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March 18, 2000

Davis Love III


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: All right. We'd like to welcome Davis Love III into the interview room. He shot a 9-under 63 for a 14-under 202, and last year he was tied for the lead after 54 holes. Let's begin with your birdies, bogeys, eagles.

DAVIS LOVE III: Okay. 1st hole, driver and a 5-iron about 30 feet from the hole just in the fringe, just on the back of the green; made the putt. 2, a 4-iron to about eight feet below the hole. 4, driver and a 4-wood to about 40 feet, 2-putted. 5, 3-wood, 7-iron left of the green in the fringe and putted it from there from about 60 feet, about eight feet short and missed that. A driver and a 4-iron just through the green at 6 and chipped up about two inches. I was probably 35 feet from the hole. And then 10, drove it through the fairway, the fairway bunker. Hit it in the green-side bunker short of the green. Blasted it up about 30 feet short of the hole; 2-putted for bogey. 11, a driver and a 5-iron just in the back fringe, probably 50 feet, 45, 50 feet behind the hole and made that for birdie. Driver and 4-wood at the next, just through the green, probably 25 feet behind the hole and chipped in with a pitching wedge. And 13, a 3-wood and an iron to about six feet. 15, a driver and half of a sand wedge that I left way short of the green; hit it fat and pitched in from about 35, 40 feet short of the hole. And driver and a 5-iron to about 12 feet at 16. And parred the last two.

Q. Davis, were you in the proverbial zone coming in the last 10, 11 holes?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I started off really and except for a few swings, I played really well day. Instead of thinking "Can I get these balls up-and-down," I was thinking about chipping them in. I was just in a good frame of mind today. I came out feeling good and, in fact, told my caddie, John Burke, I said, "I hope my back feel this is good tomorrow because this is the best I've felt in a couple weeks." You never know, you go out there and you hit a lot of good shots, get on a roll, you'll start feeling good. So I definitely felt very good today.

Q. Pretty tough out there with the wind?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you saw us. We were back and forth, couldn't decide what to hit. Like Dudley hit on 17 a 4-iron, hit it past the hole and I started thinking maybe a 5-iron. Then it switched back in and then, I don't know if I can get a 4-iron there. In the space of 10 minutes, it was back and forth a couple times. It was hard to gauge it. And 17 we thought helped our tee shots on 18. I hit a 3-wood, and as soon as I hit it the wind came in and hit it and knocked it down. I hit a 4-iron rather than a 6- or 7-iron, and so it was really hard to decide. Hard to pull a club. It seemed like you were hardly ever straight down or straight in; it was always that quarter across one way or another.

Q. Given that, is this one of the best rounds you've had score-wise?

DAVIS LOVE III: Score-wise, I think in the wind, this was definitely a great score. 64 last week was a good score, but today 63 on this course is like maybe four shots better. But you know, I did -- I did chip-in twice. So you take those away and, 65; it's still a very, very good round. But I've had -- I had a few holes today where I made mistakes, too, and gave them back. So chip-ins just made up for mistakes, really.

Q. You seemed to make a statement on television that suggested that you thought there was an art to learning to play with Tiger in the final round. Can you elaborate on that?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think there is with any top player or any -- any guy that's on a roll or whatever you want to say. He's the No. 1 player in the world. There's no getting around that and it's hard to beat him. There's no getting around that. And so you get out there, and how do you perform when you play against him is the question. And you know, I've had two match play matches with him and I felt like I was playing very well and went out there and just got smoked. Had a couple last rounds or Saturdays with him that I've gone out and not played as well as I would have liked and not won the tournament. So all the way back to Vegas, he beat me in a playoff for his first win. So, you know, if anybody starts beating you, which he's betting beating the whole tour -- so I'm not the only one, but if anybody starts beating you like that, you start thinking, "Can I beat him", and he thrives on that. I think he expects that; that coming down the stretch, he's not only going to play good, but the other guy is not going to play as well as he can because he's trying too hard to keep up. So you've somehow got to put that behind. I had that problem with Fred Couples for a long time. Every time I played with Freddie, my wife would look at the pairings and go, "You've got Freddie." And I would know what she's thinking, "You don't play as well when you play with Freddie." Freddie and I were good friends, but he was playing so well, he was hard to beat. And he made it look so easy, and it was hard to not try hard, and I think that's the -- what you've got to learn.

Q. Is it particularly infuriating -- and I give Tiger his due how good he is, but he's so young, is it particularly bothersome?

