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Love Gets to Play From Front

He shoots 67 to lead by two strokes. His last victory was at Pebble Beach two years ago.

February 09, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

PEBBLE BEACH — Return with us now to the Pebble Beach Golf Links of two years ago, when the winner was the same guy who finished up his work Saturday in position to do it again.

Is it that automatic for Davis Love III? Wind him up and every two years he's good for a victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am?

If only it were that simple for Love, who posted his second consecutive 67, this one at Spyglass Hill, and holds a two-shot lead over Tom Lehman, Mike Weir and Rod Pampling.

At 10-under 206 and with one more round to go, a two-shot lead isn't much, said Love. It can disappear in a hurry.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday February 10, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Golf -- Davis Love III led the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am after three rounds at 10 under par. Charts in Sports on Sunday incorrectly listed his total at eight under par.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday February 10, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Golf -- Davis Love III led the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am after three rounds at 10 under par. Charts in Sports on Sunday incorrectly listed his total at eight under par.

"It's a birdie and a bogey," he said. "You can't really think about that."

So think about this: The last time Love won a tournament was at Pebble Beach in 2001, when he started the fourth round seven shots behind co-leaders Phil Mickelson and Olin Browne.

But Love needed only 20 shots to play the first seven holes, beginning that round with a birdie, an eagle and then five more birdies on his way to a 28 on the front and a round of 63 that beat Vijay Singh by a shot.

Maybe it helped that Love posted his score early, waited 45 minutes to see if Singh or Mickelson could catch him and managed to avoid the pressure associated with having to play with the lead. If that did help, Love is coming from an entirely different position today.

And being ahead is better, he said.

"A lot better," said Love, who has only three victories since winning the PGA Championship in 1997. "You know you don't have to come out and shoot a course record."

Lehman, who had a two-under 70 at Spyglass, knows all about Love's incendiary start at Pebble Beach two years ago.

"Hopefully, he won't do it again," Lehman said.

Meanwhile, Lehman hopes his own turn is coming up again. Lehman's last victory was three years ago at the Phoenix Open, while Weir's was last week at the Bob Hope.

"It's been a while," Lehman said. "It's nice to kind of have a chance again. I really think I still have the game and I have the desire, and it's just a matter of kind of getting in position."

Weir's 67 should have been better, especially after he was seven under after seven holes with two eagles. But he just couldn't score on the backside and had only seven pars and a couple of bogeys to show for it.

"I'm not happy about it, that's for sure," he said. "But you can't control the outcomes in this game."

That's sort of the mind-set Love has as he sets out in search of what would be his 15th victory but only his second since the MCI Classic in 1998. Love said he expects to chat with sports psychologist Bob Rotella before he starts today's round and he knows what he will be told.

"Same as always," Love said. "Get into the process, not the results."

Rocco Mediate remains close at seven-under 209 after a 68 at Poppy Hills. Six others are within four shots of Love: Rory Sabbatini, Tim Herron, Brad Faxon, Tim Clark, Jim Furyk and Dicky Pride.

On the unlucky side, David Duval missed the cut, as he did at the Hope. Also missing the cut were defending champion Matt Gogel, John Daly, Casey Martin and 18-year-old Ty Tryon.

Phillip Price eagled the fourth, ninth and 10th holes at Poppy Hills but withdrew on the 13th because of a back injury. Only 12 players have had three eagles in a PGA Tour round since 1970, but Price's withdrawal means his round isn't official.

Love should have known he was into something good when he rolled in a 50-foot monster putt to birdie his first hole, the 10th. He also birdied the 11th and the par-five 14th but three-putted the 15th for a bogey and then made another at the 17th when his ball was buried in a bunker.

Once Love made the turn, he got hot again with a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 1 and a 10-footer at No. 3. Love eagled the last remaining par-five, the 521-yard seventh, with a driver, three-iron and a 12-foot putt from behind the hole.

As far as any strategy for today, it's simple, Love said.

"Try to birdie every hole," he said. "Guys aren't going to be shooting these 61s, 62s, 63s, 64s if their plan was to go out and be careful and birdie the par-fives. Every hole at Pebble is maybe not a birdie hole. If you play for birdie, if you play to hit it in the fairway and hit it on the green, get a birdie putt, then the easy pars come a lot easier."

Love tied for 12th last week at the Hope and said he had rededicated himself to golf and improved his attitude. Winning again would be fair payback, Love said, but he believes there will be other chances if it doesn't work out.

"It's always important to win," he said. "Is it the last chance ever? No. But I want to win, I came out this year to put myself in position a bunch and test my skills and see if I can get better.

"Hopefully I can go out and play and not think about winning, and we can talk about it tomorrow night."

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