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April 11, 2007

Davis Love III


DOUG MILNE: Davis, thanks for joining us back at a place you're very familiar with, five-time champion and a soon to be birthday Friday. You're off to a great start this year with two Top-5 finishes in the first four starts. Just a couple comments on the year and how it feels to be back here.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I'm glad to be back here and I told pgatour.com after The Masters that I needed two naps, so I got my two naps in the last couple days. I'm ready to play here and always excited to be coming back to a place you've played well. So I'm looking forward to it and ready to go, getting ready for THE PLAYERS now.
DOUG MILNE: I know you've got a tee time so we'll open it up for a few questions.

Q. Does this place change very much to you year to year?
DAVIS LOVE III: I hope not. I didn't play a practice round (laughter). No, generally, I was talking to Rich Lerner, that is one of the great courses on Tour. Although they've done their restorations, you know, for new grass and making the greens back to original size and things like that, no, it hasn't really gotten any longer or gotten any harder. It's just a good, solid golf course that always stands the test of time. Pete and Jack, they did a great job with this course. You always see if the wind blows the scores are kind of high, and if it doesn't blow they're 13 or 14-under. It's always a fun tournament and a great course to play.

Q. Can you talk about the course a little bit, your success here and why you believe -- why you think you've had as much success here as you've had?
DAVIS LOVE III: The reason I've had success in the spring is the same reason Zach Johnson played well last week. We do a lot of things to get ready for The Masters, and it spills over sometimes the week after, sometimes the week before. I've played well the weeks before The Masters, too. It's just we're working hard this time of year to get ready for the majors, and now with them spread out once a month basically for five months, it's nice that we don't have THE PLAYERS and The Masters right close together. But I think once you're getting into this time of year, and hopefully one year I'll get fortunate enough to have it all click in the Masters -- like I said, Zach and I last week were practicing at Frederica, at Sea Island, working on our short game, working on our putting, working on preparation for hard and fast greens so we're pretty much dialed in. It might happen the week before or the week after. I think that's really the reason I've played well here is just being prepared.

Q. Did you have a fairly set routine preparing for The Masters coming into -- in previous years, and if so, did you change it this year any because of THE PLAYERS moving to May?
DAVIS LOVE III: It sure seemed weird in Florida because you kept thinking -- like waiting for THE PLAYERS and everything was based around THE PLAYERS was coming up, and it was kind of strange like at Bay Hill the next week, the next week should be THE PLAYERS Championship, and it was hard for all of us that have played that same routine for so long.
But it's nice. I think I was more rested and relaxed when I got to the Masters certainly, not having gone through THE PLAYERS. Hopefully that will pay off in years to come and pay off at THE PLAYERS. You're more prepared for each one rather than having them right up against each other.

Q. Going back 20 years, what are your memories of 20 years ago, your first win?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it was exciting obviously to win for the first time. It's a long time ago. You know, this place has been good to me, whether it's the first win or the last win I've had here. It's certainly a lot of good memories. And winning that first time, to win an invitational and win a tournament like the Heritage was quite a thrill.

Q. When you were coming down the stretch 20 years ago, did you think you had a chance to win it?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, yeah, I was basically a stroke back or two strokes back the whole back nine. I knew I had a chance, I knew I needed to make some birdies, and hit a lot of good shots and made a few but didn't make quite enough. But then in the end, Steve hit it out of bounds at the last hole and helped us all out a little bit. But it was fun to be in the hunt and play well. When I putted out on 18 I thought I played well and finished 2nd. You just never know what's going to happen.

Q. You mentioned your age a little bit earlier, and we just talked about 20 years. Going back to the Masters, do you ever feel like your biological clock is ticking; and if so, how do you deal with that?
DAVIS LOVE III: You just try to get ready. I basically drove the ball well last week and putted well enough to win, I just didn't hit enough good iron shots. I know I can play with Adam Scott and Zach Johnson and the guys you're going to have to beat now. Zach proved last week that Tiger doesn't win every time he plays. You've just got to be patient. I think I certainly went into this year with that attitude. And if it weren't for three or four holes that I seemed to play poorly every day, I played 13 or 14 of the holes well enough to win. It was like my dad used to say, I was a swing or two away from winning the golf tournament, from beating ten other people probably. It's just getting past that point, as long as I stay healthy. Jack won when he was 46, and experience is worth a lot there. Hopefully, keep getting in and keep -- like Freddie, the only tournament he's really played this year, he made the cut and played well. I think that place is one golf course that experience and patience certainly can pay off.

