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An Interview With: Davis Love III

JULIUS MASON: Thank you, Davis Love, for joining us at the 86th PGA Championship. Davis, welcome to Wisconsin. Give us some opening thoughts about Whistling Straits and we'll go to Q&A right afterward.

DAVIS LOVE III: Whistling Straits is obviously, you've heard it all week, a big, hard, long golf course. It's beautiful. I've been saying all week, I wish I had Pete Dye's and Herb Kohler's vision to build something like that, and hopefully one day I will.

It's an incredible, not only piece of property, but an incredible job of creating what they were after, a links-style golf course, and there's obviously some very hard holes out there, but for the most part it's just a very, very hard, fair golf course. If you like courses like Royal County Down and links-style over in Ireland, you'll love this golf course.

Q. You said you wanted the vision, but what about the budget? You've carved a few courses in your day; do you have any idea what it must have cost to do this, roughly? Because Kohler won't say.

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I won't say, either, then. You can do the math when you hear the yards of dirt they moved, and obviously, they don't have cart paths and they have lots of irrigation, but you just put the numbers together. But I'm sure in the higher end of what guys like Pete and Rees Jones and Fazio and Norman, Nicklaus, the guys that are building the really, really nice, finished golf courses, landscaped, and this is basically a theme golf course. They are spending $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $30,000 dollars, quite frequently. I've watched Rees Jones and Tom Fazio at Sea Island build some great golf courses and seen a lot of projects that Fazio and Dye have done, just been lucky enough to be near them and the stuff they've done. It's awful nice to have a big budget like that and be able to be creative and do neat things.

Like all of the stuff out of play, which is out of play for almost everybody, not just PGA TOUR players, that's what gives you the feeling that you're in Scotland or Ireland or on a links course. We keep looking to see if we can see Ireland across the water. You just feel like you're playing in Scotland.

Q. We've been to a couple of majors that no one has ever seen, Sahalee, storied Valhalla -- this seems like a major and a venue that we really have no clue how it's all going to play out over the next four days till you get started. I wonder if you could speak to that and if that adds to some of the anticipation being so new, so different, and what most people are saying, is so hard.

DAVIS LOVE III: I think it adds certainly to the suspense, and it might be good for the experienced players because they say, hey, we don't know what's going to happen, so we are just going to go play and not have any target score or expectations in our head, just go play and do the best you can.

I've certainly talked to Bob Rotella a lot about that yesterday; how do you approach an unknown like this. Do you throw par away? Certainly, 18 is not a par 4, so you can't get hung up on, "I have to make 4 there every day or I won't win the tournament." Or that "I have to birdie No. 5 because it's a par 5." You just have to play each hole and each shot the best you can, and it is going to be an unknown and a mental test. I think that's why, if I had to predict, it would be somebody with a lot of experience and somebody that's been around a lot of big tournaments and also has the total package, hitting the ball solid. You don't have to hit it long but you have to hit it solidly in this wind. You have to be a pretty good shot-maker and then you're also going to have to chip and putt and scramble really well.

Q. That's not asking much.

DAVIS LOVE III: That's not asking much. That's why majors are hard to win. You have to do it all.

Q. When your brother used caddie for you, how is that different than your typical player-caddie relationship?

DAVIS LOVE III: It was harder to get rid of him when you're tired of him (laughter).

It was fun to have him around. He was a good set of eyes for my golf swing. He's obviously seen it his whole life, and he could help me with stuff off the golf course, and since we are -- for part of the time he was caddying, we were in business together, building golf courses. It was our time to sit down and talk and think about things and work. So, it was a good family relationship and it was fun. It's just hard for anybody with a young family to caddie, and it got hard on him.

Q. Given that you have some design background but you're here to play the golf course, when you're out there, how much do you find yourself looking at the nuances of the course from a design standpoint and trying to get to know the golf course from a competitive standpoint?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think you can do both at the same time. You've got to figure out, all right, what was Pete thinking here, what's the correct way to play this hole, what's he looking for, where is the safer -- Pete's golf courses are visually intimidating more than really they are intimidating to hit the ball around. I said it on the 4th hole today to my caddie, I said, "You know, there's always an out it seems like on this golf course." Maybe not on 18, but there's almost always an out, a place to hit it. If you miss the fairway, it's not always going to be playing for par, and I think guys are having a tough time, and I think Kerry Haigh said it best, you don't have to get to the green in two on a par 4 sometimes. The wind may make it where you can't get there in two, but we want to be able to get to the fairways, and Pete gives you a route or a tee to play or a bail-out area.

