Love looks to Manning for inspiration in comeback
Twenty-time winner still playing PGA TOUR after turning 50
October 29, 2014
By Chris Reimer, PGATOUR.COM
- October 29, 2014
- Davis Love III's 20 PGA TOUR wins include the 1997 PGA Championship and two PLAYERS Championships. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
At 50 years old, Davis Love III isn’t quite ready to fade into the sunset. Following his stint as Ryder Cup captain in 2012, neck surgery in February of 2013 and time focusing on family, Love feels as though the 2014-15 season is time to refocus on getting his game back and qualifying for events like the Masters, the Open Championship and THE PLAYERS, a tournament he has won twice in his career.
Love is playing this week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia just days after the final putt dropped at the McGladrey Classic, a tournament he hosts in St. Simons Island, Georgia. He is making his debut in the PGA TOUR’s lone stop in Southeast Asia after receiving a sponsor exemption.
“Family and business will allow me to expand my horizons a little bit, so I'm going to try to play a little bit more all around the world, try to play in some of these events that I get invited to,” Love said. “I seriously want to play a lot of PGA TOUR golf the next few years and see if I can get my game back. I had a major neck surgery almost two years ago, and trying to bounce back from that, my game has been a little up and down. I'm excited about working on my golf game now and trying to get back in a few of the bigger tournaments. I'm not in THE PLAYERS Championship, I'm not in the Masters, I'm not in the British Open next year, so I'm working hard on those kind of things.
"I had a few years where I was very, very busy with the Ryder Cup with the neck surgery, and now I really want to focus on my golf game for a couple years. I've got a great opportunity. I'm eligible for both tours, the regular TOUR and the Champions Tour, so I'm going to take advantage of that while I'm still fresh and ready to play.”
After neck surgery, Love’s doctors told him it could take some time to get back to 100 percent. But he looks to another Hall of Fame caliber athlete as an example of returning to form.
“They said two to two-and-a-half years of improvement, so I'm still six or eight months from hopefully my peak,” Love said. “Peyton Manning had the same surgery and it took him about two years to get back to 100 percent, and now he's back to maybe 150 percent. He's playing the best football of his life. It's encouraging that I can come back from it. My ball striking has gotten better and better it seems like over the next year, so hopefully that will continue to improve.”
Where does the desire to continue to compete at the highest level at this stage of his career come from?
“My father gave me a great challenge when I was going into high-level amateur golf and looking towards a pro career,” Love recalled. “He said, ‘Let's just see how good you can get.’ So I'm always striving to get better, whether I've won tournaments or not. I still try to get better. I still try to improve. I was out there on the range yesterday working on my swing tips that my brother gave me last week, and I always want to get better."
With membership on both the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour, Love expects to mix his favorite events on the PGA TOUR with opportunities on the Champions Tour. He turned 50 on April 13 and has played two Champions Tour events, finishing T64 and T24 in a pair of events last month.
“Fortunately CIMB invited me to play this week, or otherwise I wouldn't be in, so I'm getting some exemptions into some nice tournaments based on my past record,” Love said. “But you can't get that for THE PLAYERS Championship or the British Open. If I'm off some of the bigger weeks, I'll take advantage of my eligibility on the Champions Tour and plug those holes so I can keep playing. I did get invited by Mitsubishi to play in Hawai'i at the (Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on January 23-25), so I'll play a regular TOUR event one week in Hawai'i and then the next week play on the Champions Tour. I'm going to do a lot what I see Vijay Singh doing, cherry-picking the good ones on both Tours and enjoying the benefits of being a lifetime member on both tours.
“But I think for this year, I'm going to really focus on, and maybe even the following season, focus on trying to get some FedExCup points, try to get in THE PLAYERS,” he added. “I'd like to play THE PLAYERS or all the majors one or two more times, so I'm going to have to focus on our TOUR to get into those tournaments.
Suprisingly, for a career that has taken him around the world, this will be Love’s first time playing in Malaysia.
“I was lucky enough to have dinner with the deputy prime minister last night, and he was shocked that it was my first trip here, and so at 50 years old now I can start my world travels, I guess.,” Love said. “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I know that my time in the game will eventually fade away, but I want to take advantage of that for as long as I can and continue to compete,” he continued. “My friend Fred Couples had one of my favorite lines, ‘Everything we go through, it's worth it for the four hours inside the ropes.’ So all the hard work, all the surgeries, all the travel, whatever it is, things that we have to work hard at, it's worth it to get inside the ropes for four hours and play golf and compete, and I love that. I look forward to it. I'm excited about tomorrow.”
Love’s excitement for tomorrow is both literal as he looks forward to his opening round at the CIMB Classic. It also clearly extends to a more figurative definition, as he looks to this season with a renewed anticipation of regaining his form.
Davis Love III swing off the tee “Then & Now” at McGladrey