Best Season This Year How About Davis

By George WhiteAugust 11, 2003, 4:00 pm
The names roll off the tongue in a tumble whos had the best season this year? Lets see, you always start with Tiger Woods. Theres Ernie Els how about Mike Weir? Since the U.S. Open, theres been considerable sentiment for Jim Furyk.
Davis Love III? Oh yeah him.
Ahem Love now has joined Woods as the only four-time winners on the PGA Tour. Maybe hes frequently overlooked because hes been around so long, always hanging near the top but never quite getting over that hump. Maybe its because hes just months shy of his 40th birthday now, and all our heroes are considerably younger. Maybe if he were just a little more loud, just a little more charismatic, just a little more unforgettable. Hey - when he isnt playing, you hardly ever remember he isnt around.
Love just finished annihilating the field at The International, rolling up 46 points in the modified Stableford scoring system and breezing to a 12-point victory. Hes won in the winter ' Pebble Beach; hes won in the spring ' The Players Championship and the MCI Heritage; and hes won in the summer ' The International. Hes spread championships liberally to all fields this year, throwing in a tie for fourth at the British Open the last time prior to the W outside Denver.
Of all the golfers, though, no one has been more star-crossed than Davis. Born the son of one of Americas more famed golf instructors, he went to college at North Carolina ' where he just happened to teach a fellow name Michael Jordan the finer points of the game.
But when he turned professional, dark things started happening. He fractured a bone in his wrist. Then his back went haywire. Next to go was his neck. His father was killed in a plane crash. This year, his brother-in-law committed suicide, a man who absconded with millions from the Love family.
And what happened? Through it all, through the good and bad, Love just kept on going. In some years he won by the bunch ' 1992 was a particularly good year when he took home three trophies. Some years ' 1999, 2000, 2001 ' his injuries wouldnt let him get through to a victory.
But after winning only once the past four years, he has burst through to this, the greatest season of his career. At 39, he is leading the charge of the vet brigade.
I have been steadily getting better, he said. I think now - I think I am playing, swinging, putting as well as I have ever putted. Hitting it as good as I ever been hitting it. I am just confident playing.
He passed Tiger en route to the money lead Sunday. He made $810,000 after one win, $900,000 after two others, and more than a million - $1,170,000 at The Players. Hes seen more than $5 million pour into his piggy bank this year alone.
Loves father taught him how to hit the ball long and Davis takes advantage of every one of his 6-foot 3-inches. But that might not be where the real difference has been this season. Its been on the greens, where a 4-foot-10 inch woman can be just as effective as any skyscraper launcher. Love is No. 8 on the putting charts today, and that ranking is sure to get you some wins when combined with the power that Davis obviously has.
After the PGA Championship last year - a year in which he failed to scratch up a single victory - Love went to see putting guru Scotty Cameron. He had finished 26th on tour in putting, but he wasnt satisfied. If he were better, he reasoned, it might tip the scales just enough to give him a win or two.
Cameron didnt have a lot of complicated theory. He gave Love a little plastic insert, shaped like a cube, for Davis putter. Use it while youre practicing, said Cameron, and you cant help but improve.
Love did as he was told. The result has been this year, when he has risen to become one of the best putters in the business. Davis expected a lot of top-level strategy. But Cameron didnt have any ' just the putter gadget.
He said, You can putt with any putter you want to putt with, but just use this thing, said Love. Sure enough I started using it at the NEC, and immediately started putting better.
And my confidence grew and the more I used that thing and the more I work on my stroke - he kind of gave me a way to fix it without thinking about it. He gave me basically a drill to do to fix my stroke, and then obviously while I was doing it he made me a putter and I have been putting great with that putter ever since.
Hes learned a few secrets of putting. And hes learned how to swing within himself so there are no more injuries. Hes learned the right playing schedule. And hes learned how to keep a 39-year-old body humming in unison with a big, sweeping swing.
Love was among the most startled of observers when Tiger began his systematic dismantling of the PGA Tour four years ago. That occurrence, combined with his injuries, was what caused his victory total to drop the past four years.
I was dumfounded by what Tiger was doing I got frustrated watching him and I think I tried too hard, he said.
But now, Im not worrying about whether hes making them or not because Im making them, too. I appreciate what hes doing, but Im playing with more confidence, too.
Tiger, undoubtedly, noticed what happened last week. Davis Love isnt on equal footing yet. But he certainly has gotten a whole lot closer.
Related LInks:
  • Bio: Davis Love III
  • What's in the Bag: Davis Love III
  • More on Davis Love III
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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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    Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

    The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

    Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

    McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

    McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

    Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

    “When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

    And that was an offseason event.

    “They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

    As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

    So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

    “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

    Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

    His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

    It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

    There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

    There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

    While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

    There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

    Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

    Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

    He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

    Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)