The PGA Championship

Interview with BERNHARD LANGER

August 13, 2003

Julius Mason: Davis Love, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 85th PGA Championship, competing in his 17th PGA Championship, winner in 1997.

Some opening thoughts being in Rochester and we'll go into Q&A.

Davis Love III: Well, obviously glad to be at the PGA and back in a major in New York. Had a lot of great fan support already this week and looking forward to playing an extremely long, hard golf course. Obviously, playing with a lot of confidence, so I'm looking forward to it.

Q: Are the conditions here much different, or how are they different from Winged Foot in '97?

Davis Love III: Well, it seems harder. I know when we played Winged Foot, we thought it was one of the hardest courses we had ever seen. I think it's gotten steadily tougher out on TOUR and in majors since then. But guys are comparing this to Bethpage; I think that's a pretty strong comparison. It might not be quite as hard as Bethpage but it's an awfully hard golf course.

I think with the length and how damp it is, it is probably playing harder than Winged Foot, except for maybe the greens. These greens are a little bit flatter than Winged Foot but I think the golf course is going to play every bit as difficult, if not more difficult than Winged Foot.

Q: Can you ever remember a year in all your time out here where this many of the world's best players have had as good of years as they have had?

Davis Love III: I can't. My memory is not as good as most guys.

Obviously, last year, there was a lot of talk about why were there so many first-time winners. I kept pointing out that the top players weren't playing as well as they normally do. The guys that you would expect to win a lot of golf tournaments weren't winning them.

I think this year, we are seeing the top players stepping back up, playing very well, and it's a little bit of change in form. I think you have streaks of all different kinds of stuff, and this is a streak of a bunch of guys that should play well that are playing well.

Q: Does that add at all to the satisfaction of how well you've done, because you've played so well and you've had to compete with so many of the top players in doing what you've done?

Davis Love III: I think it's, obviously in this day and age, it's great to win golf tournaments, any golf tournament, much less a PLAYERS or Pebble Beach or any of the four that I've won that are a little bit separated from the rest. It's nice to win when there are so many great players. Guys like Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, one of the best players in the world -- he's having a great, great year -- Mike Weir.

It's great to be able to win in an era where so many players, and when so many great players, are on top of their game. Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, a lot of guys you would expect to win golf tournaments played well last week and it's very satisfying.

Q: Some of us read some of your comments at The INTERNATIONAL and wonder if you would elaborate on what's going on that prompted you to say some of the things that you did at The INTERNATIONAL concerning those rumors?

Davis Love III: I don't think I need to elaborate because they were rumors and they were untrue. I just had an opportunity to dedicate the win to my wife.

Given the reaction off the golf course, and on the golf course the last couple of days by the fans, everybody understood what I was saying. I got a lot of support out there the last couple days from players, friends and fans, so I think it's pretty much over.

Rumors are rumors and that's why I was a little upset with my, whatever you want to call it, friends and family and fans that believed some of the stuff that was being said. I don't think it needs to be repeated because it wasn't nice. So I think it's pretty much over.

Again, the fans out here are more supportive of what I said and my family than they were of me winning the golf tournament last week and that was refreshing the last couple of days.

Q: Can you answer what the winning score will be and how many players will be under par?

Davis Love III: No. I don't know what the weather is going to be, so that would be a guess, but I hope I'm way under par.

Q: Your first major was the '97 PGA, and 12 of the past 15 winners, it's been their first major. Can you think of a rationale, some logical reason why that is more than any other major?

Davis Love III: No. And we've been asked that for five or six years, why that happens. But the only reasonable explanation I can come up with is that first-time winners have played a few majors that year maybe or they are more comfortable in majors. It's the end of the major season. But I don't think there is a rational explanation for it.

Q: Given the family tragedy you've had, how have you been able to play through that, and also, has being able to get out on the course been a good release for you?

Davis Love III: Yeah, definitely. Getting out and playing when I don't have to be sitting in the office or at home taking care of things, it's been nice to get out and play, get out with my friends and enjoy. My second love, other than my family is playing golf. It's been nice to be able to come out and play and thankfully, my wife and my family has pulled together and allowed me to do that.

How have I played so well? I don't know. I started this year, dedicated myself to working real hard at playing well every week, and I withdrew from one tournament when I didn't feel well and didn't think I was going to play good. But every other time I've come out, I felt like I was going to play very, very well. So I've been very blessed this year to have a lot of support from my family and I've been healthy, and taking advantage of it.

