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August 15, 2001

Davis Love III


JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, again, ladies and gentlemen. Davis Love, the 1997 PGA Champion is joining us right now at the 83rd PGA Championship. Davis is playing in his 15th PGA Championship. Davis, welcome to the Atlanta Athletic Club. Some opening thoughts on the facility here and we'll go to Q&A, please.

DAVIS LOVE III: Sorry I'm late. I've been playing 18. It took me a while to finish it, is the only reason I'm late. I've enjoyed seeing the golf course the last two days, and obviously, this is a big club and quite a facility and a couple great golf courses, so it has been fun to get out there and see it. I'm feeling pretty good about my game and pretty good about the type of golf course they have out there, and I'm excited to get it started.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you. Questions, folks.

Q. After the last couple major championships, Southern Hills and Lytham, how excited are you, in particular, to be able to lean on your driver here a little bit more and how much of an advantage do you think that will give to players like yourself that can move it a little bit off the tee?

DAVIS LOVE III: If it stays wet, which it doesn't seem to be drying up a whole lot, length is going to be very important. If you hit it straight, if you hit every fairway, and you've got some short shots, a couple shorter holes, you can get away with it. But I think the long driving is going to be a huge advantage, unless you are putting exceptionally well. The length of the course -- over four days. Maybe one day or two days, but over four days, the length of the golf course is really going to get to a lot of guys.

Q. You have happy memories of this particular major. Is it more comfortable? Is it easy not to put a lot of extra stress on yourself, because you know you've won this, when you come in?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's a different golf course every year. You know, it is nice to have won one, but it's a big tournament. I don't think, you know, even Tiger winning it two years in a row or me winning it in '97, I don't think that gives you any advantage. But it is nice to have won one. Like David Duval, it is nice to have that under your belt, have that experience. But I just think when you get here, that excitement kind of overwhelms anything else, and trying to win the last one of the year, trying to get into the Grand Slam, things like that. I'm just glad I'm not grinding for Ryder Cup points, I can relax at least on that point.

Q. You spoke of 18. Does that indicate some misgivings with the course? I gather you were speaking of the difficulty of 18.

DAVIS LOVE III: We were just joking at how long it was. Downwind, I hit a 4-iron in, but it was my third drive to get one in the fairway. So just laughing because it took us a while to finish the hole. Like Lanny Wadkins was saying, he and Tom Kite -- or maybe Tom Watson, were talking about, there was no point in having a strategy on that hole, except just hit it out there, lay up, and play it as a par 5. Because there's a lot of the field that, unless it's downwind, they just can't get there in two. So it's just -- it's a long, long hole. You know if it didn't have a lake in front of the green, it might be a little bit easier. But, you know, when you have to carry it over water to the front, rather than bounce it up, it's a pretty severe hole. Hopefully, they won't play it -- we've been playing the middle of the back tee, so hopefully they won't go any farther back than that.

Q. What about the rest of the course?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, I think the par 4s, par 5s are some of the most straightforward, nicest holes I've ever played. I think Rees Jones did a great job with the redo and it's a beautiful piece of property. It's a good mix. We are the only ones that will play it 490, 470 every hole. But there's a good mix of long holes, short holes. And the greens, it's right there in front of you. It's a very, very nice, traditional-looking golf course. The par 3s are all very hard, but the 4s and the 5s, I could see as a member, playing it off the correct set of tee boxes, it would be a lot of fun to play every day.

Q. In the history of golf, only about 40 years ago did we start assigning a relationship to par. It was simply posting a score. I wonder if you thought it would be smart, not for you because of your length, but for most of the other field to play it as a par 5, a three-shot hole, and still try to get 4 but take 6 or something else out of the equation?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think that's what they are doing. They have to. Yesterday, Greg Norman, no wind, Greg Norman and Steve Elkington and I all hit pretty good drives. I hit a 1-iron and they both hit 3-woods. So that's not three of the average hitters, you know. That's three of the longer players. So it's going to be the fact, you are going to see a lot of balls hit right down the middle and laid up. And it is a par 5 -- no question about it, you are going to have to play it as a par 5. If you think you can knock it on the green in two, you can go for it, but if you can't, you have to lay up, because the penalty is too severe.

Q. Is it a fair hole?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, if you don't assign a par to it, it is. I like your theory. (Laughter.)

