Illness kept Ryder Cup captain from competing in 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
Davis Love III has long been a fan of the Championship Course at Bay Hill, having competed at Arnold Palmer's prized layout since his days in junior golf. He's seldom missed a spring visit since he became a professional, though last year's event was an exception, as an illness prevented him from competing.
Love intends to be back for the 34th Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard scheduled for March 19-25 at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. He can't wait, in fact.
"It's always on my schedule, and missing last year was a disappointment," says Love, 47, of Sea Island, Georgia, who has been runner-up at Bay Hill on three occasions, in 1989, 1993 and 2000. "I look forward to going to Bay Hill every year, if for no other reason than just to see Arnold."
Of course, Love's agenda might be a bit different this year. Or, rather, it will be a multi-faceted agenda.
Two years ago he was hoping to play well at Bay Hill as a springboard to qualifying for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He ended up falling short of making Corey Pavin's squad as a player, but he went to Wales as one of Pavin's four assistant captains. This year, Love is the captain for the matches in September at Medinah Country Club, near Chicago.
"There have been a few captains I've had the chance to talk with, and I'm hoping I can have a few minutes with Arnold to pick his brain a little bit too," Love says. "Arnold gave me a pretty nice compliment a while back when he was the Presidents Cup captain (in 1996). He was talking about the tradition in playing in those kinds of matches, representing your country and how special that is, and then he turned in my direction and said, 'Davis knows what I'm talking about.' Just the fact that he singled me out in that room was kind of a neat thing."
Palmer says he doesn't know how much he can help but he understands the pressures involved, and he thinks Love is up to the challenge of getting the cup back for America. "He's been in that situation a lot as a player, and I'm sure he knows what to do," Palmer says. "He's going to do just fine, but if there is anything I can do, I'd certainly want to be there to offer my thoughts if he asks. Being a captain is a huge honor. It was certainly one of the highlights of my career."
The Ryder Cup, of course, can wait. Love, the former PGA Championship winner, is still a competitor, and he's hungry to add to his 20 PGA TOUR victories. Bay Hill might be a logical place for him to look. "I've had a pretty good history at Bay Hill, and I've been going there since junior golf, the Southern Amateur, other events, like U.S. Open qualifiers," Love says.
Indeed, Love can look back to 1988 as the start of his affinity for Bay Hill, when he was the medalist at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier held there. His three runner-up finishes include a playoff loss to Tom Kite in 1989. He shot a career-best 14-under-par 274 in 2000, but lost to Tiger Woods by four strokes. That 274 score would have easily won him the title in 1989 and 1993. His seven top-10 finishes also includes a third-place showing in 1999. He has broken par at Bay Hill 38 times with a career-low of 63 in the third round of the 2000 tournament. He finished tied for 14th in 2010.
"I've played a lot of golf on those kinds of greens... hard, fast, Bermuda greens, and I am comfortable on them and feel like I can score a little," says Love, who compares Bay Hill's Championship Course to a major championship venue in its difficulty and shot values. "I like the tournament. I like the golf course a lot. It sets up well for the way I play the game."
Love has said before that he is overdue to "win a sword," the now-retired prize still on display that once symbolized the tournament. "I feel like it owes me one. Maybe two," he said, laughing. "Aside from winning a major, it's the next thing on my list I'd like to do as a player. It would mean a lot to me to win Arnold's tournament."
For tickets to the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard or for more information, visit the tournament website, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com, or call the Bay Hill Club ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Tournament proceeds benefit Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.