Love Does It With 39-Year-Old Body Mind

By George WhiteApril 22, 2003, 4:00 pm
Lets see, he broke a bone in his left wrist in 1989. Then he had a painful back problem, a pinched nerve, numbness in the fingers. Dont forget the neck ' yeah, that was dicey, too, causing more numbness in the arm and fingers.
But lets concede this ' Davis Loves been playing for 18 years now, and when hes been healthy, hes been a pretty good player. He went from being a bomber who was as long as anybody on the tour, to an outstanding iron player, to the fourth best putter in this, the 18th year out here.
And ' hes starting to win again. The PGA Tour is beginning to look like a four-man race ' multiple winners Tiger Woods, Mike Weir, Love and Ernie Els returning the spotlight to the older set again. Loves Sunday win at The MCI Heritage was No. 3 this year, and theyre starting to come in routine fashion. One thing Woods often does is win when he doesnt necessarily have his best stuff, and for Love on Sunday, how true that was.
We dont know how much he would have won if the injuries hadnt taken their toll on his skeleton. We dont know what he would have done if golf was his sole focus, instead of his wife and two children and his fishing and hunting. He has 17 wins, certainly nothing to pooh-pooh, but his spotty record in playoffs alone suggests that it could have been more. Before his win Sunday, Davis had been in eight playoffs and lost ' seven? If he could just have won half of them, he would have 20 wins already.
He has finished runner-up 23 times ' suppose he had won five of those 23? And he is up to ' what - 25 wins?
Suppose, suppose he is what he is what he is, and what he is is a guy with 17 wins. Maybe its because he is guilty of a lot of wrong club selections, as of his peers say. Maybe it is because hes not mean enough, which some people have ventured. Maybe its because he tries too often to finesse shots rather than just clubbing it. And then, maybe he just hasnt been as good as people have thought. Maybe 17 wins is right where he is supposed to be.
And maybe ' just maybe ' he is now entering a span where he is about to play the best golf of his life at age 39. Maybe he wont be the best driver, the best iron player, the best short-game player ' but he will become the best player that he has ever been. Hey, when you travel in the circles of Tiger Woods and Ernie ' yes, even Mike Weir ' youre doing something right!
I was grinding so hard trying to win, he said last year. And why? Well, because of Tigers meteoric emergence in the late 90s. That, plus his physical ailments, combined to leave him winless for the better part of three years.
I was dumfounded by what Tiger was doing, he said with all honesty. I got frustrated watching him and I think I tried too hard.
But now, Im not worrying about whether hes making them because Im making them, too. I appreciate what hes doing, but now Im playing with a little more confidence than I was.
Confidence was the only difference between Love and Woody Austin in the playoff Sunday. Not since 1985 had Austin actually won. Love had already won twice this year alone, including the Players Championship three weeks ago. This business of being in a playoff wasnt nearly as outlandish to him as it was to Woody. Woody thought about what a win would mean to him. Love thought about it, too, but more than anything, he was just there to play.
Love thought about what a pleasant Sunday it was, and how fortunate to be one of only two players left going into extra holes. If he won ' great! If he didnt ' well, he had won twice this year already. There unquestionably will be others ' this year there will be others. If he didnt win today, then he will win tomorrow.
Woody Austin was, in short, Davis Love of two years ago when Love was always hearing those footsteps of Tiger. But Sunday, Davis WAS Tiger, and Woody was Woody. Woody should have won, but didnt. Love should have lost, but didnt. Dont so many of Woods wins turn out that way?
You know, I hung in there all week, said Davis, half-apologetically. I hit a lot of funny shots and uncharacteristic shots for me in this tournament and I got away with it. And you never know, you never Ernie to finish like he did and never expected Hal Sutton.
But once he got into the playoff, it kept feeling like I was going to win. But I just never could hit a good shot to pull it off. I knew he was feeling a lot more nervous than I was. I was just as excited and trying to hit a good one and I kept trying to be too precise and too smooth and too relaxed.
Finally, I just said, Im going to hit it at the hole and quit screwing around. And I finally hit a good one.
Thats what being there does for you. He said he probably couldnt have done it if he hadnt already won at Pebble Beach and the Players. It would have been harder, for sure, to grind it out, he said with all honesty.
It looks like a different Davis Love, though. Tiger is still Tiger and he is going to win more than anyone. But in the next echelon, maybe it will be Davis for a couple of years. If he has his best game working, only Tiger can beat him. If he has only his average gamed working and that 39-year-old head on his shoulders, now hell win almost every time.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the MCI Heritage
  • Davis Love III Bio
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