Q. Most of the people that that I've talked to have said not only is the course sort of straightforward, but the greens don't look like they have a lot of elephants buried, the type of greens they would like. Having covered other majors here, I've seen those greens get very, very tricky and very, very fast, and I wonder your comments on the greens, please.

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, they are not Winged Foot greens or Augusta greens, but they have got a little character to them. I think they are very straightforward, but if they get them fast -- there is a lot of break to them. I think it is all, you know, very subtle breaks, and it all depends on the speed. Obviously, if it dries up and they get them fast, then they will be a tough set of greens. But I don't think they are outrageous greens. Like I said, it's a very, very straightforward golf course. There are some carries over water on the par 3s, but I guess three of them, other than that, it's just a very, very straightforward golf course. I think it's great. I mean, I love it. I think it's very pleasing to the eye and just very simple. In today's architecture it's nice to see something that's in front of you on just about every hole.

Q. Leaving 18 alone, can you go back three more holes and talk about the Final Four, because Rees Jones said by design, that's supposed to be the toughest four holes here.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, 17, over the water is -- you know, if the wind is blowing, is an extremely hard hole. We've hit 4-iron with no wind, 5-iron with downwind today. It's a long hole. It could probably play as long for me as a 3-iron. I think 16 is a tough drive. You've got to hit it down the left side. That's a hole where if you miss the fairway, you are not going to hit the green. 15 is down the hill, par 3. Again, probably the toughest tee shot on the whole course will probably be 15. 3-iron, 2-iron, fairway wood shot to a smaller green. But there is a good mix. The last four are tough, as they should be, but there are some shorter holes on that side. Some holes where you feel like you can make a birdie. And there may be one or two holes on the front where you feel like you can make a birdie, too. So it's a good mix, but it's still -- the last four, you've got to hit some good long shots, some good tee shots. You've got to hit two good drivers and two good long irons, or you are not even going to have a chance to make a birdie, much less a par.

Q. The big stories this week are obviously the course, it's length, and for some guys, the race for the final few Ryder Cup positions. Is it a little bit different feel for this major where for the first time in almost two years, the talk has been all about a certain golfer -- not all about a certain golfer, and is that a nice change of pace, where it's not all about Tiger Woods?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's what we've been saying all along, there's a lot of guys out here that are playing very, very well, and Tiger had an incredible run, and I think it's -- you look back at it and say even with better perspective that, you know, like we've been saying, not one person can win every time they go out and play. I think it's not surprising to us that, you know, obviously David Duval or Tom Pernice or whoever other guys are winning, just amazing how much Tiger did win. Of course, he will win more, but it is nice that the focus is back on the game. I think non-golf people kind of ran with the fact that there was a superstar and a celebrity and kind of forgot about how good the golf was, by him and by others. Yeah, the Ryder Cup race is exciting. It's better to be 4 and not have to deal with it, but I know those guys at 10, 11, 12, 13 are sweating it out. I think we've got a good team, and somebody is going to step up and make the team, as usually happens. One guy usually makes a move and Curtis will have a tough decision come Sunday night.

Q. This is your first tournament back in Georgia, aside from the Masters, since your '97 win. What's it like playing this tournament in your home state?

DAVIS LOVE III: You mean majors?

Q. Yeah.

DAVIS LOVE III: What was the question? We play the Masters here every year.

Q. Aside from the Masters, this is the first major tournament you've played in Georgia since your '97 win.

DAVIS LOVE III: Right. I don't get it -- it's nice to play golf near home. But, you know, I play the Masters every year and the Southern a lot. It doesn't matter where they have the PGA, you want to win.

Q. David Duval was asked about the club professionals that are in the field, and he obviously has a special feeling about that, and I wondered what your thoughts were?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's obviously a big part of this Championship. It was a big part of my growing up, watching my dad play in some PGAs through -- getting in through the Club Pro. Obviously, back years ago when it was 40, might have been a little bit too many, given the caliber of play of the rest of the world. I know it's a big thrill for them. I always watch the Club Pro to see how they do and who is going to get in. I hope they are hitting a long way because this is going to be a shock to a lot of them. We kind of get used to it. We adjust our game to play this style of golf. It's not like we won't figure out a way to play it. Players are getting longer and longer because they are building golf courses longer and longer. We don't go out and say, "Well, they are building 490 par 4s, so let's pick out a way to hit it short and straight." We try to get as much out of our swing and our bodies so we get stronger, so we can keep up with how long they are making the courses. But the club pros that work all year round, they are not doing that. They are not used to this. So it's going to be hard on them, and I know there's always a few that play really well, but this one is probably going to be more of a shock than some of the other ones.

