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April 13, 2010

Davis Love III


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Davis Love into the interview room here at the Verizon Heritage.
Davis, making your 25th start at the Heritage this year. Five-time winner here. Obviously a special place. Opening comments on being back.
DAVIS LOVE III: Wow, 25. We were talking about, I played with Scott Verplank, and Bo Van Pelt and Zach Johnson and they were talking about this tournament and how long it had been around and how 24-plus years has flown by. It's amazing.
We were talking about The Masters. Last week, too, when I played the Junior Heritage here, I never thought I'd get to play in the Heritage, you know, and then to play 25 of them and be lucky enough to win some of them is pretty incredible. I'm excited to be back and excited after a week off of watching my friends play golf. Now I'm excited to get back and get after it myself.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the sponsor situation and how intimately involved you have been in the situation.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I've been on the board, this is my fourth time. I leave here, I'm meeting with the Commissioner and then PAC meeting. I'm intimately involved with all of them. Like the new deal at Farmers or the new deal at Sea Island, obviously a little bit more involved with the McGladrey one, because we were in the room pitching the sponsor. But I've watched the Tour pitch to sponsors over the years and do their presentation and they do a great job. Obviously Zach has his personal ties to the John Deere and now to McGladrey where he lives. We all have our ties, and obviously I have a very close tie here. I've talked to Steve. I've talked to several potential sponsors, some even that they hadn't thought of or talked to recently. I'm talking to one again next week.
So it's ongoing, you know? And when the Southern Open was trying to survive in Columbus, certainly we helped a lot there. It's just tough. It seems to be one tournament every year, like Memphis obviously last year put together a deal and survived. San Antonio has done it year after year. They've had changes. New course this year and they're up and running great with Valero. But I've been involved in it a lot and I'll hopefully be involved in the success of finding one here.

Q. (No microphone.)
DAVIS LOVE III: I kind of look at this one like San Diego. It's just such an iconic tournament. If we didn't have such a bad economy, it would be one people would be standing in line for. We have to find the right fit and it's a harder search now. But hopefully something will come up sooner than later, to give everybody a little comfort.

Q. What is about this week that makes this tournament special?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, every week is important and every week has its own special feel to it. This one has a great feel because it is a relaxing feel and a relaxing place. Obviously if you played in Atlanta the week after The Masters, it wouldn't be quite as fun as going to the beach. You get to go to Hilton Head and it's a fun week for the kids, it's a fun week for the wives and it's a great tournament for the players. One, it's a great golf course. Not a whole lot of tournaments have had their whole history on one golf course, a great golf course like this. And this is one when people say what are your favorite courses on the PGA TOUR, they always list Pebble Beach and they list Harbour Town and they list Colonial, they list classic golf courses. It's an important tournament for the history of the Tour, it's important for the players and then the wives and the kids they want to come here, too.
It's tough in this economy, you know, with unfortunately the politicians not really helping us out, saying, "We don't need to be that involved in corporate entertainment." When this is not corporate entertainment, this is for charity. This foundation has done so much for charity around here. I think the PGA TOUR's message is all about charity. And we need to keep that going for this community because it has a huge financial impact, not only on the charities but on the businesses of this community. It's important all the way around. And I know that once the players get here, Brad Faxon was talking to Steve Wilmot over the last couple of days, the player directors and the players are now getting engaged to try to help out as much as we can.

Q. (No microphone.)
DAVIS LOVE III: I think they're confident that -- they're like me, as a player, you just think, well, why wouldn't somebody pick this tournament up? And there's not -- it's not like that we want to go somewhere else because we've got a better option, you know? There's nothing really -- there's not a bunch of people standing in line saying, we need a tournament in Atlanta or Orlando, Chicago. We don't need the date. We need this golf course and this date to stay the way it is. I'm confident that somebody will -- that hasn't heard about it yet will hear about it this week and go, hey, wait a minute, I didn't realize Verizon was leaving. That's a great opportunity for our company. And I think it will happen.
Like I said, I spoke to one guy that didn't really put two and two together yet. So hopefully we can get something going.

