Another Chance for Love

By Mercer BaggsAugust 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill. -- Davis Love III has always been honest, even to a fault, when it comes to self assessment. Hes always said that he has expected more out of his career than what he has already accomplished. And he has always said that winning one major championship is just not enough for a player of his ilk.
 
So it shouldnt have come as much of a surprise when Love responded candidly to a question posed to him after his second round in the 88th PGA Championship.
 
Davis Love III
Davis Love III is in search of his second PGA Championship victory (1997).
The question was, basically: If you were Tom Lehman, would you select yourself with a captains pick.
 
The answer was: To be honest with you, no, not right now. I think Id need to give him a reason to pick me.
 
Lehman might not need a reason, as Love might just take care of business himself.
 
Love followed his opening 4-under 68 with a 3-under 69 Friday to move within one of second-round leaders Henrik Stenson, Billy Andrade, Luke Donald and Tim Herron at Medinah Country Club.
 
Hes currently 15th on the U.S. points list, 115 points behind No. 10 Brett Wetterich. A victory this week is worth 675 points. He needs to finish no worse than solo eighth to have any chance of qualifying for the team ' not that finishing eighth is on his agenda.
 
Ive backed myself into a corner. Sometimes you start doing the things youre supposed to be doing a little bit better when youre backed into a corner, he said.
 
Id love to go ahead and win this tournament and let him go pick somebody else.
 
Lehman would like that as well.
 
His current team, which will be finalized after this event, is lacking for experience, with four possible first-timers currently inside the top 10. Love has played in every Ryder Cup since 1993.
 
The closest he came to missing one was in 1997, when he entered the PGA Championship outside the cut line. He then went out and won the PGA at Winged Foot.
 
Love is on the verge of a repeat performance this week; though, it didnt look good early Friday.
 
Unlike in the first round, when he was 7 under through 10 holes, Love got off to a horrible start in round 2. Despite a birdie at the 10th, his first hole of the day, he bogeyed his next three.
 
It took me a little longer to get 3 over par, Love said, referencing his triple-bogey on the par-3 11th Thursday. It took me three holes rather than one hole.
 
Its unfortunate, but Im playing very well and making a lot of birdies.
 
That was evident over the remainder of his round, as he made five birdies and no bogeys. He has totaled 13 birdies through 36 holes.
 
Love hasnt won on TOUR since doing so three times in 2003. His best finish this year is a finals loss to Geoff Ogilvy in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which ranks as his only top-10 of the season.
 
After missing the cut last week at The International, he played a practice round here Monday. He was supposed to play just nine holes, but he was hitting the ball so poorly that nine turned into 13, and 13 turned into a full 18.
 
Somewhere between here and there, he found something ' relaxation.
 
Im trying too hard to make the Ryder Cup team and its been disappointing, Love explained. I came out this year trying to play well and win tournaments and make points, and I think Ive gotten pretty much the same results all year. I just havent been as free-wheeling and as loose as I usually am when I play.
 
Carrying over this newly rediscovered freedom to the weekend won't be easy. Thanks to an increased work-out routine, his body, which has been prone to breakdown, is in great shape, ready for this major test. Its his mind and his emotions that hell have to control.
 
I think to win a major, to win any tournament, you have to be doing everything well, said Love. Plus, the mental game has to be very, very sharp.
 
When Ive played well, Ive not necessarily been hitting the ball perfectly going in or feeling 100 percent confident with my swing, but Ive done the right things mentally.
 
Such was the case through three rounds of last years PGA. He shot three straight 68s to share the 54-hole lead with Phil Mickelson. A closing 4-over 74, however, dropped him into a very disappointing tie for fourth.
 
Love said that he can feel similar vibes to a year ago at Baltusrol. But that he wants to have a different feeling at tournaments end.
 
I think its very similar, he said. When I do hit a good iron shot at the green, it seems like its right at it or real close, so that tells me if Im concentrating good and focused on what Im doing, Im going to hit a pretty good shot into the green. Ive just got to hit some fairways and stay relaxed and stay patient. Ill be fine if I can do this.
 
If he can do this, hell be more than fine. Hell be a two-time PGA champion. He'll be a TOUR winner for the first time in over three years. Hell be one giant step closer to the Hall of Fame. And hell most certainly be in Dublin, Ireland in four weeks.
 
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