Love Returns, Seeking to Win at Bay Hill


After near-misses, Davis Love III wants to break through
At Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard

Davis Love III knows how to score at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club. Now the former PGA Championship winner is ready to win the tournament named in honor of the host.

"I'm definitely looking forward to going back there," says Love, who returns to the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard after a two-year absence. "I've had a pretty good history at Bay Hill, and I've had a lot of good rounds there. It's time I won a sword."

Scheduled for March 12-18 and offering a $5.5 million purse, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard was renamed last spring in honor of the legendary golfer who has 62 PGA Tour titles, including seven major championships.

Love, age 42, boasts a stellar performance history at Bay Hill dating back to 1988 when he was the medalist at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier held there. Love doesn't remember what he shot, only that he double-bogeyed his first hole of the day "and then I played pretty darn well after that," he says. Though he can't remember the details of the round, he can easily recall the date: June 6. That's the day after his daughter, Alexia, was born.

Ironically, Love missed the cut earlier that year in the PGA Tour event Palmer founded in 1979. But since then Love has acquitted himself splendidly, including a second-place finish the very next year to Tom Kite, who edged Love in a playoff after both men finished 72 holes at 278, six under par at that time.

Love would go on to tie for second in 1993 behind another Texan, Ben Crenshaw, and he was second again in 2000 as Tiger Woods embarked on his streak of four straight victories. He was third in 1999 and owns seven top-10 finishes overall and 11 top-25s. Love ranks seventh in all-time tournament earnings, and he owns a 70.68 scoring average over 64 rounds. He has broken par 35 times with a career low of 63 in the third round of the 2000 tournament.

"I like the golf course a lot," says Love, who tied for 31st in his last appearance in 2004. "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."

Nevertheless, he has considerable respect for the Champion Course, which will be adjusted to par-70 for this year's 29th edition, though it remains par 72 for the membership. Two par-five holes, No. 4 and No. 16, are being converted to par-fours. The fourth will measure 460 yards while No. 16 will be 485 yards. The course's overall yardage will be 7,137 yards, down from 7,267 yards, and the lowest total since playing 7,117 yards at par 72 from 1990 to 1995.

"It's a long golf course that looks very traditional off the tee, and it has firm greens, so you know it's all there in front of you and what you have to do," Love says. "It's gotten harder over the years like a lot of courses we play, but I think the changes that have been made are good ones and keep it a fair test. It's a good, long, hard golf course with almost a U.S. Open style of setup with the deep rough, and it rewards good ball strikers."

"It's like a major championship test," Love adds. "I feel like if you just hang in there and play decently you're going to be fine. It turns into a test of patience as well as good golf."

Winner of 19 PGA Tour career titles, including the 2006 Chrysler Classic of Greensboro that broke a three-year winless drought, Love says he approves of the tournament name change and thinks it brings that much more prestige to the event having Palmer's name on the marquee.

"Just like having Byron's name on the tournament in Dallas, I think the fact that the tournament at Bay Hill has Arnold's name on it does elevate the tournament," Love says. "The players have always known how special the tournament is and what it means to win, but I think the name change is more for the public to understand how meaningful the tournament is and what a great honor it is to Arnold and recognizing him and his legacy."

For tickets to the 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard or for more information, log on to the tournament web site, or call the Bay Hill ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Tournament proceeds benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.