Best Season This Year How About Davis

By George WhiteAugust 11, 2003, 4:00 pm
The names roll off the tongue in a tumble whos had the best season this year? Lets see, you always start with Tiger Woods. Theres Ernie Els how about Mike Weir? Since the U.S. Open, theres been considerable sentiment for Jim Furyk.
 
Davis Love III? Oh yeah him.
 
Ahem Love now has joined Woods as the only four-time winners on the PGA Tour. Maybe hes frequently overlooked because hes been around so long, always hanging near the top but never quite getting over that hump. Maybe its because hes just months shy of his 40th birthday now, and all our heroes are considerably younger. Maybe if he were just a little more loud, just a little more charismatic, just a little more unforgettable. Hey - when he isnt playing, you hardly ever remember he isnt around.
 
Love just finished annihilating the field at The International, rolling up 46 points in the modified Stableford scoring system and breezing to a 12-point victory. Hes won in the winter ' Pebble Beach; hes won in the spring ' The Players Championship and the MCI Heritage; and hes won in the summer ' The International. Hes spread championships liberally to all fields this year, throwing in a tie for fourth at the British Open the last time prior to the W outside Denver.
 
Of all the golfers, though, no one has been more star-crossed than Davis. Born the son of one of Americas more famed golf instructors, he went to college at North Carolina ' where he just happened to teach a fellow name Michael Jordan the finer points of the game.
 
But when he turned professional, dark things started happening. He fractured a bone in his wrist. Then his back went haywire. Next to go was his neck. His father was killed in a plane crash. This year, his brother-in-law committed suicide, a man who absconded with millions from the Love family.
 
And what happened? Through it all, through the good and bad, Love just kept on going. In some years he won by the bunch ' 1992 was a particularly good year when he took home three trophies. Some years ' 1999, 2000, 2001 ' his injuries wouldnt let him get through to a victory.
 
But after winning only once the past four years, he has burst through to this, the greatest season of his career. At 39, he is leading the charge of the vet brigade.
 
I have been steadily getting better, he said. I think now - I think I am playing, swinging, putting as well as I have ever putted. Hitting it as good as I ever been hitting it. I am just confident playing.
 
He passed Tiger en route to the money lead Sunday. He made $810,000 after one win, $900,000 after two others, and more than a million - $1,170,000 at The Players. Hes seen more than $5 million pour into his piggy bank this year alone.
 
Loves father taught him how to hit the ball long and Davis takes advantage of every one of his 6-foot 3-inches. But that might not be where the real difference has been this season. Its been on the greens, where a 4-foot-10 inch woman can be just as effective as any skyscraper launcher. Love is No. 8 on the putting charts today, and that ranking is sure to get you some wins when combined with the power that Davis obviously has.
 
After the PGA Championship last year - a year in which he failed to scratch up a single victory - Love went to see putting guru Scotty Cameron. He had finished 26th on tour in putting, but he wasnt satisfied. If he were better, he reasoned, it might tip the scales just enough to give him a win or two.
 
Cameron didnt have a lot of complicated theory. He gave Love a little plastic insert, shaped like a cube, for Davis putter. Use it while youre practicing, said Cameron, and you cant help but improve.
 
Love did as he was told. The result has been this year, when he has risen to become one of the best putters in the business. Davis expected a lot of top-level strategy. But Cameron didnt have any ' just the putter gadget.
 
He said, You can putt with any putter you want to putt with, but just use this thing, said Love. Sure enough I started using it at the NEC, and immediately started putting better.
 
And my confidence grew and the more I used that thing and the more I work on my stroke - he kind of gave me a way to fix it without thinking about it. He gave me basically a drill to do to fix my stroke, and then obviously while I was doing it he made me a putter and I have been putting great with that putter ever since.
 
Hes learned a few secrets of putting. And hes learned how to swing within himself so there are no more injuries. Hes learned the right playing schedule. And hes learned how to keep a 39-year-old body humming in unison with a big, sweeping swing.
 
Love was among the most startled of observers when Tiger began his systematic dismantling of the PGA Tour four years ago. That occurrence, combined with his injuries, was what caused his victory total to drop the past four years.
 
I was dumfounded by what Tiger was doing I got frustrated watching him and I think I tried too hard, he said.
 
But now, Im not worrying about whether hes making them or not because Im making them, too. I appreciate what hes doing, but Im playing with more confidence, too.
 
Tiger, undoubtedly, noticed what happened last week. Davis Love isnt on equal footing yet. But he certainly has gotten a whole lot closer.
 
Related LInks:
  • TheGolfChannel.com Bio: Davis Love III
  • What's in the Bag: Davis Love III
  • More on Davis Love III
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    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.

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    Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

    By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

    There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

    Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

    In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

    “It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

    “That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”

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    Woods does everything but win at The Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:57 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a proud man who spent the majority of his prime scoffing at silver linings and small victories, Tiger Woods needed little cajoling to look at the bright side Sunday at Carnoustie.

