Big picture: Could Love's stumble be confidence-killer?
Davis Love III had a chance to do something special Sunday afternoon.
Having just eagled the ninth hole for the second straight round, Love regained the Honda Classic lead and was just nine holes away from his second victory of the season and all the confidence in the world running up to The Masters. It would have marked his first multiple-win season since 1997 and the earliest he had ever won two events in a year.
Instead, Love faltered with a Sunday lead for the second time this year (if you remember, he relinquished his final-round lead several times at Pebble before recovering on the 72nd hole), playing his final nine holes at 1-over and missing several opportunities down the stretch.
His biggest missed chance came at the par-3 16, where trailing by one he failed to capitalize after eventual winner Justin Leonard missed the green. Love's tee shot found a greenside bunker, and he'd go on to make a bogey that would leave him two strokes down with two to play.
"I'm just disappointed," Love said after the round. "I didn't play well on the back nine. I don't want to analyze it that much.''
What will this mean for Love's confidence heading into the most important stretch of the season?
Only Love knows the answer to that question, but you can't scoff at his performance at Mirasol. He was 23-under for the tournament and played the par-5s at 14-under. He had three eagles and 22 birdies as opposed to only four bogeys all week.
Still, he came up short with a 69 on a day where a 67 -- a stroke worse than he had shot in his previous three rounds -- would have won him the tournament.
More statistics and analysis from the weekend in golf:
|''I owe this tournament a whole box of envelopes for all the tickets we sent to will call.''
-- Justin Leonard, who invited dozens of members of his wife's family -- who live in the Palm Beach area -- to the tournament.
|Around the tours|
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The Country Club at Mirasol, Sunset Course (7,157 yards, par 72)
1 Justin Leonard (-24)
T2 Chad Campbell
T2 Davis Love III
4 Tim Herron
T5 Jim Furyk
T5 Notah Begay III
T5 Billy Mayfair
Elsewhere this week ...
1. The Honda Classic will be moving from Mirasol's Sunset Course to the Sunrise Course in 2004, and here's hoping the difference between the two is night and day.
The event was played on the Sunset for the first and only time in 2003, and it's a good thing; it played like your local muni this week. The field was putting up numbers we haven't seen since ... well, since the Phoenix Open and Bob Hope Chrysler Classic earlier this year.
Low scores are common, almost expected, in the desert, but the Florida swing is supposed to provide a truer test of golf skills. The Sunset Course -- which, in its defense, was not designed to host a PGA Tour event -- fell well short of that expectation.
The Sunset Course was built to be used by members, and is considerably easier than the Tom Fazio-designed tournament course (Sunrise), which is still under construction.
Some facts and figures from this week:
2. Leonard was nearly flawless on the weekend to come from four strokes back to win the birdiefest at Mirasol.
Leonard faced that deficit Saturday after bogeying No. 3. He went on to birdie 15 of his final 33 holes while making only one other bogey (at the last, where he was working with a two-stroke cushion).
The key stretch came Saturday afternoon, when he birdied his final six holes to pull within a stroke of Love and earn himself a spot in the final group Sunday with Chris Riley and his good friend Love. Leonard pulled ahead for good on the 11th Sunday, where he made his fourth birdie in six holes. He played his final seven holes at even par, holding off Love by a stroke.
Leonard was particularly lethal with his putter, averaging less than 26 putts per round (tied for seventh), and was tops in the field in putts per green in regulation.
3. As hot as Leonard was on the greens, Chris Riley was even hotter.
His putter can't take all the credit, however. His short game helped him out of more than a few jams around the greens, leaving him short attempts with his short stick. He did, after all, miss almost 40 percent of the greens in regulation.
4. They were already engraving Gil Morgan's name on the Champions Tour's SBC Classic trophy when Tom Purtzer pulled off one of the most remarkable final-hole swings in recent history.
Trailing by two strokes on the final hole of the tournament, Purtzer rolled in a 58-foot eagle putt. Morgan, now needing a par to force a playoff, three-putted from 30 feet to hand the title to Purtzer, his first on the 50-and-over tour.
''I've seen strange things happen before on this course, so I wasn't ready to quit,'' Purtzer said of the last hole. ''I wanted to make a three to get to 9-under, but I never expected to see Gil back up. He just doesn't do that.''
5. The LPGA Tour made its first non-Annika news of the year this week in Tucson -- sort of. Meg Mallon was the one in the spotlight, but Annika Sorenstam was still involved peripherally.
Mallon had a 10-under 60 in the second round of the LPGA's season-opening Welch's/Fry's Championship on Friday, just one stroke off of Annika Sorenstam's record 59. Mallon, who finished the tournament in sixth place, had an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th to tie Sorenstam's record but left it 3½ feet short.
''Right off the green yesterday, we talked about, 'Is there a 59 out there?''' Mallon said. ''I thought there definitely was. I didn't think it was me, but it was nice to have the chance to do that.''
What it means for ...
Chad Campbell 69-65-66-65--265 (23-under)
His second-place showing at the Honda was his second straight runner-up finish on tour, and he finished tied for eighth at the Nissan before that. He ranks first in total driving and is slowly making a name for himself. His final-round 65 propelled him from 10th to a tie for second, and his $440,000 check lifts him into the top 10 on the money list.
Jim Furyk 64-69-69-65--267 (21-under)
Followed up last week's runner-up finish with a tie for fifth at the Honda, and now has three straight top-10s and five in 2003.
Lorena Ochoa 67-66-66-71--270 (10-under)
Got her LPGA Tour career off to a good start this week at the Welch's/Fry's Championship. The 21-year-old Mexican rookie started with three straight rounds in the 60s before fading to a 71 in the final round Sunday. Still, it was good enough for a tie for 16th place.
Up next ...
PGA Tour: Bay Hill Invitational
LPGA Tour: Safeway Ping
Annika Sorenstam begins her 2003 season this week in Phoenix. All the big names will be there preparing for the season's first major, which will be played a week later.
Champions Tour: Toshiba Senior Classic
Hale Irwin will defend his third title of the season in California. Heading into the seventh event of the year, Irwin still doesn't have a victory, but has three runner-up finishes.
European Tour: Madeira Island Open
The European tour leaves the Middle East this week and heads to Portugal, where Diego Borrego is the defending champ.
David Lefort is ESPN.com's golf editor, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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