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July 3, 2002

Davis Love III


JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Davis for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Advil Western Open. You've been playing pretty well. I guess you're feeling pretty good. Why don't you make a couple comments about coming into this week and we'll go into some questions.

DAVIS LOVE III: It's good to be back. Obviously, after playing well here last year, it's fun to be back on a golf course that you played well on. I've always enjoyed this tournament, especially playing up here at Cog Hill. It's been a great golf course just to get to play, much less to play well on, so I'm excited to be back ad excited to be back on track playing a little better.

Q. What's got you back on track?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, over the last 2 or 3 months just feeling better. You know, after last year not having a good year physically, I came back this year feeling better but out of practice, and I think being able to play a lot of tournaments -- I think this is my 17th event this year, which is a lot -- and just being able to be out there and working on my game and practicing and playing, and I'm just recently -- I'm driving it a lot better. I was missing a lot of fairways.

Q. How limited you were you before compared to what you're able to do now?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, basically last year I never practiced. This time of year I was hitting 20 to 30 balls to warm up before a round, and that was all I was doing. And I had a few good tournaments, but they were mostly, you know, playing on adrenalin and fumes, you know, and not really playing with a lot of power.

You know, I hit some shots very, very good but I also hit, you know, like I did down the stretch against Scott. I made some exciting putts and hit some exciting shots, but I also hit some foul balls. You know, I hit left of the green at 16, which you can't do, and I missed the fairway at 18, which you can't do, and cost myself the tournament.

So I was just struggling to get by, which I have a lot of friends who have been hurt like Notah Begay and Brent Schwarzrock, and it's hard to know whether it stay out here and grind it out or stay at home, and we're such competitors it's hard to stay at home.

Q. You said this is the 17th tournament you played in this year. Are you the kind of guy who needs to play competitively every week to stay sharp?

DAVIS LOVE III: Not every week, but I need to play consistently because if I'm not out -- like I was out for 3 weeks on either side of the U.S. Open I played. If I'm not out playing, I'll find an excuse not to, something fun to do, you know, fishing in the summer or hunting in the fall and winter, you know, spending time with my kids that are growing up fast, so it's better for me to be out playing. I'm going to try to go to the British early next week so that I'm over there playing and sitting at home waiting for something to happen. I don't need to play every week, but I need to play a lot.

Q. Davis, does last year's finish give you any incentive this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I want to win every time I play. Coming close here and coming close several on times last year and this year, you know, it's more incentive that I want to win. Coming close is not fun, but I know I'm playing good and I know I play this golf course good.

Q. Does Tiger Woods withdrawing have any effect on how you play the tournament?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. I mean, somebody -- somebody said yesterday -- we were playing out at Chicago Golf and said something about is that going to change the way it played. And somebody else said, well, it didn't change the way Scott and Davis played last year, they both played real well. You still have to shoot the same score to win, it's just a different name usually. It's unfortunate, but that doesn't change the way we play.

Q. How would you say the course played today?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's playing hard. I mean, the rough is up I think even taller than last year, and the greens are very firm. They're putting beautifully, but they're just firm. I hit a lot of shots today that bounced, you know, just over the green and, you know, I'm glad I got a practice round in so I know -- you got to land it short of the hole no matter what.

Q. Could you compare the atmosphere of when Tiger Woods is playing and when he's not?

DAVIS LOVE III: Seems like fans are fired up no matter what now, whether it's Phil or Tiger or, you know, last week at Caves Valley people were yelling and screaming for Watson and Pooley. So it seems like atmosphere is good all the time-out here now.

Q. Davis about the British, going into that tournament, is there any part of your game you're trying to perfect?

DAVIS LOVE III: Not really. I was really close not Hartford. I did everything really well except I hit a few balls too far because I was hitting it really solid. So here, and more when I get over there, distance control is going to be real important. Here with the greens hard, it will be a good warm-up because you have to land the ball short and let it go up. Usually, over there it's just getting your game across to the other side. You know, sometimes in transit you lose the putter or you lose something, and that's why I'm going to try and go early this year and play five, six rounds before the tournament so I've got not my Scottish game but just got my legs under me and some rounds in.