Q. (No microphone.)
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, yeah, it's not only The Masters, just -- you've got to block all those things out. And I've always told younger players, everybody has their distractions, whether it's trying to make a cut or make the 125 or win the Grand Slam. Everybody has some distraction that keeps them from playing well, and that's the challenge for me and not trying to make the Ryder Cup team, not trying to get in the top 50 or top 20 in rankings or win to get in The Masters, it's just to go play. And I think that's where my erratic play has come from lately, the last couple of years, is just trying too hard to get back to where I expect to be, rather than going out and playing.
I watched The Masters because Fred was playing so well, I watched more of it than I planned on or listened to it on XM probably more than I watched it. But, you know, watching Phil, how comfortable he looked and how happy he looked playing on that golf course made me realize, you know, that's how you win. You know you're comfortable, you know what you're doing and you go out and try to have fun and enjoy competing. And looking back at my play over the last couple of years I don't think I was as relaxed and as happy and as confident-looking as Phil. That's really where I need to get, just back to playing golf for fun. And I tend to do a good job of this at Hilton Head or THE PLAYERS or Greensboro, some other places I don't do as good a job. So I need to get more consistent in that.

Q. You mentioned that you watched your friends play on Sunday at The Masters, have you had an opportunity to speak with them since?
DAVIS LOVE III: I haven't. I traded texts with Phil, but I haven't with Freddie. I spent some time with Freddie in Houston and it was fun to catch up with him and hear all the stories about which weeks he's riding and which weeks he's walking, and how well he's playing and who he's hanging out with. It's fun. It's a breath of fresh air for him. Gives him some confidence. It's almost like going home and playing with the boys a couple of weeks and coming back out on Tour. It's a little bit friendlier game and it gives him confidence. And you can see at Houston and at the Masters he played well. He got himself on the leaderboards both weeks.
I'm excited for him and obviously -- the biggest thing I told Phil it was great to see Amy on TV. I hadn't seen her in a year-plus. So it was great to see her. I was excited for Phil for a lot of reasons other than golf that he had such a great week after such a long year.
I have watched Champions Tour a lot. Joey Sindelar and Mike Hulbert and Freddie and Corey Pavin, and all my buddies are out there playing. I miss seeing them, so it's fun to watch them play. And every week one of them is playing well. So I've been watching a lot more, not envious that I want to be out there, but it's fun watching them. I hope to be playing out here a lot more when I'm 50 than out there.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what this win does for Phil's legacy.
DAVIS LOVE III: I think every time he wins a Major, it just puts him in another category. Like they say about the list of people who have won a PGA TOUR event is really, really long. When you get to two it's short, and three it's really short. Same goes with the Majors. It's a lot longer list of guys that have won one than two or three or four. It puts him in a whole another category. And 38 or 39 times he's won, it's very, very impressive what he's done. And the way he plays is just so exciting to watch. And I hope that I make the Ryder Cup team, but I'm going to have a lot of fun if I don't, going and watching guys like Phil and Tiger and Lucas Glover and those guys compete, and I won't be quite as nervous, because it will be fun watching in a golf cart.
Phil is very impressive over a lot of things he did last week, not just some of the shots and his putts but just the way he controlled himself emotionally all week was impressive.

Q. Discuss a little bit about the close relationship that Phil and Jim have out on the golf course.
DAVIS LOVE III: That's what I noticed. Bones would be putting the pin in. Phil would be like pumped up, "I'm going to run to the next tee." And then he would slow down, he would turn around and wait for Bones to walk up and he would smile and walk casually to the next tee. And Phil used to get all pumped up and run to the next tee and hurry his game a little bit and smash it around. And it seems like they're the ultimate team now. One, they're great friends. Two, they respect each other's opinions on the golf course. And Bones is talking him off the ledge a lot.
But he knows what he's got. He's got the horse to win the race if he can just get him to the finish. They really seem to be working well. Jim worked for me a few times and we talked about what he was going to do back when he was making a decision who to -- he was a hot prospect, too, as a caddie. And I think he made the right decision to go with Phil rather than Love or Faxon or somebody else. But Bones is a great guy. And he's a great friend to a lot of us and especially to Phil.
My son and I were sitting in a little barbecue restaurant in Macon, Georgia watching the last hour-plus on TV. And both of us were sitting there, yeah, I'm not crying. It was fun to watch and it was exciting to see two friends like that get to share -- you know, like Freddie and Joe, you know. There's not that many teams like that left, guys that have been together for that long and had so much success.

