ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Not three weeks removed from his duties as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Davis Love III admits he still isn't sleeping well. And yet life goes on. The 48-year-old is playing in this week's McGladrey Classic at Sea Island, and as don of the Sea Island golf mafia — Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jonathan Byrd, Brandt Snedeker, among others — he's also the tournament host. He's scheduled to throw a party for the players Thursday night.
What's more, as a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board, Love listened to USGA executive director Mike Davis tell the board here earlier this week why the anchored stroke, i.e. the belly putter — which Love uses — should be banned.
With everything going on, including Ryder second-guessing that even Love has indulged in — he says he should've put the pin left on 17 Sunday — Love could have easily fired a tidy 78 Thursday before going home to help wife Robin decide on the napkin-holders. Instead he shot a 5-under 65 on a course softened by overnight rain, and was in a four-way tie for second, one shot behind Greg Owen.
"We all hit it in a lot of fairways in our group," said Love, who played with Sea Island pal and Ryder player Zach Johnson (65), and Ben Crane (68). "And we had a lot of birdie chances. We all could have shot a little bit lower than we did."
Less than two years from Champions Tour eligibility, Love is in what has been a no-man's land for Tour golfers. Alas, he refuses to quietly bide his time until he turns 50. Just days removed from the wild finish at Medinah, he shot 68-67 in his first two rounds at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals in Las Vegas, but ran out of gas on the weekend to finish tied for 66th place. He finished T35 at the Frys.com Open last week. The 20-time PGA Tour winner has stolen moments wherever he can find them to work on his own game — he was the last man on the practice putting green at Sea Island at 6 p.m. Wednesday — and it shows.
The way Love looks at it, he may be on the verge of a career revival, now that he can actually focus on his game, for a change. This week marks the end of his last term on the Tour Policy Board. He's no longer the Ryder Cup captain.
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"Next year should be great," said Love, who made six birdies and one bogey Thursday. "I should have no distractions, so I'm excited about next season. Vijay and I played three days last week and talked about how we're not going to the Champions Tour. We want to beat these guys. Everybody else is asking me and Vijay, 'When are you going on the Champions Tour?' And I'm thinking, 'How do I get as many wins as Vijay?' Vijay is thinking, 'How do I get as many wins as Phil?'" (Vijay Singh, 49, has 34 PGA Tour victories and Phil Mickelson, 42, has 40 wins.)
At the very least, Love is off to a fine start to be low Sea Islander, a title that will be easier to win this year, for a few reasons. Byrd is injured, Snedeker isn't here because his wife just had a baby, and new Sea Island resident Kuchar elected not to play in the McGladrey Classic. Still, Love, who got back to the island from California at 3 a.m. Monday only to jump right into the pro-am later that day, isn't letting that diminish his enjoyment of the event. As he begins to exhale from the busiest year of his life, this is the easy part: hit it, chase it, hit it again. He's come home to his life's work.