- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The weak chin and furrowed brow are those of a cautious worrier, and the gait has a trace of galumph. If it weren't for the country-club duds and the Roman numerals at the end of his name, you might figure him for a Hush Puppies kind of guy. But if your private pantheon of biomechanical excellence includes Jordan jamming, Elway throwing downfield, Mattingly going deep and Tyson finishing, then it should also contain Davis Love III driving.
Love is the longest hitter ever to play on the PGA Tour. How long? Even Herman Mitchell, the 300-plus-pound caddie who often carries Love's bag, looks as if he could be swayed by the turbulence from the North Carolinian's immense swing. No one who has ever played golf at its highest level—not George Bayer, not Jim Dent, not even the young Jack Nicklaus—has been able to bully his way around a golf course the way Love can.
"Yeah, he is awesome," says Greg Norman. "I remember I hit a pretty good one at Muirfield last year, then sat back and watched Davis fly me by 40 yards. What else can you say? The kid's got it."
Of course, even the world's greatest players are susceptible to embellishment when it comes to long-drive stories. But as a PGA Tour rookie last year, Love had the statistics to back his up. He led the Tour in average driving distance at a record 285.7 yards, nearly two yards farther than second-place Greg Twiggs and about 25 more than the Tour average. What makes the figure otherworldly is that Love hits a one-iron off the tee more than he does a driver. His one-iron travels about 260 yards with roll. Love estimates that he averages about 300 with a driver. "A good one can go pretty far," he allows.
And Mother Teresa is pretty helpful. Love had the tour's longest measured drive of 1986 with a blast of 389 yards at the Hawaiian Open. He hit several others more than 350 yards. He carried Spyglass Hill's never-before-reached-in-two 600-yard 1st hole with a driver and a two-iron. Feeling a brisk wind behind him on the tee of the 538-yard 18th hole at Glen Abbey during the Canadian Open, Love pulled out a three-wood to make sure he wouldn't reach a water hazard 380 yards away. He then smashed the longest layup ever recorded. The ball ended up about 30 yards short of the water and a wedge from the green. Love's drives found the fairway only 57% of the time last year, but the figure would have been better if he hadn't driven into some greenside traps on par 4s.
"There's no question," says Joey Sindelar, who has the longest driving average on the Tour this decade, "that the course Davis plays is a lot different than the one the rest of us play. The statistics don't show it, but Davis is at least 10 yards longer than anyone else out here."
So how does a scrawny, 6'3", 175-pound kid with a bookkeeper's demeanor make gravity fight for its life? First, he is flexible. At the top of his swing, his 35-inch-inseam left arm and shoulder connect like a ball and socket unencumbered by muscles and tendons. Love is "golf strong," even though the only things on him that ripple are his shirt sleeves on a windy day. Since age nine, when he told his father, the respected instructor and former touring pro Davis Love Jr., that he wanted to play golf for a living, Davis III has hit thousands of balls holding the club with only his left hand.
"It's mostly the pulling action from my left arm that can make the club go so fast," he says. Love also has the mind-set that goes with being a long hitter. His temperament is outwardly controlled and colorless, but it hides a considerable boldness. "I'm real aggressive inside," he says. "I feel I have control of everything on a golf course. I'm well suited to a big swing."
In fact, the sheer size of Love's swing is the biggest reason he hits the ball so far. On the practice tee, Love's swing stands out like a windmill among a bunch of electric fans—it's wider and taller than anyone else's. Love's club head goes faster for much the same reasons a rock on the end of a long string will travel faster than one on the end of a shorter string. Without grunting and groaning, he produces the same kind of long-limbed power that marks Carl Lewis in full stride.
"It's a swing that is powerful and pretty at the same time," says the noted aesthete Ben Crenshaw. "Davis is sort of testing the outer limits. How big an arc can you have? How fast can you swing? It's fun to watch him."