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May 7, 2013

Davis Love III


JOEL SCHUCHMANN:  Two‑time winner Davis Love III, thank you for joining us here at the 2013 PLAYERS Championship.  You're playing in your 28th consecutive PLAYERS Championship this week, quite a streak you've got going here, and we're happy you were able to continue it after having surgery in February after the Waste Management Phoenix Open.  So if you could start with some opening comments about coming back to play and coming back to play at THE PLAYERS Championship.
DAVIS LOVE III:  Oh, yeah, first of all, I'm excited to be at least playing practice rounds.  My teacher, Jack Lumpkin today said you're swinging so hard on the first couple holes and I said, I'm excited.  I'm excited to be on the golf course.  So I'm excited to be here, and excited to continue that streak.  You know, this is ‑‑ obviously it was a big point in the schedule that I didn't want to miss.  I obviously wanted to play before this, but I'm glad to be back on the golf course, and Lord willing, I continue this streak of feeling well for the rest of the week I'll be teeing it up Thursday for the first time in a long time.  So I'll be resting, but it will be fun.

Q.  As a guy that's won this twice, what's it take to win on this golf course?
DAVIS LOVE III:  We were just talking about that.  You have to be very patient.  You obviously have to hit the ball well.  It's a demanding golf course, especially now off the tee, it's gotten longer.  I played Sunday afternoon on the back nine all by myself.  I was walking back from some of those tees, and hardly any ropes and no fans, and it just looked so different.  It was just amazing to me.  Like 11 and 12 and 14, just with that 10 yards or 15 yards they've been able to add, the difference it's made.
But it's a demanding driving course.  You have to be very patient.  You have to hit it in the middle of the greens, get it on the green, not leave yourself, not short‑side yourself.  When you hit it in the rough, you have to take your lumps and don't do anything silly, because a flier around here can get you a double or a triple really quick.  So you just have to play it really patient.  It is a major championship‑style golf course that if you don't think your way around and you don't play real well, you don't have much chance, and I think that's why you see a lot of big names that have won majors or played well in big tournaments seem to do well here.

Q.  Can you speak about how you have to play this course the way Pete Dye designed it, and some of the names lately like Tiger and Rory haven't played well here, and is there a reason for that?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Well, I don't know different individuals.  But the reason why most of us don't play well on this golf course is you drive yourself in trouble and you short‑side yourself, as I said, on the greens and you're putting for par a whole bunch.  If you're putting for par a whole bunch at a U.S. Open or the PGA Championship or THE PLAYERS, it doesn't matter, you've got to put yourself in the fairway and on the green.
I think the way I've seen Tiger driving the ball lately, the shots he's been hitting off the tee, he's going to be competitive no matter what the golf course.  Same thing for Rory; when Rory is driving it in the fairway, he's as dangerous as anybody.  So for me or whoever, if you put it in play, the greens are so good now, but you can't be‑‑ again, you can't be putting for par, you need to be putting for birdies, middle of the greens, playing real patient.  Then anybody that's hitting the ball real well will have a chance around here.

Q.  Can you talk about the recovery process after surgery?  Was there ever a point where, I don't want to say fear, but there was a concern about could I be able to do what I did before?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Fear the last two or three years of knowing that I needed surgery and not wanting to do it.  Stricker and I have joked back and forth a little bit, well, you do it.  No, you do it.  Somebody's got to go first.  Really, what gave me the most confidence was watching Peyton Manning go through it from, as a fan, he had the problem, he knew it was getting bad and he had the surgery and he came back and played very, very well.
So my doctor and I have been talking about this since probably 2000.  What is the right strategy, and he said the strategy in 2000 was you're too young and we don't want to go messing with it right now.  When you get to the point where you can't take it anymore and you feel like it's really hurting your game, we'll fix it.  That was probably a couple years ago, but, again, being chicken‑‑ it was hard.  I tell you what, Robin, my wife, and I drove up there to Atlanta on a Thursday night and that was the longest five‑hour drive I've ever had.  You know, you're driving to‑‑ he said there's a 95% chance that you're going to get better, and there is a 5% chance that it won't get better or it will get worse.  So you've always got to look at those odds.
But I was at the point in Phoenix where I was very frustrated mentally.  I knew physically I couldn't do it, but I wanted to play Phoenix because I wanted to play Pebble, because I wanted to, you know, get into the Colonial and the Memorial and the U.S. Open.  I was just grinding away, and there was no reason to be doing it.  So finally I called my doctor, I think it was Thursday afternoon or Thursday night after getting an injection, and I said I'm just beating my head against the wall, aren't I?  And he said, yes, you are.  You're going to have that surgery.  You can have it now, you can have it in the summer or you can have it in the fall, but you're going to have it this year.
So I just went ahead and I did it.  I literally woke up after surgery and I knew I was fine.  I felt so much better.  The pain was gone.  The tingling was almost gone in my fingers, and since then all it's been is trying to get my arm strength back, and that's been a longer process than I'd like, but my therapists think I'm ahead of schedule, so I'm excited.
It's going to take a lot of work.  Robin asked me when are you going to be done with therapy, and I said probably by the end of the year.  I'm going to have to keep working on getting my strength back and keeping it back, and managing fitness.  Now it's just fitness.  I'm not hurt anymore.  My spine is fine.  I just need to get strong enough to play golf day‑in and day‑out.  I can play four or five or six days in a row now.  I need to get to where I can play two qualifying rounds, Colonial, Memorial, and two more qualifying rounds.  So I need to be ready for stuff like that.  I've been able to do it the last few years, but not as well as I'd like, so I'm really close.

