Can Davis Love III Ride His Late Season Success Into 2009?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2008

Golf, for the most part, is a game of streaks—which is what makes it such a stressful game.

A player who is on a hot streak is constantly worrying about when and where his game will decide to leave him again. 

A player who has not been hitting the ball well is trying everything from expensive gadgets on the driving range to hypnosis in an effort to regain his top form.

This more or less ensures that whether on a hot or cold streak, a player is constantly worried about either finding or loosing his game.

No wonder why all these guys spend a small fortune on sports psychologists.

For most mortals on the PGA Tour, discounting the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson whose level of constancy comes along once in a generation, a win or even a strong finish is normally followed by stellar play in the weeks to come.

This is likely due to a sudden gain in confidence that inevitably comes with a win or strong finish—or it could just be another one of those unexplained aspects to golf. 

Whatever the reasons, in recent years we have seen several players carry over late season success and use it as a spring board for succeess the following year.

In 2006, Steve Stricker was 34th on the PGA Tour money list but finished off his season with four top-10 finishes and a 12th place finish at his final event, the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.  

Stricker’s strong 2006 finish continued into 2007 where he finished fourth on the PGA Tour money list and won the Barclays Classic, the inaugural FedEx Cup event.

In 2007, Justin Leonard was 33rd on the tour’s money list but finished his season with six consecutive top-25 finishes.  Similar to Stricker, Leonard carried his late 2007 success into 2008 where he played his way onto the American Ryder Cup team and finished tenth on the money list.

After a strong finish to his 2008 season, tour veteran Davis Love III is looking to follow a similar path into the 2009. 

Back in 2007, Love suffered a broken ankle which prematurely ended his year and nagged him for most of the 2008 season.

Heading into the PGA Tour’s 2008 fall season, Love found himself in an unfamiliar position.  

With six events left on the schedule, Love was outside the top-125 spots on the tour’s money list required for a player to retain his tour card for the following year.

Love could have easily sat at home, relaxed with his family and used one of his career earnings exemptions to ensure his 2009 playing privileges, but he didn’t.

Love approached the fall season with a level of intensity not seen from him in quite some time.

The fall season is typically reserved for those players most average fans have never heard of desperately battling it out to finish the year within the top 125 on the tour’s money list thus ensuring their job as a tour professional for at least another year.

Needless to say, it is quite rare to see a player of Love’s caliber attend all six fall season events.

Love’s intense approach to the fall season paid off as he managed to finish in the top 15 in four out of those six events, culminating in a win at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic, which turned out to be one of the most important wins of his career.

Love’s win at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic was his 20th career win; an accomplishment the PGA Tour rewards with a lifetime exemption.

Never again will Love need to worry about playing his way into the top 125 on the money list, or using one of his career earnings exemptions to ensure his playing privileges.

Love won the 1996 PGA Championship at Winged Foot but has been fairly quite since; recording wins at five smaller tournaments over the past decade. 

Healthy for the first time in nearly two years, Love has shown that he still possesses the ability to play at a very high level. 

Will Love be able to follow the likes of Steve Stricker and Justin Leonard in riding his late 2008 success into 2009? 

We shall see.