Love Does It With 39-Year-Old Body Mind

By George WhiteApril 22, 2003, 4:00 pm
Lets see, he broke a bone in his left wrist in 1989. Then he had a painful back problem, a pinched nerve, numbness in the fingers. Dont forget the neck ' yeah, that was dicey, too, causing more numbness in the arm and fingers.
But lets concede this ' Davis Loves been playing for 18 years now, and when hes been healthy, hes been a pretty good player. He went from being a bomber who was as long as anybody on the tour, to an outstanding iron player, to the fourth best putter in this, the 18th year out here.
And ' hes starting to win again. The PGA Tour is beginning to look like a four-man race ' multiple winners Tiger Woods, Mike Weir, Love and Ernie Els returning the spotlight to the older set again. Loves Sunday win at The MCI Heritage was No. 3 this year, and theyre starting to come in routine fashion. One thing Woods often does is win when he doesnt necessarily have his best stuff, and for Love on Sunday, how true that was.
We dont know how much he would have won if the injuries hadnt taken their toll on his skeleton. We dont know what he would have done if golf was his sole focus, instead of his wife and two children and his fishing and hunting. He has 17 wins, certainly nothing to pooh-pooh, but his spotty record in playoffs alone suggests that it could have been more. Before his win Sunday, Davis had been in eight playoffs and lost ' seven? If he could just have won half of them, he would have 20 wins already.
He has finished runner-up 23 times ' suppose he had won five of those 23? And he is up to ' what - 25 wins?
Suppose, suppose he is what he is what he is, and what he is is a guy with 17 wins. Maybe its because he is guilty of a lot of wrong club selections, as of his peers say. Maybe it is because hes not mean enough, which some people have ventured. Maybe its because he tries too often to finesse shots rather than just clubbing it. And then, maybe he just hasnt been as good as people have thought. Maybe 17 wins is right where he is supposed to be.
And maybe ' just maybe ' he is now entering a span where he is about to play the best golf of his life at age 39. Maybe he wont be the best driver, the best iron player, the best short-game player ' but he will become the best player that he has ever been. Hey, when you travel in the circles of Tiger Woods and Ernie ' yes, even Mike Weir ' youre doing something right!
I was grinding so hard trying to win, he said last year. And why? Well, because of Tigers meteoric emergence in the late 90s. That, plus his physical ailments, combined to leave him winless for the better part of three years.
I was dumfounded by what Tiger was doing, he said with all honesty. I got frustrated watching him and I think I tried too hard.
But now, Im not worrying about whether hes making them because Im making them, too. I appreciate what hes doing, but now Im playing with a little more confidence than I was.
Confidence was the only difference between Love and Woody Austin in the playoff Sunday. Not since 1985 had Austin actually won. Love had already won twice this year alone, including the Players Championship three weeks ago. This business of being in a playoff wasnt nearly as outlandish to him as it was to Woody. Woody thought about what a win would mean to him. Love thought about it, too, but more than anything, he was just there to play.
Love thought about what a pleasant Sunday it was, and how fortunate to be one of only two players left going into extra holes. If he won ' great! If he didnt ' well, he had won twice this year already. There unquestionably will be others ' this year there will be others. If he didnt win today, then he will win tomorrow.
Woody Austin was, in short, Davis Love of two years ago when Love was always hearing those footsteps of Tiger. But Sunday, Davis WAS Tiger, and Woody was Woody. Woody should have won, but didnt. Love should have lost, but didnt. Dont so many of Woods wins turn out that way?
You know, I hung in there all week, said Davis, half-apologetically. I hit a lot of funny shots and uncharacteristic shots for me in this tournament and I got away with it. And you never know, you never Ernie to finish like he did and never expected Hal Sutton.
But once he got into the playoff, it kept feeling like I was going to win. But I just never could hit a good shot to pull it off. I knew he was feeling a lot more nervous than I was. I was just as excited and trying to hit a good one and I kept trying to be too precise and too smooth and too relaxed.
Finally, I just said, Im going to hit it at the hole and quit screwing around. And I finally hit a good one.
Thats what being there does for you. He said he probably couldnt have done it if he hadnt already won at Pebble Beach and the Players. It would have been harder, for sure, to grind it out, he said with all honesty.
It looks like a different Davis Love, though. Tiger is still Tiger and he is going to win more than anyone. But in the next echelon, maybe it will be Davis for a couple of years. If he has his best game working, only Tiger can beat him. If he has only his average gamed working and that 39-year-old head on his shoulders, now hell win almost every time.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the MCI Heritage
  • Davis Love III Bio
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    Stenson leads strong cast of Bay Hill contenders

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 11:38 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Henrik Stenson has a tortured history here at Bay Hill, a collection of close calls that have tested his mettle and certainly his patience.

    Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational won’t get any easier. Not with a course that is already firm and fast and fiery, just the way the King would have wanted it. And not with 13 players within five shots of the lead, a group that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and, yes, even Tiger Woods.

    Without his best stuff Saturday, Stenson still managed to edge ahead of Bryson DeChambeau to take a one-shot lead heading into the final round. It’s familiar territory for the Swede, who posted four consecutive top-10s here from 2013-16, including a few agonizing near-misses.

    Three years ago, Stenson appeared on his way to victory when he was put on the clock on the 15th hole. Rattled, he three-putted the next two holes and lost by a stroke. The following year, he was tied for the lead with three holes to play, then hit it in the water on 16 and bogeyed two of the last three holes.

    “It wouldn’t be the only tournament where you feel like you’ve got some unfinished business,” Stenson said, “but I’ve been up in the mix a few times and we’re here again, so of course I would like to see a different outcome.”

    What will be interesting Sunday is whether history repeats itself.

    Neither Stenson nor DeChambeau is quick-paced, with DeChambeau even acknowledging that he’s one of the game’s most methodical players, stepping off pitch shots and checking (and re-checking) his reads on the green. With so much at stake, it’s not a stretch to imagine both players grinding to a halt on a course that got “crusty” in the late-afternoon sun.

    “We’ve got a lot of guys behind me,” DeChambeau said, “so I’ve got to go deep tomorrow.”

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    The 24-year-old earned his breakthrough victory last July at the John Deere Classic, but that was one hot week as he tried to play his way out of a slump.

    Even this week’s performance was unexpected, after he withdrew from the Valspar Championship because of a balky back.

    Last weekend he underwent an MRI (clean), didn’t touch a club for three days and showed up here cautiously optimistic. His ball-striking hasn’t suffered at all – in fact, he’s ranked fifth in strokes gained-tee to green – and now he’s relishing the chance to take on some of the game’s biggest names.

    “Whatever happens,” he said, “it’s going to be a great learning experience.”

    Of the 13 players within five shots of the lead, 10 are Tour winners. That includes McIlroy, whose putter has finally come alive, and Rose, who shot a third-round 67 to move within three shots, and Fowler, whose game is finally rounding into form, and also Woods, who has won a record eight times at Bay Hill. 

    Even if he doesn’t pick up a pre-Masters victory – he’s five shots back, the same deficit he erased here in 2009 – Woods has showed flashes of his old self at one of his favorite playgrounds, whether it’s the blistered 2-irons off the tee, the daring approach shots or the drained 40-footers.

    “I’ve got a chance,” he said.

    And so do the rest of the major champions and PGA Tour winners assembled near the top of the leaderboard.

    It should be a wild final round at Arnie’s Place – even if Stenson, for once, is hoping for a drama-free Sunday.

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    DeChambeau uses big words to describe back injury

    By Will GrayMarch 17, 2018, 11:24 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Bryson DeChambeau needed just 30 seconds of explaining the state of his lower back to send the media center at the Arnold Palmer Invitational spinning.

    DeChambeau shot an even-par 72 in the third round at Bay Hill, and he will start the final round one shot behind Henrik Stenson as he looks to win for the second time in his young PGA Tour career. DeChambeau’s strong play this week comes in the wake of his decision to withdraw from last week’s Valspar Championship because of a bad back.

    DeChambeau is no stranger to new vocabulary words or adopting a scientific take on matters, and it was when he delved into the details of his injury that things got interesting.

    “It was because my quadratus lumborum wasn’t working. My iliacus, longissimus thoracis, they were all kind of over-working if you want to get technical on that,” DeChambeau said. “But they weren’t working very well, and I overworked them. Pretty much my lower right back was hurting and I rested it. How about that?”