Q.  Can you say, Davis, using as few medical terms as possible, exactly what they did?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I have a two‑level disk fusion.  Simple as I can make it.

Q.  What exactly do they do when they go in there?
DAVIS LOVE III:  What it was is I had like Freddy's low back or a lot of our backs, disks were compressed, pinching nerves, had bone spurs.  I just had a complete mess of spinal stenosis.  I can get real technical, closing of the foramen, this nerve was almost pinched off.  It's a good word, I can't spell it.  But the iPhone can.  If I text it to you, I'll get it right.
Basically, this nerve was pinched off on the left.  It was starting to get pinched on the right, and I had lost strength and feeling in my hands.

Q.  Along with the loss of strength, that must have been a mess‑‑ you must have picked up some serious bad habits for compensation?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Yes.  The last four or five years Jack Lumpkin has been trying to get me to quit getting across the line, and I can do it when he's standing there and sends me out to play.  And two weeks later, I'm back across the line.  I thought I wasn't a very good student, wasn't working hard enough, or just bad habits.  We didn't realize that my strength in the left was going away and my right was doing all the work.
I started getting tendinitis in my right elbow middle of last summer, and I was just making up for it hitting it with the right.  So when I played well, I timed it right.  When I played bad, I was flipping it, hooking it, and just the consistency wasn't there, the power wasn't there.  Guys that normally I outdrove are outdriving me all of a sudden, not to name any names.
But I could tell that something was wrong at the start of the year.  It had been wishy‑washy before, but it was really bad at the start of the year.  It was actually a little bit nerve‑racking that it was that bad.  But now I'm going the other way.  Every week I get a little bit stronger, I hit the ball a little bit better, my distance is back.  My club head speed is probably not what I want, but it's back to end of last summer's speed, so I'm getting there.

Q.  I was going to ask when you started hitting balls again and that kind of progression.  And what, if anything, are you most worried about this week?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I'm worried about being too excited and swinging too hard and not being patient, all the things I said I need to do to play well this week.  I'm worried about that because I'm rusty.
I putted the day I got home from surgery with Tucker Anderson.  We've been putting every day, chipping and putting a lot the first month.  Then I started hitting wedges one arm only.  My practicing and my ball hitting was more to build strength because I knew if I'm not going to play for two or three months, I don't really need to work on my swing.  But I was hitting full shots at eight weeks.  I've been playing 18 holes for a month, hitting enough balls, 100 or 200 balls in a day for the last three or four weeks.  So physically I'm there.  The doctor wanted me to hit a few more than I was hitting early, but I knew when I got to the top of my backswing I could tell my arm wasn't strong enough.  And I said I don't need to build any more bad habits, so I did mostly chipping and putting, wedge work.  Putting was the big thing.

Q.  Does it help that you don't have to kill it on this course off the tee?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Well, you have to hit some good drives.  I mean, it helps on 2, it helps on 11 to kill it.  But, yeah, I really wanted to play Hilton Head.  I felt like what a great place to come back.  A place that I played so well, and it's not a big driving, bombing golf course.  But this is another good one.  Obviously, Colonial would be another good one.  I better be strong when I get to Memorial, hit a lot of big drives there.
But there are a lot of holes that a big drive will help you here, but you don't have to.  I could hit a lot of 3‑woods around this course and do very well.  It helps.  It helps to know and be comfortable.  This is my 28th time, so I know what to do around the course and where I have to hit it on certain holes.  If you're hitting a 6‑iron in as opposed to a 7, it's not going to hurt you because you're not going to shoot at a whole lot of pins anyway.

