Big picture: Could Love's stumble be confidence-killer?

Originally Published: March 16, 2003
By David Lefort | ESPN.com

Davis Love III had a chance to do something special Sunday afternoon.

Davis Love III
Davis Love III couldn't make anything happen on the back nine Sunday.

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:

Quotable
''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.
The number

5

The number of cuts 18-year-old Ty Tryon has missed in five events in 2003.
Around the tours

This week:
Honda Classic
Site:
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Course:
The Country Club at Mirasol, Sunset Course (7,157 yards, par 72)
Top finishers:
1 Justin Leonard (-24)
T2 Chad Campbell
T2 Davis Love III
4 Tim Herron
T5 Jim Furyk
T5 Notah Begay III
T5 Billy Mayfair


This week:
Welch's/Fry's Championship
Site:
Tucson, Ariz.
Course:
Randolph Park, Dell Urich Course (6,176 yards, par 70)
Top finishers:
1 Wendy Doolan (-21)
T2 Lorie Kane
T2 Betsy King
T4 Christina Kim
T4 Grace Park


This week:
SBC Classic
Site:
Santa Clarita, Calif.
Course:
Valencia Country Club (6,575 yards, par 72)
Top finishers:
1 Tom Purtzer (-9)
2 Gil Morgan
T3 Sammy Rachels
T3 John Schroeder
T5 Jim Thorpe
T5 Hubert Green
T5 Des Smyth
T5 Allen Doyle


This week:
Qatar Masters
Site:
Doha, Qatar
Course:
Doha Golf Club (7,110 yards, par 72)
Top finishers:
1 Darren Fichardt (-13)
2 James Kingston
3 Paul McGinley
4 David Howell
T5 Peter Headblom
T5 Peter Fowler


This week:
No event
Next event:
Louisiana Open (March 27-30)

Elsewhere this week ...
Futures Tour: Florida Golf Challenge
Winner: Soo Young Moon

Five observations
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:

  • Leonard's 24-under total broke the tournament record by two strokes, and it would have been three had he not bogeyed the 72nd hole.

  • Matt Kuchar won the event at 19-under in 2002 in the final year at the TPC at Heron Bay -- tied for the lowest winning Honda score since 1989. A 19-under total this year would have gotten you a tie for 14th.

  • The tournament's scoring average for the week was 69.075, the lowest on tour this year.

  • Of the top 62 finishers, only Mark O'Meara had a round above par all week (a Sunday 73). Let's put that in perspective. The top 62 played a total of 248 rounds this week, and O'Meara's 1-over final round was the only one of those rounds that was played over par.

  • Seventy-two players were at 10-under or better, that's more than at both the Phoenix Open and Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

    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.

    Riley made only 95 putts in 72 holes, two off of the PGA Tour record set by Kenny Knox at the 1989 Heritage and matched by Mark Calcavecchia last year in Greensboro.

    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.

    Tom Purtzer
    Purtzer

    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 3 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.''

    Chad Campbell
    Campbell

    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

    Ernie Els
    Els
    Tiger Woods
    Woods
    The headliner in a big week of golf. Tiger Woods goes for his fourth straight Bay Hill title, and will face Ernie Els for the first time this year in a stroke-play event. And if that wasn't enough to get you to tune in, this also will likely be the final PGA Tour event Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will tee it up in together. Expect the Masters talk to begin hot and heavy this week.

    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 david.m.lefort@espn3.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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