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April 15, 2009

Davis Love III


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Davis Love III into the media center. Davis, the cliché is probably used too often, the course is theory, but talk a little bit about your comfort zone here at Harbour Town.
DAVIS LOVE III: My game on paper shouldn't suit this course, but I figured it out. And certainly a lot of players have; Boo and several other players have won multiple times. And I think once you do get comfortable here, it can look like the hardest course in the world and it can look fairly easy when you're playing well and you know what you're doing.
I think it comes down to confidence. You understand what you're doing, you're prepared for it and you play well you can do well on any course. But I think this one, especially makes you think around the course. And if you're confident in what you're doing and put the time in, which I have, I've played a lot of rounds here, you just get more and more comfortable with the course.
Of course growing up and playing these kind of greens, back when they were grainier Bermuda, before the nice, pretty over seed. A lot of guys are confused with the grain. And I was more accustomed to that. And the more you win, the easier it looks, the more excited you get to play it.
I've done well at The PLAYERS and Greensboro and certain places I've played well. And like Tiger or anybody, you can get places you're comfortable with, and it makes it easier.
JOHN BUSH: Give us a recap of your season and your preparations for the week, and we'll open it up for questions.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, my season has been pretty boring. I've been playing pretty well and not getting a lot out of it, I guess sums it up. I've been putting a little too much pressure on myself to get results, I need to relax and play. Which usually I do well this time of year doing that. I get to Harbour Town and I tend to realize it's time to calm down and just enjoy yourself and play, and this course usually puts me in the mood for that. I've said it a lot.
I've won here for different milestones at different points in my career, first win and not winning in a while, and winning on a big streak of a lot of great play. And obviously I can relax when I come here after The Masters, whether it's trying to get in or playing in The Masters, you kind of relax a little bit. And have a start of a second period in the season.

Q. Given the push you made to make the top 15 at Augusta and have it end the way it did, did it take a while to get past that or particularly frustrating?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I was frustrated after Bay Hill, because I threw away a bunch of shots and then finished poorly and missed the cut. And that would have been an easy tournament to slide in, where I was 3-over with a few holes to go and shoot even par on the weekend and finish 20th, you know, and lock up The Masters, plus play well to get ready to play in The Masters. And that's what really frustrated me. I went to Houston where I had a chance to get in, but I wasn't playing well enough to play well in The Masters.
What it all boils down in the end, I wasn't playing well in my golf tournaments to play The Masters. So I probably wasn't ready to compete with the guys that were in the playoff. They all played really, really well. So I probably wasn't ready. So that's frustrating. So I've got three weeks to get ready for The PLAYERS and then get ready for the U.S. Open.
The nice thing about our game is there's always a big one coming. So I've moved past that. I know that if I do what I'm supposed to be doing, where I've been working towards and getting closer toward winning tournaments, that The Masters will take care of itself next year if I just keep -- I made a lot of progress since this time last year when I was maybe four or five tournaments in from coming back from my ankle, and not really having a chance to get in The Masters last year. This year it was disappointing that I didn't get in, but I made a lot of progress. So I'll just keep working on that, making progress.
You can win The Masters at 49 -- you can win it at 46, because Jack did it. And now you win it at 49 because Kenny was awfully, awfully close. I certainly wouldn't discount VJ's chances. They're not talking about going to the Champions Tour, they're talking about winning tournaments, and that's what I'm going to work back to.

Q. With you growing up right down the road, do you think that gives you a sense of home field?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, certainly I've been treated like a home player for a long time. But I've played here -- I came here in '69 with my dad, got stuck in the marsh on 18, playing around on the edge of the marsh. Learned about marsh mud at a very young age. And won the Junior Heritage, played that a few times. I've been playing here a lot for a long time, so I'm very comfortable. Certainly Jacksonville technically, TPC is probably a little bit closer, but these two tournaments on either side of Sea Island have been good to me, because I am a little more comfortable close to home. But I'm used to -- look at Andy Bean's career, he did well in Florida. He grew up on the Bermudagrass and he was comfortable. There's some people that only win on bentgrass greens, and some only win on big, long courses. I've done well in the Southeast because I'm more used to the greens, and I'm proud I've won all over the place, but certainly feel more comfortable in the South.

