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February 6, 2008

Davis Love III


NELSON SILVERIO: We welcome Davis. Thanks for spending a few minutes with us, making your first start of '08 on the PGA TOUR. Why don't you talk about that and how you're feeling.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I'm excited to play. I mean, yesterday playing a practice round at Pebble was a major accomplishment. It was probably the most fun practice round I've played in a long, long time, to be back out on TOUR and playing a PGA TOUR golf course.
It was nice to get out there, try to get back to play. This place has been really good to me and obviously it's been really good to play at Pebble Beach and in this tournament, so I'm excited to be here to say the least.

Q. How are you feeling?
DAVIS LOVE III: I feel great. I really feel like I could have played the last couple weeks, but it may have set me back, or it could have tired me out to be ready for this week. I was really close last Friday to committing to Scottsdale, the Friday before Scottsdale, because I knew I could walk the golf course and I knew I could play. I was hitting the ball very, very well.
I almost did it, but really, ultimately the goal, which it was early, was to play here, and I didn't want to mess that up.
Now, I can play -- obviously there's a lot of weeks after this week that I can play, so I feel great, ready to go, and really my ankle is not going to be an issue. There will be some excitement issues and there will be some rust issues I'm sure that will pop up, but maybe I can use those to my advantage and make a good week out of it. But I'm definitely excited to tee it up for sure.

Q. Do you remember when you played your first 18 holes?
DAVIS LOVE III: My first 18 holes was about the 10th maybe of January. I was in, as we usually do, Idaho for three to four weeks over Christmas and New Year's and hitting balls into a net in the garage. Was getting really good, but they weren't going very far. So I was excited to get back.
We got home about the 4th of January and I immediately started hitting balls, played nine holes the second day I was back in there and could tell that all the therapy and training had paid off, and I went right to playing, right through the bag. People who were watching me hit and play were amazed that -- in fact, I played with my doctor the first 18-hole round I walked. I played with the surgeon that did my surgery, and he just was astounded that on January 10th when he told me it would be February before I would play golf and probably March before I play in a tournament that I was back to full strength.
You know, the goal was not to just play. I could have played in Hawai'i, but I would have limped and I wouldn't have felt great. The goal was to come back ready to play and ready to compete, and I think that's where I am now. I'm ready to compete rather than just playing in a tournament just to say I played in a tournament.
But then from then on, I was playing, walking 18 holes probably after the 15th of January. I was playing basically every other day walking 18 holes.
My son would drive the cart and I would walk, so I had to walk really fast, and I had to walk a lot of sideways to keep up and to find my clubs when I needed them, so it was good.
And Randy Myers, the trainer at Sea Island, I played with him some and with my therapist. We did some training on the course. I worked my way up to where walking 18 holes was not really an issue, either, hitting golf balls was not really an issue.
So that's why I was saying I think I could have been playing the last couple weeks, but when I thought I was ready for Scottsdale, I knew I would be ready for this week, and I think that was a good decision that I'm going to be -- everybody is saying are you 100 percent. Well, I haven't been 100 percent for six or eight years, so if I can get back to 80 or 90, I've won a lot of golf tournaments from 80 or 90 percent. It's as good as I've ever felt, and this four-month break has been a blessing.

Q. Because of the rehab you've done, you probably essentially have been in --
DAVIS LOVE III: I took the advantage of not having a tournament coming up of taking some things that Jack Lumpkin and Todd Anderson and Randy Myers and now Damian that's working with my on my ankle and my fitness, things that I should have been doing anyway, things that I should have fixed in my swing, like TPI told me three years ago. Here's all the issues you have, here's what you have to fix if you don't want to be hurting when you hit a golf ball, things that I worked out a little bit but never really got, never really put 100 percent effort into.
Because as Rotella says, you guys are really, really good, you can get by. You'll figure out a way to get it done. I just wasn't getting the most out of my body and the most out of my game, and certainly now the challenge is that I feel good and I'm hitting it good. The challenge is to go back and do the mental side with Rotella and make sure I'm doing all those little things.
It was a good time to have a break. I could have not stepped in that hole, played five tournaments in the fall and protected my top-50 ranking and just kind of skated through again, and this has challenged me to get better, and now I'll have to work my way back up, which is not a bad thing.

