Love went with the wrong club on the par-3 17th on Thursday afternoon and paid for it with a triple bogey that took him from the top of the PGA Championship leaderboard to one of the pack. He wound up with a 4-under 68, leaving him two strokes behind leaders Chris Riley and Lucas Glover.
'Obviously, I'd like to have two or three swings over again,' said Love, the 1997 PGA winner. 'All in all, it's a good start. I'm not leading, but I'm off to a good start.'
Love, who needs a top finish here to earn a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, played with purpose early on and was at 6-under after seven holes. He opened with back-to-back birdies and had two more on Nos. 4 and 5 and then had an eagle on the par 5 No. 7 to take a share of the lead.
The lead was all his after a birdie on the par 5 10th, but he gave that stroke right back with a bogey. Then he took advantage of the last par 5 with a birdie on No. 14.
Then came No. 17, a brutal par 3, even playing only 191 yards. Since the PGA was last at Medinah Country Club in 1999, the hole has been redesigned, the tee pushed back and the green lowered so it now sits almost level with Lake Kadijah.
Play it wrong, and you'll pay -- as Love quickly learned.
'I just hit the wrong club,' he said. 'My caddie wanted me to hit a 7-iron and I was first up and I just wasn't comfortable. So I tried to cut a 6 and hit a draw 6 instead, and that combination doesn't work real well.'
His tee shot landed in deep rough above the green. With sand in front of him and water looming if he hit the ball too hard over it, Love was hoping to simply flip the ball up. If it hit the edge of the green, it would trickle down toward the hole.
Instead, he missed the ball completely.
'I just went right under it,' Love said. 'Then you've got the same shot from a worse lie.'
He tried it again, this time going into the sand. He finally got onto the green with his fourth shot, but two-putted for the triple bogey.
'Other than two or three swings, I played very good,' Love said. 'I hit the ball well. I just didn't get the best score out of it.'
And Love needs a good score this week if he's going to get to Ireland next month for the Ryder Cup.
Love has been on every U.S. Ryder Cup team since 1993, the longest active streak by an American, and was fourth in the ranking system at the start of the year. The top 10 make the squad, along with two picks by captain Tom Lehman.
But Love has had a tough year, failing to make the cut at both the U.S. and British opens and going from the lead to missing the weekend at The Players Championships. He came into this week 15th in the rankings, and he knows he's got ground to make up.
'I'm trying to block it out,' he said. 'Obviously this one tournament is as important as anything I'm doing. If I play well here and give myself a chance to win, the rest will take care of itself.'