'It was cold all day, windy all day and as hard as I've ever seen the golf course play,' Love said Thursday after an opening round when no one shot in the 60s.
Tournament host Tiger Woods made two eagles and still wound up with a 71, tied with Kenny Perry and Justin Leonard.
The money is guaranteed, with $1.2 million to the winner and $150,000 for last place.
That doesn't mean it has to be easy.
'If you shot even par, you won the battle,' Perry said.
So where does that leave Darren Clarke? The trimmed-down Irishman had a triple bogey and two double bogeys on his way to an 81, which would have sent Clarke straight to a tap of Guinness except that he's had only three beers in the last four months.
The Target World Challenge brings together the top 12 players available from the world ranking and four wild-card picks, making it the strongest field of any silly-season event.
It is looked upon as a perk, although there was plenty of pain.
Love managed to avoid most of it. He holed out a bunker shot for eagle on No. 2, kept the damage to a minimum and got a bonus birdie at the end for the lead.
Woods, who started the week with news that he was voted PGA Tour player of the year for the fifth straight time, looked as though he would be in the lead.
He played the three par 5s on the back nine in 4 under and was in the lead until he misjudged the cool wind swirling through the foothills of Sherwood Country Club, coming up short on the 17th and long on the 18th.
Both led to bogeys, and Woods had to settle for a 71.
'I turned a 67 into a 71,' Woods said. 'It's frustrating to end with two bogeys.'
Leonard has played Sherwood enough to know the course usually offers a lot of birdies, especially with five par 5s. Then again, he doesn't recall this much wind.
'Normally if you don't shoot 4 or 5 under, you feel like you're losing ground,' Leonard said. 'Today was different. It's difficult to come out and do this when it's this late in the year.'
Robert Allenby, a late entry when David Toms withdrew to have surgery on his left wrist, battled his way around the course to even-par 72 and was tied with K.J. Choi.
He looked whipped, and it had little to do with his 16-hour flight from Australia.
'It's meant to be a good time, isn't it?' he asked. 'I felt like I was playing against Rocky. It's bloody hard when you don't know the course. I was guessing all the time with my irons, and a lot of times, I guessed right.'
Woods, Fred Couples (73) and Chris DiMarco (74) were the only players to get as low as 3 under at any point during the round.
DiMarco made bogeys on four of his final six holes.
Vijay Singh was 2 under through 14 holes when he, too, went into a swoon. He made triple bogey on the par-3 15th and for good measure bogeyed the last two holes for a 74.
Defending champion Padraig Harrington also had a 74.
Woods nearly drove the 341-yard opening hole with a 3-wood, made an easy birdie, and was in good shape off the tee on the par-5 second hole when it came undone.
His approach drifted right into the trees, rattled around and came out backward, bounding along a dry patch of land and into the creek. He made bogey, then three-putted for bogey on the next hole when his three-foot par putt made a horseshoe around the hole.
He worked his way back up the leaderboard, but only because everyone else around him was falling apart. By the end of the day, Woods joined them.
Love simply held it together better than most.
'Like everybody else, I scrambled around a little bit today,' Love said.
While it might seem like a working vacation, there is a small amount of pride to win against such a strong field of players. And the money isn't bad, either.
'When you see the purse, you get pretty serious about it,' Love said. 'It's nice to have Earl Woods' signature at the bottom of a $1 million check.'
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