It's just this golf course, you just can't miss wide a whole lot of times. You're not going to get in serious trouble if you just off the fairway. But if you miss wide, if you're out there where the people can get right up close to you, you're going to be in trouble, or down towards the lake; there's bad stuff down there.

But I enjoy looking at it. I'm wondering how he had the creativity to build these bunkers that look like they have been there for one hundred years and they have fallen in and grass has grown in little circles down through there. Because how you create that -- I know it's been here since '99, but nature did not create the edges of these bunkers. Somebody went out there and built it by hand. You don't build it with a machine. You have to basically build it by hand.

That kind of attention to detail to make it look real, you could plop somebody down here out of a helicopter or a spaceship and say, where are you, they are going to guess Ireland or Scotland. They are not going to guess that you're in the United States.

I guess here, and Pacific Dunes, places like that, are our version of links, and it's fun to see how it's done. So hopefully if we get us a piece of coastal property and a nice budget and a lot of wind, we'll build a course like this.

Q. You've won on Pete Dye courses six or seven times between Harbor Town and Players; you might be a little bit prejudiced about this, but I guess you like his design style and everything. Why do you think Pete is so vilified sometimes; for every praise that he gets --

DAVIS LOVE III: I played Royal County Down last year, and a top player played it the same day as me, and we met up at the British Open. I said, "What do you think of Royal County Down?" He said, "I think it's the worst course I've ever played." He said, "What do you think?" I said, "It's the best course I've ever played."

That's what happens with Pete Dye. He has taken a lot of what he has seen in Scotland and Ireland that people go back to time and time again. Not very many people go to Royal County Down or Ballybunion or Carnoustie or any of these courses and play very well, you know. They get beat up.

But it's the experience and it's fun and it's beautiful. It's tradition. It's golf like nothing else.

Pete has tried to bring that over here in everything he does; even Harbour Town, doesn't look like this, but it's got a lot of neat little pot bunkers and dropoffs and things that you see over there. So, you know, not everybody agrees on art, you know, and I think that's Pete. He's kind of an artist. He's copying, taken things from great golf courses he's seen and building them. If you like them -- you don't. Some people like Fazio, some people like Rees Jones, some people like Jack Nicklaus, some people like Colt and Allison. Everybody likes something different. I don't think we can agree on one designer who is one everybody likes.

He's different. I think it's great, but I think it's the best part of his genius is that he is different than everybody else. Are his courses hard? Yeah, they are hard, but a lot of the courses we like the best, like Winged Foot, they are hard. They are hard for everybody, even us.

Q. Was the course playing a lot differently today than it was earlier in the week, would you say? And also I'm wondering if you could pick your own weather forecast for the week, what would you like to see? Would you like to see a lot of winds to separate the top players? Do you have any thoughts on that?

DAVIS LOVE III: No, I don't think we want big wind. I think we want some wind to see -- and we'd like to see some different wind. We've seen the same wind basically the last three days. Has it been different? No, not really. It's colder today is really the only difference. I kept taking my jacket off so I could swing because it was too many layers today.

But it's playing about the same. The course can't dry out because it keeps getting sprinkled; it's kind of damp conditions. They probably would like it a little drier and faster, but I think a little bit of wind is nice. The last two days it's a little much; I think would all prefer it to be a little calmer.

Q. I know it's been seven years, but I'm just wondering how often you still get approached, people talking about that putt on 18 with the rainbow and if there's any particular story that's better than another.

DAVIS LOVE III: No, I've had a lot of -- of course, the rainbow, everybody has got a great rainbow story they want to talk about, something about the passing of a loved one or a friend or a memory of a father or a mother or a friend. So it's nice to have that connection.

At the Past Champions Dinner last night, everybody sees the video of it, and it's just a great, great moment, and they say, "We sure do always think about you and your dad when we see that." That's the best part about it to me is Jim Nantz was so eloquent with his comments about my father, and it meant a lot to me and to my family that people once again remembered my dad.

It gets brought up, especially this week, by a lot of people. I've had almost every hole out there this week, the fans have said, "Win it again like Winged Foot and we want to see a rainbow." I keep reminding them, it has to rain for there to be a rainbow, so we really don't want it to rain till after the tournament is over.

