Couples agreed. "If I play bad golf, I'm still cranky," he said in Puerto Rico. "But as far as being with Tawnya and being with her family and spending time with my family, it's been a lot of fun. I didn't miss golf at all. It would almost be fun to take a couple of months off every year, but I just can't do that."
Love has been healthy, and his home life is solid—last December his second child, Davis Love IV, was born. His golf game is another matter. His problems started in 1993 when he began experimenting with graphite shafts in his clubs and when the company whose irons he plays came out with a new design. But equipment aside, Love has never been comfortable with the expectations and pressures thrust upon him. Although he won twice in '93, he played horribly in the majors. This year he started out strong, but he didn't have a Top 10 finish after The Players Championship in late March.
"There was one person who told me all the time that I had so much talent, and that was my dad," Love says, talking about his late father and teacher, Davis Love Jr., who died in a plane crash in 1988. "He was the one person I knew wasn't going to lie to me or say something to make me feel good. I knew then and I know now, I have the ability to win every time I play. This year was the first time I was frustrated, knowing I wasn't playing anywhere near as well as I can."
What disturbs Love most is his play in major championships. He missed the cut at this year's Masters and PGA Championship and finished 28th in the U.S. Open and 38th at the British Open. It was at Turnberry, during a victory dinner hosted by Price, that Love realized what he was missing. That celebration left him with mixed emotions. "I was excited for Nick. On the other hand, I wanted to get as far away as I could," Love says. "To see up close what it was like to win, being right there with Nick celebrating, made me want it more."
Love went to the five-round Las Vegas Invitational on Oct. 19 with a lot at stake. If he made the cut he would finish in the top 30 on the money list and qualify for the Tour Championship at the Olympic Club and next year's Masters. But he shot 74 in the third round and missed the cut by 11 strokes. "I got to Kapalua [two weeks later], and somebody said, 'Well, how was Olympic last week?' " Love recalled in Puerto Rico. "I told him, 'Well, I wasn't there, but thanks for assuming.' "
The assumption among family and friends is that the third round at Vegas lit a fire under Love. He played superbly in Puerto Rico. If anything kept him from challenging Couples for the International Trophy, it was his inconsistent putting on Dorado Beach's grainy Bermuda greens. It helped, he said, to have his brother, Mark, caddying. "Davis hasn't been happy with the way he has played this year, but the week at home while everybody was at Olympic really made him want to work harder for next year," Mark said after Saturday's round.
Winning the World Cup solidified the Couples-Love team. They will probably be teammates again next September at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., at the Ryder Cup, but the feeling won't be the same. For these two the World Cup is a much more appealing competition, and not because they dominate it the way Nicklaus and Palmer did three decades ago. "You're still playing for your country, but because they're not waving flags and screaming, 'USA! USA!' it's not difficult to play," Couples said.
At the Ryder Cup there are too many uniformed team functions and formal dinners to attend. After the opening round at Dorado Beach, Couples and Love were guests of honor at an informal home-cooked meal laid out by Tour caddies Joe "Giant" LaCava, "Six-Pack" Jack Keating, "Electric" Ed Bigoss and Jeff "the Shadow" Jones. Wearing shorts and T-shirts, they dined on chicken, rice, red beans and pasta, helped themselves to seconds, then pushed back their plates and spent an hour talking about sports and classic cars. It was a kick-back night.
"Next year we'll do this in China!" said Six-Pack Jack, referring to next year's tournament in Shenzhen, China.
There was some question about whether Couples and Love would make that trek, even for a possible "four-peat." China is a long way to go in November when there's no big appearance money to make the trip worthwhile, but in Wednesday's pro-am, Couples and Love played with Howard L. Clark, chairman of the International Golf Association, which runs the World Cup. Clark promised them free transportation to Shenzhen.