Davis Love III turns back the clock at Wyndham

Davis Love III can still hit the ball a long ways, but even he marvels at the distance some of today's golfers get off the tee. AP Photo/Rob Brown

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- For years, Davis Love III was the standard for long hitters on the PGA Tour. He hit the ball way up in the air and it went for miles. In today's terms, he was Bubba Watson, without the idiosyncrasies.

Now Love marvels at the likes of Watson and the numerous other players who can launch a golf ball even farther.

That doesn't mean Love, at age 51, can't still get the ball out there, but now nearly 30 years into a career that has seen him win 20 times, he acknowledges how time inevitably makes the game more difficult.

"I had a little bit of bad luck or worn-out parts, one of the two or both," Love said of injuries in recent years. "But golf-wise, I get a little quick, from the top of my swing. That's trying too hard or impatient or nervous or something like that. Working on that has really helped this week, and obviously putting. Putting is the big key out here. Everybody hits it long and good."

Love finds himself near the top of a leaderboard for the first time in years. A second-round 66 at Sedgefield Country Club after his first-round 64 gave him the clubhouse lead at the Wyndham Championship until he was passed by tour rookie Tom Hoge -- who was 2 years old when Love won his first tour title.

His most recent title came seven years ago at the defunct Walt Disney World event, and Love has spent a good bit of the intervening years battling injuries. He was also the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, will assist captain Jay Haas at this year's Presidents Cup, and is getting a second chance next year as U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

In the meantime, he's trying to get his game in shape after his latest issue, a right foot injury that required surgery in March. Love couldn't play golf for six weeks, and he has played just three times since returning last month, having missed two cuts, including last week's PGA Championship. His best finish this season is a tie for 44th, and he is 186th in FedEx Cup points -- one spot ahead of Tiger Woods.

"I'm taking it one day at a time," Love said. "That's what Tiger and I talked about Tuesday [when they played a practice round], we have to win to go to the Barclays [next week]. Let's get the plan.

"And it's a one-spot qualifier for me. Second or third probably doesn't do me any good. But I'm not looking past tomorrow or Sunday right now and trying to just keep improving. I've been working hard trying to get back to where I can walk 18 holes first, and then 36 and walk a whole week.

"This is the best I've felt in a while and obviously the best I've played, so I just want to keep making progress."

Love has played just twice this year on the Champions Tour and plans to continue playing with the young guys in 2016, in part to keep an eye on things for his Ryder Cup duties.

"If I can stay competitive on the regular tour, keep playing decent, feel like I'm not taking up a spot, I'm going to play on the regular tour, especially next year," Love said. "It's my 30th year, Ryder Cup year, and when I get paired I play with a whole bunch of guys that could play on the Ryder Cup team or Presidents Cup team.

"It's helping me this year and next year for the Ryder Cup. I played with Bubba at the Greenbrier and watched him hit driver after driver. I learned so much about his game even though he played for me once already [2012 Ryder Cup], and I've watched him play a lot. It will help me a lot next year."