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April 17, 2008

Davis Love III


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Davis, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Verizon Heritage. Great start, 32 on the front side, no bogeys today, five birdies, 66 and good start to your week, here.
DAVIS LOVE III: Yes. Thank you.
I had a good day. I hit the ball fairly well most holes. Hit a few bad shots and made a few nice saves in the middle of the round in 8 and 9 and 10, kept the round going. Didn't make a five.
A good scoring day. For an afternoon round, I've got a nice early morning tee time tomorrow. Good start. Best start I've had this year. I've been putting myself behind the 8 ball usually the first nine holes or first day or first hole, seems like every round. So it's nice to birdie the first two and get off to a good start and get a good round and get ahead of the 8 ball rather than behind it.

Q. Davis, how much of the start is just your rehab and everything coming together and your play coming together and the return here where you know this course so well and have played so well in the past?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yes (laughter).
It's getting close, you know. This is my 8th tournament out of 11 weeks when I started back, which is too much. If my therapist started adding up the number of rounds and the number of balls I've hit, he'd tell me to take a week off or two.
I'm ahead of schedule. I'm feeling better. I'm excited about playing. Obviously I wanted to get back as quick as possible to play as many tournaments as I could before Augusta and hoping to get on a roll, which I never quite did. But I kept feeling like I was close. And even though I wasn't a hundred percent physically, which I may never be again, since I haven't been a hundred percent since '92. But I didn't think that I was hurting myself, and I thought that I was getting better and I always had a chance to play well and to win. I wanted to try to get in Augusta. And then obviously knew that if I didn't get in there I'd have that week off to get ready for this week, which is always a big week. And I can always reassess after this weekend. I've got the Players and qualifying for the U.S. Open coming up, so I could slow it down a little bit after this week.
It's all coming together. I'm feeling better playing two rounds or 14 holes a day and hitting a lot of good shots, but just not ever really putting anything together. I just need to be patient with myself, and keep just plugging away and trying to do a better job playing one shot at a time and one hole at a time and not thinking about results or The Masters. Which, you know, right after The Masters, I didn't get in, and now I'm thinking about The Masters. If I win this week I get in The Masters, so it never ends (laughter). Freddie Couples got an e-mail, for The Presidents Cup captain. I'm going to try to get hard on his e-mail list and get on his team.
It's always something you have to block out of yourself, whether it's winning six times at Hilton Head or getting back to the top 20 in the world or whatever it is you're trying to do. I've just got to block it out and start playing. I did a better job of that today.

Q. What did you do those four days when you weren't at Augusta? How did you pass that time?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, the whole week I did a little bit of golf middle of the week, and I spent a lot of time with my family and did some hunting, a little bit of working out and trying to get ready for this week, both mentally and physically. And try to chase some turkeys around.

Q. Did you watch it all on TV?
DAVIS LOVE III: I watched a little bit because the better Brandt did, the more I had to watch. I watched early for Freddie to see what kind of start he got off to, because he played so good last week or the week before. And then obviously our whole island was excited about Brandt.
I'm not much of a golf on TV watcher, anyway. If it's light outside I'm usually outside, unless it's raining. But Lance producing and Brandt playing well, it was exciting to watch the finish of it. My son was playing; I watched him some. It was weird not being there, but I missed a few World Golf Championships this year, too. I'm accepting the fact that you can get hurt and miss stuff and still bounce back and play well.

Q. Has this course changed much over your long tenure of playing here?
DAVIS LOVE III: It has a little bit. The greens got extremely small for a while, and they've gotten back to -- they went really, really small, and now they're back to just small. They've backed a few holes up. Like 14 is a really tough hole now. They added a tee like at 3, a little bit longer. Places where they had room to back it up a little bit.
But generally as courses on Tour go, no, it hasn't changed a whole lot, which is nice.

