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March 21, 2001

Davis Love III


NELSON LUIS: We'd like to welcome Davis Love III into the interview room. Davis has gotten off to a great start this year, winner of our West Coast Swing. Obviously, a very good start to the beginning of your year. If we could talk about your thoughts coming into this week.

DAVIS LOVE III: I'm obviously excited with my start. You know, I was glad to get back in the winner's circle, obviously is the main thing. Try to keep that going. You know, through the spring the West Coast was good to a few guys. Joe Durant has kept it going, and Phil and hopefully I can keep it going, as well. I'm looking forward to bringing some confidence into this week. I just hope the weather calms down a little bit so we can play -- play some normal golf. The last couple of days have not been that nice for playing in.

Q. What sort of impact has the weather had on the golf course and do you think it is going to have the rest of the week?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I doubt they are going to get the rough mowed, which is unfortunate. They might not have mowed it anyway. It's going to be long and damp, hard to dry it out by Sunday. The greens are a little softer, obviously, than they want them, and they are fast. I think it will -- it probably will not be as hard as they want it to be, unless the wind blows pretty hard. But it's going to play extremely long. So you might get easier greens, but you'll be hitting longer clubs into them.

Q. How much has this tournament changed in the nine years since you first won, in terms of the course conditioning or the atmosphere, maybe the prestige? Have you noticed it kind of maturing?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's definitely changed. It just gets better and better every year. We were talking out there, playing today, you can't get treated any nicer than you do at this tournament, from when you check in throughout the whole week. Things like this media room, just everything gets better and better and better here, year after year. You know, if it's not the best-run tournament on the Tour, I don't know what is. You know, the prestige of winning it gets better and better every year. You know, every year I'm more thankful that I did win it. You know, when you look back on your career, this is one of the ones you're going to point to and say, "Hey, these guys won a tournament that was pretty special." I don't know, in the last ten years how much it has changed, but certainly since it moved over here to this side of the road, every year it has just gotten bigger and better. Things like what Colin was saying in here the other day, players around the world, people around the world recognize this is one of the best tournaments there is to win. It's arguably the best field in golf year after year. It has just risen every year.

Q. How are you playing, striking the ball coming here; and your putting has picked up so much this year, how are you putting coming into this championship?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I had a couple of weeks off. I haven't missed many putts at all, lately. I've been working a little bit on my swing, and obviously, coming in with some confidence from how I played out west and at Doral. So I went back and worked on a few things that have been hurting me with my iron game, but I'm hitting it pretty good. You know, we'll find out when the bell rings tomorrow, but I'm more rested and ready to go than probably I have been in awhile.

Q. When are you playing the Pro V1, and is it making any difference?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I'm playing the Pro V1, and it is a great ball. Obviously, there's a lot of guys playing good with it. It's not the perfect ball for everybody. You know, I played with Brad Elder today. He hits it too high to play it. For a lot of guys, it's a positive step from the Professional. I feel it more around the greens, chipping and putting. Obviously, yeah, it's great that it goes a little farther; but the feel and touch, the control that I have with it, as opposed to the Professional, is what I like the best.

Q. Have you picked up much distance?

DAVIS LOVE III: You know, it is a combination of the new driver and the new ball and the fact that I haven't felt this good in my back and my hip in a long time. And I'm swinging, you know, with confidence. I think when you are hitting it -- when you are not playing well, you don't hit it as far as when you are playing well, because just your attitude and your confidence. So I think a combination of all of those things; I'm hitting farther than I ever hit it in my life. I think where you really tell is with an iron, and I've probably picked up six to eight yards with an iron. That's pretty good. That's hard to judge with a driver, because you feel like you're hitting it so much farther and you feel like it might not actually be going as far as you think. But I've definitely picked up six or eight yards with an iron, and I would say ten, easy, with a driver.

Q. Missing last week was something kind of new for you. Were you looking ahead to this week and onto the Masters when you made that decision, or did you just not feel like you could go last week?

DAVIS LOVE III: I was worn out. I had played one more on the West Coast than I had planned and came right to Doral. I didn't really threaten to win, but I was right there around the lead a good bit. I just felt like I had been in the last group and in the hunt for quite a while, and I was just kind of worn out. I wanted to get ready for this week. Adding one on the West Coast kind of threw my schedule a little bit, and you know, I hate to miss Bay Hill. I tried to not even turn on the TV because I didn't want to see the pretty green fairways and all that. I did watch the last couple of holes, but, you know, I missed Memorial one year just because I didn't feel like I was ready to play. You hate to miss tournaments like that, because they are -- you know, that's a special tournament. Maybe I needed a year off from there, and maybe next year I can win it.

Q. You talked about your back and hip feeling as good as they have in a while. Did you change something in your schedule? Did you get some kind of treatment for it to help with that?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I've got several people that are helping me, you know, with stretching and, you know, different things to help it get better. Then I've done some things, like we had a big off-shore fishing boat that we spent a lot of time on, and that pounds you pretty good. So I haven't had that for the last year and a half, and little things like that, not riding horses so much with my little girl -- just trying to protect it a little bit rather than thinking that, you know, it will go away, because it ain't going to go away. So some things like that, and working on it, staying after it, not letting it get bad, have really helped. Guys like Tom Booros -- got a massage therapist at home that's really helped me. He's really stayed after it. I was playing hard out here and then going home and playing just as hard when I was at home, so I just had to learn to relax a little bit more on my own.

