2006: Davis Love III bounces back

Greensboro, N.C.

Who needs the Ryder Cup?

Just seven weeks after being passed over as one of Tom Lehman’s captain’s picks, Davis Love III bounced back in impressive fashion Oct. 8 at Forest Oaks Country Club.

Love’s final-round 66 at the Chrysler Classic was good enough for a 16-under 272 total and a two-shot victory on a course he redesigned and lengthened three years ago. Until this year’s tournament, any advantages Love might have on the layout hadn’t shown up on his scorecards. He missed the cut in 2003-04 and withdrew last year.

“When you hit that golf ball it doesn’t know who designed the course or how much information you have,” Love said. “It should make it more fun to play, which it does. I love looking at the greens and looking at what we did and what we changed, but I don’t think it’s any advantage.”

But the native of Charlotte, who played college golf just down Tobacco Road at UNC, definitely had the gallery behind him and was pleased to finally fulfill the crowd’s – and his – expectations.

“People want me to win,” Love said. “They expect me to win. Especially at a place like this. That’s been my problem – expectations, whether they were mine or other people’s. It’s nice to put those aside and just play golf.”

Love came into the final round with a share of the lead with Chris Couch at 10 under.

He opened play Sunday with two birdies and was able to overcome a bogey on the par-4 seventh with birdies at Nos. 13-15. Even Jason Bohn’s 66 and Eric Axley’s 67 were no match for the now 19-time Tour winner. Bohn was second at 14 under and Axley finished third, another shot back.

“I kept looking up at the leaderboard,” Bohn said. “Hey, you see Davis, you think you’ve got to keep firing at the flagstick. I told my caddie I need to get to 7 under par (on the day) to have a chance. . . it’s very rare that you’re not going to win when you shoot 6 under leading the golf tournament on Sunday. . . . I guess I needed 8.”

Axley actually was at 15 under and had a three-shot lead with five holes to play. But he hit his tee shot into the trees on the 14th, made bogey and then missed an 8-foot putt for par on the par-3 17th.

“I was trying to play aggressive and make some birdies, but I didn’t feel safe by any means at 15 under,” Axley said.

The victory was Love’s first since the 2003 International and may help him put the disappointment of not making the trip to The K Club behind him.

Still in the hunt for a captain’s pick coming down the stretch before the Ryder Cup, Love said he lost focus in the weeks leading to the final roster selections. He was so consumed with making the team, he lost sight of what was important. And how to play his game.

“I made making that (Ryder Cup) team such a big deal that it took over my golf life,” said Love, who had been selected to six consecutive U.S. teams. “I was playing for the record – I wanted to make seven, so I could make eight – rather than just playing the game and trying to be playing well when I got to the Ryder Cup.”

Love said the time off he received from not playing for the U.S. side in Ireland, plus sitting out the WGC-American Express Championship the following week, led to some self-inspection. Even pre-K Club, Love knew he was just a few good rounds away from reestablishing his game.

“I told Tom Lehman about a month before the PGA (Championship) that I was going to play good before the end of the year,” Love said. “I just couldn’t promise him when it was going to be. He took that to heart, I guess, and I knew I was close. . . . It took maybe some time off, some reflecting and getting my patience back.”

Better late than never.

– Staff and wire reports

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