Love Blitzed Field at the Buick Challenge


Davis Love III had a reason to want to play doubly well at the end of 1997. He had won the PGA Championship that year, but then had buckled in the Ryder Cup, losing all four matches at Valderrama. One week later, he was back home in Georgia, at Callaway Gardens at the 97 Buick Challenge.
He answered the usual questions about the Ryder Cup ' Its amazing how one week you can be a hero and win the biggest tournament (PGA), and a month later people wonder if you can ever play again, he said. Then he squared his jaw and set out to answer his critics the best way he knew how ' with birdies and eagles and scores in the 60s.
Love won the tournament pro-am by shooting 66, and his 5-under 67 in the opening round served warning of what was about to happen. He was on a roll, and he tied Hal Sutton for the lead at 12-under the second day with a 65. His third round of 67 shook most of the field save for a pesky rookie, Stewart Cink, who was still just two behind as the tourney rolled into Sunday.
Love widened the two-shot lead into three at the nine-hole turn, then clamped down the accelerator the back side. By the turn his work was over, Love had shot a 68, which was his worst score of the tournament but still enough to win by four over Cink.
I needed to put some pressure on Davis early, said Cink. The difference was that Davis played the par 5s today in 4-under, and I played them even.
Since that 97 Buick Challenge, Love has won only two more times. As he has grown older (38 now), he has become more injury-prone. Too many years hitting too many drives have left his back in poor shape. He has had a myriad of wrist and arm problems.
But through all the injuries, he has remained a consistently good golfer. Every year he ranks in the top 10 in the Official World Rankings. He currently is No. 9 in the world, not bad for someone who plays hurt so often and is beginning to get along a bit in years.