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March 28, 2001

Davis Love III


NELSON LUIS: We'd like to welcome Davis Love into the interview room today. Davis, thanks for spending time with us. You've had a great start. Five Top 10s in start for the year. It must be nice playing in your home state.

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, it's nice to be back on -- close to home soil, and obviously The Players, I was disappointed I didn't play well there. It's nice to be in the swing of the year, and coming in with some confidence and excitement about golf in Georgia, really, this year. We've got two majors and several other tournaments, and then of course the Walker Cup and the amateur, so it's an exciting year for Georgia golf. And I'm excited to get it kicked off here. I haven't played here at this course much, so I'm looking forward to the golf, if the weather cooperates, which it might not. But I was looking for a reason to play this week, and not playing well last week put me over the top, so that I did need to play.

Q. When did you actually decide to play this week? When was that decision made?

DAVIS LOVE III: When I birdied the 6th hole on Friday. I said you're playing good enough, whether you make this cut or not -- or the 7th hole. Sorry. You're playing good enough to win. You may not make the cut this week, but you're playing good enough to win. You need to go play and decide now before you get mad if you don't get make the cut. So I decided then that no matter how I finished last Friday that I was going to commit when I got in the scoring tent. And I did and it was funny, I missed the cut, but I didn't feel bad about it because I was excited about coming here, and obviously leading into Augusta and Hilton Head. So I knew I had three good weeks to play. And sometimes it just doesn't happen. I got up on the first tee on Thursday and hooked it in the trees on 10 and made a scrambling bogey and then double bogeyed my last hole, the 9th hole, and started off the next day hooking it in the trees on 1 and 2. And I was really out of the tournament with like four swings. And it just wasn't the right week for me. And I had some good weeks, and I took it better than I've taken not playing well in the past, because I felt like, hey, just a bad week at the wrong time, and I'll get better because of it for the next three tournaments. So I'm excited to be here. Like I said, hopefully the weather will cooperate and we'll get a good weekend.

Q. Seeing you played so well in '95, this really is not a problem playing the week before, obviously?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. The only reason that I haven't played here is just that my back and my hip, playing this week, which is an extreme walk, and next week which is an extreme walk. If we were going to a course like Hilton Head the next week for a big tournament, it wouldn't be a big deal. But there's probably three or four courses on TOUR that you look at and go, oh, man, that's going to be a long walk, and my caddy is hating life having to carry the bag around. And this is one of them, Augusta is one of them and like International, and obviously the only reason I can play this week and next week and play Hilton Head is because Hilton Head is the easiest course on TOUR to walk. Having the weekend off last weekend and having the two weeks off before, and the fact that I'm feeling better than I've felt in several years, that I think I can handle it no problem, and take Monday off and get a little rest, and I'll be fine.

Q. Stewart was in here earlier saying how this is his favorite time of the year. Do you share that sort of sentiment?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think when you get to The Players you know that you've got big tournaments coming up every few weeks, and you've got the meat of the schedule ahead of you between now and August. And this is when you really get fired up because you know you've got The Masters coming, and you've got the U.S. open coming, and all the way through. So it's a very -- it's a good time of the year to be playing well, and a good time of the year to -- it starts to, in theory, warm up. And the flowers come out, and it's the big time of the year for golf. Obviously with The Masters coming up, every week just builds up to the first major of the year.

Q. Davis, obviously the question about your back and your hip, is this kind of weather a little bit tougher on that, make it tougher to get started in the morning or tougher in any particular way?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, if you're not feeling well, it can make it tougher, but I'm feeling really good. And I played some in the cold weather already this year, and it hadn't really bothered me. I'm on a good program right now. I'm feeling pretty good. It will affect the golf, for sure. It's going to make this course play hard if it's raining and 50 degrees tomorrow morning when we tee off. It's going to play extremely hard. And I think that's going to be the biggest thing is how tough the course can play if conditions are extreme.

