the greens are always pretty firm and pretty smooth and the grass is kind of tight to the ground now that even spikes aren't kicking up spike marks as much as they were. We still have a lot of players playing in metal spikes, and even those guys we're seeing less and less spike marks. You have to go summertime, bent grass, old style bent grass like long leaf bent to kick up a whole lot of spike marks, but the grass is -- they don't leave much on the greens anymore, either. It's tighter, finer, bladed bent sand Bermuda that's not letting the spikes kick up as much. Less grain, we saw some spike marks and scuff marks at some of the grainier greens in south Florida, but for the most part the greens are almost perfect now, except for maybe Friday afternoon with all the traffic, but they're generally very, very good.
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Davis, for coming in.
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