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June 11, 1997

Davis Love III


LES UNGER: Well, Davis, thank you for joining us. The last time we had you in here, you were, I guess, feeling good, but also low at the same time, after you finished second, and you certainly would have liked to be a position higher. Would it be fair to characterize this year so far as somewhat of a slow start?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's been, I'd say, inconsistent. I've had quite a few Top-10 finishes. I'm not sure how many, but I've made the cut every week, and finished in the Top-10 a few times, but had an inconsistent year. And, you know, a little disappointing. Got rained out, you know, a couple times, and withdrew a couple times because of illness. So, it's been kind of an unfinished year. I felt I could have caught back up at the Mercedes Championships and felt I could have caught back up at Memorial. Just like everybody else that was playing decent, felt like one more day would have been their day. And, I've been close. Seems like I've gotten off to a bad start on Thursdays and have either had to work to come back and make the cut or I've gotten so far behind the leaders that a good weekend has put me into the Top-10 rather than into contention. So, I need to get off to a little bit better start on Thursdays and for the first 9 and be a little bit more focused out of the box, which is pretty easy to do at a U.S. Open. But, sometimes on the regular events, there's a morning, it seems like all of a sudden, I realize I'm even par or 1-over through 15. And, now I'm struggling just to make the cut. And, fortunately, every time I've needed to kick it into gear, I have. And, I think I just need to be a little bit more focused right from the beginning.

LES UNGER: Let's focus on Congressional. How much chance have you had to play it and how would you say it fits your game?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, you couldn't draw one, I think, any better for a long hitter. The fairways are fairly generous for a U.S. Open, but the width of the fairways continues on. It doesn't pinch you in on every hole. There's a few holes it does, but there's so many holes like 10 and 13 and 14 and 16 and 17, there are so many holes that the width just continues from 240 to 300, and a lot of my experience on a lot of the U.S. Open courses, there's either a big dogleg or the fairway pinches in out about 160, 170 and that takes the driver out of a lot of guys' hands. This one, go ahead and hit it, use your length to an advantage. There's some spots where we won't hit drivers. There's no reason if you're hitting the ball good, you can't hit driver on just about every hole, and if you're driving it straight, it could be a huge advantage. It sets up well for me. Obviously, if you don't drive it straight, it doesn't matter how far you're hitting it. But, I think if I can keep driving it like I've been driving it this year, the course will set up well for me.

Q. Can you talk about the 18th hole and your feelings? That is a par 3. And, what's going to be the hardest part of that hole? Will you guys be affected by the water or will it be other things that bother you more on that hole?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think pin position is going to determine whether the water is really that much into play and what you need to make on the hole. I mean, I think 90 percent of the time, if a guy needs a birdie to make the cut on Friday or if he needs a birdie to win, the only time, really, you would probably take a chance and shoot at that front left or very front right pin. To me, it's an easy hole, and you can say this sitting here, but come Sunday, the last hole of the tournament, it's a pretty easy hole to make a par on considering when you look at the rest of the holes on the back 9. I keep reading in the paper that there's a controversy. I don't know whether it's a controversy. I think it's different, and I don't think any of the players are really complaining that we're ending on a par 3. I think it's different and it's unusual, just like at Lytham, it's unusual to start on a par 3. But I think -- I think the guys are finding that it's a pretty easy hole compared to some of the other ones because you get to tee the ball up and hit a 5-iron from a perfect lie to a fairly big green. And, it doesn't make you shake like TPC at 17, which is I get the feeling from reading the articles and listening to it on TV, that it's this, you know, incredibly scary hole. But, you know, if you hit the ball 185, you know, fairly straight, you're in the green. And, it's a big green. It's one of the biggest par 3 greens on the course, so I think it's -- I think it's a great hole and it's a neat finish. But, I don't think it's as hard as people are getting the perception of, and I'd much rather play that hole, have to make a par than 16 or 17, because those holes are extremely difficult.

Q. Davis, so often at these U.S. Open Championships the question comes up: Is the course unfair? Sounds like you don't think it's unfair. What's your feeling about it?

DAVIS LOVE III: I think it's as fair probably as any Open I've played. You know, Tim Moraghan from the agronomy staff, he asked me: "What do you think of the course?" I said: "It's in perfect condition." If you ask me to find one thing I didn't like, I'd have a tough time finding it. You could say, well, maybe the sand is too deep, you know, but there's nothing really you could say. To say they should have done this or they should have done that, I mean, they have left no stone unturned. And, I mean, we were out on the 10th hole at 7:15, and I'm not exaggerating, there were 40 people working on the 10th hole and they were mowing the fairways with single-reel mowers. And, rolling the greens and blowing the fringes, and they had mats to turn the mowers on the green so they don't mess up the fringe. It's incredible the amount of bunker raking. The bunker-raking crew from Caves Valley gets started at 5 in the morning. They're doing every little thing they can to make it perfect. It's one of the best conditioned golf courses that I've ever seen, and they're doing a great job keeping the greens healthy. I know it's going to get hotter and hotter. But, the greens are absolutely perfect. And, it's a treat to play it.

Q. Davis, you mentioned about the width of the fairways really sort of favoring long hitters, and yet Tiger Woods says he just is going to use his driver on three holes. Is he making a mistake or are you making a mistake?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, he's a lot longer than anybody else. He has to play different and John Daly has to play different than everybody else. They hit it so much farther. So, his 3-wood goes as far as my driver. And, my driver goes farther than anybody else's driver. So he is doing -- the last thing you want to do is tell the guy that's playing the best how to play.

