'Golf is the most boring thing you ever heard'

DAVIS LOVE, who had five birdies in a row in closing with a 64 to win the Players' Championship at Sawgrass on that Sunday, confirmed what some people may have thought for a long time.

LEWINE MAIR

Davis Love III hugs his daughter Alexia after winning the Players' Championship.-Pic. AP

DAVIS LOVE, who had five birdies in a row in closing with a 64 to win the Players' Championship at Sawgrass on that Sunday, confirmed what some people may have thought for a long time when he said, "Golf is the most boring thing you ever heard... "

In truth, this former PGA champion is probably more excited by the game than he has ever been. He was merely referring to the best way of going about one's golfing business. "I know," he said, "that these are tired old sayings, but golf really is about hitting one shot at a time, about staying in the moment. The game really is that boring."

Love picked out Tiger Woods as the one who sticks to "one shot at a time" better than anyone — and Jack Nicklaus as another in much the same mould.

"Jack," he said, "never hit a shot that wasn't the most important shot he ever hit."

Love's shoulders have never drooped to quite the extent as Colin Montgomerie's when things have gone awry. Nor, for that matter, has he ever walked with Montgomerie's cheerful stride when things are going well. However, in the process of rededicating himself to the game, the 30-year-old has decided that he cannot afford to have any kind of an attitude problem at a stage in the game when youngsters are getting things right first time around.

The way Butch Harmon has explained it to him is that everything is about a commitment to excellence. With regard to fitness, for example, it is not just getting fit and strong but doing the same thing every day "for a feel-good factor which will carry on to the course."

Harmon, who has spent so much of his time working with Woods, will tell you that Woods not only puts in all the work but further stretches himself with a seemingly unending desire to improve.

"Lots of sportsman have the feeling that they know it all, but Tiger never has," said Harmon. "If he sees someone playing a shot he doesn't have, he has to know how they do it."

Most of the clubhouse rooms at Sawgrass last week had two televisions on, one showing the war and the other the golf. Though John Daly at one point implied that the troubles he was having in sand were as nothing to what his fellow Americans were going through in Iraq, the war was mostly as background. Concerned they might be, but the players knew that if they were to give themselves any chance in the Masters, they had to start "getting in the zone".

It has to be that way. Nick Faldo, no less than Love, has been nothing that professional golf today is all or nothing. Faldo spoke of how the days when you could ease your way into a tournament had long gone. "Today you have to attack from the start," he said. "Because everyone else in the field is playing like that."

Faldo, who admitted to being exhausted by the effort he poured into the Players' Championship, is the first to say that Padraig Harrington has all the qualities to succeed in the Woods era. "Padraig practises all the things I preach, working on his technique, his fitness and his mental toughness," Faldo said.

On that Sunday night Harrington gave an example of his single-mindedness when he talked of what he had planned for when his first child is due the day after the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August.

Where Phil Mickelson was prepared to abandon play in the 1999 US Open, he eventually lost to Payne Stewart, if his wife went into labour, Harrington says that he fully intends to complete the tournament, explaining that he would not be any good at the "holding hands bit."

Driven he may be but Harrington known when to give himself a pat on the back and he was doing just that on that Sunday night. Though he had slipped into what was the 18th second-place finish of his career after being overtaken by Love, he was irritated only in so far as he had hit a couple of loose shots on the outward half.

He felt that he had done well to go back to making birdies on the inward half and done well, too, to have held the lead through each of the first three rounds. "Next time, if I'm leading after 54 holes, it shouldn't be too much of a step to keep it going over 72," he suggested.

Justin Rose, who was at one point six under par but signed off at level, was similarly mature in his summation of events. What worried him was that the butterflies in his tummy were not whipping up their usual adrenalin. When he had slipped from the leaderboard, he had felt oddly flat and struggle with his concentration. It could, he agreed, have been down to nothing more than the three hard weeks which had gone before. He had gone all four rounds in them all.

Meanwhile, what of Montgomerie? He was about to drive for home after missing one more cut but then steeled himself to stay on in Florida and practise. He may not be playing well enough to have much of a chance at Augusta, but even his critics will give him a few marks for that.

1. Davis Love III 70-67-70-64 — 271, $1,170,000.00; 2. Jay Haas 68-70-67-72 — 277, $572,000.00, Padraig Harrington 67-68-70-72 — 277, $572,000.00; 3. Jim Furyk 73-68-68-69 — 278, $286,000.00, Robert Allenby 70-71-72-65 — 278, $286,000.00; 4. Chad Campbell 72-66-71-70 — 279, $225,875.00, Darren Clarke 71-70-67-71 — 279, $225,875.00; 5. Kirk Triplett 72-70-71-67 — 280, $195,000.00, Scott Verplank 71-72-68-69 — 280, $195,000.00; 6. Fred Couples 67-71-69-74 — 281, $175,500.00; 7. Mark Calcavecchia 73-68-72-69 — 282, $133,250.00, Brad Faxon 73-69-71-69 — 282, $133,250.00, Jeff Maggert 71-70-68-73 — 282, $133,250.00, Duffy Waldorf 70-72-68-72 — 282, $133,250.00, Tiger Woods 72-70-68-72 — 282, $133,250.00.

Copyright, Telegraph Group Limited, London, 2003