How will Love be remembered?

Originally Published: March 2, 2006
By Bob Harig | Special to ESPN.com

MIAMI -- If Davis Love's career ended today, would it be remembered for all his triumphs or for the fact that there should have been more?

It is an interesting question to ponder as Love is coming off another chance to break a two-year-plus victory drought and enters the Ford Championship at Doral feeling better about his game than he has in some time.

When Love got to the finals of the Match Play Championship against unheralded Australian Geoff Ogilvy, he figured to emerge from a winless streak that dates to the International in 2003, a year in which he won four times.

Davis Love III
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) With his loss to Ogilvy in this past weekend's Match Play, Love clinched his 29th career runner-up finish.

The fact that Love lost to Ogilvy only heightened the awareness of what could have been.

A winner of 18 PGA Tour titles, including his lone major at the 1997 PGA Championship, Love, quite frankly, figured to have won more tournaments at this stage of his career.

His 18 victories trails Phil Mickelson by 10, and he had a five-year head start on Lefty. Love also got to play nearly 10 years of his career without Tiger Woods around to steal titles. His runner-up finish Sunday was the 29th of his career, and he had slipped to No. 28 in the Official World Golf Ranking before the week.

None of this would matter if it were believed that Love had accomplished all he could.

But the length he possessed in his youth -- and he still hits it plenty long -- combined with many other skills, seemed to indicate a more productive career. Love has been a U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team lock for more than a decade, which suggests he often has been in the mix without finishing.

Sure, Love has won The Players Championship twice as well as that PGA victory and has failed to make the Tour Championship just once in 16 years. But he never has won a World Golf Championship event and has gone six of the last eight years without a victory.

Nagging shoulder and neck injuries have hindered Love for the past several years, although he only offers it as a reason -- not an excuse -- when asked. And he has managed to contend several times, including at last year's PGA Championship, where he played in the final group with Mickelson, who won.

Love, who turns 42 in April, seems much more youthful than his age suggests. Players are winning well into their 40s now, so there is time to change perceptions and secure his place in history.

"I'm feeling excited about the way my game is going," Love said. "I'm feeling stronger, hitting it better and my golf swing is right on track. I'm doing the things that I have to do to play better, and I'm excited about the year.

QUICK TAKE
Pate
Pate
A soaking wet Jerry Pate emerged from the water beside the 18th green, triumphant but tearful. It had been a long time since he took such a plunge, a long time since a productive career had been curtailed by injury, a long time since a 5-iron shot to the final green set up a victory.

Once among the most promising young players in the game, with a U.S. Open and Players Championship on his résumé and a slew of trophies seemingly in his future, Pate suffered a shoulder injury with one fateful swing and would never win again.

Until Sunday. This time, it was a shot to 12 feet on the 18th green that set up a birdie to win the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am on the Champions Tour. The finish brought back memories of another 5-iron approach, the one to the 72nd hole at Atlanta Athletic Club in 1976 that led to his winning birdie putt at the U.S. Open.

To Pate, this might have been almost as meaningful. It was his first victory on the Champions Tour, his first victory anywhere since he won the 1982 Players Championship, where he jumped into the lake beside the green at the TPC-Sawgrass with then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and course designer Pete Dye.

MAILBAG: ASK BOB HARIG
Bob HarigGot a question about the PGA Tour? Ask ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig, who will answer your inquiries in his column each week.

Q. Is there any chance for more match play events on the PGA Tour? Outside of the majors, the Accenture Match Play is my favorite event.
Lee
Powell, Ohio

A. It is doubtful. And the Match Play showed the fears associated with such a tournament: None of the top seeds made it to Saturday. That doesn't mean the event wasn't compelling, but television fears the lack of big names on the weekend, making such a tournament a once-a-year deal.

Q. Why does Lorena Ochoa receive so little media attention? Is it because she's not 16 years old? Or is it because she doesn't have a calendar? When people talk about the future of the LPGA, she often is not mentioned.
Guillermo
Jacksonville, Fla.

A. It is true that Ochoa has been a bit overlooked at times, but that is not the case in her native Mexico. That is why the LPGA has put tournaments in her home country. She was the rookie of the year in 2003 and has won three times. At 24, she is very much a part of the future of the LPGA.

Q. What's up with my man Hank Kuehne?
David
Indianapolis

A. Kuehne, who finished 102nd on the 2005 money list, is simply having a tough time right now. He has made just one cut in five starts, and that was a tie for 49th at the Buick Invitational. He has just three rounds in the 60s this year. You can look to two areas to see where Kuehne is struggling: He is hitting less than 44 percent of his fairways to rank 192nd on the tour, and he is hitting just 50 percent of the greens to rank 193rd.


Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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