Q: The four wins you've had this year were all in places where you had won before. This, of course, is a tournament you've won before. As high as you are already flying, confidence-wise, I'm wondering what that might mean?

Davis Love III: Well, I hope the trend continues, certainly.

I don't know. I've been playing very well. I've been fortunate to win quite a few golf tournaments and get comfortable at a lot of places. I do tend to play the same tournaments over and over again. I get a little bit of a hard time from the Tour and other tournaments for that.

But, you know, I think certainly, I've played enough majors, I've played enough big tournaments that I ought to be comfortable at this one, as well. So hopefully that confidence from playing well this year, and also playing a lot of golf tournaments like this, will help me this week.

Q: Along the lines of great players playing well, certainly, the Player of the Year race is wide open at this point; is that a goal of yours?

Davis Love III: It was a goal at the beginning of the year. I think this week is very important for that. But there's several guys that could do some things, that this week would not be the thing that seals it for them. Obviously, Jim Furyk if he ran off four more wins, it would be hard to argue; or Mike Weir, if he ran three more off before the end of the year and one of them was not the PGA, it would be a tough call.

It's still wide open. But the PGA Championship is an important event. So I'm not going to let Player of the Year get in the way of me playing this one.

Q: Just to go back to the rumors briefly, it took a lot of us by surprise. We had not heard anything. I read something that you alluded to rumors about another player. Is this something that has suddenly cropped up or is it something that's gone on for a while and we just had not heard about it? And how difficult is it to play when things like that are happening?

Davis Love III: I think I've covered all that. I think not everybody hears every rumor but a lot of people had heard it.

Q: You talked about so many of the top players stepping up this year that were not playing well a year ago. Can you talk about maybe the single most defining reason that has allowed so many other players to close the gap on Tiger this year?

Davis Love III: Well, he's won four times, as well. So I don't know if there's a gap or if it's closed or what it is.

I can't speak for anybody else, but I'm healthy and putting well and playing with a lot of confidence. I think the last couple of years, I was not healthy and that's the biggest difference for me. It's hard to get confidence when you don't feel well and if you're not playing well. It's hard to compete.

So I think this year, I could compete a lot better and it's hard to say, the chicken or the egg, what comes first. I think I got healthy, and confidence, it grew. Golf is a game of confidence and streaks. You see a lot of players get on streaks for a while. Tiger had one that was a streak beyond any streak that's ever been played, with his putter; he was infallible there for a while. Now, I think he's ready for another streak, and I happen to be on one and Jim Furyk happens to be on one, and we're all playing pretty well.

Q: You played your practice round yesterday with David Duval, and he's obviously having some on-course struggles. How much do you feel for a guy like that that just is losing it, do you talk much about what's going on with his game?

Davis Love III: Well, we know what's going on with his game. I think he knows what's going on with it. He got hurt. I know if I went over the handlebars of a mountain bike I would probably never come back. It shows he's real strong and he's real fit, and just a bad back can still slow you down.

He's having some problems getting set up to the ball correctly and he's working through that. But I'll tell you, I've never seen a guy with a better attitude that was playing bad. He will come back. It might not be this week or next week, but he will be back and we are already starting to see signs. It's certainly nice to see a guy working hard with a good attitude, even though he's not getting the results. I'm sure he'll be back real soon.

Q: Do you think Ben Curtis winning the British empowered a lot of players like him who did not have a lot of major experience, who did not have many good results, that there's no reason to come to a major and just play for the experience; that they can actually win this thing?

Davis Love III: I certainly think it would. I mean, Rich Beem winning the PGA last year and Ben winning just shows how deep the fields are; that if a player catches a hot streak, he can win out here. And it also gives us a belief that, hey, you know, there's not just one guy that can win a major championship out here. There's a whole bunch of them and I am sure it gives the whole field confidence.

You know, you want to believe, and that just helps you believe, I think, a little bit more that, hey, everybody out here is a great player and can win. Even though we say the field is shortened, you didn't hear that much at the British, but in tournaments like this, yeah, anybody that gets the ball in the fairway a whole bunch and putts real well can win. It's just a matter of getting out there and doing it.

Q: As penalizing as the rough looks like it's going to be, how many drivers are you hitting out there?

