Hungry and healthy, Davis Love III eyes breakthrough at Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
Davis Love III has been a fan of Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club for many years. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an active player on the PGA Tour who has more of an affinity for the famed and challenging layout in central Florida.
“It’s definitely one of my favorites. It’s always been a great test,” said Love, the former PGA Championship winner, who is looking for a big year in 2010 and has big goals, including qualifying for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. “I’ve had a pretty good history at Bay Hill, and I’ve been going there since junior golf, the Southern Amateur, other events, U.S. Open qualifiers, and I have a lot of great memories there. A lot of that has to do simply with Arnold and spending time with him, but I’ve done some good things on the golf course, too.” Love, who has battled a series of injuries in recent years but is feeling fit in his 25th season on the PGA Tour, said that he plans to once again compete in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, which is scheduled for March 22-28 at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida. The $6 million tournament, which Palmer has hosted at Bay Hill since 1979, is among the premiere events on the PGA Tour and serves as a fitting crescendo to the Florida Swing.
“I’m definitely looking forward to going back there, and I’m eager to see what has been done to the golf course. I’ve heard good things about the changes that have been made there,” says Love, a Life Member on the PGA Tour who enjoys a second career as a golf course designer. After last year’s tournament, won by Tiger Woods with a dramatic birdie on the 72nd hole, Palmer oversaw a renovation of his prized layout that included a complete upgrade of the putting surfaces. The alterations allowed Palmer to restore the Championship Course to par-72 after three years in which the standard was par-70.
Love, 45, 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. Three times he has finished runner-up in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the first coming in 1989 when he lost to Tom Kite in a playoff. His other seconds came in 1993, behind Ben Crenshaw, and 2000 when he shot a career-best 14- under-par 274, but finished four behind Woods. His seven top-10 finishes also includes a third-place showing in 1999. He has broken par at Bay Hill 36 times with a career low of 63 in the third round of the 2000 tournament.
“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 has likened the Championship Course to a major championship venue in its difficulty and shot values. “It will be interesting to see how the changes to the greens affect things, where bunkers are now, the whole setting. It’s always been a great ball-striker’s course. I would expect Arnold has made it that much better.”
Love has said before that he is overdue to win the coveted prize that goes to the winner. Given his respect and affection for the tournament host, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational would be a welcome achievement for a man who has won 20 PGA Tour titles.
“It’s definitely something you’d like to do, winning those events attached to special people like Arnold or Jack (Nicklaus) or Byron (Nelson),” Love said. “Every time I go to Bay Hill, just to hang around Arnold for a few minutes is pretty special. That in itself is worth it. But, yes, I’d love to win Arnold’s tournament. That’s a good one to have on your record at the end of the day.”
For tickets or for more information, log on to the tournament web site, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.comor 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 and Babies.