Q. Davis, since you've had so much success here, do you get any kind of lift coming back here to Harbour Town, no matter how your game has been treating you up to this tournament?
DAVIS LOVE III: Definitely. Four or five or six birdies and an eagle today, hit the ball really well on a lot of holes. And it seems like you get here and you don't have to even play a practice round to get used to the greens. I just walk up and I know what to do on every hole because I've played here so much. And luckily I've been doing -- there's a lot of golf courses on Tour, I know that. I've been playing a long time.
But this one hasn't changed. The course hasn't changed. There hasn't been a major lengthening or redo, stayed at the same place, obviously, my whole career. So I'm very, very comfortable. I get a little more bounce in my step when I get here. I'm excited about it. It's just natural. I'm sure Boo coming in here right now is feeling pretty good. He's happy to be back at Harbour Town. He's done really well here the last few years. It certainly makes a difference.

Q. This course, right now it seems like there's the talk about the boomers and the shot-makers. This appears to be more of a shot-maker's course. What's the difference for you in terms of here and say a Bethpage Black?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, Tim Finchem, I played with Tim our commissioner today, and he summed it up on 18 after I hit a 3-wood off the 18, he said, "How many drivers did you hit today?" That's it. You've got to adapt to the course. You watch Phil Mickelson, we give him a hard time sometimes about his theories, but he figures out what's going to work to give him what he feels like is the best chance to win the tournament, whether it's a driver that goes a long way or a driver that cuts or a 3-wood off the tee on every hole. You have to adapt.
Obviously if I hit driver every hole on this course, well, 14 holes, I can pack my car up Friday night, because I'm going home. Because I'm good, but I'm not that good. I can't hit it straight enough. Now, David Toms could get away with it, because he curves it, fits it in the fairway. But my ball's just going along and in a straight line. Sometimes a straight line that way and a straight line that way (indicating). But I can't hit driver off 1. I can't hit driver off 12, 13, 16, there's nowhere to hit it. So you've just got to adapt.
Bethpage is not going to be a big secret. You're pretty much going to have to smoke it straight, you know? That's what's so great about Harbour Town, Colonial, some of the courses defy the argument that we hit it too far and the game is too easy, because the scores are never really low, it's not like 28-under par is winning at Harbour Town or Colonial. You get a little wind here and single digits can win this tournament. I've won a lot between, I guess, 9- and 16- or 17-under par, and the same with Colonial.
The technology has changed, yes, but you've still got to chip and putt. You still have to hit your drives, whatever you hit off the tee, in the right spots on this course or you can't play it, no matter how far you hit it. Daly and J.B. Holmes should do well, because they can hit a 3-iron off the tee and put it where they want to, and if you play smart and play the way Pete wants you to play it, you can play the course no matter what type, style -- you think, well, Corey Pavin should do well, but if Corey Pavin doesn't hit it in the right side of the fairway on the first hole, it doesn't matter what style of play he has, he can't play from the left rough. You have to play the course the way it's laid out. And I enjoy doing that here and I've learned how to do it and how to be patient with it.

Q. With so much influx on the Tour, one of the things that's been suggested for us in Charlotte is that perhaps some day 10 years, 15 years, Quail Hollow might host a Major championship. How would that course fit the Major Championship profile? And how tough would it be if they narrowed down the fairways with more rough?
DAVIS LOVE III: There's a lot of courses that can handle a Major championship, certainly Quail Hollow as a golf course can, it's the infrastructure that goes around. If Johnny Harris said you all come look at Quail Hollow for a U.S. Open or a PGA, they wouldn't look much at the golf course to start with. They'd say wait a minute, is there room for parking? And is there room for corporate hospitality? Is there room for buses? All the things they do well there with a medium-large tournament. But if you get an extra large tournament, can you handle it? That's the argument at Marion, that's an argument at so many places, can you get people in and out? Is the infrastructure big enough?
The golf course is great. It's certainly hard enough. Our argument is it doesn't have to be hard, it's still a great golf course, no matter what score you shoot. Like last week, 11-under is a great score to win The Masters. That's what your score should be. If it's 5-over, somebody has made the course too hard. And if we don't shoot under par something is wrong, the course is too hard. Just like if you went to an NBA game and nobody dunked it and nobody made a three-pointer, you'd say wait a minute, somebody made the bucket too small or the basket too high. Quail Hollow, sure, they've got deep rough and fast greens. It would certainly handle a Major championship. But I don't think there's enough room for everything else that goes with it.