    Sure, after a round in which he took the solo lead at The Open with nine holes to go, the first words out of Woods’ mouth were that he was “a little ticked off at myself” for squandering an opportunity to capture his 15th major title, and his first in more than a decade. And that immediate reaction was justified: In the stiffest winds of the week, he played his last eight holes in 2 over, missed low on a 6-footer on the final green and wound up in a tie for sixth, three shots behind his playing partner, Francesco Molinari.

    “Today was a day,” Woods said, “that I had a great opportunity.”

    But here’s where we take a deep breath.

    Tiger Woods led the freakin’ Open Championship with nine holes to play.

    Imagine typing those words three months ago. Six months ago. Nine months ago. Twelve months ago.

    The scenario was improbable.

    Inconceivable.

    Impossible.

    At this time last year, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.

    Just last fall, he’d admitted that he didn’t know what the future held. Playing a major, let alone contending in one, seemed like a reasonable goal.

    This year he’s showed signs of softening, of being kinder and gentler. He appeared more eager to engage with his peers. More appreciative of battling the game’s young stars inside the ropes. More likely to express his vulnerabilities. Now 42, he finally seemed at peace with accepting his role as an elder statesman.

    One major, any major, would be the most meaningful title of his career, and he suggested this week that his best chance would come in an Open, where oldies-but-goodies Tom Watson (age 59) and Greg Norman (53) have nearly stolen the claret jug over the past decade.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?

    “Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?” he shrugged.

    Many analysts howled at Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy across the early rounds here at big, brawny and brutish Carnoustie. He led the field in driving accuracy but routinely left himself 200-plus yards for his approach shots, relying heavily on some vintage iron play. Even par through 36 holes, he stepped on the gas Saturday, during the most benign day for scoring, carding a 66 to get within striking distance of the leaders.

    Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. Hearing the roars, watching WOODS rise on the yellow leaderboards, it was as though we’d been transported to the mid-2000s, to a time when he’d play solidly, not spectacularly, and watch as his lesser opponents crumbled. On the same ancient links that Ben Hogan took his lone Open title, in 1953, four years after having his legs crushed in a head-on crash with a Greyhound bus, Woods seemed on the verge of scripting his own incredible comeback.

    Because Jordan Spieth was tumbling down the board, the beginning of a birdie-less 76.

    Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.

    Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue.

    Once Woods hit one of the shots of the championship on 10 – hoisting a 151-yard pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker, over a steep lip, over a burn, to 20 feet – the outcome seemed preordained.

    “For a while,” McIlroy conceded, “I thought Tiger was going to win.”

    So did Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different.”

    But perhaps it’s no coincidence that once Woods took the lead for the first time, he frittered it away almost immediately. That’s what happened Saturday, when he shared the lead on the back nine and promptly made bogey. On Sunday, he drove into thick fescue on 11, then rocketed his second shot into the crowd, the ball ricocheting off a fan’s shoulder, and then another’s iPhone, and settling in more hay. He was too cute with his flop shot, leaving it short of the green, and then missed an 8-footer for bogey. He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. He’d never again pull closer than two shots.

    “It will be interesting to see going forward, because this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while,” McIlroy said. “Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”

    Over the daunting closing stretch, Woods watched helplessly as Molinari, as reliable as the tide coming in off the North Sea, plodded his way to victory. With Woods’ hopes for a playoff already slim, Molinari feathered a wedge to 5 feet on the closing hole. Woods marched grim-faced to the bridge, never turning around to acknowledge his playing partner’s finishing blow. He waved his black cap and raised his mallet-style putter to a roaring crowd – knowledgeable fans who were appreciative not just of Woods making his first Open start since 2015, but actually coming close to winning the damn thing.

    “Oh, it was a blast,” Woods would say afterward. “I need to try to keep it in perspective, because at the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing The Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”

    Last weekend, Woods sat in a box at Wimbledon to watch Serena Williams contend for a 24th major title. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate – an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity. Woods is 15 months removed from a fourth back surgery on an already brittle body; Williams nearly secured the most prestigious championship in tennis less than a year after suffering serious complications during childbirth.

    “She’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Woods said. “I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, I’m blessed.”

    But Woods didn’t need to wait for that phone call to find some solace. Waiting for him afterward were his two kids, Sam, 11, and Charlie, 9, both of whom were either too young or not yet born when Tiger last won a major in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.

    Choking up, Woods said, “I told them I tried, and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.' It’s pretty emotional, because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.

    “To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. It’s such a great feeling.”

    His media obligations done, Woods climbed up the elevated walkway, on his way to the back entrance of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Spa. He was surrounded by his usual entourage, but also two new, younger additions to his clan.

    Sam adhered to the strict Sunday dress code, wearing a black tank top and red shorts. But Charlie’s attire may have been even more appropriate. On the day his dad nearly authored the greatest sports story ever, he chose a red Nike T-shirt with a bold message emblazoned on the front, in big, block letters:

    LOVE THE HATERS.

    After this unbelievable performance, after Tiger Woods nearly won The Open, are there really any left?