Love at a Career Crossroads

By Associated PressDecember 8, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Target World ChallengeTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Davis Love III looked as if he was hitting his stride.
He finished his best season on the PGA Tour last year by winning the Target World Challenge, holding off a late charge by tournament host Tiger Woods and heading into the short offseason with high hopes.
He had matched his career best with four PGA Tour victories, including his second title at The Players Championship. He earned more than $6 million for the first time in his career. He was No. 4 in the world ranking, and his name often was included when the conversation turned to golf's elite players.
But when he arrived at Sherwood Country Club on Wednesday as the defending champion, Love found himself without a victory for the fourth time in the last six years.
At 40 and hampered by neck problems, he is at the intersection of a good career and a great one.
'I'm in the top 10 in the world, but competitively I haven't belonged there the last couple of months,' Love said. 'I've been consistent my whole career, and I'd like this to last as long as I can.'
The consistency is evident by the fact he finished 10th on the PGA Tour money list with just over $3 million, the only player in the top 10 who did not win this year.
Love came close in the spring. He reached the finals of the Match Play Championship and outplayed Woods, but simply couldn't make enough putts before losing on the 34th hole. Two weeks later, he was poised to win the Honda Classic until Todd Hamilton - an unknown at the time - birdied the last two holes to beat him.
Love never had a good chance the rest of the year. He ended his official season by missing two cuts and withdrawing from the Tour Championship with his recurring neck injury, the result of playing too much in a desperate attempt to hoist a trophy.
'You would think after 20 years of playing competitive golf, you'd figure out when enough is enough,' Love said. 'But this is the first year I really got to the point where physically I wasn't ready to play, mentally I wasn't ready to play, and I was frustrated. Rather than getting away from it, I kept pushing harder and harder.'
He now plans to do regular maintenance on his swing, limiting the balls he pounds on the range. Off the course, he knows he needs to learn to relax, cutting back on the time he spends on his tractor or hunting.
The Target World Challenge, an unofficial tournament with a 16-man field, will be Love's first event since Nov. 4. Not surprisingly, he sees the tournament differently this time.
'I'm looking at it as the start of next year, rather than the finish,' he said.
Love has some concrete goals in mind. With 18 career victories, he needs two more to earn a lifetime exemption on the PGA Tour. Only Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson among his peers have won 20 times on tour.
Love, whose only victory in a major came at the 1997 PGA Championship, also is starting to consider how he will be remembered. Right now, he's not sure.
'I'm a couple of majors away from whatever ... maybe the Hall of Fame,' he said. 'I have a chance to have a great career. Right now, it's just a really, really nice career. You want to be remembered as one of the best of your generation. One major is not enough. Two TPCs is great, but I'd like to have three or four.'
He wouldn't mind getting started this week, even though the Target World Challenge doesn't count.
The field includes Singh in his first appearance since being named PGA Tour player of the year. Singh flew in from New York and headed straight to the practice range to hit balls in the cold rain.
The tournament might be an interesting barometer of Woods' game. He won his first stroke-play title of the season last month in Japan, winning by eight shots. Woods knows the Dunlop Phoenix will never be mistaken for a PGA Tour event, although he said he played well enough to win anywhere that week.
And he made it sound like his swing changes have finally set in.
Others in the field include Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jimenez from Europe's winning Ryder Cup team, along with Jim Furyk and 51-year-old Jay Haas, both of whom arrived from South Africa.
It is a casual week, although it becomes quite serious for those in contention for the $1.25 million winner's check.
Money isn't an issue for Love. Winning is.
He agrees that his name no long belongs in the same sentence as Singh, Woods, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Mickelson. But he knows how to fix that.
'If you're winning, you put yourself up there,' Love said.
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    Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

    Tiger Woods started at even par in Round 2 of the Honda Classic. Friday began with a bogey at the par-4 second, but Woods got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:

    Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.

    At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National.

    Getty Images

    Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

    Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

    It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    “I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

    After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

    Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

    “It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

    Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

    Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

    Getty Images

    Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

    In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

    Made Cut

    Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

    U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

    Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

    “What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

    Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

    #MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

    Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

    Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

    Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

    “I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

    The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

    During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

    “Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

    The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

    Stay tuned.

    Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

    The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

    On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

    That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.

    Missed Cut

    West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

    J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

    Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

    But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

    Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

    It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.