Wyndham winner Love refuses to give in to age


GREENSBORO, N.C. – As if the Wyndham Championship were his first PGA Tour victory, Davis Love III panicked when he reached the microphone on Sunday and started thanking everyone in the St. Simons Island, Ga., phone book.

There was his swing coach, his sports psychologist, his manager, his brother and his physical trainer, along with a physical therapist.

“We could sit here until midnight and I could thank people, therapists, doctors, trainers, sports psychologists,” Love said Sunday at Sedgefield Country Club.

Even his son, Dru, received an assist from Love, who at 51 years young became the third-oldest winner in PGA Tour history.

“My son broke his putter; we haven’t gotten the whole story on that, so I shipped him some,” Love laughed. “After [foot] surgery, I went looking for a putter to use and the only one I could find was one of his old ones.”

Getting Love to his 21st Tour victory truly took a village.

Love used that hand-me-down putter to charge from four strokes back to start the final round and win the Wyndham Championship for the third time much like, as fate would have it, he did in 1992 when he closed with a 62 in brutal conditions to win by six strokes.

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The grandfather went out in 31, a nine that included two bogeys and an eagle, to move into the hunt and added a second eagle on the back nine to finish with a 64 and a 17-under total.

After that he waited more than an hour as each contender came up short, much like he’d waited seven years since his last Tour victory at the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Classic – impatiently.

By his own admission, Love is the ultimate “type A,” driven by the task at hand and haunted by inactivity. If idle hands are truly the devil’s workshop, then Love has been cleansed by activity.

It’s why at 51 when most of his friends are off enjoying the golden parachute that is the Champions Tour he has remained focused on the Big Leagues. Even after a career that seems destined for the Hall of Fame, Love clung to the notion that if his body would cooperate there was still work to be done.

There were times when his resolve drifted, like after neck surgery in 2013 and foot surgery earlier this year.

“I had some doubts,” he conceded. “The neck surgery went pretty smoothly, this one [foot surgery] went smoothly but the rehab didn't come around as fast as I wanted.

“You just wonder, is the body going to wear out. I've seen it with a lot of great players in my day, the only thing that stopped them was their body wearing out.”

Love knew that if his body was willing his mind and game were still up to the task, as evidenced by his play this week at Sedgefield Country Club where he averaged 303 yards off the tee and hit 56 of 72 greens in regulation.

He was also driven by the reality that next season will be his 30th on Tour, a benchmark that deserved his best.

“It kills me the last couple of years not to play in The Players,” said Love, who is a two-time winner of the Tour’s marquee event but last played TPC Sawgrass in 2013. “I did not want to end not playing The Players again or playing the Masters again.”

Getting there, however, had started to look like a long shot.

Love began this week 186th on the FedEx Cup points list and hadn’t had a top-3 finish on Tour since 2009. The foot surgery that sidelined him for almost three months was more extensive than he’d expected and until the Wyndham Championship he’d struggled to walk 72 holes in a single week.

His attention had also been pulled in other directions. Last year’s U.S. Ryder Cup task force thrust him back into the role of captain for next year’s matches and he was appointed for another term on the Tour’s policy board earlier this year.

But the call of competition kept bringing him back to the range. It wasn’t that he had something to prove as much as it was a desire to exit the game, whenever that moment occurs, on his own terms.

It’s why his one-stroke victory on Sunday at the Wyndham Championship was much more than just another trophy on an already crowded mantelpiece.

“It means everything, to have neck surgery and then foot surgery. I mean, up until two weeks ago his foot was still bothering him and we were talking to the surgeon,” said Mac Barnhardt, Love’s manager with Lagardere Unlimited. “A week before the PGA we’re out practicing and it was still hurting but he just kept going.”

The reluctant senior, he’s played just four times on the Champions Tour since turning 50 in April 2014, now has the freedom to dictate his own exit strategy thanks to another Sunday charge.

And why wouldn’t he keep playing?

“I love the fact that he’s playing out here. It’s brilliant,” said Paul Casey, who at 13 years Love’s junior finished two strokes back at Sedgefield. “Why wouldn’t you?”

Love answered that question on Sunday in a blur of birdies and eagles. In simplest terms, he continues to press ahead in a young man’s game because it’s what he does best.