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July 8, 2009

Davis Love III


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome Davis Love III to the interview room here at the 2009 John Deere Classic. Thanks for taking a few minutes to join us. You're here in the midst of a solid year. If I looked at it right, you're through 16 events, and half of those, eight of them, have been top-25 finishes, so you're obviously playing well, so just a few opening comments as you're heading into the week here and how you're feeling about your game and the John Deere Classic this week.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think that's a good summary, solid and playing well, not great. Been real close to playing great a couple weeks, but you know, I'm excited about playing here. I really wish it wasn't raining because I counted on this pro-am as my practice round. So I'd like to get back out there and see the golf course because I've only had a few rounds around it.
But yeah, excited about playing here. This is a good golf course for me, length-wise, and it's going to obviously be a little soft now so it'll play even longer.
Playing pretty good but not great and looking for great.

Q. Can you talk about your reasons for playing here? Did the commissioner's appeal play into that? Did the jet play into that? Was it a combination of several things?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, main reason is I've been having a trip over to the British Open, I don't know, the last five or six years early to do a corporate outing and play some fun golf, and we just haven't done that the last couple years. So it worked out schedule-wise.
I need to play. I took a chance by not -- by committing to do some other things the week before and the week after the U.S. Open, and then I didn't qualify for the U.S. Open. So I had three weeks off. So I'm in the middle of three in a row to get back in the swing of things. I knew I was going to play these three no matter what. I just wasn't expecting it to be after three straight weeks off, kind of an unplanned little summer vacation.
You know, I liked the golf course the last time I was here, and I love coming here. Just the week before the British has always aced me out, and now it's working a little better.
The jet is a big deal. I hadn't really thought about it until this year. So it's going to work out great to get over there.
But the main, main reason is, one, I need to move up in all the rankings; and two, I need to get ready for next week, and this is a good chance for me to win. I've watched Kenny and Jonathan Byrd and guys that hit it strong and solid do well here, so I feel like I can do well here, too.

Q. Did the commissioner's appeal for players to play more events or spread themselves out to different events, did it have any impact?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, since I'm good friends with him and getting ready to go back on the board, it has an effect, yes. But you know, I've played a lot in my career, so I don't feel like I'm one of the guys that really needs to add events. I've averaged more than maybe I should have for 20-plus years.
But you know, I'm a John Deere tractor owner and fan and a fan of this town. I've got friends that live here. I like coming here. There's some places like Milwaukee that have a lot to draw me, like motorcycles, that I just don't get to go play that I'd like to play. I hate missing the week before -- I'd like to play Canada, but I just can't do it after the British Open with Akron, PGA and the playoffs coming up. There's just places that unfortunately I miss.
But I'm happy to be here this week, and they've got a great field, and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. You're playing good but not great in your words. What is keeping you from playing great?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, last week it was the 11th hole (laughter). No birdies on the 16th hole, as my coach pointed out yesterday. It's one little stretch of holes, one bad day. You know, keeping me from being really good and not having to qualify for U.S. Opens and British Opens. It's just a shot here or a shot there or beating Justin Leonard rather than getting beat by him in the match play, just one day. A day here or there and I'm 30th in the world rather than 50th, and then I'm in the Masters and the U.S. Open.
You snowball a little bit. You play in the bigger tournaments, you get more on a roll, you don't have to play for a month and have two 36-hole qualifiers in the middle and wear yourself down.
I just haven't been quite there. And obviously the injury held me back and knocked me down in the rankings a little bit. But I've been steadily climbing back, feeling like I can win, getting myself into contention.
I see my name on the leaderboard. It doesn't always stay. It pops up and down. But I'm getting there.
I saw a quote from David Duval, and I don't really remember exactly what it said, but something like I'm not going to give up. I'm not just out here to cruise around for the last four or five years of my career. I'm here to play and to try to win, and you can't win the John Deere and get one of those neat trophies like is sitting in our office back at home. Jonathan's trophy is sitting in our big management/golf design office at home. I want one of those tractors, too.
I'm here to play to win and build on a win here to go to the British Open and onward to the rest of the year.
I've been saying it for 20-something years. I'm real close to playing good. You've just got to always be positive like that, that the next week is going to be a good week.