Q.  Have you ever had a situation where a TV viewer called in a possible rules violation on you, and what is your take on that whole phenomenon when that happens?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I don't think I have.  I've been to the trailer a few times to review something, but I don't think it was on a call‑in.  I think the way the USGA is going with it is in the right direction.  That rule they put in a couple years ago to cover somebody, and then there is talk of them either changing the way we do our scorecards and then having it not be our responsibility or not be a disqualification.  Taking disqualification out and making it a two‑shot penalty no matter what.  They're looking in the right direction, because the world has changed, you know.  It used to be they shoot three holes at the end of the tournament and you could barely see the golfers in black and white, and now you see every little thing that happens, and they cover some guys and they don't cover others.  It's tough.  It's tough.
But I think if a rule is broken, no matter how you find out about it, it's good for the game.  It's protecting the field.

Q.  For someone who has played this course so many times, when you look at 17, is it still a challenge for you or does it seem easier to approach every time or is it still as hard as the last time?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I was playing by myself with no fans on Sunday, and I got up there and the wind wasn't blowing and I was still nervous, so that doesn't really ever change.  It's an intimidating hole.  It's become a little better, but if you get down to the last couple holes in the tournament, you've got a chance to win.  Come that kind of hole, it's still scary, yeah.  It's nerve‑racking.  I think it makes this tournament become iconic.
I just saw in the locker room, talking about Freddy walking up 16 and not looking at 17, and me walking up 16 and not looking at 17.  That is the kind of hole it is.  You don't even want to look at it.  Just block it out until you get there.
If the wind's not blowing and it's Thursday, it's okay.  It's hard, but Sunday and the wind is blowing and you need a par or birdie to win, it's probably one of the most intimidating shots in golf.

Q.  You've been out for an extended period of time now; what do you miss most?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I miss my friends is the main thing.  Today has been the most enjoyable part of it, just coming back and seeing everybody and talking.  What a great week to come back.  You know, everybody's here.  But I miss playing.  I miss, as Freddy says, the four hours inside the ropes are what we live for.  I miss competing and then I miss seeing all my friends out here, so this will be a fun week to catch back up with everybody.
Got to play with Justin and Jim Furyk.  It's just nice to be back to see everybody.

Q.  There may be a decision from the USGA and R&A on the anchoring pretty soon.  What do you think is going to happen and what do you think will be the fallout, if any, if the TOUR goes ahead and allows anchoring while the governing bodies have banned it?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Well, I don't think anybody knows what's going to happen with either one of them if the USGA will go ahead and do it.
I certainly don't think, from my years on the board, that Tim wants to do anything that's not in line with what the governing bodies want to do.  He doesn't want to do that, doesn't want to rock the boat, I don't think.  But I don't know where it will all fall out.  The USGA is in a tough situation.  They're probably right, but they should have done it a long time ago, and it's hard to go back.
As I've said in board meetings and to the USGA, it's unfortunate that it's a distraction, whether it's the right thing or the wrong thing to do.  It takes away from a great playoff last week and the tournament this week.  People are talking about it.  But if they do go change that, then I heard Greg Norman make a couple comments that there are a lot of other things they could go back and change that have slipped by them as well.  Maybe the jump face technology, they could change that rule, too, if you're willing to go back and change rules that slipped by you a long time ago.
I think they're working in the best interest of the game, and I think it will all work out this the end because you have a bunch‑‑ Tim's obviously been a great leader and has certainly worked through all these kind of issues.  I think it will work out in the end, even though my brother says he's putting with his long putter no matter what they do.

Q.  28 years in this tournament speaks to ability, for sure, but also the ability to stay relatively injury‑free for that long.  Is that something that gets taken for granted do you think amongst golfers, the ability to compete that long without significant injury?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Well, I wish I had.  I missed four months with an ankle, and two months this time last year with a rib injury and now this.  I feel like I've been missing a bunch lately.  But, yeah, it's hard to stay competitive for that long.  Especially, if I started back over again, I tell you in 2013 there is no way I'd make 28 in a row.  It's too competitive now.
One, that means you're old; and two, it means you've stayed pretty competitive.  I'm hoping that after this and the hard work I've put in, it's just going to get better for a while.