Q. In terms of how the golf course is playing today, what second shots did you hit on 14, and what did you hit on 15?

DAVIS LOVE III: 14, I hit a 4-iron. 15, a 5-iron. And 17, a 7-iron. I hit a 3-iron to 3 this morning, and I didn't get there. Today is a day you don't want to see in a tournament. It would have been an awful day to play this golf course and have to keep score.

Q. When you consider the field and the course and in some respects the prestige level, in what ways is this place a good way to measure how well you are playing heading into Augusta?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's -- you know, as I said, it's the best field we'll play against all year. You pretty much test your nerves here, as well as any other tournament that we play. You know, this is the time of year that you want to be playing well and that you want to be prepared for. This is as good a test. I think this tournament, obviously, is harder to -- you know, there's more guys that can win here, probably, than anywhere else, so you can definitely tell. The guys that are playing good, which are obviously Joe Durant, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger, those guys, they are playing well, and they have got confidence and how they play here -- it doesn't necessarily means the guy that wins here is going to win Augusta. But if a guy is playing good, certainly he can carry that through to Augusta.

Q. Talk about the strong field and so many guys can win. The popular topic today is the foreign players have not won here much. We've had one foreign winner in the last 10 or 11 years, yet they do so well at Augusta. Do you have any thoughts on that?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think percentage-wise, they have a better chance at Augusta. As I said, there's more guys that can win here and more of them are U.S. Tour players or, you know, United States players. It used to be that the foreign players didn't win the U.S. Open or the PGA as much as, obviously, the Masters or the British Open. I think this is a different -- it's a different style of golf. The Players Club is different than a lot of courses. It's U.S. Open, high, deep rough in places and a different style of golf. But a lot of it is just, you know, the fact of who is playing good at the time. I don't read anything into it. There's been some guys that have been close. I mean, you can call Steve Elkington a foreign player and mess up your theory. But Nick Price has been close; Faldo has been close. When guys have shot really good scores -- so I think they do play well. Norman. They do play well here. It's just a matter of nobody is going to beat Hal Sutton last year no matter where they were from. I don't read that much into it. But percentage-wise, Augusta percentage-wise, I don't know the exact numbers, but it's easier for a foreign guy to win there than it would be to win here.

Q. Looking back over your career, you seem to have racked up quite a few of your victories in the spring months. I was wondering if you have any theory on why you tend to start fairly well, and I was wondering how you would compare your start this year, to, say, 1992 where you played so well?

DAVIS LOVE III: Pretty similar to '92. The only difference would be that if I had beat Freddie in that playoff in '92, I would have had one win in the West Coast and played pretty well out there. I get a little bit rested up in the wintertime and come out working on stuff and getting ready for Masters. They always say, "Why do you win Hilton Head?" Because I can't relax at the Masters. I get ready to play there and I wind up winning the next week. We point towards the Florida Swing, not because the West Coast is not important, but because THE PLAYERS is the end of the Florida Swing and then the Masters is two weeks later. You know, this is the time of year that you had better be ready to play.

Q. How do you compare your frame of mind going into Augusta this year compared to the last two?

DAVIS LOVE III: I'd say I've got more confidence in my putter, would probably be the only real difference. This week, you know, you can kind of prepare and see how you're doing leading into Augusta. But if you've got confidence overall, like I said, Phil or Tiger or Joe Durant, you've got that overall confidence, you can go in there and not try to find your game. You can go in there and enjoy it. That's what I'm trying to do this week. I'm coming in here, the first big tournament of the year, really, coming in this week and trying to just play and let that confidence that I've had the last six weeks come out, rather than wondering if I'm going to play well this week and how am I going to find it. You know, it was raining up at home, and I was like, "Well, good, I'll just relax." I don't have to worry, and I don't have to rush around and find my game or my putting stroke before this Thursday. That's the kind of confidence that I think there's always four or five guys that have it that are just looking forward to playing, and I think that's the difference. I'm just looking forward to playing this week and playing at Augusta because my game feels pretty good.

Q. When you play in a tournament like this or like Augusta where the magnitude is larger than most weeks, and you come in, do you ever look at the players you are paired with, and do you have preferences as to maybe the types of guys or particular people that you like to play with, either that you feel comfortable playing with those guys in a high-pressure event or they bring out a competitive side of you? Do you feed off of those folks?

DAVIS LOVE III: I do every week. I just like somebody to talk to that I can enjoy playing with. I don't look at it as more of a strategy thing. It would be nice to follow Hal Sutton in the middle of the fairway if he is driving it like he normally does. I look more for entertainment than competitiveness. "Who are we going to play with," just so my caddy Cubby Burke and I have somebody to talk to. I look at that, and I also look at their caddies, who is caddying, who is in the group, and who are we going to enjoy playing with. Out here there is a lot of great guys to play with, and like Hal and Billy this week are good friends of mine. So after Hal's speech last night at the player meeting, it will be interesting to talk to him and see if he's still fired up as he was last night. Hal is an exciting guy to be around. He's a great leader and a great player, and I'll enjoy playing with him, and hopefully we can both play well.