Q. Speaking of 20 years, I first spoke to you in '87, I think, or '88 at the Pensacola Open that's defunct. You were being heralded as the Big Bomber. You were a phenom at the time. Now with Kenny playing so well at 49, I wonder if you ever reflect back on the journey from big hitter to all-around golfer. And the second part of that is since you were the Big Bomber in '87 or '88, what do you think about the advent of technology now and everyone is hitting it 300-something?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I played with Jack Nicklaus earlier this year in a little tournament at Seminole, and he was talking about how far I was hitting it. I said, Everybody hits it like that now, Jack. I said, Back in your day you were the only one. In my day there was four or five, and now everybody hits it that far.
It always gets lumped onto technology, but it's really that there's two fitness trucks sitting out there and there's guys working out. Zach Johnson -- we're going to fly back home for a Memorial service tomorrow night for Jonathan Byrd's dad. Zach's comment was, Well, all I'm going to miss is a workout. He's always thinking about working out.
And that wasn't the case when I came out in '86. Guys would walk by the one little truck we had and wonder what was going on in there. Now everybody has a trainer, everybody is working out and everybody is strong. You get kids like -- big kids like Ricky Barnes that look like they ought to be playing in the NFL and not on the PGA TOUR, and that's the biggest difference. Better athletes, stronger athletes.
You know, equipment has always been the same for a generation. You know, Jack competed against guys playing with the same stuff he had. I compete against guys playing with the same stuff that I have. And there's just a lot more guys that can hit the ball a long way, that can play the game a whole lot -- I watch the driving range, the kids at home, there was four of them yesterday that were between 15 and 18, boys and girls, they're all smashing it. That's just because they all work with Randy Myers as a trainer and Todd Anderson and Jack Lumpkin as a swing coach and they're all trained athletes now.
It's been a long time coming. Jonathan and I had 45 college golfers at my house a couple weeks ago, and they said, What's the biggest thing that you regret about your career, and I said, That I didn't start training when I was in high school like all these kids are doing now. That's the only thing I think I left on the table is I wasn't as fit for my career as a kid that comes out of high school and college now because they're trained. You have to be. You have to have it all now or you can't compete.

Q. You mentioned Duval. What did you make of what he did at Bethpage?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I've been saying that I'm not surprised that he did that. I'm just surprised that it took him as long as it did. He's had a few really good rounds and not really put a whole tournament together, so it was nice to see.
Even a couple weeks before at Memorial, he was -- I don't know, 4-under through 8 or something. I mean, he gets some hot streaks.
I think when David -- I don't know if he's turned the corner or whatever you want to say, if he's back or whatever, but when David gets playing like David Duval again, it's not going to be this like erratic kind of medium level player. I mean, he's going to either be really, really good or he's not going to come back. I don't think there's much in between with David. When he's back, you'll know it, because he'll be back winning again.
I'm excited for him. Obviously it was an exciting day that Monday to watch David and Lucas, pulling hard for both of them, friends with both of them for a long time. But David, like I said, he's not going to give up. He's going to keep working at it. He's not trying to get back to -- he never was trying to make cuts. He didn't really care about making or missing cuts. He couldn't figure out why he can't win.
You heard it in all his comments that week. He felt like he was going to win the golf tournament. And when David starts thinking he's going to win, he will win.

Q. What was the difference that week versus the past couple years?
DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. I wasn't there. I didn't watch much of it. Like I said, at Memorial, several times this year, he's playing some really, really good friends. So it's in there, and it's all mental.
You know, when David was playing great, you know, he was as confident and cocky as anybody, expected to win every week. And I think when you watch Tiger play, you know, he expects to chip every ball in and hole every putt, and I think when David gets back to where that's what he's thinking every time he goes out instead of wondering what's the matter, what's going on -- the biggest thing to me was he had a couple times where he could have gone the other direction that week, and he came back from it, especially the triple right off the bat on Monday morning. I think that shows that he's back thinking about winning rather than thinking about protecting or not shooting a bad score. He's thinking about winning the tournament.
I'm not in his head. We spend a fair amount of time together. We don't sit there and talk about, what are you worried about when you're on the first tee. It's like, you just don't talk about it. But we talk about how we're working on our games and how we're improving and who we're working with and what we're working on, and I think he's on the right track.

Q. There's a famous quote from David that he got to the top and he wondered if that was all there was. I'll never forget a press conference with you and Fred Couples at the Western when you were both 1 and 2, and you guys talked about the demands of being at the top. How does Tiger do it, and do people really want what he has, given what it brings?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think David realized that just winning golf tournaments ain't going to make you happy. It's your faith and your family and your friends that are going to ultimately decide whether you're happy or not.
If you're going to base your life on winning golf tournaments to make you happy, you're going to be a miserable person. But I've seen it several times from top players, get all the way to the top and then come crashing back down because they weren't real happy to be there.
The goal of getting there was much more fun than being there. And I think in this world, whether it's Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jackson, we put way too much attention on people for what they accomplish. But at the same time, it's hard to fathom the success that Tiger has had. I don't think he gets enough credit for the statistics. I think he gets maybe too much attention for the celebrity side of it, if that makes any sense.
What he's done on the golf course is truly mindboggling, and the more you sit down and think about it -- I saw a few weeks ago when he won, the number is almost 70 PGA TOUR wins. If you talk all my second place finishes, I would only have maybe 50 wins, low 50s. If you took all my thirds, I might could catch him.
When you think about, I've had a pretty good career, and if I won every time I got in the top three I could barely catch the guy. The statistics are phenomenal.
I think he separates himself like Jack did mentally, and that's what we're all trying to figure out. I'm not out there going, is his backswing different than mine or is he bigger or stronger or is his putting stroke different. There's something mentally that lets him chip that ball in from over the green on 11 rather than take four to get it down. And that's the difference.
You go back to all his wins, there's a couple chip-ins and there's a couple long putts that other guys are three-putting that he's making. There's something in there mentally that's not -- if it was all practice time or all gym time, then other guys would be doing it, too. There's just something in there mentally, and it's incredible to watch. It's fun to watch. It's fun to try to beat him.
That's why it's exciting for Lucas and David Duval to beat him at the U.S. Open, because it makes it even more special.