Q.  Going back to 17, the way they've built the stands and how obviously everything has grown throughout that particular green, is it harder now to get a gauge on the winds?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I think it is.  I think it's become a dome, a football stadium with the roof open.  You just don't know which way it's going to blow.  It's tricky.  It's like 11, 12 at Augusta; you get down into that 16, 17, and you don't really know what it's doing.  That's why there is a lot of standing around that tee and throwing grass up, because all it takes is one little gust that you didn't know about and you're in the water.  Like Squeaky used to tell Nick Price, just give them the number to the top level and that's it, forget that there's a pin on the green.  We're just going to hit it in the middle of the green try to land it on the top and on the ridge, and it's going to come up a yard or two short and hit the hill or come up a yard or two long and be okay and try to two‑putt.  I think the wind is what makes the hole.  If that lake is dead flat, there is not a ripple on it, there is not going to be a whole lot of balls in the water.  But as soon as you see ripples on the water, that's when it starts getting a guessing game and uncertainty, and the balls start going in the water.

Q.  Do you have a favorite hole out here and maybe a hole that gives you more trouble than most?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Well, 17 gives me more trouble than most.  I've done fairly well there.  But everybody's had their issues.  Well, if you play it 27 times, you're going to have some issues on that hole.  I don't know.  The hole that's been‑‑ I guess 16 has probably been the best, and 17 the worst to me.  I've made a bunch of eagles and birdies at 16 and a couple of times it's been really important to pad a lead going into 17.  So I think 16, 17 would be my picks.

Q.  When Tim made the announcement in February that the TOUR was opposed to a ban on anchoring, is he obligated to reflect the will of the players?  Apparently he got enough input from the board and the PAC to make that statement.  Is he kind of bound to do what the players want him to do?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Well, he's bound to do what's in the best interest of the PGA TOUR long‑term.  As one of our player directors said one time when we were working on this new qualifying system, he goes, you know, I don't really think I understand it or like it, but everything Tim's done since I've been out here on TOUR has turned out pretty good.  So I'm going to go with it.  So I'm kind of in that boat on this.
Tim probably has a personal opinion and the board has an opinion on long putters.  We've got some really good golfers, long‑time, big club members, golf guys on our board, they all have an opinion.  But, yes, Tim's going to do what's in the best interest of the PGA TOUR players, and it may not be a vote where 47 are for the ban and 47 are against it.  We're not going to get to that point.  But he's going to do what's best for the PGA TOUR long‑term and best for the game.  That is his job and he's always done that.
He's going to take some heat from one side or the other, whichever way he and the board and the staff and the player‑‑ I was on a PAC call Tuesday listening to them getting information on how everybody feels about it.
His job is to grow this business, and he's done very, very well at it, and then be an ambassador, mediator between all the other organizations.  It's unfortunate that 200 players on the PGA TOUR influence the whole world, you know?  And he's got to balance that.  Whatever we decide to do is what people think is right, whether it's right or wrong.
The USGA is in a tough situation, and they've put us in a tough situation.  It's hard to tell Keegan Bradley who has grown up watching guys playing with long putters that you can't have it anymore.  It's a tough situation.

Q.  How much have you tinkered with the belly putter or long putter?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I've tinkered with it a fair amount.  I've putted belly a few times on TOUR.  I putted with one end of last year that was longer but not anchored.  So I've messed around with it a little bit.  It didn't help me, so I always said it's not an advantage or we'd all be doing it.  But Buddy Marucci told me there is a bunch of people that think it's an advantage and they putt well with it so it must be an advantage, and I thought that's a very good point.  Somebody thinks it's an advantage or they wouldn't be doing it.
I don't know.  I'm glad that I'm off the board, let's put it that way, because it's a tough situation.  You had a guy win the Masters and the guy that got the second most attention at the Masters putting with long putters.  I think it's going to hurt the amateurs more than it will hurt us.  Keegan Bradley, give him a short putter, he's going to learn how to putt.  We're still going to be really, really good.  Back the ball up 10%, and we'll figure out how to hit it 10% farther some other way.  It's not going to affect the game out here, it's just going to affect all of golf.  And what is in the best interest of golf is what the USGA will do and what Tim will do.

