Love Headlines Tough Field in The Big Easy

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Davis Love III has won three events thus far this season ' three events in which he had previously prevailed.
 
If this is his 2003 mantra, Love should be the favorite in this weeks HP Classic of New Orleans.
 
Love, who won this event in a playoff over Mike Heinen in 1995, returns to the English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans, La.
 
His victory here eight years ago propelled him into the Masters. Love needed to win the week before in order to punch his ticket to Augusta, Ga. ' back when winning a PGA Tour event qualified you for the seasons first major.
 
He did just that, and then proceeded to finish runner-up at Augusta, behind Ben Crenshaw.
 
Several other top-ranked players have joined Love in this weeks field. The Big Easy, Ernie Els, isnt in The Big Easy, but 2001 champion David Toms and the man he beat two years ago, Phil Mickelson, are on hand. Vijay Singh, David Duval, Len Mattiace, Rich Beem, Louisiana native Hal Sutton and John Daly are also in attendance.
 
K.J. Choi is the defending champion. He became the first South Korean winner in PGA Tour history by besting Dudley Hart and Geoff Ogilvy by four strokes, at 17-under-par 271.
 
Chip Beck holds the 72-hole tournament record with a 26-under 262 performance in 1988 ' the year before the tournament made its way to English Turn. Only two winners have broken the 270 barrier since the event moved to its current venue. Carlos Franco finished at 269 in 1999; Toms was at 266 in 2001.
 
Choi is trying to become the fifth player to successfully defend his title in New Orleans. Byron Nelson won in his record season of 1945, and again in 46. Bo Wininger won in 1962 and 63. Tom Watson was champion in 1980 and 81, while Franco was the last to accomplish the double dip, in '99 and 2000.
 
Choi was the 12th player to make this event his maiden victory on tour. He went on to win less than five months later at the Tampa Bay Classic.
 
Choi was also one of a record 18 first-time winners on tour a year ago. More established players, however, have dominated in 2003. Ben Crane ' who is in the field this week ' is the only first-time winner this season (BellSouth Classic).
 
That being said, this could be a great week for some of the notable names. Mickelson and Beem havent won this season; Toms, Duval and Sutton are winless since 2001. Dalys drought extends to the 1995 British Open.
 
Though unlike Love, Toms, Mickelson, Duval (3rd in 1995) and Sutton (4 career top-10s), Daly has never fared well in this tournament. He has missed two cuts in four starts here, with only one sub-70 score in 12 rounds played.
 
Related Links
  • PGA Tour Statistical Preview
  • Full coverage of the HP Classic of New Orleans