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June 11, 2002

Davis Love III


RAND JERRIS: We are now joined by Davis Love. Thanks for taking some time out of your preparations to come talk to us.

This is Davis's 15th appearance in the U.S. Open.

Davis, you've had two Top-5 finishes in your last four events. Is your game coming together, peaking for you at the right time.

DAVIS LOVE III: I'm starting to feel better about it. I didn't drive it in enough fairways last week at Westchester so that's really what I've been working on is hitting it in the fairway. Obviously, you all have heard this is going to be a key in this tournament. So, been working on that, and been putting fairly well so I'm excited about it, and two good practice rounds so I'm pretty much ready to go. I wish it started tomorrow instead of Thursday, but a good day tomorrow just resting up and I'll be ready to go.

RAND JERRIS: Having a chance to look over the course a bit, what do you think are going to be the key holes out there.

DAVIS LOVE III: The ones you hit it in the rough, not making big numbers I think is going to be the secret.

It's all going to come down to who can hang in there the best and stay the most patient. You're not going to hit every fairway, and if you can stay patient and get it in enough fairways and make enough putts and not make any big numbers, it's obviously going to play very, very difficult if you're not in the fairway.

Any hole that you hit it in the fairway on you've got an advantage and any hole you hit it in the rough on you're looking at a bogey. It's just going to be a typical U.S. Open, where you're going to have to scramble around some, but I think this is just a little bit harder than we have seen in the past.

Q. Do you think it's potentially disadvantageous to be starting on the 10th hole, starting on the most difficult section of the golf course?

DAVIS LOVE III: You can look at it two ways. It would be nice to get it out of the way, or it's going to be a tough start.

But, either way, you've got to play those holes. Our argument has always been for a two-tee start with a big field like this, and a lot of our PGA TOUR events, it gets you going and you play a little bit faster and you'll give up starting on 1 every day to play a little bit quicker.

Eventually, you'll have to play all of the holes and maybe mentally, it might be tough if you start on 10 and 12 right out of the box and not 1 and 2. But then you've always got 1 and 2. If you hit a good drive at 5, maybe a chance for a birdie.

But you can look forward to those holes maybe than going away real fast and having to face the hard holes all the way in.

As I said, if you miss the fairway at No. 1, it all of a sudden becomes a hard hole. If you miss the fairway at No. 2, it becomes a very, very hard hole. It seems easy when you hit a 3-wood out there or you hit a 4-wood out there and you hit a nine iron or eight iron on the green, it seems like a fairly easy hole. But if you miss the fairway, now you can't get on the green and then you have to lay up short and then you have to play to a blind third shot and it's hard to make a 4 on a blind shot.

So I think they are all hard but starting on 10 is going to be a tougher time. If you can do that in the morning, that's probably an advantage before the wind gets going.

Q. For a long time, talk of winning a Grand Slam was ridiculed by other players. Do people feel differently now with Tiger and him having a chance to do it this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, every time somebody wins the first one, they talk about can they win a Grand Slam. Obviously, with Tiger holding them all at once, there's somebody out there now that people honestly believe can win it. There's a bunch of guys this week that don't think he can win it because they think they can win.

So we don't think about it unless we've won the first one, and I've never won the first one so, I don't think much about it.

Q. Lee Janzen said a couple of years ago that he comes to a U.S. Open expecting nothing to be fair. Do you buy into that? Is that the attitude that you have to have in an Open?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think you have to put your feelings, your emotions behind you, and that's a good -- that's his way of saying, "Hey, I'm going to get some bad breaks, I'm going to hit in the rough, I'm not going to play and it's not going to be my normal golf. So I'm not going to expect anything and I'm not going to get frustrated when I get a tough lie or a bad break."

You have to downplay the event, try to make it as normal as possible, but then when you come out and play a golf course like this, it's not normal. It's extreme.

If you start thinking about your misfortune or how hard it is, you won't play well, so that's a good way to kind of block it out.

The only way to keep us from shooting under par is to make it ridiculously hard. Augusta has tried length and faster greens and slopier greens and they still can't keep us from shooting scores under par. Like the PGA of America said, we're not afraid of red numbers in our championship. To keep it from being red numbers, you have to do something like they did this week. Put us out there on an extremely long golf course with extremely deep rough, and hope that it doesn't rain. We thought at the PGA last year that scores would not be that low and they were.

So it has to get to the point of unfair, yeah, to keep us from shooting under par. I think that's a pretty fair statement.

