YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


No complaints coming from Love

June 15, 2008|Tim Dahlberg | Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- It wasn't that long ago, just a few weeks to be exact, that Davis Love III was both sounding and looking an awful lot like something he said he never wanted to be -- an aging player complaining that golf courses these days are simply too tough.

Those young whippersnappers who set up courses today just don't understand people want to see birdies, not bogeys, he groused. Nobody ever gets a chance to shoot 20-under anymore and have some real fun like we used to. The next thing you know, they'll start growing knee-deep rough at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

"I don't want to sound like the guy who's 44 and not playing good," Love said at the Memorial. "But it's really hard."

So is the U.S. Open, something Love should know a lot about after playing in the last 19 of them and breaking par only once. He might have been tempted to skip this one at his age and get in some practice for next week's Traveler's Championship, a place where birdies are still in abundance.

He didn't, even though he had to walk 36 holes and shoot an awfully good score while doing so just to get here. He didn't, even though he was thrown into a threesome almost as an afterthought in a spot usually reserved for an amateur player.

Maybe there's something liberating about coming to Torrey Pines with no baggage after long being known as the best player to win just one major. Maybe Love gained a little incentive after missing the Masters and losing his streak of playing in 70 straight majors.

Maybe, just maybe, after being written off by almost everyone, he's still got a little game left.

"I think physically I can play the game," Love said after inching toward the midway lead with a two-under 69 that left him two shots back after the first round. "And I think if I get on a roll, get my confidence going, I can have a few more really, really good years, and possibly great."

Love's golf shrink would likely advise him not to get that far ahead. The mind guys like to remind players to stay in the moment and don't think about consequences.

But while there's still plenty of time left for his annual June swoon, Love seems to believe he's still got something in the tank at an age where players start looking back at their careers, not ahead.

As if to prove it, he hasn't complained about the difficulty of Torrey Pines. Yet.

"I love the challenge of the way the USGA's got it set up," Love said. "It's obviously -- I don't know the right way to put it -- it's more fun to play than the last two years. There are some opportunities out there. If you hit good shots, you know you're going to get rewarded, and if you hit bad shots, you know that it's not the end of the world."

That's a lesson that seems to have taken a long time to sink in for Love, whose talent is about the only thing that hasn't been questioned in a career now in its 23rd year. He's won 19 times during that span, including the 1997 PGA Championship, but the consensus among most in golf is that he should have done much more.

Surprisingly enough, Love agreed in a recent interview with the Associated Press.

"I know I should have and could have won more," he said. "Everybody wants more for you. I want it more than anyone wants it for me."

Love hasn't made things any easier for himself along the way. He's taken it upon himself to police the integrity of the game, which has led to confrontations with photographers and fans who might make noise at the wrong moment, and he once threatened to quit in the final of the Match Play Championship against Tiger Woods if a man who yelled "No Love" wasn't removed from the course.

He walked out of an interview at the PGA Championship two years ago when asked about what Greg Norman said about drug testing, saying he wouldn't respond to anything Norman said.

And if he would have seen Phil Mickelson wearing a shirt without a collar in the first round of the Open, he would have been horrified.

Love, though, has had bigger things to worry about recently than protecting the game. He tore up his left ankle when he stepped in a hole during a friendly game last September, had to spend months rehabbing it and failed to qualify for the Masters for the first time since 1990.

After having to qualify for this Open, he seems to understand he's running out of chances for future majors.

"I got 36 holes this weekend that could help me get in a lot of majors," he said. "And then if not, I go to Detroit. Go 36 again for the [British] Open. So it's nice that it's out there for me, and I think as long as I stay positive and keep playing hard, that good things will happen."

As long as he doesn't think about how hard the course is, they just might.

Los Angeles Times Articles