Q. Getting back to the Ryder Cup for a second. You've been playing Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup pretty much every year for the last nine or ten years. Do you feel differently about the events now than when you first started out? What are your thoughts about the one coming up this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think every year, the Ryder Cup gets more and more important to me. You know, I've seen two wins, two losses and four captains and a bunch of different players. Every year seems to get more and more important to me. I think it was a big goal of mine to make Curtis's team. I don't know, it's a special event. You have to play it to understand it, I think, completely. It kind of grows on you and you don't want to be left out. I'm looking forward to going back to The Belfry. As you said, a lot of years later, trying it again over there.

Q. Another Ryder Cup question with a follow-up. Because of the significant number of Europeans who have spent a lot of time over here, do you think you will be playing the Europeans' best team this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yes. I can't answer that without getting in trouble, can I? When I was on the board, we pushed for them to have flexibility in their selection process so that things wouldn't happen; that they felt like they had four or five guys, that they could only use two picks to get players. You know, there's a lot of guys in their Top-10 that are playing very, very well. It's just some big names that they probably are going to be missing. You know, I just watched the Walker Cup. It doesn't seem like it matters which ten you put out there, or 12; it always comes out real close. On paper, it never really seems to make much difference on any of them, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup or Walker Cup or Solheim Cup. For some reason, those matches tend to take on a life of their own when you get there, no matter who the players are. I think it will be exciting. I just know there will be probably one or maybe two guys that are pretty disappointed that they didn't have a chance to play.

Q. Monty suggested it would help to have two more wild card selections because of the trend to come to the tour. Would you be in favor of that?

DAVIS LOVE III: We were pushing for that years ago, but I don't think the Europeans want that. I don't think they like that idea.

Q. The pressure was very intense on you to win that first major, as it is on everybody up on that level. Now, what's the pressure like for winning a second one? Is it more intense than the first or less intense or about the same?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think it's about the same. You just don't get as many questions about it. (Laughs). You know, I didn't win one and say, "All right, that's enough of that." You know, I want to win, and the pressure is similar for me, but for some reason, you can -- you can deflect a lot of those questions back to David Duval, and now David Duval can deflect them back to somebody else. That's not fair, but it's just the way it is. Like David said, everybody treats you as a different player as soon as you win one. I know he's walking around with a big smile on his face all the time. You know, it's a nice feeling, and it's nice to do that. Then everybody turns it around to a positive almost, rather than a negative. You haven't won one, well now you have. It's like a completely different feeling. I don't think for me it's a whole lot different. I mean, I want to win here bad. It's been, like you said, since '97 since I have won one. So I want to win this one bad. I don't care if it's in Georgia or Alabama or California. I want to win the PGA, and I don't think the pressure has really changed that much.

Q. You've played on a lot of these Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup teams with a lot of different captains, and they have all sorts of personalities. Can you talk about Curtis's personality as a Ryder Cup captain and how you expect him to handle the players, as opposed to some of the other captains in the past?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. Curtis is pretty straightforward. I don't think he's going to be one for a whole lot of discussion. You know, I think he'll try to be typical, try to be a real tough guy. He won't pull it off, because he's really a great guy at heart, so I think it will be a fun team. We've got a lot of guys that have done it, you know, quite a few times. We've got a good group of young guys with experience and old guys with experience, so he'll have a pretty easy time of it. You know, with he and Sarah there, they have both got a lot of class and they are great people to be around, so I think it is going to be a fun, fun week. Probably wouldn't pick a better guy or a better couple to take us back to the Belfry where it has been awhile since we've been there, and the excitement of coming back and trying to win there, and the excitement of the fact. They will do a good job of handling us through all that.

Q. To follow-up on that question, you went through all that prodding about not winning a major. How much of an actual distraction, how much does that affect your play the week of the tournament, being constantly sort of poked at about that issue?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think it's never any fun for people to bring up negatives. We go through our lives trying to be positive, and then you come in off the golf course and people are already saying, "Well, you've never done this, why not," throwing negatives at you. They turn your career into a failure because you have not won one particular golf tournament, and we always train ourselves to look at the positive side. It's just hard -- it's not hard to deal with. It's just annoying to listen to, is the main thing. There's guys out here that have played for a long time and done a lot of great things, and they are deflected back to just another player because they didn't win the one particular correct tournament. It's a little bit -- it's just a little bit annoying, I think. I don't think it really affects your play because when you are out there playing, you're trying to win and the reason you haven't won is because you are trying so hard or you are putting pressure on yourself. But I think it takes away from the fun of it off the golf course dealing with the negativity of it is probably the only -- the top player, the guy you are talking to about it, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, whoever it is, is a pretty determined, dedicated positive person. And then you just -- like Harvey Penick said, "Don't go to dinner with bad putters." You just don't want to listen to the negative side of it.