Q. What is a brief synopsis of what happened?
DAVIS LOVE III: I was finished with the FedExCup season and my daughter was in a horse show in west Georgia, and I went to play a casual round of golf with Tom Boors (phon.). That guy has been working with us, with Freddie, for 20 years. He said, whatever you've been doing fitness-wise, you're doing great. Your back and hip are perfect, let's go play golf. The first hole I stepped in a hole and tore my ankle up. He said, well, your back and hip are still good (laughter).
But then it was like mid-September, and I had surgery October 2nd, and spent those four or five weeks in a boot non-weight-bearing. I was lucky my doctor was very aggressive, progressive with my surgery and my -- letting me out of the boot so I could get my ankle moving, and he knew that I would do what I was told, and he said the trick is going to be therapy, and he set me up at home.
Because I had met this therapist this time last year basically and we were already working on my back and my hip, we just got him to come help with my ankle, do rehab with us in Sea Island and Sun Valley and now he's back out in Sea Island this weekend. We got really aggressive with it. The doctor says four months. I'll wait four months and see what it's like.
We treated it like a football team where the big running back who blew his knee out and everybody is going to key an him on eye and make sure he does everything so get better, and I haven't snowboarded or ridden motorcycles or done much of anything other than what it's going to take to get back to playing. That's the commitment I needed going forward to get back to where I need to get to is to do the little things every day.
It's a lifestyle, this game for us, and you see that with the top players. They're always trying to do something to get better, and that's what I've got to get back to.

Q. What was the exact injury?
DAVIS LOVE III: I tore the ligaments on the outside of my left ankle.

Q. While you were probably in a swimming pool in the off-season with an ankle injury, were you kind of reflecting on the fact that we're not getting younger, and maybe this is my wake-up call to -- not saying you weren't focused before, but does this do anything to your psyche about trying to focus on your career?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I've always felt like I looked at everything positively, looked at the glass half full. Okay, great, I get to spend a lot of time with my family and I get a break from what I've been doing and get to refocus and get some new energy and looked at it as a big challenge. I knew it was not going to be easy, but I knew I could do it. I never worried will I be back. I worried about can I get back for Pebble.
My first goal when they told me four months is I wanted to play the Father-Son in December. It took me a couple weeks to get through my head that four months didn't get you through December from October 2nd. But that was my mentality, that I'm going to do whatever I can. They say do three hours a day, well, I'm going to do six. Well, that doesn't work with rehab, either. You just have to go step by step.
But I took it positively, that hey, I'm going to make something good out of this, I'm going to take a nice break, I'm going to get caught up on everything that I should have been getting caught up on. Our golf design business is very busy, and I'm the guy that they drag in when they need me, and I got to sit in the office and focus on business, catch up with my brother on everything we've got going on, get to work.
Randy Myers had me in the gym the five days before my surgery and three days, four days on painkillers, and I was right back in the gym again. It wasn't like we just said, oh, my gosh, this is the end of the world, and I was sitting on the couch reading books. I bought a big stack of books but then I never read them because I was so busy trying to manage the situation.
I always looked at it as, hey, I've got a project and I'm going to do well with it and I'm going to be back to playing at Pebble. A lot of people didn't think this was the right place to start or that I would be ready for here, but I'm ready. As I've been told a bunch of times, the ankle is not going to be an issue. You've got to go play golf at Pebble Beach. That's going to be the issue. So I'm excited about -- the only thing I have to worry about is trying to play the game.

Q. A few years ago, '06, you started to slip a little bit. You were trying to make the Ryder Cup team and you were hoping and you had a couple of good tournaments and the PGA, you didn't quite get on and you weren't picked. The question was obviously you were getting around 40 years old, is this the end, or at least we asked it, I don't know if you guys asked it.
DAVIS LOVE III: Only at night when it's dark (laughter).

