- Jason Sobel, Senior Golf Writer
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Let's get this straight right away: Davis Love III will never be confused with the Flying Tomato or any other X Games athlete. At 45, he's more Preparation H than Generation X.
Truth is, Love might be the epitome of a professional golfer. He looks the part and sounds the part. Hell, he even owns a traditional golfer's name.
That doesn't mean the guy can't cross train. The 20-time PGA Tour winner has long spent his downtime in such places as Sun Valley, Idaho, taking to the slopes on a snowboard like someone half his age. And while DL3 may neither look nor sound like a snowboarder -- and certainly doesn't have a snowboarder's name -- the thing about it is, he's actually pretty talented.
Love is so enamored with his other athletic pursuit that on a balmy day in the high 70s here in the Sunshine State, he was still thinking about the powder. In fact, after shooting an opening-round 6-under 66 that tied him with J.B. Holmes for the Arnold Palmer Invitational overnight lead, he credited part of his longevity and fitness to snowboarding.
"The hardest I've worked out is when I've been snowboarding," Love intimated. "I work out while I'm on the mountain all day and then I either go to the gym or hit balls in the net every night. I have a much better routine than when I'm home."
On the surface, his infatuation with the more extreme sport reeks of a man either too bored with his day job or too careless, but the benefits of snowboarding have far outweighed any potential negatives so far.
"It's helped get his legs stronger and his back stronger," said Randy Myers, his Sea Island, Ga.-based personal trainer for seven years. "It's all around. He feels stronger. When he hurt his ankle [in late 2007], he didn't know if he'd ever snowboard again, but he really started working on upper body and core strength."
It's not just the physical qualities of snowboarding that appeal to Love, either. Being able to get away from the game has helped prepare him mentally, as well.
"He needs that," Myers continued. "No one can imagine what it's like being DL3; he transcends golf, he's an icon. I think he's the most genuine guy I've ever met. It's good for him to be on the mountain, away from golf. It's good for his overall mindset."
The trainer then contemplates this idea and adds, "But he knows his limitations."
Love has experienced plenty of limitations on the golf course in recent years. In 2008, his streak of 70 consecutive major championship appearances was snapped when he failed to qualify for the Masters Tournament. Since winning the final event of that campaign, he has earned just three top-10 results in 31 starts -- a dry spell that has permeated this season, too.
Following a T-5 finish at the Sony Open in January -- prior to which he spent three weeks on the slopes -- Love has failed to make the cut in each of his last four starts, which hasn't exactly portended a strong performance here at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
His self-assessment? Love believes he has actually been overworking himself.
"I started trying too hard, what I usually do," he said. "You know, tried to fix the two or three little things that didn't work in Hawaii and I kind of went backwards and really got bound up in my mechanics. Somebody asked me at Honda, 'You've been putting for three hours, what are you doing? You never do that.' I'm like, 'You're right, why am I doing this?' I realized I was working too hard."
In the spirit of yet another sport, he compared it with a basketball team attempting to correct a weakness.
"It's just the same ball of wax we always get into," Love explained. "We are not making enough 3-pointers, so let's go practice 3-pointers until we wear ourselves out -- and then we are too tired to shoot them."
In Thursday's opening round, Love was making plenty of long-distance shots of his own. After carding a bogey on the first hole, he chipped in for birdie on the second, dropped in a 10-footer for birdie on the third, chipped in again on the fourth for an eagle, holed a lengthy birdie putt from the fringe on the fifth and -- just for good measure -- two-putted the par-5 sixth for yet another birdie to go 6-under during a five-hole span.
All told, he posted an eagle, seven birdies and three bogeys, which made for a "very pretty" scorecard, according to Love, but also helped him into a share of the 18-hole lead for the 22nd time in his fruitful career.
"If I had not buried it in the bunkers a couple of times and gotten another funky lie in the bunker, I would have been even better," he said. "It's one of those days that could have gone either way."
Maybe, maybe not.
"His routines were much better today," said caddie Jeff Weber, who has been on the bag for all six of Love's starts so far this season. "He putted extremely well, chipped the ball really well, did everything really well today. Great round of golf. It was really good to see. He was so confident today -- that was the difference, really."
With four-plus years remaining until he's eligible for the Champions Tour, Love is supposedly in golfing purgatory -- too young to tee it up with the geezers, too old to compete with the whippersnappers. Then again, for a guy who credits the young man's hobby of snowboarding with helping his golf, maybe he's found a way to remain young at heart.
Just don't expect Love to compete in the X Games anytime soon.
"No," he said with a laugh. "I keep my board as close to the snow as possible."
It's no coincidence that at Bay Hill, his name is as high on a board as possible, too -- the leaderboard.
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
2dMicah Adams, ESPN Stats & Information