Q. It's kind of amazing, one day you're standing on the 8th tee at Pebble Beach, 8-under par, and the fickleness of the game must make you shake your head?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, it can go one way or another. Obviously you make a 20-footer on Pebble and hole your 8-iron on the next hole, you play good the rest of the day. And you hook it in the trees on the 10th hole at The Players and you've got no way out. It starts you off in a bad frame of mind. And your confidence can come and go really quickly. And I don't feel like I lost my confidence other than with a couple of clubs down there. I still rolled the ball real well, but I just lost that sharpness. And it's easier to do on a tough golf course. Here you've got some tough driving holes, but really there are some holes with some room on it, and there's some holes you can make birdie on. And it's not as fine a line down there with that deep rough. It's a good week to bounce back on, to get your confidence. I came up here and drove it around great yesterday. But, yeah, it can come and go fast. Look at Tiger, he was putting poorly for him, and you make a couple and all of a sudden you're making bombs again and back to one of the best putters in the world from 128th. Like he said, he got on good greens and he started making them, and he made a bunch of them. And when you're making putts, the ball bounces better for you and everything just looks better when you're putting well. Your confidence comes and goes quickly, and all it takes is two ten-footers to lip out and you start going, here we go again, but two go right in the middle and you think you can make everything. But that's the mental battle of golf.

Q. Where are you envisioning next week to be, the atmosphere? There's going to be a lot of Tiger slam questions, and is it or isn't it, and it's maybe easier for some of the other guys to come in under the radar a little bit and do something?

DAVIS LOVE III: It will be nice to slide in there. But obviously you get two questions about how is your game shaping up for Augusta and five for what do you think about Tiger because he can't answer them all. You can kind of slide around if you answer questions about yourself, slide in real quietly. But the guy lives for that kind of pressure. He wants to be the man and prove that he is the man. And if he keeps making the putts like he's making the last two weeks and keeps getting the right bounces, he's obviously going to be the favorite, and he likes that position.

Q. Davis, you were talking about confidence coming and going, and will you talk a minute about how you've matured as a player. How quickly do you forgive yourself for a bad shot and go on and get the most out of a round that might be not that great?

DAVIS LOVE III: That's what I was saying about last week, even though it was the biggest tournament of the year so far and I wasn't playing well, I immediately was looking forward to the positive of playing the next round rather than getting all upset. I think I can obviously live with a bad week better than I could in the past, and I can keep my confidence up and see the positives rather than dwelling on the negatives. And my dad always told me, look at your round and see if you took one or two or three swings back, what you would have shot. And I can say six shots with four swings, and then 2-under rather than 4-over in the golf tournament. That's kind of the way I looked at it and I have learned to look at it. And I feel that every time I go to play right now that I've got a chance to win. And it's just a matter of playing my game. Obviously there's a group of ten guys probably every week that if they play to their potential, they're going to win. Obviously if Tiger plays to his potential, he can win easily. If Phil Mickelson or myself or David Duval, when he's healthy, or several other guys, if they play to their potential, they're going to win. And the trick is being patient with yourself and letting your game come out. It's not a matter of can you do it; it's if you can do it and if you allow yourself to do it. Confidence and patience are the things we try to conquer more than the golf swing or the putting stroke.

Q. Davis, the confidence of the rest of the field, has that changed significantly from the period when Tiger was going six or seven tournaments without winning, to knowing that he's coming into The Masters with back-to-back wins?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. I think guys that are playing well, feel like they're playing well. Phil feels like he's playing well or Langer has a confidence boost. It's inevitable that Tiger is going to win some. And just like it's inevitable that Phil Mickelson is going to win some. He's going to play bad and get a couple of good bounces and win, just as many times as he's going to play great and win. So just like when Jack Nicklaus won all the tournaments he played, you know he's going to win, but it's more satisfying when you knock him off. When you look at it, he's won. I don't care what you call it. He's won the last three majors, and the next major or the fifth major or the best tournament that's not called a major, whatever it is. He's won four in a row of the biggest tournaments in the world. So it's an incredible streak, and he's got that to deal with, and obviously he's been pointing towards The Masters. The Players Championship is important to him, but it wasn't a highlight of one of the four tournaments he was pointing to this year. He's got to deal with his expectations and preparation just like we do. I know that if I go in and make 20 birdies and don't make mistakes, I'm going to win. He knows the same thing. It's just a matter of who hangs in there and stays patient and confident the most.

Q. (Inaudible.)

DAVIS LOVE III: I thought that would propel me. Obviously I've had more chances since then, but like Vijay and the way he's played in some big tournaments, when a guy is on a roll like that and picking them off like he did and dominating them like he has, it's hard to -- you've decreased your odds a little bit. Obviously nobody had a chance at the U.S. open last year from about the 5th hole on. But there's a few that I felt like have gotten away from me since then and I've been disappointed. But I think that my best golf in the majors is ahead of me rather than behind me, experience-wise. Obviously length and all that is not an issue, so hopefully experience and patience are going to triumph over youth.

