Love Wins And No Apologies Necessary


Has there ever been a day like Sunday? In every place where they were playing golf, in every living room where golf was on the television, everyone was praying that Davis Love's narrow lead would hold up. The electricity might go out in the Pebble Beach clubhouse, the capricious waves might suddenly dry up and cease lapping at those rocks along 18, but please Lord, let Davis win one.
Love is probably tired of hearing what a nice guy he is. Nice guys finish last, the old saw says. Today it's much more cool to lead with your chin. Punch first and ask questions later. Even golf advertisements today are different. If you can't bust a 3-iron 250 yards, if you can't match the next loudmouth boast for boast, then you're a loser. Davis is a nice guy, capital N and capital G, and we were beginning to get a little worried that that sort of thing was out of date.
Davis Love III comments on his win at Pebble Beach.
Anyway, the lead did hold up for the final hour of the tournament. The good guy won. He was vilified last year, you remember, for remarking what a difficult time he was having catching Tiger Woods when Tiger was in the middle of playing the greatest golf ever. Why? Did Love deliver a news flash from somewhere? Was it really such a sin to admit what was so obvious to everyone who remotely knew golf? Do you really think it made him try less, simply because Tiger was having a great year?
At any rate, such were the rantings heaped on Love. He couldn't win, regardless. He had 13 wins his first 13 years as a pro, then settled into a series of high finishes without a 'W.' He finished second three times last year and in the top 10 nine times. The year before, he was second four times, in the top 10 13 times. Somewhere, there began to be whispers that Davis, at age 36, could no longer win. He was content to finish high up, the saying went, just give him his big paycheck and let the bloated fat-cat go on his way.
Such talk was frustrating to Love. Very frustrating. Worse yet, he could feel himself succumbing to it. His brother Mark, his frequent caddy, snapped him out of it.
The two were together at the tournament in Las Vegas at the end of last year. The winless streak was beginning to get to Davis; there was no denying it.
'After three days there, he said, `You know what, I have never seen you so impatient with your irons. You hit it 30 feet and lose it,'' recounted Davis.
'I said, `You know, there is no wind, easy shot, I AM losing it. I can't hit it close. You are right.' Because I felt like I had to hit close to make a birdie.'
Then came a talk with Brad Faxon before the Presidents Cup, a talk which changed his mind about the very nature of the game. Faxon, it should be noted, has improved himself this year, already with a win to his credit.
'He said, `No matter what you think you are thinking, you are way too involved in results. You have to get away from results and get back to, over and over again, get back in the process of hitting the shot.'
In other words, as his close friend Fred Couples once said, you aim for the target, then you forget about what's happening to the ball. It sounds batty, but it's true. Put the best possible stroke on it, then forget about it. If it goes near the flag, so be it. If it goes into the ocean, so be it. With that as his mantra, Love won the post-season Williams World Classic.
'That really, really helped me for the end of the year,' Love said. 'And with my attitude that, you know - you have to be patient no matter what's going on. You miss a couple of putts, you have a bad putting day, you start pushing.
'That why the Williams was so big. Whatever day, Saturday, I didn't putt well. I went to the putting green, I went through my drills again, I said, `No matter what I did today, I am going to play good tomorrow.' I came out and putted well.'
So Davis comes to the course and hits his drive without being concerned where his second shot should go. He hits his second shot, never minding whether he should get a 3 on this hole, or rather fate has in store a 5 for him.
'It's a confidence thing,' he said. 'If you are patient, you can do it.'
'It' doesn't know if a nice guy is swinging the clubs, or if its someone absolutely treacherous. The ball is white and weighs the same for everybody. Davis Love is patient. And a win has never been applauded so loudly.
Read a recap of Davis Love III's at Pebble Beach