Hilton Head has been wonderful for Love's career record, his bank account and his collection of tartan sport coats, but it has also been a harsh reminder that he doesn't have a green one. Harbour Town, in theory, is ill-suited to a long whacker like Love. (At the Masters, when Love learned that Woods would be making his first appearance at Harbour Town, he said to him, "You've got no chance there.") At Augusta National, the longer you are, the better. So why has Love won four times on Hilton Head and never at Augusta? You can't pose a question to Love that he hasn't already posed to himself. "You try to get your game to peak physically and mentally for the week of the Masters," he says. "My physical game has been there at Augusta. My mental game has always peaked here."
Almost always. Last Saturday—when he played in the second group of the day and shot 74—everything came crashing in. The five consecutive weeks of playing, the runner-up finish at Augusta, his aching back, a sore hip, his thwarted hope of winning at Harbour Town for a fifth time, his dashed hope of passing Woods in the World Ranking all descended on him at once. On Saturday afternoon, while Lexie and a friend cruised a Hilton Head mall, Davis sat in the Suburban, parked in the mall's lot. He was uncomfortable and stiff and unsure of what to do. He recalled a recent conversation with his back specialist, Tom Boers. Boers is the man who last winter encouraged Love to lose weight to relieve the stress on his back, and Love has lost 20 pounds since February by cutting out bread, potatoes and desserts. Boers is the man who has put Love into a serious stretching routine, a regimen that Love follows faithfully for a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night. "What are you trying to prove by playing so much?" Boers had asked Love. "You did the same thing last year. You played too much early and you couldn't make a swing by the time you got to the U.S. Open."
Love pondered all this in the parking lot, and then and there he decided to withdraw from the tournament. It is something he has only done twice before in his career, withdrawn from a tournament in progress. He is thinking about not trying to defend his title in the Chunichi Crowns event in Japan next week, either. His back needs rest. "I could've played the last round, scraping it around hitting a bunch of slices, but I would've risked hurting myself more," Love said. He could have shot 70-something, but he would not have been committed to each shot. A Masters hangover is a doozy.
On Sunday morning Norman, playing in the third group of the day, shot 74 for a four-round total of six-over 290,16 strokes behind the winner, Glen Day. In the afternoon Woods shot 71 for a 280, six behind Day. At the same time Love was cruising south on the LexSea, heading home, Day won his first Tour event like a big-time pro. He shot a final-round 66 and was part of a three-man playoff with Jeff Sluman and Payne Stewart. Day promptly holed a 30-footer for birdie on the first, and last, extra hole.
He was thrilled, of course. For one thing, he had distanced himself from his 78-77 exhibition at Augusta. "You can't compare anything to Augusta," Day said on Sunday night. "Professional golf is tremendous highs and tremendous lows. There's got to be a way to make a living with a lot less stress."
While Day was putting on his new tartan coat in a ceremony on the 18th green at Harbour Town, Love was getting ready for dinner, at home. For Love the week had not been a success. The truth is, the week of the MCI Classic, to varying degrees, was a disappointment for everyone in the field except Day, and even he said there were a couple of shots in the final round—a chip and a putt in his lone bogey—he wishes he could have had over. But that's golf.