Love Not Lost Not Yet


2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Davis Love III has long been regarded as one of the games best. But its been eight long years since he won his first and only major in the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot.
Hes in position to rectify that situation this week.
Love shot his second straight 2-under 68 Friday to move into a share of third place in the 87th PGA Championship, four strokes behind 36-hole leader Phil Mickelson.
Davis Love III
A new found confidence in his putting has Davis Love in contention at Baltusrol.
I dont think anybody is really worried quite about the lead yet, he said. The guys that are playing well (want) to continue to play like their playing, hitting fairways and greens and holing a few putts.
This course will bite you if you dont pay attention to what youre doing.
Love, who tied for 33rd when Baltusrol hosted the 1993 U.S. Open, has been giving the 7,392-yard, par-70 course his undivided attention since arriving on site Sunday. He missed the cut at The International, an event hes twice won, and made his way cross-country from Colorado.
During a first-round rain-out at Castle Pines, Love was asked to assess his season.
Kind of up and down, said Love, who is trying to avoid his fifth winless campaign in his last seven years on the PGA Tour. I haven't looked at the stats, but I probably missed more cuts this year than I've ever missed.
Those statistics prove him correct. Love entered this week having missed seven cuts in 16 starts ' his most in a single season since 1994. But hes also had seven top-10 finishes, including runner-up results at the MCI Heritage and Booz Allen Classic.
He based his erratic performance on his putting. And after missing his last two cuts, he decided to do something about it, thanks to a little insight from his friend Jonathan Byrd.
'He said, I think you ought to cut your putter back off, Love relayed Thursday. He said, Ive cut mine back off and Ive been putting really good.
Love took Byrds advice and had Titleist give him a new 34-inch putter prior to the start the tournament; he had been using ones of 35 and 36 inches.
Its back to the length of my old putter that I putted with for 15 years, he said. Now Im just back to putting, my old putting routine, and it feels pretty good.
Love has needed 30 putts in each of his first two rounds on the Lower Course, which is a solid number considering hes averaged 15 of 18 greens hit in regulation over the first two days.
His play thus far hasnt been spectacular, but it has been impressive, considering his grouping. Love contested the first 36 holes alongside defending champion Vijay Singh and 1991 winner John Daly.
Needless to say, theres been plenty of chaos in his periphery.
It was obviously the biggest crowd out there the last two days, so it was nice to block all that out and play and have fun, he said.
As soon as Love saw the pairing sheet, he knew what to expect.
I knew it would be like a Sunday pairing. There was going to be a lot going on and it would make me concentrate, he said. (Sports psychologist) Bob Rotella has always said, If I can get you to Sunday, I know youll do well. Maybe it made me have a clearer game plan before I got to the first tee.
Love was in need of a good start. He shot 76 in the first round of the Masters on his way to a missed cut. He then began the U.S. Open with a 77, and despite playing better than anyone else over the last three rounds, he could do no better than a tie for sixth. At the British, he opened in 75 and once again had the weekend off.
Now that Love has finally recorded a pair of solid opening numbers in a major, its time to finish strong. Trailing a red-hot Mickelson, hes well aware that hell have to play even better over the final two rounds than he did over the first two.
Ive really gotten frustrated on the first day right out of the box when things didnt go my way, he said in reference to the seasons first three majors. So Im a lot more patient here, and hopefully I can play this weekend like I played the weekend at the U.S. Open.
In the 97 PGA, Love was one off the lead through two rounds and then shot 66-66 to win by five over Justin Leonard.
Time appears to be running out on Loves major opportunities. He turned 41 in April. Only 29 times in major championship history has a player aged 40 or over won.
But perhaps there are a couple of good omens.
For one, Singh captured last years PGA at the age of 41.
The other relates to his standing on the U.S. Presidents Cup team, which will be finalized after this event. Love is currently in the ninth position, with the top 10 on the list earning an automatic invitation to the biennial competition.
The last time Love, who has played in all five Presidents Cup Matches, entered the PGA Championship this perilously close to not making the team was in 1997.
And we all know what happened then.
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