Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not easily provoked, except when some knuckleheads are 10 feet behind him and Love is standing over a chip shot uglier than beef tongue on toast and there's $324,000 and The Players Championship and a 10-year PGA Tour exemption and maybe a bit of his own father's memory on the line, and the knuckleheads are saying things to each other like, "Bet he doesn't get it up and down from here."
"No way. Impossible."
"Give you 3-to-1 odds."
"Make it 5-to-1."
"You got a bet."
Well, that's too much for a man to take, isn't it? I mean, weren't things hard enough for Davis Love III at last week's TPC, anyway? The whole year had been kind of a hangnail, hadn't it? Here he had been playing his grooves off, finishing in the top eight five times, scoring like crazy, tranquilizing his steroid driver, and yet all anybody wanted to talk about was Fred Couples this and Fred Couples that. O.K., O.K., so Couples had been hotter than Naugahyde seats in a Bonneville convertible parked too long at the Texas State Fair. In the four weeks leading up to the TPC, Couples had won twice and finished second twice, once in a playoff. Since the U.S. Open last June, he had won four times, helped the U.S. win the Ryder Cup, come in second twice and third four times, and been just about the best thing to happen to golf since cold beer.
Two weeks ago, he won the Nestl� Invitational at treacherous Bay Hill by nine tiny, little shots. Not since Tom Watson went ballistic and won six tournaments in 1980 have Tour locker rooms shivered at the mere sight of somebody. Last week, when Couples arrived at the world's only sodded torture chamber, known as the TPC at Sawgrass, Mark O'Meara gave him the full swami treatment, bowing deeply and slowly and saying, "Ah, Fred Couples. You only beat me by 18 shots last week."