Q. You said the only thing you've left on the table in your career was the physical conditioning. Kenny has been talking about how his attitude now is so que sera sera. He's just happy to be out here, we at the same time, two things have saved him. He's happy to compete but he's also just happy. Did you put too much pressure on yourself way back when? How do you compare yourself now?
DAVIS LOVE III: I'm trying to be relaxed. If I could win as frequently as Kenny I'd be a lot more relaxed. He's putting extremely well and he's driving it great, and he's in a good place mentally. Again, that's what it comes down to is you've got to be in a good place mentally, and he really is. He's happy with his schedule, he's happy with what he's playing for, the reasons he's playing, his family, and there's no talk of him going to the Champions Tour. It's is he going to win John Deere this week, like Vijay.
So I'm looking to be in that category, that I'm still competitive four or five years from now, and I'm still trying to win out here and getting more and more comfortable.
I have the experience obviously, if I can just get myself in position a few more times, then I can compete.

Q. Are you in a good place mentally?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, I'm in a good place. I'm really focused on the few things that I need to do to play well, and when I get a little bit better at those, like I said, you let me go back and play the 11th hole and the 16th hole over again, you know, last week, I could win the golf tournament.
And same thing at Memorial. I was two or three holes there from winning the golf tournament, despite Tiger winning them. Jonathan Byrd and I were right there with three or four holes to go. So I'm in a good place. I just need to be patient with myself and let it happen and not try to force it to happen.

Q. A lot of this conversation has been about the mental approach to the game. Are you as strong mentally now as you were when you were younger, or do you feel like you're a smarter golfer now and able to use your head?
DAVIS LOVE III: I'm definitely smarter. I'm definitely smarter. That might be part of the problem. No, I know what it means to win. I know how to win. I think I just need to play more like I did.
You get in a zone. I have had a couple really good streaks, three or four weeks or two or three months, and when you get in those streaks you're not thinking about how to go through your routine or how to play, how to turn it on and turn it off on the golf course, how to focus or how to get lost in the process. Right now I'm working on it, you know, and that's the difference.
I don't think Tiger is going out and seeing if he can get it figured out mentally. He's got it figured out mentally, he just keeps doing the same thing over and over and over again. You see the timing of his routine and all the little things that they show on TV. He does the same thing over and over and over. He's got it in a rhythm, and that's where I'm trying to get to.
Sometimes, some days it's easy and some days it's hard. I get up every morning knowing what I need to do, it's just a matter of getting it done. I don't have to change anything. I have to work on my swing and I have to work on my chipping and I have to get used to the speed of these greens as opposed to the speed of Congressional. I still have to work on it, but I know what I need to do.
That's why the conversation tends to turn to mental a lot with the better players is that's where the game is. I think right now is there's so many guys out here that can play. The only way to separate yourself is to -- whatever you want to call it, get in a zone or be more focused, more committed to doing the little things routine-wise that stand up under pressure.

Q. Have you felt the appreciation this area has to have a PGA TOUR event here, and what it means to an area like this to have you guys here?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, yeah. It's always nice to come to a city that's excited about this is the big event rather than just another something to do on the weekend. Certainly with John Deere and all the sponsors here, they've really put a lot into it, and you can see it. It's too bad on a rainy day, but you can certainly see it out here that the community is excited.
You know what, when you show up and you step off the airplane, and from that moment on people are thanking you for coming, that's when you can tell. It's nice in a big city to play in a big tournament, but it's especially nice to come to a place like this where -- I was walking across the parking lot, I don't know, before, around 7:00 o'clock, and six people that I walked past, people said, "Thank you so much for coming." That means a lot, especially in this economy, that people appreciate the fact that you're coming to the tournament.
We appreciate the fact more and more that we have these tournaments to come to. I think the players are realizing when you see -- when you read the Wall Street Journal or the local paper every day, you realize how lucky we are, one, that we can do so much good for a community, and two, that we have such a great platform, place to play.
DOUG MILNE: Davis, as always, we appreciate your time, and hopefully you'll get out there and get that round in today.

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