Q. Talk a little bit about the finish last year and what you took away from that and getting over that.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, assuming I did get over it, the finish was, you know, the most exciting finish I've ever been involved in. You know, I made a great par-putt at 10 and a great birdie-putt at 11 and, you know, birdied the par 5, I guess, 12, birdied 15, so, you know, I was on cloud 9, got a par at 16, which was like a birdie on Sunday. And, you know, had an incredible back 9 to get myself in position to win the Open. And, then a bad shot and a bad 3-putt, you know, left, you know, a little void in your confidence and your week. And I think it took me awhile to get to playing good again. It was really the Presidents Cup before it wore off and the excitement came back. I was going through the motions, but I just wasn't playing with any confidence. My swing was still good. My putting stroke was still good. I just wasn't sharp. But now, you know, I feel like I'm playing as good or close to as good, but with a different feeling. I'm feeling confident. I'll never get over the loss of a chance -- you know, I said several times I could win ten Opens, I'm still going to say that I lost a chance to win my 11th. But, I feel a lot of confidence in my game now. And, as I said, I've been playing some really good golf in stretches. It's just a matter of being focused. And, I think, you know, at Augusta, I played really my most consistent tournament of the year. And, obviously, nobody was going to beat Tiger. But, I had a pretty good week and was at least within sight of second place, and had another Top-10 in the major, so I'm looking forward to -- you know, I was ready yesterday to start playing. So, I'm just biding my time and looking forward to being focused on playing 72 holes straight this week like I did last year.

Q. Davis, two questions: The first one is how often do you think of that first putt or the second putt at 18 last year? And, second of all, you've said in the past that you'd get too excited early in the week at majors which you may be coming to early. You know, did you not guard against that this year or is that just the way you feel right now?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think I've gotten over the fact that I overreact the weeks before. I think I've learned to not panic early because now I've played enough of them and I've had a couple good finishes where I feel like I don't have to change my game. You know, the game that I took to Kemper last week and felt like I could win is the same game that could win here. So, I don't have to do anything extremely different. So, I'm more relaxed in that regard. You know, I think about that finish a lot, and like I said, I always will. If I win the Open Sunday, you know, the first thing I'm going to think about Monday morning is, God, it could have been two in a row so easy. So it's never going to go away, but it makes you more determined and makes you work harder. But, it also, at the same time, gives you a little bit of a peace of mind, say, hey, you know, I bogeyed the first hole at the tournament and bogeyed the last two and still finished second, one stroke out. So, you know, everybody does that. Tom Lehman has done that for a year. I'm sure John Morse has done it for a year and everybody else that finished up there close, I don't think anybody is looking back and saying, well, if I would have just saved a stroke here or there, I could have won The Masters this year. But, a lot of guys do that pretty much every tournament, every major say, gosh, I was just a couple, three putts away, or if I hadn't hit that ball in the water, I would have won, you know. So, you do that all the time, and we do it for every event. But, the majors hang with you a little longer. But at the same time, you take that as a positive. Hey, I played better than anybody else for 69 holes of the U.S. Open, so all it takes is a couple more.

Q. Davis, does Tiger have more competitive fire than the other real good players?

DAVIS LOVE III: It's hard to say what's inside other players. I don't know.

Q. Davis, just along the same lines of the majors, did '95, your performance at Shinnecock set the table for you to grow and did your confidence fashion itself --

DAVIS LOVE III: I think Shinnecock proved to me for the first time I could win just about any tournament because there I putted extremely well from 4 feet and out, probably the best I've ever putted in a big tournament, but I missed a bunch of 2- or 3-footers. If I would have made half of my 2- and 3-footers there, I would have won very easily, and that one I took away and said, look, if I can just play my game and keep hanging in there, that was one of the hardest Opens I'd ever played, and I proved to myself I could do it. Then I built on that last year at Oakland Hills that, you know, I'm getting closer to being where I want to be in the Opens. And, yeah, any success certainly helps, and, you know, you don't want to bogey the last two holes, but that success of getting close and feeling what it feels like and seeing how you handle it certainly makes it easier and is something to build on.

Q. Davis, your dad played here in 1964. Did he ever talk about the experience of playing here? What did he tell you about the place?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, he talked about how long it was for him. I was walking out of the locker room with Larry Rinker yesterday. I said, "Boy, this golf course is long." He said, "Yeah, come back and play with me and see how long it is." That's the way my dad felt. He's out here trying to compete with, you know, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ken Venturi, hitting it short and a club pro, and he was astounded how long it was. I remember him saying it's hard to hit 4-woods off downhill lies to hard-and-fast greens. I need to go back and look at his story, which, you know, any player always embellishes their golf. But, his story was that he played behind Ken Venturi and it was so slow and so hot that it made it hard for him, so that was his excuse. But, of course, his excuse at the '64 Masters was that I was due to be born any day and that's what messed him up. And, yeah, I never bought that one either. It was extremely hard for him to play this golf course, but he always seemed to do well the bigger the tournament was because he was one of those guys that got it in the fairway and got it around the greens and was a wonderful chipper and putter, and had that, you know, that Corey Pavin kind of get-it-in-the-hole at-any-cost-attitude. And, I always said, The more I can play like him with my length, the better I'm going to do because he never gave up. And that's what I've learned, I think, in the Opens is you have to be patient and hang in there until something good happens.

LES UNGER: Davis, 4th place, 2nd place, there's only one number lower.


End of FastScripts.....

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