Q.  What did you think of Adam winning the Masters?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I was thrilled for him, because I've always been an Adam Scott fan as my daughter was an Adam Scott fan.  One time, and this is not part of the story, I was hitting balls on the far end of the range with Butch.  And I see this cart coming, the shuttle cart, And it's got three girls with hair bopping down the‑‑ I thought, what in the world was that?  It was my daughter, who doesn't play‑‑ 15 years old, doesn't play golf, and her two friends.  They're coming to watch me hit balls.  Guess who was hitting balls right beside me?  Adam Scott.  So we've all been Adam Scott fans for a long time.
I was happy for him.  I was listening to it on the radio, driving to Myrtle Beach the Monday after the Masters and then the range to watch the playoffs, I was excited for him.  He's always been great to me and I've always enjoyed being around him.  It was a great win for golf, I think.

Q.  Do you sense a move to roll back the ball?
DAVIS LOVE III:  I keep hearing about it.  They can fix the ball.  They can fix the jump face, which takes care of‑‑ the ball is not really the problem.  It's the combination of everything.  But if there was no jump in the driver, if there was no coefficient of restitution, then it would slow the ball down, and that would help.
Again, 200 guys out here on the PGA TOUR and on the Web.com or whatever, Champions Tour, 40 guys, the rest of the world the game is still too hard, you know?  So if you take their long putter away and you take their golf ball and their driver away, they're going to go do something else.
We need to grow the game.  I hear from the USGA we want to grow the game.  We want to protect it at the same time.  They're in a dilemma.
They haven't said anything yet.  They've been talking about this for a long time and they're still working on what they should do.  I just don't think that we need to change the game.  We've built, including me, built a whole bunch of long golf courses.  You roll the ball back and you're going to have to start digging up some tees.

Q.  Just some perspective.  When you first came out 28 or so years ago, how far were you hitting it with the equipment then and before you were injured, how far were you hitting it with the more modern equipment?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Well, the difference is, and I said this to Jack Nicklaus sitting around Memorial I think last year or the year before, is that Jack or myself or Scott Verplank, we figured out how to make the ball go a long way with the wooden stuff, but not everybody could do it.
We hit it, we carried it farther and we rolled it farther, so we weren't hitting that Lanny Wadkins riser or Bobby Jones rising ball.  We were hitting it flatter and making it run.  But when I got the new technology, I could fly the ball a lot farther.  I think I carried it a lot farther than I did when I first came out.  I don't get as much roll as I did back then.  Firm fairways I'm extremely long, and softer fairways there are guys that hit it 25, 30, 40 yards behind me because they're flying it farther than me.
I think the biggest difference is the combination of the launch and the spin, but now, everybody can figure it out real quick because you've got a launch monitor and all this technology and adjustable driver.  So every kid gets dialed in perfectly and starts swinging for the fence and everybody can hit it a long way is the biggest difference.  But I think my biggest difference is carry.  I carry it 20 yards farther than when I came out.
I'll never forget in Vegas, my brother, when he got the professional ball and the metal driver and it was 284 over some bunker.  And he goes, what are you talking about?  Just hit it over it.  When I had the wooden driver and the 384 LT, I would have been going way to the right of it, because I knew I couldn't carry it 284.  That is the difference.  You can fly the ball so much farther now.

Q.  Can you just talk about how important placement and precision is around this golf course, not necessarily length?
DAVIS LOVE III:  Yeah, when you're precise, like I watched Justin Leonard drive the ball today, and I was like, man, perfect for this golf course, aims it down the right on one hole and turns it.  Then he aims it in the middle and cuts it on the next one.  If you can drive it precise in the fairway, you're one at an advantage, and then if you can hit it just in the middle of the greens or the right section of the greens and be patient, you're ahead of the field.  I think that's what it takes on a Pete Dye course.  Don't look at all the stuff he built that doesn't really affect you.  Pick a target, hit it in the fairway, and pick a target.  Don't look at all the mounds and stuff that's up there, ten yards on, front right is perfect.  Just hit it at the NBC tower.  Don't worry about where the pin is.  If you can not look at the water and pot bunkers and just hit the targets, you'll do well.  Pete's really, really good at distractions.
You go from Hilton Head, which was about this high, has so much movement and stuff going on every green and fairway, and he just got more and more creative and dastardly and it just got higher and higher and deeper and sharper, because he's trying to‑‑ help me, Julius.  Herb Kohler's ‑‑ Whistling Straits.  There is so much going on outside of the fairway, but if you just look at the fairway and look at the green and hit it on the green, all that other stuff is just to distract you and be pretty and it intimidates.  I think that's his trick.  You've got to be specific targets and patient.

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