Q. Do you do anything differently than preparing for the U.S. Open for a tournament like that?

DAVIS LOVE III: Not really. I think when you get over there, whatever the course, you know, is asking of you you have to practice a little bit, but be prepared for bad conditions and for wind, but nothing really drastic. You've got to drive the ball in the fairway and you've got to putt good, and then the rest of it kind of takes care of itself. The wind will tell you what kind of shots you have to play into the greens, but it's mostly distance control and hitting it in the fairways.

Q. (Inaudible) to the point where all the greens are consistent here?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah. I would say No. 2 is probably a little softer because it's the newest I think of them all as far as, you know, the complete hole but, yeah, overall they were really good today. I was very pleased with them, and I know the greens staff is happy with where they got it right now. They don't want any rain because it's just right, just firm enough if you hit it in the rough or you don't hit a good shot, it's going to bounce over the green or off the green, so it's playing pretty tough. If the wind blows like it usually does here, the scores will be high.

Q. What was your reaction to the comments from Jack and Arnold and Gary a couple weeks ago kind of insinuating that the field was not giving Tiger a challenge, in some words, rolling over for Tiger. What was your reaction to that?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I've been saying all along -- I didn't hear what they said or read what they said, but I know that when Arnold was winning a bunch, people weren't saying that the field wasn't playing hard to beat Arnold, and when Jack was winning a bunch, they weren't saying the field was not playing hard to beat Jack. You know, everybody plays out here to win, especially at the top level, the top 30 guys or 40 guys, so I don't know. I don't know what they said, what context they were saying it, but there's one guy playing out here really, really well and a bunch of guys right on his heels. He's not winning by 40, you know. He's not winning every week. He's just winning some big golf tournaments when he has to. I don't know. I'd hate to criticize Jack's record by saying Arnold didn't try or Watson didn't try.

Q. Davis, before you won your first Major, did it affect you being asked about it at every Major? Did that wear on you at all?

DAVIS LOVE III: Not any more than any other questions that don't really have anything to do with how you play, you know, whether it's, you know -- or any questions that aren't about the way you're playing specifically. They're all -- you know, some you got to let go in one ear and out the other and just go play. You know, what it all boils down to, whether it's your family or friends or media, we want to win more than people want us to win. A lot of it is how we manage it to accomplish our goal and, you know, sure, 20 years ago or 30 years ago it was easier to win a Major because there was less stuff going on. You know, there was less attention and hoopla and fans and questions and demands on your time. You know, winning a Major championship now, that's why we're saying what Tiger is doing is so incredible. It's hard to win one or two, much less eight or 10.

You know, you go back and read the quotes when Mickey Price was winning, you know, his stretch or Couples won the Masters and people said can anyone approach what Jack has done or what Watson has done? And they all said no. That's why Tiger is so incredible. One of my favorite Freddie quotes is he said, "I love inside the ropes. Everything else you can have." You know, everything else is a distraction to get to what you need to tee off. It really doesn't matter what the question is or what the distraction it, it's just hard to deal with all of that.

That's why you see a lot of guys practicing off-site now. Guys practicing Thursday, Friday, Saturday of a Major before and then they're not there Monday and Tuesday before a Major, because golf is a quiet, solitary game 99 percent of the time except for out on the PGA TOUR or a Major championship. It's hard to handle all of those kind of things.

That's why, you know, I got in trouble for saying my brother couldn't break 80 at Bethpage and Mickelson said over/under for a scratch handicap was 85. It's not all the golf course. It's a scratch handicap at their home club. It's quiet and they're playing with their buddies and everything is hunky dory. But you come out here and there's fans and equipment and people moving and deeper rough and tents and obstacles and questions and there's a lot more going on. That's one thing Tiger and Phil and everyone has had to deal with more and more.