Q. We've talked to a lot of different players this week. Zach's victory seems to be very popular. Why is that? Is he that nice a guy?
DAVIS LOVE III: It's very popular because he's a popular guy. He's a good, strong Christian. He's one of the nicest guys out here, a hard worker. The guys that go in that physio truck outside the door every day see him in there every day. He's working hard on his game, and he's working with the right people, Morris Pickens and Mike Bender are really top-notch teachers. He's doing everything he can to make himself a better player.
I've been parked beside him a lot in the motor homes, and you see how he goes about -- he's a pretty straightforward, hard-working guy, and it's nice to see that pay off. You know, The Masters has certainly shown that guys that work hard on their short game and work hard on being patient, kind of grinding-type players, it pays off there. You've seen guys like Langer and Olazábal and Faldo have done well there, and that's the kind of golf that Zach plays. Everybody is happy for him because they know how much he's put into it.

Q. Just to follow up on that, he was just in here saying that it's not going to change him. Is it possible that it can't?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think for a level-headed guy like him, yeah, I think it's possible. He showed up here and his locker was stuffed with stuff that people wanted signed and letters and congratulations and all that. That's going to change no matter what. I don't think Zach will change. Zach comes from a great family, and he's a pretty level-headed guy.

Q. Was the Masters particularly taxing mentally this year, and is it any harder this year to get back to the regular Tour schedule?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think it's taken four or five years for everybody other than players to realize how difficult that golf course is now and what a challenge it is. They've taken the scoring and the fun out of the golf course and made it -- they hate the comparison, they've made it like a U.S. Open rather than a Masters. It's a grinding week. It's a real hilly golf course. It's a tough tournament, plus they've made the golf course extremely hard. So it's a long week. It's been that way for the last five or six really, at least.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about how a lot of people have talked about how Augusta was limited to the big hitters winning the last couple years, but this year it played so firm and fast, some of you guys' balls may have actually been running into trouble and actually could have hurt some of the big hitters a little bit, how it played this year?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I don't think it's really ever -- that's always been a big talk. You have to be able to hook it and you have to be able to hit it a long way. Ben Crenshaw has done well there, and the list of guys I just gave, plus Mike Weir. Not necessarily do you have to be a bomber any time. You have to chip and putt well and you have to hit really precise irons to be able to play. Yeah, they've made it long, but we're used to that. Everybody has got length now. It's just a big overreaction to they've perceived that the game has gotten too easy. They want scores to be high.
I think a short game has always been good at Augusta, and Zach proved that, and like I said, Olazábal, Langer, grind it out, chip and putt. It's gotten to be Retief Goosen kind of golf, make a lot of pars and you can win. I certainly wished that I could do that because that's what it takes to win more out here now.
The Greg Norman or Jack Nicklaus style of -- a lot of big, flashy shots and a lot of birdies will win, but that style of golf is tougher to do now. It's got to be more methodical and you've got to chip and putt way better. If I'm teaching my son to play golf, sure, I want him to be long, but you've got to have all the short game shots because they're not going to give you a golf course where you can hit 16 greens a round like they used to. You've got to chip and putt.
If I was a fan, I would be -- I think as a Tour, we can't control the majors, but as a Tour we have to be real careful with our Players Championship and our course setups, that we don't fall into that trap, because most people don't want to watch pros putt for pars on TV. I think we've got to be real careful about that and make sure there's some risk-reward. There's no risk-reward on laying up on 15 every day or laying up on 2 every day or 8. It's just wedging in. Long putts for birdies or short putts for par, I think we have to be real careful about that.

Q. Does that change coming here a little bit? Is it a little bit less demanding?
DAVIS LOVE III: This tournament is more about the weather, really. When it's windy and cold and dry, it plays tough, and when it's wet and calm, you see 13, 14, 15, every once in a while 18-under will win. But if it's really windy and it's really cool, then the scores go way down. We've seen 6-, 7-under win. But that's because it's a good, solid golf course, and it's dictated on the weather.
Here and Colonial seem to get the best reviews from the players because it's all golf course, it's not tricked up. It's a good, solid design, and you can still play. If the weather is bad, the scores go up. That's the thing, at a major now, if the weather is bad they go ridiculous, rather than just from 13-under to 7-under, it goes to average scores of 77s and 78s. And you know if the pros are averaging 77 or 78, the course is probably not fair. It's probably over the edge.
I said to Rich Lerner this morning, what would I shoot at your home course? We go out and shoot 66 every time. On Tour maybe the average should be 68 or 69 or 70, not 77. That just shows you how hard it is.
I mean, even we are astounded at how hard the U.S. Open and The Masters is, so the average person just can't comprehend how hard a golf course it is. I told John Kelly when we got down to 18 on Friday, I said, "Don't worry about this week, this is not real golf. Don't beat yourself up." Because it's not, it's some other game, and it's more a mental test than it is a physical test.
That's why, again, you see guys like Langer and Mize and Mike Weir, guys like that, do well, Retief Goosen, because they're really, really good. But you put them on The International, that format on that golf course, they're not going to do very good with that style of game.
It's nice to have a variety. It seems like the variety has gone out of -- especially out of our three majors over here.

