LAST WEEK I HAD THE opportunity to interview Davis Love III as part of the Dove® Men + Care™ media outreach. Called “Journey to Comfort,” the ad campaign features Love, Stewart Cink and other athletes such as Magic Johnson and Bobby Hurley. We discussed the campaign, his mom, his golf game, the U.S. Open and his 2012 Ryder Cup captaincy.
Love has 20 PGA Tour titles, including one major, the 1997 PGA Championship. He also has played on six U.S. Ryder Cup teams and was an assistant captain for Corey Pavin’s 2010 squad.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: I heard you had the stomach flu. How are you feeling?
DAVIS LOVE: I’m feeling better, practicing every day, getting ready for a big stretch—Charlotte, Players, Fort Worth, Memorial, all those good ones. I’m excited for the rest of the year.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Yeah, a bunch of good tournaments coming up. I’m going to get to your playing, but I wanted to ask about this campaign you’re working on. I’m old enough to remember the Dove soap ads growing up. You’ve had a lot of golf-related sponsors, but I’ll bet you could never have anticipated having someone like Dove as a sponsor. What has it been like for you?
DAVIS LOVE: It’s been great to be in national ads for a national brand that, as you said, we both grew up with. To be in a campaign like this that has other athletes … Joe Girardi and Bobby Hurley and Magic Johnson and Davis Love and Stewart Cink, it’s pretty amazing. The response has been incredible. So many people come up to me and say, “I’m comfortable in my own skin, too.” People are asking me which soap I like best. They’re saying I sure like that one [TV spot] about your mom. Not only is it brand building, it’s also telling my story. People know that my dad was a pro, that I got lessons from my dad. But my mom was such a big part of my golf life. It’s great to give her some credit and tell that story. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve been good friends with the Cinks for a long time. It’s been fun to partner with them on this.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: I think my favorite one [commercial] was with your mom. Of course, I knew about your father. A lot of people have heard about him. But you say that you got your talent from your mom. Obviously, she was a pretty good golfer herself. How would you say that she helped you in the game?
DAVIS LOVE: In reality, she was the one who taught us to compete, because she was the one who took us out on the course. My mom was a single-digit handicap for 50 years. She didn’t start playing golf until she was in her early 20s. She just picked up the clubs and immediately started playing well. She was very competitive. Not in a U.S. Amateur or tour pro sense, but just competitive with herself. She just wanted to play her best every single day. My dad was a great player and a great teacher, but we didn’t get to play nearly as much with our dad as we did with our mom. My dad was working at the shop, or practicing, or playing. When we were 10 years old, it was a fantasy to try to beat your mom. Not worried about beating your dad. Got to beat your mom first. She didn’t want to get beat by her kids or the ladies she played with. She drove us all over the Southeast to play in tournaments. She was the one to make it happen, for sure. Nice for her to get the credit she certainly deserves.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: It’s a nice story, especially with Mother’s Day coming up. I saw a couple of weeks ago you were concerned about your chipping. How’s your game right now, and what are you working on?
DAVIS LOVE: Right now I am working on chipping. I was chipping yesterday and my son walked up and said, “So how are you chipping?” I said, “That’s the problem. I’m thinking about my chipping, I’m talking about my chipping [chuckling], everybody’s concerned about my chipping.” Yes, I need to work on my short game. As Bob Rotella says, the scoring clubs is what I need to be working on. I can hit the ball plenty far, hit plenty of good shots. I know how to play. I just got to work on the scoring clubs, and that’s as much mental as it is physical. So it’s pre-shot routine, playing games, hitting bunker shots. Not just hitting 50 bunker shots. Trying to hole one to each hole, trying to chip some chips in, play some putting games. With my son or Brad Faxon, I just love to play this back and forth putting game. Practice is more practicing shots and playing games. Hitting high cuts instead of just standing there and smacking 7-irons.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Is all that work still fun for you?
DAVIS LOVE: It’s a lot of fun. I find myself lost in the practice, just like when I was a kid. Yesterday when I was on the range, the high school team was practicing, a little clinic of 10-year-olds, and the 47-year-old tour player that’s been doing it forever. I still love doing it, I still love the challenge, I still love competing. If you don’t go out and practice your chipping, you’re not going to be competitive. As I said, I’m looking forward to this next big stretch of tournaments. I’m excited about the year. I still have goals in my career that I haven’t reached. I’m not going to sit back and relax. I don’t like missing cuts. I don’t like not winning. The tough thing is to try not to work so hard that you’re trying too hard. Get the work done, be consistent with your work, be prepared when you get to the tournament, and then go play. That’s what’s been disappointing since the Florida Swing started. I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten to a tournament 100 percent prepared. So that’s my goal for Charlotte, Players, right on through the summer, getting ready for the U.S. Open. Just be prepared and go out and play and get your confidence back.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: I was looking ahead to the U.S. Open. You had a nice finish there last year. You tied for sixth. I looked at 1997 to see how you did, and you had a top-20 finish at Congressional. How do you like Congressional, and how does it set up for your game?
DAVIS LOVE: I think it really sets up well. It’s a big, long, hard course. It looks like a major championship, whether you’re playing Tiger’s AT&T tournament or a major. I’ve always liked it. I’ve played there all the way back to ’86. Pebble has always set up well for me, and I played well there. I felt like at the Players and at the Open last year at Pebble I was right there, like Dustin Johnson and so many other guys. A double here, a double there—I could have won the tournament. I’m excited about Congressional. I’ve always enjoyed playing there and I feel like it suits my game. In the U.S. Open, it comes down to hitting fairways and making putts. That comes with confidence. I think I have the experience. Once I get near the lead, I do pretty good. I just got to get a little more consistent on the Thursday, Friday.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: I have to ask you one Ryder Cup question. You’ve been a part of a lot of Ryder Cups and now you’re captain. What does the Ryder Cup mean to you, and what does it mean that it’s your turn to be at the helm?
DAVIS LOVE: It means a lot to me. It means a lot that six captains that I’ve played for, and then Corey that I was assistant for, have put so much into making those seven weeks of my golf career so incredible. I want to give these next 12 guys—who hopefully six or seven of them have played before—I want to give that back to them. I want it to be … an incredible week for the players. Of course, we want to win. But I think, whether win or lose the Ryder Cup or the President’s Cup, it’s still an incredible week for the players. I want to do everything I can to give that back to the game and to the Ryder Cup and to the players what was given to me by the Kites and the Crenshaws and Watsons, Curtis Strange.
I want the guys to feel like they’re a little bit more prepared for Friday this time than they were last time. It’s not a normal week. It’s a Super Bowl week. I want our Super Bowl week to at least have enough normalcy that we can feel like when we go to the first tee on Friday that we’re ready to play. I know what it feels like not to be prepared. I want these guys to feel like we’ve done everything we can to prepare. Let’s just go have fun and play and win this thing. Take a little pressure off of them. Let them just go have fun. I think we’ll do well.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: I wish you all the best, Davis, with that, and also with this next stretch of golf. Thanks for taking the time. I appreciate it.
DAVIS LOVE: Thank you very much.
−The Armchair Golfer
Coming soon: Stewart Cink