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Love recalls his winning performance at The Players Championship in 2003

You would think that Davis Love III’s favorite memory from The Players Championship in 2003 would have something to do with his remarkable performance in the final round that got him his second victory in the tournament.

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Well, you would be wrong to assume as much.

The Sea Island touring pro said his most precious memory was the enjoyable ride home from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., with his then-10-year-old son Dru as his only company.

He stayed with me for the media interviews and speeches after the tournament,” Love said this week in an email. “(Wife) Robin, (daughter) Lexie and the family went home, so we had a late-night drive back home in the RV with him in the bed watching cartoons.”

That day, young Dru, who is now trying to make a name for himself as a professional golfer, knew enough about the game to know that his dad was lighting up the famed Stadium Course with a barrage of good golf shots as he watched from the gallery with the rest of the Love clan.

Love would come from two shots back and win by six strokes over third-round co-leaders Jay Haas and Padraig Herrington who both closed with even-par 72 rounds which weren’t good enough to hold off Love who charged to the top of the leaderboard with an eight-under 64 score.

That was 15 years ago this week, but Love’s performance in cold temperatures and biting winds will forever be etched in Players Championship lore.

Love was so good that day that his longtime friend and playing partner Fred Couples called his round “the best round of golf I’ve ever seen played.”

The win was the second for Love at the Players as he also won the tournament for the first time back in 1992.

He also called his closing 18 the best round he’d ever played at the time.

Love was 38 years old then and was in his 18th season on the PGA Tour. That was his 16th win on Tour and the second of four victories in that very same year.

Now 54 years old and a 21-time winner on the PGA Tour, the Hall of Famer still calls that final round his best.

It was great to get a second win at The Players. It was the biggest purse I had ever won and it was great to play with Fred Couple on the final day,” said Love, who pocketed $1.17 million for winning the tournament that marked the 30th anniversary of the event.

It was not my lowest score in a final-round win, but probably my best round given the conditions and the field. I hit the ball really well in the wind, but making putts either for birdie or par saves is what made the score so much better than the rest of the field.”

Love said he wasn’t worried about that Sunday being met with cold and wind. He thought that might actually help his chances to come from behind and he was ready to attack the course and the conditions from the time he stuck his tee in the ground on the first hole.

I always liked the tough weather days,” he said. “I felt like my length and a positive attitude gave me an advantage.”

Wearing a blue rain suit for most of the day, Love was near perfect with his ball-striking and the putter stayed hot from start to finish.

He kicked started his round with an early birdie and then proceeded to make five birdies in a row on holes eight through 12 to take command over all challengers.

His birdie binge started with a tee shot to three feet on the par-3 eighth which gave him a share of the lead at 11-under.

Love followed that with a wedge to four feet at the par-5 ninth and then dropped another wedge within 10 feet of the cup on No. 10 to open his back nine with a birdie.

He would two-putt the par-5 11th for another birdie and then closed his run by rolling in a 20-footer for a fifth straight birdie on the short par-4 12th.

That was all good stuff, but then there is really one shot that stands out among all the good ones Love hit that Sunday afternoon. It’s the one that still gets talked about today.

That would be the 6-iron Love hit from the pine straw on the par-5 16th hole that he ripped through the pines and over the water near the green, landing his ball 10 feet short of the cup and then rolling home the eagle attempt to seal the win. (To see the shot click here.)

It was a sink-or-swim kind of shot,” he says now. “If I pull it off, the tournament is over, and I felt like that was the place to be aggressive, with the tough 17-18 finish coming up.”

Was it his best shot ever? Probably so, Love says.

I think, yes. Given the stage in such a big tournament, it was my best or biggest impact shot,” he said.

Love started the day thinking he couldn’t afford another near-miss in one of the game’s biggest tournaments. He closed the day with his third-best score in a final round.

He shot 62 to win in Greensboro in 1992 and had a 63 in the final round in 2001 at Pebble Beach. He won the 1997 PGA Championship – his lone major victory – with a final-round 66 at Winged Foot.

I didn’t have a blow-it-out-of-the-water round like I did today,” Love said in his post-tournament press conference that late March afternoon.

The 64 score allowed him to shoot 17-under 271 and leave everyone else in the dust as he became only the fifth multi-time champion in The Players which is commonly referred to as “golf’s fifth major.”

We just got run over by Davis,” said Haas that day after settling for a distant second-place finish with Herrington.

And after steamrolling the rest of the field on the golf course, Love trucked it back up Interstate 95 to St. Simons Island in his traveling hotel room with his son in tow.

His work for the day was done, and what Love did that day was paint a masterpiece that will make for good highlights for many more years to come.

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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