Q. What did last year do for your confidence from the standpoint that you had not played hardly any competitive golf and you came into Southern Hills and you were right in the chase basically the entire tournament. Even when healthy, you probably won't play as many tournaments through the rest of your career, but do you feel like you can always contend in Majors no matter what your schedule is leading into it?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think that I have the experience to go out and do what Doug said Lee was talking about, just playing the mental game better than most guys, being patient, understanding what it takes to win a Major. Yes, I can compete on that level.

I'm very thankful at how healthy I feel this year compared to last year at the Open. I was not in good shape and I scrounged around and I did have a good tournament. I feel like with this year and the other Opens I've been seeing on the Jumbotron as I've been practicing, that I can draw on those experiences and play well, hopefully for years to come.

Now, if it gets any harder than this, it's going to take -- I'm going to have to work out some more to keep up with the young guys. I played with Todd Rose and Lucas Glover and Hale Irwin and we're just laughing at how the young guys get out, bomb it, swing at it hard like we used to do it. To have that youth and enthusiasm on a golf course like this really helps. Hopefully I can keep that. I feel like I'm good right now. I'm hitting it really, the last two days, better than I have in a long time. So I'm excited about it, and hopefully for the next five or ten years, I can stay competitive in the Majors.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about how frustrating the typical slow play at a U.S. Open can be, and how you as a player sort of deal with that as a round goes along?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you know, going in, it's going to be slow. They play a big field. My argument being on the board of the Tour for a long time was slow play; I don't have anywhere that I have to be off the golf course. If it takes an extra half hour, we can play more players, more guys can experience the U.S. Open, or on our tour, more players get a chance to play on our tour. A half an hour is not killing me. I can be a little bit patient.

I think that there are some guys that do play slow. In this tournament, I don't think a slow player really affects -- it's going to be mostly the golf course that makes it play slow. You just have to be prepared for it. We know going in, like Lee Janzen said, we know going in, it's going to be slow, it's going to be hard, it might not be fair, it's going to test your patience and if you're prepared for that, you'll do well. That's one thing that Tiger does very, very well is he prepares himself and puts together a game plan and he sticks with it. I'm not going to let the fact that it's going to be slow on Friday derail me from my game plan. I can walk up these hills a little slower; I won't have to run up them.

Q. Some of the players who don't hit it as far as you do are putting some extra woods and going to some funny irons this week. Have you altered your bag at all to accommodate the length of this golf course or the necessity of the shots that you have to play here?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. I think a guy has to get something that he's comfortable with hitting into these greens if he hits the fairway or a hole like 12 or 7 is playing into the wind. I hit a 4-wood into 7 yesterday into the wind. It is essentially a par 5, but a par 4, with a 4-wood and I want something coming in high. I've had a 4-wood in my bag this whole year to get away from the 1-iron, hitting low into par 4, par 5 greens.

But I haven't changed anything for this week. I tell you this, rough, it doesn't matter. You can get whatever you want, but you need your sand wedge to hit it out. I keep hearing things like they want the rough to be -- where you have to make a decision whether you're going to go for the green or not. Well you do. If you hit in the rough you have a decision, you can chip it out or you can try to go for the green and chip it 40 yard in the rough again. They have not invented a rough that can hit it out of the rough on to the green. I don't think you really have to change much. Except for, a guy may want, instead of a 2-iron or 1-iron into some of these holes, he may want a 4-wood or a 5-wood just to get some height.

Again, it's just what you're comfortable with hitting into these greens.

Q. As someone who has played well in this part of the world, can you tell how crowds are different here and how they are the same here than other places in the country?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, they are enthusiastic about their golf. Whether PGA, U.S. Open or Westchester, they are very enthusiastic, and they pull for you. They like to talk a lot. It's a lot of fun. They remember World Championships or they remember great games, or they remember my win at Winged Foot. I had 50 people on every hole say something about Winged Foot or ask me to sign a Winged Foot hat or a Winged Foot program. They know their sports up here. They might get mad if they are the 527th person in line and they didn't get their autograph.

They are good fans and out in force. David and I played at 7:15 yesterday and we had a crowd the whole day. Very enthusiastic and we love to see them. They are thrilled because they know the golf course better than we do. They have played the golf course a lot and they call it their course. I have heard more people say, "How do you like our course," than I did at Winged Foot or any other club because every everybody out here feels like this course belongs to them. They are proud of it and thrilled that it's here.

It's a great crowd and hopefully we'll put on a good show for them. I doubt we'll beat up their golf course much. Maybe we can give it back to them; mow the rough and give it back.