Q. Were there questions, and what was wrong with your game before the ankle injury, and do you think you got it fixed?
DAVIS LOVE III: I was getting really close last year because I had gotten wrapped up in my golf swing and the results and the things we've talked about before, trying to get better and I was getting worse. Bob Rotella and I had a great conversation at the British Open. I hit the ball great over there, I just couldn't score. He just said, you're just so wrapped up in trying to do well that you're killing yourself. He said, the rest of the year let's just go back to playing and let's have fun, get into the process, play like Davis Love likes to play.
Then I went home and I had kidney stones. I was two or three or four weeks dealing with that, and then by the time I came out of that, it was FedExCup Playoffs and I had a couple weeks to try to move up, and then I got hurt.
Yes, I was getting to the point where I felt like my swing was good enough and if I could just get out of my own way I was going to start taking off. I was looking forward to the fall events and then got stopped. Now, that's not going to change. I know that if I just do the things that I normally do, mentally on the golf course, that if I can stay out of my own way, I will do well. But now I'm actually hitting it better than I was last year. I feel better than I did last year.
I mean, even if I didn't hurt my ankle and I took four months off and worked out, I would feel a heck of a lot better than I did last year. But I never -- we never do that in this game. Guys that take four months off, they don't go to train for four months, they just go take four months off. We've seen it with Tiger, he takes two weeks off, then comes back right where he was. I think that's what I've got to learn is I need some breaks. I need to keep working hard, but I also need to be mentally prepared when I show up that I'm ready to play.
I fully expect that this is going to be a year of working hard and improving, and the results might not happen this week or next week, but I think they'll be there because I feel so much better and the confidence will come because I feel much better than I did last year.

Q. Coming from a guy who was very honest with us, who questioned yourself and made the points where other guys say, hey, I know what I'm doing, I can remember back at Valhalla in '90, and you talked about if I can do this, if I can do that. Did that hurt you in a way? You talk about the cup half full, half empty, and you've always been, I've felt, so outspoken about your own game that maybe you questioned it a little bit?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I've always been honest. Everybody says, well, you should have done better. I'll say, you're right. I'm not going to argue with my mom when she says you should have made an A rather than a B. I probably should have if I worked a little bit harder. I'm not going to disagree.
But I'm also still motivated. I'm still working hard. I could have easily said, you know what, I've had a great career. I don't want to work this hard. I just want to come back and play for a few more years, and then I want to get on a cart on the Champions Tour and just play. I would play.
You know, I'm always in the same mode. I'm looking forward to -- the past is in the past. I'm looking forward to working this year, trying to make all the teams, trying to get in the Masters, all those things, and I'm going to put an effort into it and stay positive while I'm doing it.

Q. Masters comes first. How much is that on your mind?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's on my mind. In '95 I was lucky enough to win to get in, and I played a lot of great tournaments before that that I could have won. I'm taking it one week at a time. I've got to play eight tournaments. I haven't played since September, so I've got to play a tournament first and see how it goes.
But that's the goal is to play as many as I can between now and The Masters. Then I'm ready -- not to play every week, just to play. But play a lot of tournaments that I'm really prepared for and try to win. I've got a nice window of trying to get in. But plenty of tournaments, a lot of tournaments that I've won before and that I've played well in before, and you don't want to wait until New Orleans or Houston. I've played well at Bay Hill and Tampa, and I've played well at all of them. I haven't won them all, but I've played well at all the courses coming up, so I'm looking forward to trying to win one.
But I need to win for a whole lot of other reasons. I need to win this week -- I don't know if that would get me in the Match Play. I've got a lot of things looming. So the best thing to do is what I've done for the last four months, not try to analyze the numbers, not try to figure out what it takes to get in which tournament. Just play well each tournament and I'll get in where I can get in and I'll play where they let me play. I'm exempt. I'll get in a lot of tournaments, I'll have a lot of chances. Even if I don't get in the Masters, I'll have a lot of chances to get in the U.S. Open and British Open and PGA. But if I win -- I'll win a few tournaments and get on the Ryder Cup team, that can be my major for the year.
Shoot, just playing this week is a good win for me. I don't have to win the tournament for this to be a win for me. I'm excited for the challenge.
I hope we're not discussing whether Paul Azinger picks me or not. I hope I'm the third or fourth guy on his team and I hope I'm back being part of a great Ryder Cup team.