Q. You get calmer conditions, get out there in the morning, what was it like out there in the afternoon today?
DAVIS LOVE III: It wasn't too bad. Gusty every once in a while. Tricky when you got out in the open like 9 and 10, and 16 and 17 and 18 was a little trickier. But for the most part it was pretty nice. The greens are nice. You make good putts, they will generally go in.
It obviously goes better in the morning. You always want to play Friday morning, if you get a chance. It always seems like Friday morning is the nicest time to play on Friday. It gets a little rowdy in the afternoons, and the greens get a little rowdy. It's harder to play Friday afternoon than Thursday afternoon. But you never know with the weather.
I had a late-early at LA and we got blown away. It's not always the case. But it's nice to get out in the morning.

Q. What parts of your game do you feel are about where you want them? And what parts you would like to improve a little bit?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think my swing and all my strokes are there. Just mentally, just got to be more committed mentally throughout the day. Jeff Weber, caddied for me a couple of times, and I said, "You need a guy that can play more than 14 holes, because you're a heck of a caddie." I felt like I was playing 14 holes. I'm leaving, mentally just leaving, losing touch there for a few holes every once in a while. It might be the start of the round or the middle of the round. You make double bogeys and you make a string of bogeys or you have a bad patch and then you bounce back from it. I always seem to have to bounce back and I'm doing a pretty good job at it. But I think mentally is where it's at. It's usually where it's at for the most part.

Q. Do you think that's related to the time off and the injury, do you think it's an aging thing?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I'm going to blame it on the time off. But before the time off I was in the same boat. I had a great session with Dr. Rotella at the British Open, and was going to come back and have a great finish to the year. And then I got kidney stones and then I stepped in a hole and I never really got a chance to play. So then I came back. I started off really well the first week and then I gradually got into I think the same old habits of trying too hard, which is easy to do out here. Most guys do it. Try too hard and think about their swing, and have a little bit of doubt and fear and don't play well as they can.
I'm aware of it, you know. It's just like not eating that second cookie. It's awfully tempting to try hard and think about your swing and trying to do better when getting out of your own way is the way to do it.
Jack and Jay are working with me this week. Every time I hit one, making sure that I'm going through my routine, making a practice swing, it means something. And a couple of people commented earlier out there said, it looked like you were really comfortable and really in a rhythm today and that's the difference. Whether I'm missing greens or hitting greens I'm still doing the same thing and staying committed, getting the ball in the hole, however I can. I need to keep doing that.

Q. I'm curious, how can a golfer, your ability, your level, just check out? Is that what you're saying?
DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. My mom asked the same thing (laughter).
Rotella always said, it's easy when you hit a bad shot to try to fix it. And rather than just let it go and go try to do your best on the next one and go through the same routine.
I'm convinced that Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson and whoever else, Byron Nelson, guys that have gotten on a roll and stayed on a roll for a long time, they do something different mentally than anybody else. Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, and whoever you want, the guys play at a different level. There's a lot of physically talented people out here, and I think the mental part of it is the difference. If we ever figure out how everybody can get there, it will be a boring game. Everybody will be playing perfect. I think the game is more challenging for us out here mentally than physically.

Q. Do you ever want to talk to Fred after The Masters?
DAVIS LOVE III: I haven't. I've got Joe, who caddied for me, so I heard all about it. Obviously he got off to a bad start. I played with him at the Houston the first two rounds, and other than one hole, could have won that golf tournament. He had a bad double on the last hole the first day and rattled him a little bit. But that was too bad. But it was a heck of a streak.

Q. It wasn't the most important record, but it did take 23 years.
DAVIS LOVE III: And he gets to play next year, so he'll take it.

Q. On the mental aspect of it, did this course and your past success on it, when you didn't win you played well so many times here. Did that pull you back or keep you focused?
DAVIS LOVE III: It helps, certainly, to be comfortable. Does it help five strokes a day? No. But it certainly helps a stroke here or there. Certainly I would think that my confidence and other guys, if you get down to Sunday other guys are saying, oh, boy, he's going to win again. It's a nice little edge. We've been through that a bunch here. If you're comfortable in a place and you're comfortable with the way the greens are rolling and how to read them, it gives you a little bit more confidence.
But I have worked extremely hard this year to get the mind going. If it's not this week, it will be Charlotte. And if it's not Charlotte, it will be Players. And I'm close and it's got to pay off eventually. Keep sticking the tokens in the machine, eventually you'll get it right.

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