Davis Love III was one of the headliners of a Q & A, greet-and-meet, sponsor-driven gathering ahead of this week’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia when he was asked a question that might have seemed odd to those in the room.
“What are you doing here?”
The query didn’t come from the audience on hand but from another of the panelists on stage, one Pat Perez, who has played with Love on the PGA Tour for nearly 20 years.
Perez by no means was being disrespectful. Instead, he was wondering why a guy who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame just two weeks prior, a deserved honor considering his 21 career PGA Tour titles, including the 1997 PGA Championship and two victories in the Players Championship, was playing halfway around the world from his palatial estate on the Georgia shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Wondering why the 53-year-old sitting beside him wasn’t making a beeline to the Champions Tour.
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“I don’t want to give up playing on the PGA Tour,” said Love, who thought last year would be his last go-around on the PGA Tour before heading to the Champions Tour. But he shattered his collarbone snowboarding, reevaluated the situation during his three months off, believed he could still compete on the premier tour in the world and took a mulligan on that departure.
“I’m not going to stay out here and take up a spot and miss a whole bunch of cuts. If I don’t feel like I can play, I won’t,” said Love, who hopes to play well enough that he won’t call upon his lifetime exemption for winning more than 20 Tour titles.
He’s off to a good start. In his first start of the 2017-18 season, Love began his 32nd Tour season with a 5-under-par 67 in the first round of the CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lumpur. He was in a tie for eighth heading into the second round. Cameron Smith grabbed the lead with a 64. Keegan Bradley, 2017 Tour Championship winner Xander Schauffele and Poom Saksansin were at 65. Perez, incidentally, was in a group at 66.
Love conceded he might not be able to consistently compete on the longest courses on the PGA Tour against “the guys that bomb it,” but there are plenty of other layouts that suit Love’s game and he has a lot of experience on them.
“So I’m going to hang in there a little bit longer, but I’ll be the first one to admit when it’s time to go and Pat Perez can chase me off when it’s time,” said Love, who was 51 when he won his last title at the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Sam Snead is the oldest to win on the PGA Tour; he was 52 when he captured the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open.
In the meantime, Love, who used to be one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour back in his day, will turn his attention to the short game.
“I’m having to play a different game,” Love said. “My teacher, Jack Lumpkin, even five years ago said, ‘You have to work on your wedge game because you’re not going to beat up the par 5s anymore.’ … So I’m going to have to be the wily veteran and I’m going to have to play smart to take advantage of my wedges and my putter a little bit more. But that’s just part of it.”