Q. If we are discussing whether he picks you, that means you will have played well.
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I'll have played well but I won't have played as well as I would have liked. If I start reeling off good tournaments and getting into other ones and winning some, you know -- I'm closer in Ryder Cup points than anything probably, so it's easier for me to move up on that list rather than any other list.
I'm excited about the challenge of all those things. But it's going to take one week at a time. I'll try to get a good week this week, and if all goes well between now and Friday, try to play in LA and move on from there.

Q. Speaking of LA, what are your thoughts on Riviera?
DAVIS LOVE III: I love Riviera. The schedule hasn't worked out for me to play there the last few years. But I love playing that golf course. I'd love to play there next week. Until I really compete -- I walked yesterday and it was fine. Until I can really compete and play and at least get one round Thursday or maybe two under my belt and decide about the commitment, I was hoping that it was a Saturday commitment here because it's three rounds before the cut.
But my schedule is not set for the first time in a long, long time. This is the first year that I can't put down, here's all the tournaments that I'm going to play. It's going to be an issue here for me. But it's also nice to be back and with a lot of challenges ahead.

Q. Reflecting on your career, in the early '90s with you and Freddie, you guys were 1 and 2. Do you feel the rap on him a little bit has been that he left some majors out there that he could have won with his level of talent? Do you kind of look at that, and yourself too, as maybe things that were left out on the golf course with the amount of talent that you both shared?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, yeah, I think we both tried a lot harder to win than people maybe gave us credit for, but we also could have won a lot more, certainly. I don't think either one of us would argue that.
But Fred has seen a lot of really bad -- Fred, that one day at Doral when he went down, that was pretty much -- that hurt his chances. I've had some minor things that have bothered me, but not like Fred. He had basically almost a career-ending back injury.
I've watched him battle just to play, much less to play well. Like now, it seems like he's hitting it great and he's playing well. He has spurts where -- like here last year, he thought he was playing great, and he walked up to the first tee and he couldn't play. When you're dealing with that kind of an injury that keeps you from walking, much less playing golf, -- he didn't play after The Masters for six months. I mean, that's a hard way to continue your career in your later years. I feel sorry for him.
Like a Scott Verplank who went through -- one of the best players we've ever seen, and you get a bad injury, and what would have happened if Scott Verplank wouldn't have had those injuries? He would have been Tiger Woods probably. He was that good. And what would have happened if Fred's back didn't go out? He could have been -- continued on for a long time, winning a lot of golf tournaments.
But yeah, we both had a lot of chances. But we both have -- I certainly feel like I have a lot more chances and I'm excited about it. I look at Vijay, I look at Fred Funk, I look at Jay Haas competing for a long, long time. Jack won at 46 at The Masters not really playing a whole lot. It can be done. There's some really good guys you have to beat, but it can be done.

Q. You mentioned when you were talking about maybe keeping your status in the top 50 and you used the phrase skating by. Do you feel like you've been skating by for a while?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I feel like if I hadn't have gotten hurt, I wasn't feeling well and wasn't playing well, but I felt like I could go play five more tournaments and I would have maybe just kept my -- held my position. Like two years ago I won at Greensboro, it got me through another year and kept me in all the good tournaments. And if I would have had a good fall, like a Justin Leonard, had a few good tournaments, maybe up and win one, I would have gone to Idaho and snowboarded for three weeks. I'd have come out to Hawai'i, maybe not quite ready, I would have worked my way back into Florida.
I wouldn't have put forth the effort I have put forth the last couple months to get better at my swing, to get better -- I've spent a lot of time on my short game because I couldn't do anything else. I spent a lot of time on my fitness because I couldn't do anything else. Those things probably would not have happened.
I would have just kept my same old routine because I was exempt and was in the top 50, and it would have been a lot more deer hunting and a lot more snowboarding, and it would have been, again, the same old thing. I would have talked about getting better and maybe I would and maybe I wouldn't.
But this year I was forced -- if you want to play, you've got to do this. If you want to get better, you've got to do this on top of it. So I think that's why I say I looked at it as a positive, as a blessing. I needed a break, I needed to get to work, I needed to refocus, and the ankle made me do it.
Now that I'm past the ankle, I've got to continue with the momentum that I have.