DAVIS LOVE III: It wouldn't make it any better if he was 40. (Laughter.) You know, we don't try to take anything away from the guy. I mean, he's a great player, and we would hate to not have him around, you know. We wouldn't want to say, "All right, go away because we're tired of you." I mean, he's driving this tour right now, as Jack Nicklaus did for a while and Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, whoever. We can't -- we can't afford to wish him going away, and we've just got to learn how to compete with him and, you know, he's on a major roll right now. He can play just good golf, too, but he's playing spectacular golf, and that's hard to beat.

Q. How did you finally overcome your fear with Freddie?

DAVIS LOVE III: Just finally beat him a couple times and then it doesn't seem that big a deal. But I think you have to -- you have to get some confidence, and -- I'm playing with a lot of confidence right now. So I go out and play a good round tomorrow, you know, that will mean -- that will help me, wherever, the Masters or the U.S. Open, wherever, the next time. But I've said it a lot in the last month, somebody has got to knock him down in the dirt and make him think that he can lose, but right now, nobody's done it. You know, Darren played a great match on Sunday the last -- that third nine holes and got him, but it doesn't look like it's shaken his confidence any.

Q. Do you enjoy playing with him?

DAVIS LOVE III: I enjoy playing with him. I loved playing Freddie or Tom Watson or Nick Price or whoever was on top, and I always enjoy being around Tiger. You know, if you don't go out and want to compete and learn from the guy that's playing the best, then something's wrong. I just haven't liked the results.

Q. You've had a whiff of victory about three times here, how much would it mean to you to finally break through and win here?

DAVIS LOVE III: It would be great . Arnold's pulled for me and I've been close. Kite and I had an ugly finish to win. It would be nice to win this tournament. But right now, honestly, it would be nice to win anywhere because it has been a while.

Q. A nice scenario -- (inaudible) this course sets up well for him and you too?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, it is. We were paired, I guess with Ernie Els the last year or the year before, and, you know, we thought, "Oh, this is going to be great." I guess Ernie was the only one that played any good. So it's all a matter of how you play. But it is a good course for me and even better course for him. You know, the better I feel, the farther I'm hitting it and I'm starting to take advantage of some of these holes that, you know, the other guys really can't. Like knocking it on -- or over 12; that's a big advantage.

Q. It looks like it's going to be a medal match play, just the two of you. How is medal match different from pure match play?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know, I don't think they were counting on me when they started today; so you've got to just go out and play. I don't know what he's going to shoot. I don't know what Mike Weir is going to shoot, or heck, for all we know Weir could be eagling 16 right now. You've just got to play the course and not get wrapped up in trying to beat one guy. And that's what I was trying to say earlier. You've just got to go out and play your game and not try and play against Tiger Woods. If I play the golf course like I did today, then everything will take care of itself. But there's a lot of guys that can shoot low scores. I played with John Huston the first two days; that guy can get it rolling. So you never know who is going to come out of the pack and shoot a low one.

Q. (Inaudible.)

DAVIS LOVE III: I think it becomes more important, yeah, to -- not only you're trying to win, you're trying to beat the No. 1 player in the world. I think whoever it is tomorrow, Mike or whoever, yeah, it would be a big thing to be the one that jumps up on a Sunday and beats him. And that's why I think some of us haven't done that well playing against him because we are trying to say, hey, I can beat this guy and then go out there a little jacked up, you know. I mean, today, I planned on going out and playing and leaving there -- getting done with my round and going and looking at a motorcycle. So my expectations weren't to shoot 63, come talk to you guys and go out and play with Tiger tomorrow. I just came out to play as good as I could play, and the next thing you know -- so if I go out tomorrow and all I'm thinking about is, "Oh, my gosh, I've got to beat Tiger; I've got to make a statement; I've got to beat him finally," I don't play very well. So I need to think of something to distract me -- Carolina basketball.

Q. Forget Tiger, tell us about the bike, what's this?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I've been looking at a new motorcycle this week, a new Harley. But don't write that down because my wife's going to get mad at me. If I keep playing like this, she will probably let me have it.

Q. Do you have to put blinders on if you're paired with Tiger on a final round?

DAVIS LOVE III: There's no avoiding that he's going to be out there and playing good and smashing drives around. So you've just got to learn that when it's your turn to hit play golf, rather than think about what he's doing.

Q. There have been other players talking about his talent, sometimes that surprises people to hear, but just being honest; right?

DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, you've got to be. I don't think if you talk to the Atlanta Hawks they are going to tell you that they are better than the Lakers. The Lakers are good and they are going to be tough to beat. But that doesn't mean the Hawks or the Pacers or anybody are going to give up and just mail it in. They are still -- if they get them in the first round, they are going to try to beat them. You look at -- nobody gave North Carolina much chance or a lot of those teams much chance yesterday, and they all played hard and tried to win. That's what I've got to do, but, the way you do it is go back to fundamentals and play one shot at a time and the whole boring stuff and try to not think about what it would mean to win Arnie's tournament or what it would mean to win the sword or win in Payne's hometown or the fun things that could happen or to beat Tiger. You've just got to think about golf and playing the game.

Q. You mentioned on television your putting, you have a lot of confidence right in our with your putter. I'm just curious have you done anything recently regarding your putter? And over the course of your career, are you the type of guy who switches putter a lot or stick with the same thing for the most part?

DAVIS LOVE III: I did a try putter at the beginning of the year, a copy of mine that Scotty Cameron made me. I've never really switched a lot. Once a year is a lot, even for a couple days. But, no, I haven't done anything different. I don't know who it was the other day saying they were just so happy to get off the West Coast poa annua bumpy greens. Just thrilled to be here in Florida. Last week's greens were great, these are a little bit better; next week's are going to be perfect. It's just nice to putt on nice, smooth greens that, you know, they just have a better climate for it here without a lot of rain. But I'm used to this: The light overseed, the Bermuda grass, which way the grain is going. Look back when Andy won a lot, he won all the time on Bermuda grass because he could figure it out. I feel like most of the times I can figure it out and I have a little bit more confidence putting over here. And obviously Jacksonville, Hilton Head, here; I've played pretty well on that kind of greens.

Q. You mentioned the guys -- that Tiger has sort of carried the TOUR, like Jack and Arnold and Tom Watson. Are you at all amazed at how long he's been able to sustain this? Even those guys missed cuts once in awhile, had their bad finishes. He's really not had any of that for about a year now?

DAVIS LOVE III: He's missed a few. Maybe one or two a week. But, no, he's been an a great roll, and I think it's a lot like Nick Price's roll a few years, Tom Watson's roll. But you're right, his -- they had some win percentage, I don't know if anybody wrote it down.

Q. 22.

DAVIS LOVE III: Just astronomical. And I remember talking to Butch Harmon when Tiger was -- before he turned pro about how much power he had and how good he was. And he kept telling me, "Davis, when he learns to control his irons and control his distances," he goes, "nobody is going to be able to beat him, and not because I'm teaching him, just because he's that good." And I repeated that a few times when he first came out. I said, "You know, this guy is not anywhere near as good as he can be," and people didn't believe it. You don't want to say this guy is better than us. We've got to start -- we've got to figure something out. But really, when he's controlling his irons, his distance with his irons, when he's putting well, there's no reason why he shouldn't shoot 4- or 5-under a day. Obviously, there's a lot more that goes into it. His attitude is very, very good. His physical conditioning is great. He's doing everything just right. And you know, he may throw a bad word out every once in awhile is the worst thing you can say about the guy, just because he's trying so hard. I think it is amazing and that's why we're all still talking about him.

Q. Do you think his mental discipline is better than yours?

DAVIS LOVE III: I would say he's doing everything a little bit better than everybody else, yeah, right across the list I just gave you: Putting, driving distance, control, mental game. Everything is just a little bit sharper than everybody else. Plus, what comes first the chicken or the egg? The confidence, when it comes, you don't know how it came or where it came from, but when you get it, it's a great thing and he's just building on it more and more.

Q. The guys that are behind always say they want to play with the leader in the last group on Sunday. Is that necessarily true when the guy you're chasing is Tiger or it doesn't make a difference for you?

DAVIS LOVE III: I would say if you had to say, all right, where do you want to play, I'd rather play a couple groups back, yeah, given that you are on -- close to the same score as him. You wouldn't want to be two or three back two or three group as head of him but, you know, you definitely -- you definitely can get away from the -- a little bit of the intimidation. Whereas, playing with Greg Norman or whoever was another guy that was you know an intimidating player, Jack, yeah, you were probably better off if you weren't with him than having to watch all the putts go in, because when it starts rolling, no matter who it is -- Billy Mayfair. Playing with Billy Mayfair and everybody putt starts going in, Ben Crenshaw. Every putt was just right in the middle of the hole; how am I going to beat this guy? He can't miss. So sometimes, it is better off to be not right there with him. But on the other hand, you get on a roll, you'd rather be -- you'd rather be there for him to see it; that you're in control.

End of FastScripts….

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