Q. How do you think the new grooves have affected play on Tour this year?
DAVIS LOVE III: Apparently there hasn't been that much effect. Guys are shooting still basically the same scores. It's just an adjustment, you know? It's just like wet grass versus dry grass or wind versus no wind or fast greens one week and slow the next. It's just an adjustment. And the best players, Tiger and Phil, are still going to be the best players, I think. I don't think it's changed anything. Now, some guys are getting their third or fourth set of wedges because they're wearing the grooves down from where they started with them in September and they switch a lot.
It's just like the winning versus the spoiler. I think Jimmie Johnson is still going to do good with a spoiler. It really isn't going to -- it's going to look cooler because I like the car better, but it really isn't going to change that Jimmie Johnson's team is the best. And they're going to adjust to it. If you take 10 percent off our ball, we're going to find that 10 percent somewhere else.
The disappointing thing is I played with a young man that's one of the best college golfers, and he's going to play in a Nationwide event in two weeks, he has to switch wedges. That's the problem with it. The rest of it, you know, we just -- they just spent a lot of money to change the grooves and I don't think it's really had -- look at the scores. Every week, we start off the year, 20-under par, 20-under par, 36-under par, it certainly hasn't changed scoring. I don't think it's that big a deal that they thought it was going to be.

Q. Talk a little bit about the shot that Phil hit on No. 13.
DAVIS LOVE III: We were actually playing when he hit that one, we didn't get to see that live. We caught Phil on 15. And so we watched their tee shots. Well, we watched him putt out on 14 and play 15 on in. So the last little over an hour. But I just saw the highlight last night. So I really didn't get to see the discussion before. I just saw the slash. It was an incredible shot. I was talking earlier on The Golf Channel or somewhere, about hitting off of pine straw and how crazy that is to hit it off the pine straw at a green with water. I thought, I've done that. Maybe it's not so crazy. That's Phil. He wants to win so bad that he's going to convince himself that he can hit it. And he can hit that shot eight out of ten, seven out of ten times. But it's the three that get criticized.
To me, no, that wasn't -- I've hit it at the green from up in there before they planted all the other little trees. It looked to me like he was up against the tree a little bit, too. But I just caught a glimpse of it. That's one of the Masters shots that will go down in history. Tiger's chip-in and Jean Sarazen's hole-out, that will be a story for all time, because that was an incredible, incredible shot.

Q. Are there any shots like Phil had on No. 13 that you remember having to go for when you won the PGA Championship?
DAVIS LOVE III: Go for it? Not really. I just remember, what is it, the 5th, the par-5, the last day. I'd already hit a lot of good tee shots on that hole and I said if you drive the ball in this fairway again like you've done every other day, make a birdie and eagle, you're going to win this tournament. When I walked up on the tee I was thinking that. But you've got to put that aside. You've got to pick a good target and hit it. On Sunday when I could make an easy birdie, I think Justin had already made a couple of bogeys and I'd made a birdie on, I think, 3. But I think that was -- there were some good shots on the backside and a good up and down and stuff like that, but I think that was the one that gave me the lead to cruise the rest of the day.

Q. Brian Gay had such a dominating performance last year. Can you comment a little bit about his ten-stroke victory.
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, playing the practice round today they kept putting that up, "2009 Champion, Brian Gay," and with the score. Holy cow, that was low. You forgot he ran away with it. I'd forgotten about only two bogeys. And I played with him a few times maybe at Houston and somewhere else before. And it's like, wow, he's really playing well and he's getting a lot out of his game. I remember thinking, courses like Hilton Head and Colonial, that guy is going to be tough to beat, he keeps playing like that. And then he got off to a great start here and ran away with it.
But he's a really good, solid, grinding-type player. And when it gets tricky like this golf course, he should be good on it. But you don't expect a grinding, gutty player like that to throw that many birdies at you. You expect him to get a lot out of his game. But it was very impressive. And, yeah, I was shocked, again, to see how low -- I think he got lower -- seemed like he got lower every day. 64 the last round?

Q. (No microphone.)
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, you would think this would be a good one for him. But you would also think this would not be a good one for me. Today Zach or somebody said, "I wonder why Phil quit playing here." And the way he slashes it around and the way he hits it, it's not a good course for him (laughter). Maybe you can figure it out. Somebody said that about Tiger about a couple of other courses on Tour. And I said, any course Tiger wants to play is a good course for him. Any course Phil wants to play is a good course for him.
Phil thinks his way around the golf course. This would be perfect for him, because you have to think your way around the golf course. Tiger would hit 3-iron off this hole and 3-wood off that hole and 2-iron off that hole and, shoot, he could leave the driver like he did, where was that, St. Georges, he could leave the driver at home this week, and get a 64 degree wedge. This would be a great place, I think, for him to come around and punch that 2-iron around.
But, no, you would think Brian's game would do well here, but it seems like the guys that win big tournaments have done well here because it is more of a thinking, strategy style golf and a patient style golf.
JOHN BUSH: Thanks for coming by.

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