Q. Events like this are having a tough time with the economy. Would you like to see players play more or take more responsibility to helping events out?
DAVIS LOVE III: The Tour, the players are doing a lot more this year than in the past. We've always done a lot. We're doing even more. Players are doing a much better job this year. But we can't change the economy, you know? If you had five more top players in the top 10 they would certainly make Verizon happier, but we can't help the people that can't and don't want to spend money. We just have to be happy that we're surviving and that we have a full slate of tournaments this year and we're working hard. I've had staff from the Tour call me at 7:30, 8:00 at night. Everybody on the Tour, the players are working very, very hard. But we are also thankful for what we have. Jonathan Byrd said, "Thankfully we have a job we can go do and make a lot of money at it. We're blessed." So we're doing the best we can.
We have a great group of sponsors and we need to make sure that while they're here they're happy. The people that did come and buy tents and tickets this week, make sure we put on a good show, we sign as many autographs, do as many media requests and take care of the Verizon guys. We need to do that and the guys are doing it. And I know they're in a full-court press to get guys to play every week to the point of they're begging guys, please, if you want to go to Harbour Town, please go play. Please go to New Orleans. Charlotte doesn't need much begging. But the ones that are struggling certainly it helps to get last-minute commitment from a Paul Casey or somebody that's playing well that's a big name. We've just got to do more of it.
But in reality the consumer confidence and everything, the government has to get the ball rolling in the right direction, because I don't think we can really help. It's hard. I see it in our golf course design business and everything we do, it's really a struggle. But we are working hard at it.

Q. Following up on that, given some of the negative attention that came with Northern Trust and places and earlier this year, do you feel that the Tour maybe took more of a hit than it needed to?
DAVIS LOVE III: It took a way bigger hit than we needed to. There were two members of Congress that said negative things about the Tour. One of them didn't realize how much money we give to charity, and didn't realize what an impact a Tour event has on the economy of that city that week and that state and that economy. And what people need to realize is, yes, Verizon is spending a lot of money this week, but that's how they're a successful company. Only successful companies are sponsors on the Tour. If you're not successful, you can't afford it. You're successful because you've learned how to create value, create a brand, take care of your customers, and it's not that all the whole company shuts down for a week and comes and has a party. It's the people who spend money with Verizon that drives their business, which is good for the economy. And that's what Tim and the staff are trying to spread the messages. The more the Tour is successful and these companies that sponsor the Tour are successful, it helps the economy, it doesn't hurt the economy. And that's the problem I think with the consumer confidence, people are scared to spend money. Well, if you spend money, whether any kind of advertising, and people start buying things, and the confidence comes back, the economy can come out the recession. But if everybody sits back and says, I'm not going to spend money at Harbour Town because the economy is bad, that hurts. It trickles down. It's not just that company not spending, it goes all the way down through this whole community. And that's where we're seeing the hit is in the restaurants and the hotels and it spins down.
So we've made a big push with Congress, certainly, and the media, saying, hey, don't knock us back because that's hurting the communities that we go to. It's hurting the charities. They don't take 150,000 out of our purse, they take 150,000 out of our charities. We're working hard to make sure the charity dollars stay up as well as the purses.
But, yeah, we need to get that message out there that these events do more than just pay players to play and corporate entertainment. It's a vital part of this -- I mean, every town depends on it. Like, if you canceled a couple of football games in Charlotte, what would that do for the economy? There are businesses built around football games on Sundays. And that's the way it is. There are businesses that are built around the PGA TOUR and we need to keep that ball rolling, keep the charity dollars rolling.
JOHN BUSH: Davis, thanks for coming by and play well this week.

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