The fans here have just been incredibly supportive of all of us, and they mentioned Winged Foot and my win quite often. But they understand the game. It seems like up here, it's not just the golf course that's like Scotland and Ireland. The people are very knowledgeable and very friendly.

I was telling a great story last night at the Past Champions Dinner; when we flew into the little airport here, there was probably 100 people at the fence to watch to see the players come in. And it wasn't a mass, we've got to get everybody's autograph. When we drove through the gate, I gave out some gloves to the kids, and people were saying hello and welcoming us to their hometown and to their state, and they are excited and they wanted to know how I liked the golf course and who was going to win. It wasn't, you know, like usual when they are clamoring for autographs.

They have been great this week. They have been supportive, I think, of all the players. They are excited and can't wait to see it happen and can't believe it's in their hometown.

Q. You've mentioned 18 several times. Two-part question: With the varying winds, weather circumstances we've had around here for the last week or so, can you describe what it might be like Sunday afternoon on 15 through 18, and specifically, on 18, can you envision a pin back right playing from the back tee on 18?

DAVIS LOVE III: If the wind is blowing down, that's the only way I would want to see it.

You know, they have clearly told us and they have obviously instructed the marshals to say, hey, look there's another tee up there, maybe you guys ought to play it.

So we have run up on a few holes like 18 to play the up tee.

15 has played downwind, so it really has not been that bad, 15 and 16.

17 is hard I think no matter which way the wind blows. Hopefully it will blow downwind on 17 and then turn around and blow downwind on 18, but I doubt that's going to happen.

18, you just have to really -- I think we have got it in our heads that you're just going to have to play it like a par 5 and figure a way to hit it out to the right somewhere on your second shot if you miss it. Somebody said if you needed a 4 on 18, how would you play it? And that's a scary thought. I said, I hope I need a 5 and I hit it in the grandstands and take my chances.

18, if you said we'll let you change one thing on the golf course, the only thing I would change would be 18 green. I think it's a little severe. Maybe not for everyday play, but certainly in a golf tournament, it's going to be a very, very difficult hole. And, you know, I have a feeling it will be decided before that. The golf course is going to separate somebody, I think, and hopefully it won't come down to me needing a par on the last hole to win.

Q. You talk a lot about the people around here, but this is a state known for its beer. Have you encountered any problems with crowd behavior along those lines and do you anticipate this being a championship of international dimension?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't think so. As I said, they have been very nice and polite, and I think the PGA does a real good job of keeping the things under control.

Just the excitement, I think that they understand that this is a big deal and they are going to treat it as a big deal. They have shown an incredible amount of respect so far, and I don't think it will change. In fact, I went to the putting green the other day and I had to run through the autograph area, and I said, "I've got to go get a putting lesson, I'll do it on the way back." I came back almost an hour later and they said, "How was your putting lesson? Are you putting better? Now can we have an autograph?"

That usually doesn't happen. If you don't sign for an hour, they get mad at you. They have been very nice. I think it seems like a very knowledgeable golf crowd and I think they will -- if there are some bad eggs, they will talk to them about it.

Q. A couple questions about the Champions Dinner. A, have you ever played guitar; and B, what's the most unusual gift you've gotten in the last six years?

DAVIS LOVE III: A guitar. And no, I don't play it.

But John said he would help me, and if I could play three chords, I could play a lot of songs. And then I watched him, and I think he knows three or four and sounded pretty good. So it was a fun gift, and Shaun kept it a good secret. It's hard to keep a secret like that.

You know, everybody tries to do something different. We've had boots and engraved bottles of wine and all kind of things, but the guitar, certainly, in my seven years, that tops them all.

Q. Just as a follow, how much have you noticed that dinner changing since '98? Do you get a sense of maybe it's now at a stage where guys are trying to outdo each other on what they serve and what they give? And obviously, you haven't been to the Masters Champions Dinner, but that's the one that gets most of the attention. I wonder if you could talk about this being maybe kind of the best kept secret, if you will?

DAVIS LOVE III: It is a well-kept secret.

A few tournaments that are not majors have tried to do a Past Champions Dinner. The PGA I guess, how many years have they been doing it?

JULIUS MASON: Paul Azinger was the first one.

