Golf365 History: Davis Love III on the Ryder Cup and his career

In the latest The Round podcast, which Golf365 readers can listen to a week in advance of the launch, Davis Love III is candid about the Ryder Cup experience.

Davis Love III racked up 21 top tens in the major championship, he triumphed in one of them, he is a two-time winner of the Players Championship, owns a total of 21 PGA Tour titles and turning 50 hasn’t stopped him in his track – the last of those victories came at 51 and, now 54, he contended in this year’s Sony Open.

But in the latest installment of The Round podcast there’s a real sense that the Ryder Cup is the event which has most fulfilled the man born and bred in North Carolina.

In fact, when he selects the round which defines his career, Love III chooses his debut in the biennial match and specifically his singles match against Constantino Rocca.

The reason?

“There’s no greater pressure than the Ryder Cup and no greater pressure than seeking the last point,” he explains, 26 years on from that experience. “It was an away game, I’m a rookie, I’ve got captain Tom Watson, plus Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins, Ray Floyd, all my heroes, following me, it looks likes, with five or six holes to go, that I need to win.”

A brief pause.

“That the most pressure I’d ever been under.”

For fans of the Ryder Cup Love provides great insight into the unique burdens of the week.

The realization that his point was decisive?

“It was like in Caddyshack when all the folk come out the trees to watch. That moment when all the wives turned up? I knew I needed to flip my match.”

His first understanding of the importance of saying the right thing, a lesson that would prove essential years later when he became captain (and assistant captain) himself?

“(Tom) Watson walked with my to the 17th tee saying ‘We need this point.’ I learned then, he was nervous. I (also) learned then how you’ve got to think about what you say. That was not a Bob Rotella moment. But I turned it into a positive by calming him down.

“I always laugh when I start out on the fairway as an assistant captain or captain to talk to a player because you can really mess it up. I told Steve Stricker in 2012, ‘Don’t worry everything’s going fine, don’t look at the leaderboards, the guys behind you are doing fine’ and he looked like he’d calmed down, but after the fact I said, ‘That didn’t help you at all did it?!?!’ and he said, ‘No, I knew you were BS-ing me.’”

The unlikely thoughts that flow through your head when you hole the putt to win a Ryder Cup?

“At first I knew I was going to miss so I backed off. Everybody gasped back home, my brother was watching with them and he said, ‘Oh no, he’s not ready, now he’ll start again.’ I got over the ball, I gave it the looks, through the routine and it went in the hole.

“I put my hands up because I had done my routine and it had worked. I was not really celebrating winning the Ryder Cup!”

Love III goes on to discuss his entire career and is honest in his appraisal.

“When I look back I think I could have done better,” he says. “I could have had a tougher demeanour. Now I see what makes Tiger Woods play so well, what keeps Steve Stricker coming back, and I wish I could go back and start over. But I wouldn’t trade my life for a better career.

“I could have won more and my dad would have told you I could have worked harder on my fitness and my game, but he’d be proud what I’ve achieved.

“If you gave me all my seconds I’d still be 50 and that’s a long way behind Tiger at 80! I should have won another couple of majors maybe. Payne Stewart and Jose Maria flew past me a couple of times and I blew a few of them.

“But I don’t look back with regret. If I’d been a better player I might not have seen hundreds of horse shows with my daughter or watched my son’s college sport. But I won’t disagree if people say I underachieved.”

Ahead of the tour returning to TPC Sawgrass, the scene of his double triumph in the self-styled fifth major, Love III concludes with his thoughts on the state of the sport.

“Professionally I don’t think the game has been better. We’ve got Tiger back. We’ve got Rory, Rickie, Jordan, Justin Thomas – our stars are great young men. But we have to translate that to growing the game. We’re not gaining any golfers. That’s our biggest challenge.”

To here the full podcast ahead of next week’s official roll-out click below…