Love solid as a rock at Pebble



Associated Press
Monday, February 5

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- A dozen fans sunbathing along the Cliffs of Doom were looking back up the fairway as Tiger Woods came by, hopeful they could witness another spectacular comeback in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

What it means
It's tough to measure how important this victory is to Davis Love III, who broke a three-year drought and can justify his World Ranking of No. 7.

Love has been in position to win countless times over the past three years, but he's never made the putts on Sunday. He made them this time, along with the drives and approaches. Following his victory over Tiger Woods at the Williams World Challenge during the Silly Season, this should give him the confidence to produce a huge season.

Love is always a factor in majors, but this renewed confidence should translate to more than contender this season.

Phil Mickelson leaves Pebble Beach wondering what might have been if his usually reliable short game had been in order. He missed several short putts and took a miscalculated risk on No. 18 with his driver when a layup, wedge and putt could have put him in a playoff.

Last year, Tiger Woods left Pebble Beach with his sixth consecutive victory. This year, he leaves with his sixth straight start without a win. The confidence in his putter seems to be gone, but one good week will solve that.

His tie for 13th is his first finish out of the top 10 since the Buick Open last August.

The win makes Love the sixth different winner after six official events this season. Love heads to San Diego next week where he, Mickelson and Woods have all won in recent years.

-- Greg Robertson
ESPN Golf Online

They were looking in the wrong direction.

Behind them on the 10th green was Davis Love III, who put together a comeback that was every bit as impressive as what Woods did a year ago.

Seven strokes behind to start the final round, Love wiped out that margin by playing his first seven holes in a staggering 8-under par, then made a bold birdie on the final hole to complete a 63 and win for the first time in 34 months.

"I was reading the paper this morning ... and I looked at the scores and said, 'I'm only seven back.' That's where Tiger was last year," Love said. "It can be done."

Love buried his 0-for-62 drought on the PGA Tour in style. His 9-under 63 was the best closing score by a winner in the 60-year history of the National Pro-Am, topping the 64 by Woods last year.

It also was the best score ever at Pebble Beach without being allowed to lift, clean and place. Tom Kite in 1983 and David Duval in 1997 had 62s in those conditions.

Love finished at 272 for a one-stroke victory over Vijay Singh, and three shots ahead of Phil Mickelson. Both had a chance to force a playoff until crucial shots went over the cliff and into the Pacific Ocean.

"I've been where Phil and Vijay are a few times in the last two years and it's not fun," said Love, who earned $720,000.

And he now knows how it felt for Woods last year.

Woods made up seven strokes over his final seven holes last year for an amazing victory. He was only a spectator Sunday on another gorgeous day at Pebble Beach, playing in the group behind Love and watching a comeback that must have looked familiar.

The seven-stroke comeback tied the tournament record set by Bob Rosburg in 1961.

"I had a range of emotions today -- nowhere near the lead, then in the lead," Love said. "I kept trying to put what had happened early in the round behind me, and play to win the golf tournament."

After going nearly three years without winning on tour, Love had to wait another 45 minutes to see if his lead would hold up.

Singh was one stroke behind when his tee shot on the par-3 17th sailed left of the green and over the cliff. He birdied the 18th for a 69.

Mickelson, a co-leader after 54 holes, was one stroke back and in great shape in the 18th fairway when he tried to hit driver off the deck from 257 yards and flared it out to the left, over the sea wall and bounding onto the rocks.

He made double-bogey and closed with a 73.

"I always go for that green. I've never hit it in the water," Mickelson said. "When it got up in the wind, it never had a chance."

Olin Browne, the other co-leader, also had a 73 to tie for third.

That left Love a winner for the first time since April 1998, and the author of a comeback that was not quite as thrilling as what Woods did last year, but required a game that was no less impressive.

The signature shot for Woods was a 97-yard wedge he holed for eagle from the 15th fairway. Love had one of those, too, a 104-yard wedge that went in for an eagle on the par-5 second hole that sent him on his way.

 Davis Love
Davis Love III had started the final round in a tie for 14th, but he had the lead by the eighth hole.
"When Tiger came back, he had one of those," Love said. "Sometimes, it takes something like that to get it going."

Get it going, indeed.

Love made no worse than birdie on his first seven holes, went out in 28 and then took the lead with a 3-wood into the famous 18th hole that landed pin high about 35 feet away to set up a two-putt birdie.

The victory was a long time coming for Love, who has 14 career victories but had not won since the 1998 MCI Classic. He had seven runner-up finishes and three thirds during that span, putting pressure on himself to win as each week went by.

"I kept working hard and hanging in there," Love said.

What might have helped was winning Woods' tournament, the unofficial Williams World Challenge, in December. Love came from four strokes behind to beat Woods by two.

Woods was never a factor Sunday.

He made three straight bogeys early, including a 5-iron that sailed into the bleachers on the par-3 fifth hole, and wound up with a 72. He tied for 13th, eight strokes behind.

Love had an ominous start to his day. He found grease on his clubs, which got onto his clothes. By the time he got the mess cleaned up, he had only 15 minutes to warm up.

It didn't take him long to get going.

Love's approach to the first green stopped 35 feet away, but he made the putt to begin his blistering string of birdies. He hooked his drive on the 502-yard second hole and had to lay up short of the mammoth ditch.

"It was a feel wedge," said his caddie, which presumably meant that Love was feeling good about it, especially when it went the hole for eagle.

He birdied No. 3 from 4 feet, rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt up the slope on No. 4, then hit his approach over Stillwater Cove into the 188-yard fifth hole to 3 feet. He got up-and-down from the bunker on the par-5 sixth for another birdie, then hit a sand wedge from 101 yards that spun back to 2 feet on the par-3 seventh.

Seven holes, 8-under and in the lead.

Neither Mickelson nor Browne made a birdie until the sixth hole, while Craig Barlow started birdie-eagle and tied Love with a birdie on No. 6.

Love's great run ended with a good two-putt par on No. 8, and he was two blades of grass away from a birdie putt at No. 9 that would have tied the PGA Tour record for the lowest nine.

The way the day ended, with Love holding a trophy, he had no complaints.

Divots
  • Three of the golfers who played in Sunday's final round won the California Golf Association Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach: Mark O'Meara in 1979, Mike Springer in 1987 and Mark Johnson in 1997.

  • The temperature reached 80 degrees on Sunday, breaking a record. The high on Feb. 4 for the nearby city of Monterey was 74, recorded back in 1954, according to Gregg Quinn, the meteorologist for the PGA Tour.

  • Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, who paired with David Berganio, wound up in the same group as Love. "He was doing his best to stay out of the way," Love said. "He's a big, tall guy. It's hard for him to stay out of the way."
  • ALSO SEE
    Pebble Beach Pro-Am final-round scores

    Pebble Beach Pro-Am top finishers' scorecards

    Notebook: Woods shares Pro-Am title

    2001 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

    Disease claims Pebble's majestic pine on No. 18

    AUDIO/VIDEO

    ESPN's Scott Van Pelt talks with Davis Love III after his Pebble Beach Pro-Am victory.
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    Phil Mickelson explains why he decided to risk it on No. 18.
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    Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6