Q. This sport is not necessarily like that; it doesn't mean if you work hard you're going to get better. Do you feel like the time you spent working on the -- not necessarily the swing but the short game, do you feel people have given you more guidance that way, to work on the things that are helping you?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, Jack Lumpkin took me -- I'm in my cast, in my boot, and he gave me a golf ball -- remember the old Ping balls that were half black and half white? Take these balls and roll them across the rug and make them go straight. Don't let them wobble. That's your job. So that was for a couple weeks. I couldn't do anything else. I stood in the garage with my son and we rolled them and made them go straight.
We went back to basics. When they let me start chipping, he said, when you chip, you pick your head up. I want you to keep your head down. We just went back to little things that if you're at wherever, at the Honda Classic, and Jack is working with me, he's not going to change a whole lot of things and go back to basics when in two days you're going to tee it up.
So we had that window from October to say, look, they say you might not play until Honda. Let's get to work on your putting and your chipping and then we'll work on your wedge game. When they let you hit it 100 yards, come see me and we'll start working on wedge game. So we built out to the full swing. That's a nice -- it was a nice luxury to have. You didn't have a tournament around the corner. Jack is worried about, well, if I tell him this, it might screw him up two weeks down the road. So we went back and spend a lot of time working on those things.
I've got a great group there at Sea Island. I was stuck there for a month. I had Randy, Todd, Jack, they were right there. Here are some things that we think you don't do well, and now we can tell you to get to work on them because you don't have a tournament the 1st of January.

Q. This is one of the tournaments that you've never missed. Why was it important to you to come back here?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, a lot of reasons. One, because it's Pebble Beach and I love playing here. Yesterday I was thinking, why don't these other players get it that don't come here? Yeah, at least you get to play a practice round at Pebble Beach, and you're going to get at least one tournament round in.
Past that, Jim Griggs, our friend that we stay -- Joey Sindelar, Mike Hulbert and I have been saying with since '86. He's a second father to me. He's making me go give a speech right after this. He's a good friend. I would have been here to watch Joey play with Jim's son Chris and to go to the parties and to be around just because his family has become part of our life. The Monday Pro-Am at Monterey Peninsula Club has raised $2.3 or $2.4 million for the Boys and Girls Club that Jim puts on, things like that. This week has just become a big part of my life.
I wanted to play. Playing with Joey, Jim's son Chris, my friend John Linen that I've played with eight or ten years in this tournament, this is a big week for a lot of guys, not just me. A lot of guys really look forward to this. They look forward to playing with their amateur partner, they look forward to being in Carmel, their wives like coming here, and I didn't want to miss it. The only reason Joey Sindelar is playing here is because of Jim Griggs. Half the reason I worked so hard to get back to this tournament was because I didn't want to miss my week of staying with the Griggs, playing with the Griggs and playing Pebble Beach, plus I've won here twice.
If they said you can come back in April, I would certainly be shooting for Hilton Head because I'm pretty comfortable there. That's a great place to play. And places where you're comfortable -- I wasn't really anxious to play Torrey Pines. It's hard and long, and even though I've won there -- I didn't feel like that was something I really needed to shoot for. I wouldn't be ready for that. Scottsdale, same thing, I wouldn't have really done that well in Scottsdale. But I know I can play well here, in this format. I played well here last year.
I feel like this is a good tournament for me to play and a good tournament for me to come out at, so I worked real hard to get back for this one.
Now, I will be just as excited for LA. I haven't been back to Riviera in long time. If I can play there, too, this will be a great two-week trip.

Q. How long will Joey be on the bag for you?
DAVIS LOVE III: Until he drops the towel a couple more times. He dropped it twice yesterday so we gave him a pretty hard time. This is a great week for him to caddie. He's getting ready for the Champions Tour, he's working hard on his game, he played in Panama two weeks ago, and he's getting ready to play, so he's doing it for fun. He did it a couple times last year, helping me out. That makes it even a little more exciting.
Our eight guys in our group, the two amateurs, the caddies, we're all friends. Jim's grandson Chris is caddying for Jim's son, Stevie is caddying for his son Chris. It's just going to be a fun group and a fun week. I'm excited about teeing it up.

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