Q. Can you talk about the speed of the greens today?

DAVIS LOVE III: They are pretty much consistent the last two days. They are 12 to 13s, what the greens staff is telling us. They are honestly, I asked David Duval, I said, "Is this the best U.S. Open greens we've ever seen"?

He said, "They are the best greens I've ever seen anywhere." I can't remember putting on truer greens more than a couple of times. I think Congressional U.S. Open was probably the only U.S. Open condition golf course that would be better than this, and maybe they are not better. Maybe they are the same.

But the fairways are perfect. Obviously, they have had it closed for a while. The greens are excellent. The bunkers are tough, but they are fair, and I think it's just a great conditioned golf course all around.

If they get any faster, there are a few flat spots on these greens, but there's also a lot of humps. Whoever said they were the flattest greens ever or that they were too flat, they obviously didn't play. They are at good speed right now. They are a fair speed for the conditions out there. If the wind blows a little bit and they dry out, they are going to get really tough.

Q. Since you mentioned the greens, do you think that there will be some long putts made on these greens that we might not see on U.S. Open type greens?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't think any more than normal. There's some big -- big greens, but I wouldn't say -- no. Like an Oakmont or somewhere like that, there will be some big putts made, but not -- they are not easy greens.

I think somehow, somebody wrote that they were easy and they were flat, and they are not. I mean, the 15th green is the most severe green I've ever played in the United States. It's more severe than anything at Augusta.

You know, there are some greens that are flat, but they are flat on top and they might roll off, like roll off the back or roll off the side or have a false front. But the 11th green is severely tilted. 12th green is severely tilted. There's just a lot of them.

One green has a false front and then it's fairly flat, but even the flat ones, are punch-bowly, where you can put the pin up towards the side of the green and you are starting to come up the side of the slope and you chip up the short-side it's going to roll past the hole. If you put the pin in the middle of the green, there's probably four or five greens that you can call flat but if you put them on the edges, none of them are flat. You always see a few bombs, but they are going to be so fast that -- they are Augusta speed right now, so they are tough to putt already.

Q. Could you ever imagine playing a national or major championship of golf on what amounts to a municipal course? How does that strike you in terms of where the game is and how it's evolved to the point where they are holding it on a course like this?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think it's great that the USGA, one, went outside the lines a little bit and went to a golf course that was not in the quote, rotation, the norm. There's a lot of great golf courses that we don't see normally and it's great to expose them, especially a public golf course. We play at Torrey Pines and places like that, or in Chicago at the Dubsdread course there's some great golf courses that we play and it's nice that USGA is joining in and playing them.

But they put this golf course into the condition of a U.S. Open private golf course. It's not of the style that is any -- is harder maybe, but it's not really any different. It looks like some of Shinnecock, some of Oakmont. It's a public golf course that has been brought along and turned into a spectacular major championship golf course. If the Foundation wasn't there, they could not do it. But I think it's great.

As I said, these fans, they love the fact that we are out here. A lot more pressure than at a private club where half the members want the tournament and half the members don't. Here, everybody out there, as I said, they are calling it their golf course and they love the fact that we are here. I think it's great. I'm hoping that this will open the door that we can play some other golf courses that maybe we are missing, like Torrey Pines would be a great, great U.S. Open in California.

Q. You talked about your past Open success, Winged Foot, etc., In looking back, is there a formula, besides playing better golf, making good swings and holing some putts, a formula that you are certain applies to your best major performances, both on and off the course that you can fall back on at this stage of your career?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know if there's a formula. Obviously, when I've played well, it's been in years that I've been doing -- either healthy or playing well. Last year, obviously, all of the majors I wasn't feeling well or 100%. So it was a struggle. But '97 was a great year all around for me.

The years that I have contended in the majors have been good years, and this is starting to shape up as one that I'm feeling the best that I have had in a long time. Hopefully I can just get those same feelings of kind of calm and going out and just playing the golf course, and as I said, putting together a game plan. Now I'm not trying to find anything, and I think that has kind of come together for me. At most majors I've played well in, I'm not really searching for my game and not worrying about anything. I'm ready for the tournament to start.

During the week, I tend to do off the golf course the same routine of out with friends or out with family. I think this week, I just need to be committed to playing the game, picking my targets and not worrying about how hard the golf course is and if I can stay focused on that, I think that I will do well.

RAND JERRIS: Thank you very much and good luck this week.

End of FastScripts....

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