NEWS

Davis Love III conquers all this year

By Steve Hummer
Published on

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Say there's a need for some high-caliber power tools or heavy machinery. Like when Hurricane Matthew skirted this part of the Georgia coast and waged its vendetta against the trees.

Call Davis Love III. He might look more like a loan officer than a lumberjack, but he'll do in a pinch. Regardless of the weather.

"I always get the call: 'Can we borrow your truck? Do you have a trailer? A tractor?' And they know I have a trailer and a tractor. Three tractors," Love said.

What if there's a big international golf competition that the U.S. has forgotten how to win? Who's going to make American Ryder Cup golf great again?

Call Love, and give him the captain's title he held once before. He labeled his 2016 team perhaps the best ever assembled; and it backed him up, winning for only the second time in eight tries since the turn of this century.

You've got an empty shelf inside the World Golf Hall Fame? Love, the winner of 21 PGA Tour events, including the 1997 PGA Championship, will fill it. At least he will in 2017, it was announced last month.

You've got a PGA Tour event to hold in the most out-of-the-way venue on the schedule, at a time of year when most of the country has stored its clubs in the closet? Love will host it. And make a humble success of it, too.

This week, Love is once again the host of the RSM Classic here on the island he has made home since he was 15, when his father packed up the family and moved it out of Atlanta for a club pro job on the coast.

Compelled to play at the event of which he is the face and body and soul, Love, 52, is not at his physical peak. "I'm hitting that stage, having played 750 tournaments (734 PGA Tour events, precisely) and the wear and tear. The parts are wearing out. You got to replace them or quit," he said.

RELATED: RSM Classic Leaderboard | Watch PGA Tour Live

"I don't want to quit." So said the guy who won an event at the age of 51, becoming the third oldest ever to hold a trophy and an oversized check on Tour. Warming up at the Las Vegas stop two weeks ago, Love shot 8 under and finished T-41. Shooting even par through two rounds of the RSM wasn't good enough to make the cut.

Having already gone through repairs to neck and foot, Love is now coming off hip surgery. There was a little bit of a hitch in his get-along as he walked the Sea Island Golf Club grounds this week, but he still hopes to play a full PGA Tour schedule for at least one more year.

"I'm ready to play, I don't know how long my body is going to let me do it," Love said. "I've seen it with a lot of my peers who were great players, that their body just gave out on them.

"I'm struggling with that. I'm spending as much time in the fitness truck as I am on the driving range. (Working in) TV is starting to be tempting. Playing half as many events is starting to look tempting."

Looking back on the whole of 2016, if it's possible to shake off a few aches and pains, this otherwise has been pretty much the Year of Love. A year in which all the best stuff happened to him when he wasn't even holding a club: A Ryder Cup victory that restored the balance of power in the golfing world and the Hall of Fame announcement that above all Love knows would have greatly pleased his late father.

"Bubba Watson said it the best that his two goals in golf are to be Ryder Cup captain and to be in the Hall of Fame," Love said.

"And then it struck me, wow, I've gotten to do the Ryder Cup twice (captaining the losing 2012 team) and now I'm getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. And here's one of the best players on our Tour saying that's his goal to do those two things. It really hit home."

After that initial failure four years ago, Love embodies the new commitment to holding onto the Ryder Cup. His captaincy was a product of the "task force" of officials and players that went to work a year ago trying to solve the American drought in the event. Coming out of it was a leader who felt far more capable than his first time four years ago. This time, Love said he didn't get lost in the maze of minor details, as in 2012. All the voices that came out of the task force, Love said he heeded.

RELATED: Mission accomplished for Captain Davis Love III

When Tiger Woods was drawing up possible Sunday Ryder Cup pairings even before the U.S. team was complete, Love said he listened.

When Jim Furyk was telling him that he was tightening up and showing stress, Love said he went back and changed into his confident and relaxed demeanor.

Then, just a week after the Ryder Cup, another big decision. Love was weighing the wisdom of trying to ride out Hurricane Matthew at his island home. That was the plan. He was going to hunker down with the help of a local cop who considered remaining behind on guard. But then even the uniforms were ordered to evacuate, and Love retreated to his hunting camp inland.

Love didn't stay away long. The day after the storm passed, with the bridge still closed to non-essential traffic, he made his way back by boat. And with all the neat guy tools at his command, he was part of the initial clean-up effort that got the place back to semi-normalcy within just a couple days.

The thing about Love, he's sneaky rugged. You wouldn't picture a guy with Roman numerals in his name being particularly outdoorsy, but he's an exception. He knows which end of a chainsaw to hold. He is at home on both a snowboard and a paddleboard (and owns a board shop on the island). Hunts and fishes and will even bait his own hook. More than just playing in the John Deere, he actually can drive one, too.

"He's quite handy with any sort of outside activity," said Matt Kuchar, one of the flock of pros who have settled on Sea Island. "He's good with everything, so you always pick up a new skill or a new idea hanging out with him."

This South Georgia island enclave as yet has no official mayor, although there is a move afoot to go all municipal. Unofficially, the moss-draped isle and its tonier twin, Sea Island, has someone who acts as an unofficial ambassador and protector of the place.

Love's tournament and the charitable foundation that it benefits are both big players in shaping this small community. "The Players Championship gives, what, $8.5 million to charity. We're not going to ever get there. That's $8.5 million in Jacksonville in one of the biggest tournaments of the year and $1.5 million in Sea Island in one of the smallest tournaments of the year. That impact is huge up here," Love said.

And as Jeff Jones, St. Simons' state representative (also a tournament volunteer) points out, this week is one big promotional video for Love's island. "You couldn't ask for a nicer way of showing who we are, where we are and what a beautiful place it is," Jones said.

There is no shortage of those on both sides of the ropes this week who believe that in living this excellent year, Love got everything that was coming to him.

"He's so well thought of as a person by everyone and so well respected for what he's done in the game, it's cool to see good things come to a guy like that," Kuchar said.

This article was written by Steve Hummer from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.