Q. President Bush has talked about what fun it is to play golf with you, and you've just played with him at Sea Island. Could you just give us a little bit of insight about your round of golf with him, why you two have such a good time?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, we are undefeated is the main thing. He thinks it's because I play good. It's really because he never loses with anybody he plays with, really. The game always seems to work out in his favor. He's just one of the nicest, most genuine people in the whole world, and it just so happens that he happened to be President. But he's just a super person. I give you one quick example. He came to my house for the Walker Cup team parties and he wanted to see my horseshoe pit. So I take him back there and we threw a couple, and he said, "We'd better get back to the party; this is kind of rude." We were heading back to the party and he spent five minutes talking to four waiters, who I knew, but he stopped and asked them questions and treated them just like the Walker Cup teams. That's just the kind of person he is. No pretense, no "I'm better than anybody else," and he's just a fun guy to be around. He's like what everybody wishes their father or grandfather was like or their best friend, and it's been a thrill for me to get to spend time with him on and off the golf course. The golf doesn't last very long, but the rest of the day is fun, too.

Q. What is the state of your health right now, and what's the possibility at some point you may have to consider surgery?

DAVIS LOVE III: I hope the possibility is not good. I want to avoid that at all costs. I feel really good. I didn't have a good day yesterday, but I think it was because I got too hot, got a headache. But that's going to happen to a lot of people out there. I feel fine. I'm hitting it very good. Hitting a long way. I'm actually able to practice some and, you know, I would not say I'm 100%, but as Julius said, my 15th PGA at 37 years old, probably 90% is probably the best I'm going to get. I'm feeling pretty good and I'm pretty happy with it.

Q. Do you have any concern about the future of the Callaway Tournament? Buick is pulling out and they haven't found a sponsor --

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. Is Buick going to sponsor a tournament in Tampa? Yeah, so I don't know. That's a question for Hal Sutton, board member, when you see him, because I'm out of the loop. You know, yes, I would assume it's going to be tough to keep that going. It's a shame. That's a fun tournament.

Q. Length has been a big topic this week, not only about this course, but the changes down the road at Augusta. What have you thought about what they have done there, and does it concern you that they are just playing into the hands of longer hitters like yourself?

DAVIS LOVE III: If they are trying to take -- trying to make up for technology by lengthening golf courses, you know, they are not lengthening them a little bit; they are lengthening them a lot. That just means that we are going to have to push the limits of technology and we are going to have to get stronger and learn to hit it farther. I'm not going to teach my 7-year-old to do anything but bomb it. If you are going keep building it like this, we are all going to be swinging for the fence. It's a matter of who is going to be hitting it long and straight is the guy who is going to come out on top. It concerns me that we are not trying to find another way to make it where the long ball is not the only thing. I mean, this week, if a guy hits it 320 and straight, he's going to be in the Top-10, you know. There's just no two ways about it. Now, if he putts good, he might win. But if he doesn't putt good, he's still going to be up there. He's still going to have a chance, because 320 and straight is going to be awesome this week and there's not a whole lot of guys that do it. You have to have both. You know, at Augusta, maybe there's more of a premium on your short game around the greens, but I think this week, you know, complete opposite of Lytham. It's going to be a lot of drivers and you'd better hit it a long way. Obviously, they can play around with it. They can move the tees up or back and make the holes play the way they want them to play. They have that flexibility now, which is nice. We try to build our golf courses with some flexibility. But hopefully, they will use that flexibility and won't be on the back of every one of them like we have been playing. To be fair, when we play a practice round, we play every one from the back, and we come out and 18 is up a little bit and 2 is up a little bit. We'll see where they put them. Yeah, they are playing into the long hitters' hands, whereever you go, Augusta, St. Andrews, anywhere. The longer you make it, you are just eliminating the guy that can't hit it a long way, unless they are really putting good.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much, Davis.

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