TOUR Insider: Love fest on tap at The McGladrey Classic

October 06, 2010
Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

When Davis Love III accepted an invitation to serve as an assistant captain for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, he might have expected to hear an "atta boy" from his family. Instead, his wife Robin looked at things from another angle. She questioned his sanity.

"She reminded me that we were hosting a tournament at Sea Island the week after the Ryder Cup and didn't I think that was cutting things a little close," Love recalled several weeks ago.

He saw her point, but Love decided to continue in his role with the Ryder Cup team. He figured that if something hadn't been done by the time he left for the Ryder Cup, it would be too late to get it done anyway.

And despite Love's absence from Georgia's Golden Coast last week -- and his return to the area a day later than expected because of rainy weather in Wales -- the first annual McGladrey Classic will go on as scheduled this week at Sea Island. It will be the PGA TOUR's first venture into the area and is an ideal fit on the Fall Series schedule. The laid-back attitude of Sea Island is a perfect match for the somewhat less frenetic pace near the end of the 2010 season. It certainly won't have the diastolic-raising atmosphere that Love endured last week in the United Kingdom.

It will have a quality field of competitors, including Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar, who competed on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Like those two, many of the TOUR's best players make their home, or second home, at Sea Island -- partially because it's a nice place to live and partially because of the unequalled practice facilities at the Sea Island Learning Center.

"Our nickname out here is 'Heaven,' so every time we come over here we call it 'Heaven,'" said Chris Stroud, who lived at Sea Island for two years after college. "We love the place."

But the talent assembled this week at Sea Island is mostly due to the Love factor. He is one of the most popular players on TOUR. The field that turned out for The McGladrey Classic is impressive; it includes six players who have won tournaments this year, including two-time champion Bill Haas, who won last week's Viking Classic.

Much of this is due to the respect that Love commands among his peers. He certainly didn't plan to lean on people in an attempt to get them to commit.

"Jack and Arnold didn't try to pressure me to play in their tournaments -- maybe Arnold did a little -- so I'm not going to do it either," Love said.

Love wants to expose his colleagues and the PGA TOUR to the southern charm that permeates the area. They will learn that Sea Island is like no other place in the world for its blend of luxury and gentility. The area is unmatched in its hospitality, too.

Of course, Love will also learn that an event's host has plenty of distractions. Whether it's a draw party or a charitable event -- Love has donated his Orange County chopper to be raffled -- he'll discover plenty of demands on his time. When Thursday comes he'll finally find some sort of sanctuary between the ropes.

Love doesn't like to admit it, but at age 46, the days that he will remain competitive on the PGA TOUR are growing shorter and shorter. He's still able to contend on a regular basis (posting three top-10s this season) but hasn't won since 2008. His world ranking has slipped; it was No. 16 in 2006 and is 98th today. But none of that matters to his many fans -- Love remains one of the most popular players on TOUR. He will be a Ryder Cup captain, too, perhaps as soon as 2012.

Now Love takes the next step in defining his career as host of his own tournament, something that is sure to be both affirming and humbling. Perhaps it will inspire the jet-lagged Love to duplicate the effort of some his associates and win his own even. Palmer did it at Bay Hill in 1971 (when the tournament at Bay Hill was named the Florida Citrus Invitational), Nicklaus has won the Memorial twice and Tiger Woods did it at the AT&T National in 2009.

To win his own tournament would be a great thing for Love, Sea Island and the PGA TOUR. It would be a wonderful way to usher in Love's new era too.