Davis Love III: I've only played one practice round. I'm getting ready to go back out. We were just discussing on the range that maybe you could play the whole front nine with a 3-wood. So we are starting to think in those terms of, how do you get the ball in the fairway no matter what club you hit into the greens.

The greens, except for a few of them, are fairly generous. If you play for the front middle, you can get it on the greens, even if you are hitting a 4-, 5-, 6-iron. So I think if it dries up some, you will see a lot of 3-woods and 1-irons from the big hitters.

I made the mistake at Chicago in the U.S. Open of being tempted too much because it looked like you could hit it out there and get it in the fairway with a driver. I think caution would be maybe in play a little bit more if it dries up, but you are just not going to do well from the rough. So you have to get it in the fairway, even if it means hitting a 3-iron off the tee and a 3-iron to the green, you've got to do it.

Q: Given the way you're playing this year, you feel reasonably healthy, do you think your best golf is ahead of you, and is that something you might not have thought two years ago when the neck problems were at their worst?

Davis Love III: There was a time in the last couple of years when I said, "How am I going to get back to feeling like I can win and dominate a golf tournament?" It's nice to have a plan and to get back healthy.

Certainly, I have great people around me. Jack Lumpkin has got my swing as good as it's ever been, and Bob Rotella has got me right where I want to be mentally with my routines and stuff.

If I can just stay focused and not get relaxed, keep working hard like I have been this year, I don't think there's any reason why at 39 years old, my best golf is ahead of me.

Certainly, I need to continue to get stronger and continue to work hard and continue to be patient with myself like I have been this year. I think I can keep playing like I'm playing; maybe not winning four of 12 tournaments, but certainly that I can continue to be a factor year in and year out for a few more years.

Q: Would you expand a little on Jack and what he's meant for your game and also how his course knowledge can help you out here?

Davis Love III: He's been telling me where the tees used to be last couple of days.

But I played here in '89 and '95. It's great to have him around any time because he's a wealth of knowledge, he's a great teacher and a good friend since I was born, really. He's a great asset to me. He's really helped me change and refine my golf swing and he gives me a lot of confidence.

He watched me hit 30 minutes before The INTERNATIONAL and said, "Go on, go play, you're ready." If he tells me to work hard, make a change, I believe him. If he tells me I'm playing good, I believe him. He's done an awful lot for me. I don't know, he used to work at Winged Foot for Claude Harmon and that was a good omen. Maybe he'll find some secret on the greens for me today.

Q: Is the rough the major defense against par that this golf course has; and the other aspect is, could it be that one reason we are getting a lot of unsuspected winners in major championships is the difficulty and the conditions that they are preparing the golf course to?

Davis Love III: Well, first part is, yes, the rough and the length. I think the combination of how long the golf course is, and the length of the rough is going to make it play very, very hard.

On 17 yesterday, with no wind, David Duval and I both pounded drives out there and I killed a 4-iron to the green. That's a serious hole. That was a par 5 last week.

I think there's probably two or three holes out there like that where it's a driver and a mid to a long iron. If you hit it in the rough on a hole like that, you're going to chip out and hit a 6-iron in. So it's the combination, I think, of the two.

And I think we've had a couple, maybe, surprises, major winners, but I think we have had a long streak of players, the top players seem to be winning. But I think there has been a trend towards, it's so hard that there is a little bit more luck involved in a major championship, just because there's so many tough things out there, so many tricks out there, that a guy that's on a roll is not going to shoot 15? or 20-under par. A bad bounce can certainly cost you the tournament if it's a tight one.

Q: I believe you told us at THE PLAYERS Championship that you were going to play one shot at a time, which is something that every golfer talks about, you finally persuaded yourself to do it; have you been able to follow that throughout the year and has the success enabled you to reinforce that thinking?

Davis Love III: Well, not throughout the year. Five or six times this year, I've done really good jobs of it.

Certainly the first five holes of the Open Championship, I got ahead of myself on Sunday. I was a little impatient and didn't play them very well. It took me awhile to settle down a couple days there and play the golf course and I played the back nine very well.

So I won't say that I've been doing it all year, but certainly at different times, I've done a great job. When I've gotten off to really good starts, I've stayed in the golf tournament the whole way. So I think I'm doing a much better job of it, and I've learned a lot about how to control my emotions and just play the game.