Q. Did you do anything differently in the off season that this yourself back into shape and make sure you would be healthy this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah. I saw some -- saw some different doctors to get some confidence that I was not going to hurt myself trying to get stronger and get back to work on my game. And once I did have, you know, that assurance that, hey, you know, you're going to be all right, just hang in there and take the time off and work at getting yourself stronger. The unknown in an injury is probably the scariest thing. Am I going to get better, am I going to be as capable as I was before I got hurt? Once I got past that point and could start doing some stuff to take care of it in the off-season, it got better. You know, your mind is the best healing tool you have and once you feel like you're getting better and you know the things to do, you can attack it and come out on top. I'm certainly was very thankful that the last whatever, four or five months, I've been able to play without worry.

JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Couple more questions.

Q. Obviously, Tiger has played here and won three times with the PGA, but obviously, you know, other players on Tour (inaudible). Can you talk about the quality of play right now?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think over the course of, you know, the modern era of golf, you can just take the names out and look at the golf, and it stays pretty much the same. It's all really good scores, just different people shooting them. The winning score doesn't change because Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods aren't here. There's other guys that are going to shot it and maybe if coming down the stretch Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or David Duval is playing with one of those guys, maybe they push them and someone makes an extra birdie to win because they're No. 1 or 2 in the world. If Tiger withdraws, if Justin Leonard withdraws, you know, I don't breathe a sigh of relief and say now I can win. I still feel like I have to do exactly the same job whether they're here or not.

And you have to do just about everything perfect and get a couple good breaks to win. Phil and I both made a couple mistakes at Hartford and made it a close three-way race. A Jonathan Kaye or anybody is -- if you don't play pretty much perfect, you're not going to walk away with a golf tournament anymore. Somebody that you've not heard of -- Len Mattiace has won twice this year. He's a great, great player, and all you have to do is give him an opening. I don't know if he's here this week.


DAVIS LOVE III: You know, anybody that's -- that plays well is going to run right up to the top and have the confidence to win out here. They're not afraid to win anymore.

Q. Davis, have you ever seen more hype about a guy not winning a Major than Phil and have you talked to him about it and offered any kind of advice?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. I'm not going to talk to him about it unless he talks to me about it. And nobody really -- you know, you get words of encouragement when you come close or when you're going into a tournament. I know Tom Kite always said, "Hey, I'm here to win, but you got a good chance to win." You know, he was always trying to pump me up. Or Ben Crenshaw saying, "Hey, you've got the game to win this tournament, go do it." Other than that, you try to stay out of a guy's way so as not to mess up his thinking.

Phil has played a lot when there's a lot of guys playing well. He's had some close calls and he just hasn't done did. I look at him like I look at Greg Norman. With just a few breaks or shooting his score a different week or a different year, you know, he would have won three or four or five. Like Greg, if Greg just had no luck rather than bad luck, he would have won five or six.

Sometimes you have to be patient and some people are not patient enough, but Phil Mickelson is and he's good enough that not just the law of averages but the more he hangs in there and puts in seconds and thirds, he's going to hit it at the right time. I know he'll do it, he knows he'll do it. It's just a matter of being patient with him.

Q. Davis, how do you explain 8 first-time winners on the Tour this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: Just the depth of the fields. You know, everybody talks about Tiger Woods is winning everything. I said, well how can he win everything when 8 guys are first-time winners? There's just a lot of great players. It goes in cycles. Sometimes you have three or four guys that win, you know, 20 tournaments between the three or four of them and some years it's a different guy every week. It's just a depth of the strength. Guys like Matt Kuchar, so many good new guys coming out, and Len Mattiace coming into his own. Every story is a little different, it's not just eight rookies. There's just a ton of good players. There's guys on the BUY.COM Tour if you flip-flopped half the field, you wouldn't notice any difference. They're all good. They're just missing one little bit of confidence or one good stretch of putting to be a top player out here versus a guy on the BUY.COM, so this is depth of field is all it is. You're going to see a lot more of them. There's going to be a lot more players winning that the general public hasn't heard of and that's why it's important on weeks when you don't have a Phil or Tiger on the top of the leader board, you have to pay attention, but these are the guys that are making the Tour go.

JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Davis, for joining us.

DAVIS LOVE III: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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