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Burnin Love Prevails at Pebble Beach

On a record hot day on the Monterey Peninsula, Davis Love III torched the front nine at Pebble Beach en route to overcoming a seven-shot deficit and earning his first PGA Tour victory in nearly three years.
Love played his first seven holes in eight-under-par, and finished with a sensational round of 63 to best Vijay Singh (69) and Phil Mickelson (73), both of whom fell victim to over-aggressiveness down the stretch.
Davis Love III comments on his win at Pebble Beach.
Love finished the 72-hole tournament, which went uninterrupted for the first time since 1992, at 16-under-par, one shot lower than Singh, and three strokes clear of overnight co-leader Mickelson.
Love's victory earns him $720,000. But more importantly, it gives him his first official PGA Tour title since the 1998 WORLDCOM Classic (formerly the MCI Classic).
'It is a thrill to win this golf tournament,' said Love. 'To win where Payne Stewart won (1999) and to play in a place that has a connection to him is great.'
Love was well aware of where he stood entering the final round. He was also quite aware of what could be done.
'I saw that I was seven shots back, like Tiger was last year,' said Love in reference to Woods' remarkable come-from-behind victory a year ago, in which he was seven shots down with seven holes to play.
Woods wasn't able to produce the same dramatics this year. He recorded three consecutive bogeys on the front nine and never contended. Tiger finished tied for 13th following a final round of even-par 72.
Woods was only a spectator this Sunday, though. Playing in the group behind Love, he had a front row-seat for something that must have looked awfully familiar.
Following a birdie at the first, Love holed a 104-yard wedge shot for eagle at the par-five second. The hole-out was reminiscent of Woods' 97-yard slam-dunk on the 15th last year.
'When Tiger came back, he had one of those,' said Love. 'Sometimes, it takes something like that to get it going.'
Love continued his unconscious play by carding birdies on each of his next five holes. The seven-shot deficit was officially erased with a birdie on the sixth hole; another at the seventh gave him the outright lead at 15-under-par.
A bogey at the 11th, Love's lone blemish on his card, dropped him to 14-under, one back of Mickelson and Craig Barlow, who each birdied the sixth to move to 15-under.
Barlow was unable to stay at the top. Like Love, he eagled the second and bogeyed the 11th. But unlike Love, he dropped three more shots to finish the event tied for sixth at 11-under-par.
Love reclaimed a tie at the solo lead at 15-under when he birdied the 13th and Mickelson bogeyed the 10th.
Following a stagnate front nine, Singh joined the fray with birdies at the 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th holes. The Fijian tied Love for first place at 15-under with three holes remaining.
Love stayed at minus-15 until the final hole. He stroked a three-wood from 256 yards to 35 feet on the par-five 18th. Love then successfully two-putted for birdie for a round of nine-under-par 63.
With Love in the clubhouse at 16-under-par, Singh and Mickelson had some ground to make up. Singh was just one shot back standing on the 17th tee. Meanwhile, Mickelson found himself three strokes off the lead following a bogey at the 15th.
A playoff appeared imminent. That was until Singh hooked his tee shot on the par-three penultimate hole into the Pacific Ocean.
'I just hit the wrong club,' said Singh. 'I tried to cut a seven-iron and blew it over the green. I should have hit a strong eight.'
Singh managed to bogey the hole, but could only birdie the 18th to finish in second place for the second straight year.
'Maybe next year, we'll see what happens,' said Singh.
Needing to play the final three holes in three-under, Mickelson heightened interest by birdying the 16th and 17th holes. A birdie at the par-five 18th would have forced a playoff, but after hitting his tee shot into the center of the fairway, the lefty decided to go for the green in two.
Mickelson pulled out the big stick and then pulled his approach into the Pacific.
'I had 251 (yards) to the front of the green,' said Mickelson. 'I wanted to hit it in the front bunker, or try and shoot it in the gap. But I over-cut it.
'I always go for that green in two. I've never hit it into the ocean until then.'
The errant shot cost the 1998 Pebble Beach champion a chance to garner title No. 2. He eventually double-bogeyed the 18th and finished in a tie for third with fellow third-round co-leader Olin Browne, who matched Mickelson's score of one-over-par 73.
Said a gracious Mickelson after his round, 'I'm glad to see Davis win, but not at my expense.'
Love's victory is his 14th on Tour, but his first since April of 1998. During his 62-start winless drought, Love recorded seven runner-up finishes and three thirds. However, he did win the unofficial Williams World Challenge, in December. Love came from four strokes back to defeat Woods by two.
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Read George White's commentary on Davis Love III