DAVIS LOVE III: So that's '93, '94. So it has a relatively short history and it's grown and changed. Certainly when it started out, it didn't have all of the different things going on that it does now. Certainly, they combine the dinner, it's for the wives and the players are having dinner together, which I think most of the guys wanted. I don't know if the wives wanted it, but the guys did.

But it's changed, and certainly, you get an idea from the guy before. I know I sat down with Julius and was like, "Okay, now what do I do?" He said, "Well, here is what the guys before you have done. They have been creative with the meal and they have been creative with the gift, and here is what guys have given. So don't copy that exactly, but here are some ideas," and you learn from it. Certainly, I'm sure the same thing happens at the Masters, you get some ideas from the guys before.

Q. How much did yours set you back?

DAVIS LOVE III: I don't know. Julius paid for it.

JULIUS MASON: I can't remember.

DAVIS LOVE III: It was a very tight budget, I remember. But the food was fun. Who was the first one to bring something to cook?

JULIUS MASON: I would go back to David Toms -- Tiger before that in Atlanta.

DAVIS LOVE III: Vijay brought the Thai food. For three or four years guys have been doing that; that's been catching on, to bring a friend. My wife helped the chef with our ideas for the food. So it gets everybody involved and gets friends involved. It makes it a lot of fun.

I think next year, there will be more wives wanting to try to get to the tournament because they heard how much fun the dinner was. I know my wife and Bob Tway's wife and a few mothers had to get kids into school and stuff like that. So hopefully this new format, it will continue to grow.

But it's a fun gathering. We stayed until 10:45, 11:00 last night. It shows that the guys are not in a hurry to get out of there. They wanted to enjoy their gift and enjoy the camaraderie. You always meet a few new friends at that dinner, new PGA of America people and people from the club and things like that. It's a great way to kick off the week.

Q. Can I just take it to Ryder Cup for a moment? Home advantage, is it an advantage or are there circumstances under which it could even be a hindrance?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it hasn't been an advantage, I don't think, over the history of it. Certainly, there's nothing consistent except that it's close. I think the European team plays so much over here that they are used to our style of golf, unfortunately. Our style of golf has been more prevalent over in Europe, meaning longer, deep rough style golf courses, rather than playing the Ryder Cup on links-style golf courses.

So I don't think there's an advantage one way or another. It seems to come down to who holes putts, and it's always been close. So I don't think home course or home fans or all that makes a whole lot of difference.

Q. This time last year, you had had four victories. Can you assess this year and some of the troubles you've been through, and how do you feel like you're poised from here through the rest of the events that you're going to compete in, including the Ryder Cup?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I hope that I have four wins the rest of this year like I did last year, kind of all in a flurry, and one of them in the Ryder Cup.

I've been close. I had some tournaments that I thought I could win and had guys play well, like Todd Hamilton birdieing the last two holes; I thought at least I would get a playoff out of it. And I played pretty good against everybody at The Match Play, and Tiger made a few birdies and got me there. I've been playing consistent except for maybe three for four weeks playing pretty good golf, hanging around the top 10, so I feel like if I can get in a rhythm this week and not get impatient, which is hard to do in a major, and it's going to be real hard this week, I think I could stay around till the end.

I feel good about my swing, I feel good about my game. Like I said, I've been playing some good rounds. I just need to put four good ones together.

Q. After seeing this course a few times, how would you rank it with Pete Dye's other courses?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, that's hard. He's got a variety. From early ones like Harbour Town to The Players Club, THE PLAYERS Championship -- and I haven't seen all of them. It's hard the way we play golf; we don't get to see a whole lot of them. It's a masterpiece, for sure. It's got to be one of his top 5 hardest, I would think, that I've seen, top 3 hardest.

But as far as the beauty and the artistic part of it, I think it's probably his best that I've seen, and I, again, have not seen a lot of them. But it's spectacular, and I keep going back to it; it's hard to sit down with a piece of paper and say, all right, now here is what I'm going to do on this hole, and I think maybe that's part of what makes him so good is he doesn't try to do that; he just goes out and creates. He's got some great people working for him that can do the details.

I don't know, I can't think of another golf course -- I haven't seen Pacific Dunes, I've just seen the pictures, and it's obviously -- and Ben Crenshaw, his links course, Sand Hills. But it's a creative masterpiece; I don't think there's very many golf courses like it in the country that are not a natural links like overseas.

JULIUS MASON: Davis Love, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

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