I'm still obviously trying to get better at it, but I think this year I've done the best job I've ever done at that.

Q: Just to go back for a second, is the rough too long?

Davis Love III: For me it is. (Laughter.) Maybe not for the PGA, the way they want it set up. It's awful long.

It leaves no doubt. If you hit it in the rough, you're in trouble. If they are looking for it to be a severe penalty for hitting in the rough, it certainly is. But I think you'll see a lot of funny-looking golf shots coming out of it. It's very, very difficult.

But, in their defense, they haven't been able to mow it much in the last two or three weeks because it's been pouring down rain. They were worrying about the rough six or eight weeks ago that they would have enough, and I think they overdid it. I think it did get away from them.

Q: You talked about the difficulty of the golf course and the length, what holes on the golf course do you feel you can take advantage of and have a good chance to score on?

Davis Love III: Good question. I don't think there's a real easy hole out there. I remember in the Ryder Cup, there were not a whole lot of great birdie holes. But I think holes like 8, 14, if you get the ball in the fairway, get a shorter club in, you'll get the ball close.

But it seems like the shorter the hole, the trickier the green. Pin placements are going to be a big part of it.

I think if you hit a good drive, you'll have some birdie holes. If you hit a bad drive, you're going to have to scramble. That's pretty much going to be the way it is all week.

Q: You talked about how you feel like going into your 40s you could be playing better. Do you feel like there's an urgency when you get to these major championships? You've won one in '97, but you've been close many times since then but haven't gotten another major. Do you feel an urgency because there's only four a year and now you'll be getting into your 40s.

Davis Love III: No. I feel like I'll be exempt for a while. So I'm not pressing, certainly.

As long as I keep getting there like I did at the British, as long as I keep getting the chance, I know that eventually one will fall my way. So I'm not impatient about it. I'm winning golf tournaments again and feeling good. So I'm looking forward to not only the PGA but the four next year.

Q: This is almost like a second Open this year because of the set up. Would you, long term, rather see the PGA be a different set up, not the four-inch rough and the 20-yard wide fairways, things like that. Would you like to see it be a different type of championship?

Davis Love III: Well, I think they go to different-type courses. Certainly, if you play a golf course like this that's had Opens and Ryder Cups, you are not going to change the style of the golf course that much. Yeah, you could have a little bit shorter rough, but that's the style of golf course it is. Like we said earlier, the defense is really going to be the length and the rough.

When they go to a Jack Nicklaus course or they are going to go to Whistling Straits, Marion, it's a different style of golf. I think they do a good job of new courses, old courses, different style. They do play on a U.S. Open style course once in awhile. It's nice, they mix it up.

We'll see. Maybe the fairways dry up and it doesn't play as long as we think it's going to play and there's some guys that shoot some good scores. But this is what we are used to. I think this is not a surprise for us.

Obviously, the British Open this year was kind of a surprise, it was kind of funky. It was very tricky. This one, at least it's right there for you. Here's your job, go do it, and if you don't, you're not going to win and it's pretty clear-cut.

Q: This has obviously been such a great year for you on the course but such a trying one off of it; it's clearly still going on, but how do you think when it's all said and done that you'll remember the season?

Davis Love III: Well, certainly it's been a great year golf-wise. I'm planning to continue that.

I think my family has obviously had a big loss this summer, and that will be with us for a long time. But we've certainly grown closer together at the same time. I think a lot like when my dad passed away, we pulled together and got stronger and moved forward. I think we can see that.

A new school year started this week, and everybody is back to their normal routines. Dad is playing golf and the kids are in school. So we are moving on, and I think at the end of the year, we will probably have a tough Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we'll be thankful, nonetheless.

Q: Could you talk about the finishing holes, 17 and 18, and how they will impact this championship?

Davis Love III: They are going to be hard. They are certainly two of the hardest back-to-back holes at any major I can remember. Certainly, I can't even come close to having two tougher finishing holes.

It will be a big impact. Guys will be playing with that in the back of their heads that, if they are not doing well, there's nothing out there for them to hope for to finish good. So again, it's just going to be, you're going to have to play hard the whole way through. If you don't hit the fairway at 17 and 18, they are going to play like par 5s. They are going to play like par 5s maybe from the fairway, too.

It's going to be a tough, tough finish. You don't want to be one or two behind with two to go because it will be tough to make birdies to catch up.

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