Q. You've had a variety of health issues over the past several seasons. How do you feel now physically? And also at this stage in your career, do you expect to feel like you did 15 year ago, or is it about managing --
DAVIS LOVE III: I expect to but I'm not going to (laughter). You know, I've hit quite a few golf balls in my day, and that wears you down.
But I feel pretty good. If I can get to feeling pretty good, I can do all right. You know, last week I felt all right, and I expect to feel pretty good this week. You know, you never know. It's like Fred Couples and guys our age that have injuries, you just never know what's going to happen, so enjoy every tournament that you feel good. Enjoy it.
I'm pretty good right now. I'm working hard. I was in that truck this morning, and Zach was in there. Just keep after it and try to get the most out of it you can.
But will I ever be 100 percent like I was 15 years ago? I doubt it.

Q. A lot of people break into tournaments with Tiger and those without Tiger these days. That was a lot of talk when we went to the FedExCup. How do you feel? This tournament seems to hold its own. Tiger hasn't been here in nine years. What makes this tournament one of the ones that holds --
DAVIS LOVE III: Being an invitational and having a long history is certainly good, and a great golf course. You've got that lighthouse, it's identifiable, kind of like Pebble Beach or Shinnecock. It's just one of those courses that people immediately recognize and people like to see on TV. They always get a pretty good field.
There's very few, maybe eight or ten, that get everybody. I was just looking at the tee times, you've got a lot of good major winners, and last week's major winner. You've got a lot of good players.
I think the next two tournaments on the schedule would pretty much like to have this field. Everybody wants Tiger. Just like when Freddie was No. 1, everybody wanted Freddie. And when Greg Norman was No. 1, everybody wanted Greg Norman. And Jack back in his day, everybody wanted Jack. There's only 20 weeks Jack and Greg and Tiger are going to play. But then there's probably 25 weeks Lucas Glover and Geoff Ogilvy and guys that are here are going to play.
It's still the same score. If Tiger came the same score would probably win, it just might be him. It's still the same scores and the same golf. We've got probably the best field of a non-World Golf Championship or major here this year, so I think that's the way you've got to look at it.
DOUG MILNE: Lastly, this week if you could put on your designer cap this morning, the South Georgia Classic, the Nationwide Tour event is going on this week, and it's a Davis Love design, nearly 7,800 yards. Just a couple comments. Obviously your presence is felt here. It's also going to be felt in south Georgia this week. Just a couple of comments about the course.
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, 1,000 yards longer than this course (laughter). The worst thing I ever did was shoot 65 in the grand opening, so then they didn't put the tees up anymore after that.
It's a good, solid traditional-looking golf course. It looks a lot like a Chicago Golf Club or places like that. I've had a lot of calls from guys that are playing. They want to know what the grass is on the greens or what the fish are in the lakes. I could tell them about the grass but not about the fish.
It'll be interesting. The Q-school sectional was there, and they had really cold, windy weather and the scores were pretty high. Hopefully they'll get good weather over there this week.
Our field staff has to show some restraint because there are a lot of tees that we built just because there was no restrictions on us. The length is all really in the par 3s and par 4s. If they play the par 3s back every day it's going to be too long a golf course, so hopefully they'll do as the architects suggested and play one at 150 and one at 175 and one at 190 and one at 210 or something like that and some variety. We made it where you could play the par 3s differently every day, different lengths. There wasn't like all 5-irons or all 2-irons. One day a hole might be a 5-iron and the next day the hole might be a 9 or an 8. So there's a lot of variety. Hopefully they won't play it too far back.
It's a fun course. I think it's safe to play four-balls there next week. And the tournaments they've had there, the players have liked it even though the scores have been kind of high.

Q. Do you have a lot of input in the setup, or are you just making suggestions to the Tour staff?
DAVIS LOVE III: We've talked about it quite a bit with Billy Calfee and some of the guys with the Nationwide. But we've also made a lot of suggestions for THE PLAYERS Championship, too. The rough seems to be really high and seems to be pretty hard there. Fred Klauk isn't going to listen to us that much.
But it'll be fun. It's a completely different style than this week. I think, again, you need some variety. It's nice to play 7,800 yards once in a while. It's nice to play 6,800 every once in a while. It's nice to have slow greens every once in a while, fast greens. I'm real excited about it. I kind of wish it was on an off week so I could sneak over there and watch for a day.

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