Love had to win the Houston Open to qualify for next weeks Masters and stretch the longest active run of major appearances. He shot a 1-over 73 on Sunday to finish at 5 under, 11 shots behind champion Johnson Wagner.
The 43-year-old Love will sit out a major for the first time since the 1990 U.S. Open. He tore ligaments in his left ankle last September, spent more than four months rehabbing and has struggled to recapture his old form, missing three cuts in seven starts in 2008.
Im close to playing good, he said. Im just not getting it done. I dont know if Im ready for Augusta or not. Im not really playing good enough to compete right now, so I probably dont deserve to play.
But Love said hes far ahead of the recovery time that doctors set for him. He wouldnt have returned so quickly if he had already secured a spot in the Masters.
Because I was trying to get back in the Masters and getting back to playing well, I worked really hard, he said. Ive done really well and thats going to serve me well the rest of the year. But the Masters was definitely my motivation.
In 1995, Love won in New Orleans the week before the Masters to earn an invitation. He arrived in Houston this week with lower expectations, admitting that another dramatic victory was unlikely given the state of his game.
He was happy with his performance in Houston, shooting 69s in the first and third rounds. He was 2 under through eight holes on Sunday, then hit a bunker shot over the green on the par-3 ninth en route to a double bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water on No. 15 for another double.
Ive got to look at the positive, that Im back playing, that Im healthy, that Ive bounced back from this injury, he said. Ive got a lot of great tournaments coming up. I might miss the Masters, but that doesnt mean I cant win the U.S. Open.
Love said hes going turkey hunting, then will the following week at Hilton Head, where hes won five times. He hasnt decided if hell watch the Masters on TV.
Itll be hard not to watch it, Love said. But when I wasnt in the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup, it wasnt much fun watching. I dont know, it depends whos playing well. Ive got a lot of turkeys to chase.