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    DeChambeau tied for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last month, but he has struggled to find results in the weeks since. One of the keys to a quick recovery between Innisbrook and Bay Hill was some time on the couch this past weekend and a binge session of The Walking Dead on Netflix.

    “I literally didn’t do anything, and that’s really the first time I’ve done that in my entire life. I’ve never actually taken three days off where I didn’t touch a club,” DeChambeau said. “So that was unique for me and actually took me some time to acclimate to that, my body to get comfortable to get in a rested state. And then once it was finally able to rest, it healed a little bit and I was able to make a run for it this week.”

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    Woods fielding Masters practice-round requests

    By Will GrayMarch 17, 2018, 10:50 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Heading into what is likely his final competitive round before the Masters, Tiger Woods is starting to set up his schedule for the days leading into the season’s first major.

    Woods has won the Masters four times, most recently in 2005, and in the wake of a runner-up at the Valspar Championship and a strong showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he’ll head down Magnolia Lane with more momentum than he’s had in years. As a result, it’s not surprising that he has received more than a few inquiries about a possible practice round at Augusta National Golf Club during Masters week.

    “I’ve gotten a couple requests here and there,” Woods said with a grin after a third-round 69 at Bay Hill.

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    Woods has played the Masters only once since 2014, but don’t expect him to try out some unfamiliar pairings on Tuesday and Wednesday amid the azaleas. Woods still plans to rely on a rotation he’s had for several years, playing with former champs Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara. O’Meara, who received his green jacket from Woods in 1998, plans to make this year his final Masters start.

    “I traditionally have played with Freddie, if he can. We’re hoping he can come back and play again and play Augusta. I’ve played with Mark just about every single year,” Woods said. “It’s generally been those two guys, and those are the two guys I’ve grown up with out here on Tour. We sit next to each other actually at the champions’ dinner, and so we have known each other for a very long time.”

    While Woods is no stranger to fielding offers for tips and advice from younger players, especially on a course he knows as well as Augusta National, one top-ranked name continues to stick out among the requests he’s received in recent weeks.

    “Just the normal JT (Justin Thomas),” Woods said. “He’s always trying to get some practice rounds in.”

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    Stenson one clear of loaded leaderboard at Bay Hill

    By Nick MentaMarch 17, 2018, 10:10 pm

    Four of the top 15 players in the world and two men with stellar amateur resumes will do battle Sunday to win Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how things look through 54 holes at Bay Hill, where Tiger Woods sits five back at 7 under par.

    Leaderboard: Henrik Stenson (-12), Bryson DeChambeau (-11), Rory McIlroy (-10), Justin Rose (-9), Ryan Moore (-9), Charley Hoffman (-8), Rickie Fowler (-8), Talor Gooch (-8), Ben An (-8)

    What it means:  For the second straight day, Stenson (71) will go off in the final pairing with DeChambeau (72), after both players failed to separate themselves from the field in Round 3, shooting a combined 1 under. Stenson really should have a win at Bay Hill by now. He finished in the top-10 four years in a row from 2013-2016, with three top-5s. The closest he came to victory was in 2015, when he lost to Matt Every by one shot after being put on the clock and three-putting the 15th and 16th greens. If he’s finally going to close the deal Sunday, the world No. 15 will need to hold off challenges from three of the top 13 players in the OWGR – No. 5 Rose, No. 7 Fowler and No. 13 McIlroy – and two men who won both the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur – DeChambeau and Moore.

    Round of the day: John Huh and Austin Cook both made the 1-over cut on the number and shot 66 Saturday to move into a tie for 18th at 5 under.

    Best of the rest: McIlroy, Rose and Jason Day (-5) all signed for 67. McIlroy remains in search of his first worldwide win since he walked away from East Lake with the Tour Championship and the FedExCup in 2016.

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    Biggest disappointment: Fowler was 11 under for the week but dropped three shots in his last two holes. He failed to get up and down from the front bunker at 17 and then had his ball almost fully bury in the lip of a greenside trap at 18. With only a small portion of the ball visible, Fowler took two to get out of the sand and two-putted his way to a double-bogey 6, dropping him to 2 under for the day and 8 under for the championship.

    Shot of the day: Woods’ 210-yard 5-iron from the fairway bunker at the par-5 16th:

    Quote of the day: "I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help. But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first." – Woods