Q. The fact that you go to Augusta and what you knew before is --?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't think experience really means the golf courses. I think it means the mental side of it or the attitude side of it, patience, dealing with what a major championship means. The golf course, they grow a little bit of rough, well, we're used to lots of rough. We look at it as Augusta has changed, but it's still not as hard a rough as the U.S. open or the PGA, so we'll learn to deal with it. The greens change so often there, it's not like Jack has a huge advantage because he knows how the greens break. They rebuilt them 50 times, so nobody really knows, except for the caddy who's there every day that 17 breaks different or 16 breaks different than it did the year before. But I think the experience in playing in lots and lots of majors, lots of rounds and having the chances to win is the edge that hopefully that I can use to my advantage.

Q. You said that it was important for you to keep playing this week because you are playing well. But is there something that this course offers that helps you get ready for The Masters next week?

DAVIS LOVE III: If it doesn't get too much rain and it's firm and fast around the greens I think is the biggest preparation. Getting used to putting fast putts or putting over the lumps or putting from down in the little collection areas through the fringe back up to the green, those kind of things you can get used to. I know practicing yesterday I was practicing my chips and my pitches or my putts up the hill to the greens thinking about this week, but also preparing shots for next week. So it's nice to get on a course that has some similar shots. Obviously hitting the ball around the course is similar, but the chipping and the putting I think is the biggest thing. If they're firm and fast like they were yesterday, it's a very good preparation, because you can't go to a whole lot of courses and prepare for Augusta's firm and fast greens. But these are very similar, and that's really the biggest bonus.

Q. Most people can't relate to hitting the ball off the tee like you do. Is there a way to describe the sensation when you really strike one?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, at my age it's still fun to stand up and hit one a long way or to have somebody say, "You really hit that one, didn't you? You're 40 by me." It's like catching a big fish or making a three-pointer or acing a serve against your best friend or whatever it is. It's an exciting feeling to be able to make a golf ball go that far. And obviously because I'm feeling good and have a new ball and working on my swing and all the things combined, I'm hitting a long way. It never ceases to be fun to hit it long and straight. We were hitting balls out of our backyard out to the marsh, my son and I. We had the same level of excitement. I fly it 300 yards and he flies it 100 yards, and it's the same. If it goes high and long and straight, it's a great feeling watching the ball soar out there. You never tire seeing a long drive and you never tire of making a 30-foot putt, no matter how many times you've done it. There's a great satisfaction in looking at a spot out there and making the ball go to it.

Q. One other question about Augusta National. If you could change anything about that course or tournament, what would it be?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I'd make myself a member, would be the first thing (laughter.) It's a special place and it changes all the time, and it evolves from year to year, and it just seems to get better and better as a test. I think the way we play it -- I'd love to play it one round just the way the members play it, just to see what everybody shot when it's a little more -- not so fine-edged. But I would make little things like 15, how extreme that is, I'd make that a little more fair, so it's more fun for the fans and the players. You see more double bogeys there now than you do eagles. And maybe they're trying to save on crystal. But nobody makes eagles on that tournament anymore, compared to what they used to. And maybe there and -- 12 has been 12 for a long time. But 13 has gotten harder. 15 has gotten a lot harder, too. Hardly anybody can get there in 2 anymore. The only thing I would change is not make the par-5s so extreme, so you can get that excitement of guys making eagles and running up-and-down the leader board.

Q. (Inaudible.) You're making it easier for the long hitters. You're not really Tiger-proofing anything, are you?

DAVIS LOVE III: There's no question that the longer and harder you make a golf course the more it plays into the long-hitters hands. I wish every course was 8000 yards and 20 yard fairways and deep rough, because you eliminate -- you've eliminated, on certain days you've eliminated anybody that hits it under 280 in the air, you're eliminating them. On a calm day when everything is just right, everybody can compete. But if you get tough conditions, hard greens and a long golf course, the power guys take over. And you look at the guys that win -- the best thing to do if you want to bring whatever, power golf proof a golf course is shorten it up and let everybody hit wedges and turn it into a big chipping and putting contest. And then more guys have a chance. I mean Billy Mayfair is going to beat you to death if you shorten up the golf course, and you made Senior Tour a little bit shorter, a little bit friendlier golf, Hale Irwin is going to win as much as Tiger Woods. But you make it 8,075 yards with deep rough, you eliminate a lot of shorter, less strong players. We can dig it out of the rough better, because we hit it harder and have a shorter clubs. That's what they're doing in Augusta, they're making the -- the long hitters definitely -- look at it last year, Tiger and Vijay, and it was pretty much played right into the long-hitters hands. And Mickelson, these guys were licking their chops when they go to places like that.

End of FastScripts....

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