At 46, Davis Love III has ramped up his game again. The latest evidence was his tie for sixth at the U.S. Open, despite a 75-74 start, about a month after he tied for fourth at The Players.
But it might be a case of too little, too late with regard to keeping his British Open streak alive.
Love has made 23 consecutive starts at the British, dating to 1987. He still has three different ways of writing himself a ticket to St. Andrews, but he needs a high finish this week at the AT&T National or next week at the John Deere Classic.
His chances: Making the top two not otherwise exempt off of a seven-event money list that includes the Players and the six consecutive Tour events through July 4; and finishing as leading scorer not otherwise exempt among the top 5 finishers at the AT&T or Deere.
“I don’t want to miss it,” Love said. “St. Andrews is a great course for me, as long as I’m hitting it and as well as I’m playing. It’s the major I’d hate to miss the most right now. And I’ve missed too many (majors) lately (the last three Masters and the 2009 U.S. Open).”
At the moment, Love is fifth on the British Open mini-money list with $600,565. He trails Memorial champion Justin Rose ($1.236 million), Travelers champion Bubba Watson ($1.11 million), Rickie Fowler ($747,750) and Ricky Barnes ($625,945).
• Speaking of Rose . . .
The 29-year-old Englishman was nine holes away from winning in consecutive PGA Tour starts and heading to St. Andrews with as much confidence as anybody.
He owned a three-stroke lead entering the Travelers final round and held the sole lead until he bogeyed No. 10 and fell into a three-way tie. But he faltered down the stretch – bogeying 12 and double bogeying 15 after rinsing his drive – shot 75 and tied for ninth.
• The AT&T National at Aronimink in Newtown Square, Pa., is the Tour’s first stop in the Philadelphia area since the 2002 SEI Pennsylvania Classic.
The tournament will return to Congressional near Washington in 2012, but should there be a regular stop in Philly?
Sounds good. After all, Philadelphia is the third- or fourth-best metropolitan golf area in America, behind New York, Chicago and possibly San Francisco – at least in terms of top-shelf courses.
The Tour pulled a regular stop out of Philly three decades ago. Whether it returns is anyone’s guess. But it wouldn’t hurt the City of Brotherly Love if it shows support during this two-year audition.
• Robert Garrigus blew a three-stroke lead on the final hole of regulation June 13 at the St. Jude Classic and lost in a playoff. As it happened, that wasn’t his only mistake. He thought he was two shots instead of three in front, he said Tuesday at the AT&T National.
In competitive golf, not knowing down the stretch is a no-no.
“I kept my head down all day,” said Garrigus, adding that neither he nor his caddie saw how things stood when glancing at the leaderboard on 17. “I didn’t want to focus on where I was; I just wanted to focus on my game. But if I would have known I had a three-shot lead on the last hole, I probably would have changed my routine a little bit and hit a different club.”
Garrigus, 32, said the sting didn’t linger. When he got home, his wife gave him a hug and kiss and said she was proud of him. “And it was over,” he said. “I think about it every once in a while – man, I could have done this, I could have done that. But that’s not me. I just look forward.”
He admitted he went “brain dead” and couldn’t slow down on 18.
“I just completely forgot about what I was doing (on 18 tee),” he said. “I took it back too fast and got quick and pulled it into the water.”
• Trivia question: Watson became the ninth left-hander in Tour history to win. Can you name the eight others? (Answer below.)
• Every now and then someone asks me, “What is the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen in golf?”
My answer is always the same: “You mean, besides the Cristie Kerr makeover?”
I still think they’re pulling my leg on that one. The Kerr of 1995 and the Kerr of the new millennium can’t be the same person.
• By virtue of her LPGA Championship 12-stroke victory, the new Kerr became No. 1 in the world ranking. That means there has been a revolving door at the top.
Kerr is the third No. 1 in as many weeks, and the fourth since the start of spring. She bumped Ai Miyazato, who the previous week supplanted Jiyai Shin, who followed the now retired Lorena Ochoa.
In other words, unlike the men’s game for recent years and years, there’s no clear numero uno on the distaff side.
• When Sonny Skinner took the co-midway lead of the PGA Professional National Championship, it reminded me of one of the best golf headlines I’ve ever seen.
It was in a Detroit newspaper in the late 1990s after Skinner, then a PGA Tour player, took the Buick Open first-round lead with 62.
The headline: 62 and Sonny.
• The eight other lefty Tour winners: Bob Charles, Sam Adams, Ernie Gonzalez, Phil Mickelson, Russ Cochran, Mike Weir, Steve Flesch and Eric Axley.
• In his past two PGA Tour starts, Corey Pavin, 50, has tied for seventh at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and lost a Travelers Championship playoff Sunday.
Suddenly Fred Couples doesn’t seem like the best over-50 player.
A lot depends on the golf course they’re playing. Just like the old days.
• I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Pavin may be the best player in golf history based on where he plays his short drives from.
If not Pavin, who?
Paul (Little Poison) Runyan?
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.