One win puts Love at 20 and into Hall of Fame light

Davis Love III, Disney
John Raoux/AP
Davis Love III joined Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh as the only active players with more than 20 wins.

By DOUG FERGUSON
Associated Press Golf Writer

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — So much for that notion the Fall Series on the PGA Tour is meaningless.

On the surface, Davis Love III winning at Disney might have looked that way.

He scrambled for pars on the last two holes to hold off a rookie (Tommy Gainey) who was 228th on the money list, wears two gloves and looks like he's trying to kill a snake every time he swings. When it was over, Love posed with a bronze trophy of Mickey Mouse playing golf (just think of the white elephant gift nobody will take off your hands).

But that one victory was enough to change the perception of Love.

Timing is everything.

He won the final event of a season in which Love struggled to return from a devastating ankle injury last October that kept him out of golf for four months, out of the Masters and off another Ryder Cup team. And his victory came one day before the induction ceremony for the World Golf Hall of Fame.

It probably won't be long before Love is on that stage, perhaps as early as next year.

Love received 19 percent of the votes on the PGA Tour ballot this year, eighth place in the voting and far short of the 65 percent needed for election. The only difference between now and then is a victory across the street from the Magic Kingdom.

It gave him more than $828,000, a two-year exemption and a trip to Kapalua for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship.

More than anything, it gave him 20 victories.

"That's like a 300-game winner in baseball," Brad Faxon said Tuesday. "Fewer and fewer guys are going to reach that number. It's going to be harder and harder to do."

Those 20 victories include the PGA Championship at Winged Foot in 1997, and two victories at The Players Championship, which is considered the next best thing to a major. Love has won at least once in 13 seasons, and he extended his PGA Tour record by going over $1 million in earnings for the 14th consecutive year.

A year ago, he was considered the most talented underachiever.

But a number like 20 tends to shift focus on what he has achieved instead of what he could have.

Among active players, only Tiger Woods (65), Phil Mickelson (34) and Vijay Singh (34) have won at least 20 times on tour. No one else is particularly close to that number, and few have a chance of getting there.

Ernie Els has 16 wins (three majors), a number that might be higher if not for playing around the world for the last two decades. Fred Couples and Corey Pavin have 15 wins and one major. David Duval looked like a lock for 20 wins until injuries begat a loss of confidence and sent him into a mystifying slump. He is at 13, along with Jim Furyk.

Love won half of his tournaments after Woods arrived, and it's getting even tougher to win with greater depth and more international players on the PGA Tour.

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