Q. What speech was that?

DAVIS LOVE III: He gave us his motivational speech that he's given us at the last few teams that we have played on together. Hal is an eloquent speaker and a very, you know, exciting guy to listen to. He kind of motivated the guys a little bit, and it was fun.

Q. Motivated them to do what?

DAVIS LOVE III: Just appreciate what we've got and being on the Board, he got to speak and he was -- he gave his State of the Union from the players' side, and it was fun to hear.

Q. Do you think he'll be invited to speak at a caddies' meeting?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah. I mean, everybody likes Hal. (Laughter.) I don't know why he wouldn't.

Q. You mentioned you watched the last bit of Bay Hill on TV the other day. Do you watch it as a -- like, as a fan, or as a fellow competitor? Do you analyze it? I mean, how do you look at the last few holes, a guy hits somebody in the neck and stays in-bounds? How do you look at it?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I like to see, obviously, you want to see who wins. I want to see how it happens. I like sitting there, like Johnny Miller, guessing what the guy is going to do, where it is going to go. Is he going to make it? Is he going to miss? Or is he going to hit it left or right off 18 tee because he has not been driving it straight? I like to just see what happens under the gun because I know exactly how they are feeling. But, you know, I was interested to see if, you know, little things like is Titleist going to pick off another Pro V1 win, or is Tiger going to win one in this awful slump he's in, things like that. I just like watching. It's kind of like turning -- it's kind of like turning on at end of the NCAA game, but if they are tied with two minutes to go, you're seeing the exciting part. So if I can, I like to catch the end of it, because, shoot, the guy making the putt on last hole is what it is all about, or hitting a 4-iron or Phil getting up-and-down. I turn it on right before he was hitting that shot. So I saw three or four really exciting shots and it was fun to watch. But it's easier to sit back and watch it on TV than to get out there and watch a guy do it to you live.

Q. Do you think it was important for Tiger to win for his own psyche going into this stretch?

DAVIS LOVE III: No. You know -- if Phil's pitch goes in and Tiger doesn't win, I think he's still favored to win at Augusta like he is now. You know, he's still -- analyze anybody's game, Mickelson or Joe Durant and try to figure out what he's doing. I don't think he's putting like he was last year, but he can get, you know, a Sunday like he did there where he makes four or five par putts and a couple birdies there at the end and he's going to win. So, it never hurts you to win and make a putt on the last hole. You know, I don't think he had to have it, but it certainly is -- would be a boost. It will be interesting to see this week what guys like Joe and Phil and Tiger and myself do, the guys that have been playing good and see if they can keep it going.

Q. Was there an intimidation factor last year with Tiger and does it exist now?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think we've talked about it a lot. The guy who is the best player in the world is always the guy that you are watching more than -- more than anybody else. You know that he is the hardest guy to beat.

Q. Will he be watched as closely this year as he was last?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know how closely he was watched. I mean, he was winning 9 of 16 events. We were in awe of how well he played, like everybody else. You know, not really watching any different this year than last year, but, you know, we're watching Phil Mickelson and Joe Durant more this year because they are playing some unbelievable golf. Look at the way Phil has played. He doesn't get a whole lot of credit for how well he's played, really, over the last two years, year and a half. He's just played great. We notice the guy who is playing good, not necessarily the guy that everybody is talking about. Joe is obviously No. 1 on the Money List. He's playing great. So we're saying, "Well why is his ball rolling in there more than it was before"? Intimidation, I don't think that's the right word, but I think the guy that's playing the best is the guy you are gunning for and watching for.

Q. Tiger made a point last week along the lines of intimidation, slump, what-have-you; that the media tend to exaggerate when he is maybe not playing all that great and also exaggerate when he is playing well, both extremes. Would you agree with that?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think the media exaggerates everything: Plane crashes, stock market, presidential gaffs. You all are in a tough business, there's so much competition for the same story. Yeah, it's all exaggerated. He's played great. I don't think he exaggerated last year. He played unbelievable. But there's a lot of guys out here that can play unbelievable like Phil Mickelson has been playing or Joe Durant. But, everything Michael Jordan did, if he put on a new spare of shoes, that was a huge story because it's Michael Jordan. Everything that Tiger does is going to be a huge story. We Love him. We like having the best athlete in the world on our tour. It's more exciting for us. But, yeah, definitely overblown how bad he was playing. We all laugh about it. I mean, there's 180 guys out here that want to play that bad. (Laughter.) Finish in the Top-10 every week and tell how bad you are playing. Yeah, I think it is overblown. But, hey, he's an overblown guy. (Laughter.) He's the best athlete in the world. The most recognized person in the world, maybe. So you've got to overblow him a little bit.

NELSON LUIS: Davis, thanks for your time.

End of FastScripts....

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