Alternate Shot: Feelin' the Love

Originally Published: February 14, 2005
ESPN.com/Golf World

In honor of Valentine's Day, ESPN.com's Bob Harig and Golf World's Ron Sirak looked deep inside themselves to discuss the meaning of Love.

Davis Love III
Love

Davis Love, that is.

DL3 hit the big 4-0 last year and celebrated by failing to win an event for the fourth time in the last six years. He is holding steady as the 10th-ranked player in the current World Ranking, down from fourth at the end of the '03 season and seventh just two months ago.

Is Love still one of the elite golfers in the world? Harig and Sirak debate in this version of Alternate Shot.

Is Davis Love III still one of the world's elite golfers?
YES

Davis Love would be the first to admit that he has been an underachiever. He expected to win more major championships, expected to win more tournaments. And yet, that still says something about how good Love has been.

He has 18 PGA Tour titles, a number that is skewed by the success of Tiger Woods. Before Woods came along, double-digit victory totals on the PGA Tour were the mark of a great career, while getting to 20 or more was the stuff of legend.

Only Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson among active players have more wins than Love, who is within a couple of victories of matching Greg Norman and Hale Irwin and is just one behind Ben Crenshaw, Hubert Green and Tom Kite.

Love had a poor season last year after winning four times in 2003 — injuries played a part — and has been barely hanging onto his top-10 ranking in the world. Must be tough finishing 10th on the money list with more than $3 million and having it considered a bad year.

And Love has been one of America's best for a decade, playing on every U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team going back to 1993.

So far this year, Love has taken it slow, playing just twice, hoping to pace himself and take a stronger shot at the major championships. Love turns 41 in April, which Singh has proved should be no barrier. There is plenty of time for Love to hang among the elite.

-- Bob Harig
ESPN.com

NO

Davis Love is one of those players who, when it comes time to consider him for the World Golf Hall of Fame, voters will sit down, go through his record and be surprised that he had not accomplished as much as they remembered him accomplishing. Not only is Love not a top-10 player now, he has barely been a top-10 player throughout his career and has never been the best player around. If you look over Love's professional career, which began in 1986, there was always a Curtis Strange, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Tom Kite, Nick Price, David Duval, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh or Phil Mickelson who was better.

That Love has 18 PGA Tour victories is impressive, but they were stretched out over 17 years. The important digit in judging Love will be this number: One. That's how many major championships he captured. The 1990s was a decade in which Love challenged for a bunch of major titles — finishing in the top-10 ten times — but won only the 1997 PGA Championship. And that was in a five-stroke romp in which his putter did not have to hold up over back-nine pressure on Sunday — a place where it has failed on many occasions.

As a one-time major championship winner, Love is in a category with Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger, Mark Brooks, Steve Jones, Tom Lehman, Steve Elkington and others who were good but not great players. A startling number that jumps out at you is Love's career record of 2-7 in playoffs, most memorably his 1996 playoff loss in Las Vegas that gave Woods his first career PGA Tour victory. Davis Love has never led the PGA Tour money list and, in fact, has been in the top five only five times in 19 full seasons. As Fred Couples once said about the overuse of the word great: "I'm not great, I'm good. But good's not bad." And that's where Davis Love is — just outside the group that is great, looking in.

-- Ron Sirak
Golf World

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