5 Things: Loves come through in clutch
Photos: A day with Arnie & Jack in Orlando
Check out images from Saturday's first round at the Father/Son Challenge, highlighted by the pairing of legends Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
Photos: Father-Son Challenge, First round
Check out images from the first round at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando.
ORLANDO, Fla. – Davis Love III said he wasn’t nervous about making the winning putt at 18. Why would he be?
After all, he let his son, Dru, go first, and he delivered in the clutch. The birdie putt secured a one-shot victory and a two-day, best-ball total of 23-under 121 at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
Team Love came to the final hole tied with clubhouse leaders Larry Nelson and his son, Josh, who were seeking a three-peat of sorts after a three-year tournament hiatus.
The nerves kicked in for Love III on his third shot to the par-5 finishing hole.
“I was nervous just trying to get us a putt that he could make,” he said.
Davis’ pitch checked 7 feet short of the hole. That’s when the discussion ensued. Davis and his brother/caddie, Mark, agreed it was left edge. Dru’s grandfather/caddie read it the opposite way.
“So I turned around and said I was hitting it a ball outside the right and stood up and started walking to it, and they all started laughing,” Dru recalled.
“(My dad) said, ‘Just give it a good roll and put it in there.’ I had been thinking about my stroke too much all day,” said Dru, a freshman at Alabama. “Early I didn’t get anything going in the round, so I kind of was second-guessing it a lot.”
Dru reverted to that old truism: When in doubt, hit it firm.
“I aimed inside left and hit it as hard as I could,” Dru said.
It was in all the way. It’s a putt he surely won’t soon forget, though the details may grow a bit hazy.
“By the time I get back to school, it’s going to be a 35-footer,” Dru said jokingly.
Here are 5 Things from the final round at the PNC Father/Son Challenge in Orlando:
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1. DRU KNOWS PRESSURE PUTTING: Dru recalled one other pressure situation that prepared him for today’s decisive putt.
There was the time earlier this fall when Alabama men’s golf coach Jay Seawall challenged Dru and his teammates to a short-game contest. If a player didn’t get up-and-down in better than par, he would have to do two extra sets in the weight room.
“You know, I’m not in ideal shape here,” Dru said.
And lo and behold, it all came down to Dru having to make a downhill, 5-foot, left-to-right slider.
“So I tap it down the hill and it creeps in (and) barely rolls in the left edge,” he said. “I think that may have been more pressure than that putt. Gosh.”
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2. CLOSE AGAIN BUT NO CIGAR: Larry Nelson and son Josh nearly forced a playoff if not for the cruelest of lip-outs. Nelson’s 15-foot birdie attempt to take sole possession of the lead looked good all the way until he dropped his putter in disgust.
“A little gnome or something jumped up there,” Nelson said. “It went in the left center of the hole. It was not like it was just on the edge.”
He called it one of the most severe lip-outs of his career. It was that type of week for Nelson, who had high hopes that he would be selected to be the captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team. That honor ultimately was awarded by the PGA of America to Tom Watson.
Nelson is the consummate Southern gentleman, and afterwards he continued to take the high road.
“It was a tough week, especially kind of early in the week with all the stuff about the Ryder Cup captaincy stuff,” he said. “Whatever happens years down the road, it’s fun to come down (to Orlando) with family, and it’s fun to come down and play with Josh and watch him hit some of the shots he hit the last two days.
“It was a very rewarding week for me."
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3. NICKLAUSES CHARGE EARLY: For a moment, on Sunday no less, a familiar last name climbed to the top of the leaderboard.
Jack Nicklaus and son Gary charged out of the gate with two early eagles and grabbed a share of the lead at 15 under.
“Gary hit two beautiful shots at (the par-5 No. 3 hole) to about 8-10 feet, and I made that putt,” Jack said.
Then at the par-5 fifth hole, Gary chipped in from 25 yards.
Jack had said that he had played 18 holes only once between May 31 and Oct. 31, but the competitive juices started flowing once he put the peg in the ground.
Jack said they had their chances on the back nine, but their putters went ice cold. They finished four shots back in a three-way tie for sixth place. Jack shook his head, lamenting what could’ve been, and said, “We had a good look at every hole.”
Jack took consolation in the play of his son. He playfully poked Gary in the chest to make his point and said, “Best I’ve ever seen you play tee to green. For 36 holes, you didn’t hit a bad shot.”
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4. HAIL TO THE KING: Even a six-time major champion such as Lee Trevino wanted his picture taken with Arnold Palmer.
“Do me the honor,” Trevino said to Palmer on the first tee.
Palmer obliged, smiling for the camera as he stood in the middle and hugged Trevino’s wife, Claudia. Trevino, his cap tilted back on his forehead, wrapped Palmer in a bear hug. The boys served as bookends. It was almost perfect, except for one thing.
“Squat down a little bit,” Trevino joked to Will Wears, Palmer’s grandson, who is a towering 6 feet, 4 inches.
As you might expect, it was a laugh-a-minute performance for Trevino. When his son, Daniel, pounded a tee shot down the middle on No. 6, Trevino shoved his driver into the bag and made a beeline for his cart, saying, “It takes me two to get there, so I’m not gonna hit one.”
He started to walk ahead again when Wears stiffed his tee shot on the par-3, eighth hole, assuming Palmer wouldn’t bother to hit a tee shot. But Palmer had other ideas.
“You don’t think I can make a hole-in-one?” Palmer asked.
Trevino, the quickest wit in the Southwest, was ready with the needle: “If you’re gonna do it, you'd better hit a driver with a little heat through the bunker,” he said.
“No respect for age,” Palmer retorted, with a hint of a smile.
“Don’t make me fall on my knees here,” Trevino said.
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5. LIKE RIDING A BIKE ... OR NOT: One of the highlights of the return of the PNC Father/Son was seeing the likes of Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd playing competitive golf.
Floyd, for instance, played his final Champions Tour event in October 2009. When asked if being in the heat of competition this week was like riding a bicycle, Floyd didn’t hesitate.
“No,” he said. “It was like riding one with a flat tire.”
Floyd has endured a rough year. Maria, his wife of 38 years, died in September after a long battle with bladder cancer.
Raymond’s son, Robert, and partner in the two-day competition, said his mom had been in remission, but on her one-year checkup in “February or March,” her doctor detected the cancer had returned. The family held a private memorial in New York, but this marked Floyd’s first public appearance, and chance to see some of his old cronies.
“He needed some time to grieve on his own,” Robert said. “I think the time was right. It’s been three months. He’s seen Jack and Barbara (Nicklaus), and they’ve been great, but to see (Lee) Trevino and the other guys he hadn’t seen in a while was special.”
Robert said he and his brother, Ray Jr., who caddied this week, will try to persuade their father to play the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf next spring. There’s another event – a little farther down the road – that Floyd wouldn’t miss for the world.
When asked if he’d be willing to reprise his role as a U.S. Ryder Cup assistant captain if Tom Watson were to request his services, Floyd said, “In a minute. That was so great for me to come back in 2008 with Paul Azinger and be in touch with these new guys. It was incredible.”
Watson and Floyd have plenty of history in the biennial competition.
“He played on my team (in 1989), and I played on his (in 1993),” Floyd noted. “I was 52 and I got the clinching point at the Belfry against Jose-Maria Olazabal as his pick."