In a perfect world, Davis Love III will celebrate his 50th birthday next year at Augusta National. If he can’t play his way into the Masters, he will be gearing up to play the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head.
The Champions Tour is not in the plans for now.
”I know it’s coming, but I’m not ready for it,” Love said last week as he embarked on his 29th season on the PGA Tour.
Love missed three months of the 2013 season because of neck surgery, and thus finished out of the top 100 on the money list for the first time. He has lifetime membership because of his 20 career wins.
”When I’m scratching to make cuts, when I don’t feel like I can win, that’s when I’ll go over,” Love said, referring to the Champions Tour. ”Luckily I’m exempt, as long as I can shoot decent scores. I’m not going to stay over here and take up a spot. I’ll be honest with myself. You’ll be honest with me.”
What helps is his power, which is why players like Vijay Singh, Fred Couples and Kenny Perry looked as if they belonged on the PGA Tour after turning 50.
”If I was an average hitter or a short hitter, I’d be waiting for my birthday,” Love said. ”But I’m still excited about playing out here.”
His goals for the year start with getting in all the big tournaments that once were not an issue. He hasn’t played a World Golf Championship since 2009. He has not played all four majors in one year since 2011. And he has never missed The Players Championship
”Jordan Spieth did it. He worked his way in them real quick,” he said, smiling at his audacious comparison with a kid only four months older than Love’s son. ”But that’s what I have to do. If I get hot before the end of January, I might be in the Match Play. If not, the next WGC and then the Masters.”
What really gnaws at him is he has never missed The Players Championship dating to his rookie year in 1986.
Love isn’t entirely ruling out the Champions Tour. He would lean toward playing the Champions Tour event at Pebble Beach. But for now, he’s staying put.
”You’ve got to pick one or the other,” he said. ”You’re either going to chase FedEx Cup points and Ryder Cup points, or you’re going to chase Charles Schwab Cup points. And right now, I’m going to chase these.”
Then he paused to smile before adding, ”We can re-evaluate on April 12.”
He turns 50 on April 13.
Guan Tianlang is gearing up for what he hopes is a return to the Masters.
Guan is defending champion next week at the Asia Pacific Amateur, to be played at Nanshan International Golf Club in China. The winner gets an invitation to the Masters. The 14-year-old from China not only became the youngest player in a 72-hole major, he made the cut at Augusta National despite a two-shot penalty for slow play.
Guan turns 15 during the second round of the Asia Pacific Amateur, which is stroke play. He said Tuesday more people recognize him in China, but that his Masters appeared helped accelerate growth of golf in his homeland.
”I think all of the Chinese people are happy for me, and I think more and more people know about golf in China,” Guan said during a conference call. ”And more people know about the Masters, and I think it means a lot to the young players in China and they think probably the Masters is not that far away from them.”
Guan also made the cut in New Orleans, and then missed the cut in three other PGA Tour events.
The one big change for this year: The teenager is no longer using a belly putter. He said he switched to a conventional method a month ago.
”I didn’t think it’s too much different and which one is better,” he said. ”I think I change back probably a month ago, and I think — I wish — I can putt even better.”
US Open champion Justin Rose took advantage of some of the perks attached to winning a major.
He sat in the Royal Box when Andy Murray won Wimbledon. Another treat was his annual ”J.R. Challenge,” when 10 of his best mates from England get together once a year to play golf and get caught up.
”This year being US Open champion, I felt like I could call in a couple more favors, and we played some great tracks,” Rose said at the PGA Grand Slam in Bermuda. ”We played Pine Valley. We went back to Merion. So to have the opportunity to bring 10 of my best friends to Merion and a play a round of golf was very special.”
When last seen on the PGA Tour, Kevin Na was playing the Masters against his doctor’s advice and ringing up a 10 on the par-3 12th hole at Augusta National.
He finally made his return last week in the Frys.com Open, and after opening with a 75, felt better than ever. Na bounced back with a 67 to make the cut, and a 64-64 week gave him a tie for third.
”I just tore it up on the weekend, just absolutely tore it up,” he said.
Na went to South Korea for his rehabilitation. He spent more than two months going through acupuncture, chiropractic work and physical therapy, and then he returned to America to slowly start practicing again. He played one Web.com Tour event to make sure his back was good, and off he went.
His next stop is Las Vegas, where he won his only PGA Tour event two years ago.
David Duval had just reached No. 1 in the world for the first time. Tiger Woods had eight PGA Tour wins and one major to his credit. And an Irishman named Padraig Harrington was on the cusp of cracking the top 100 in the world.
Harrington reached No. 100 on April 18, 1999, and he stayed there for the last 14 years. The streak ended this week when he fell to No. 101.
He is playing the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda this week as the defending champion. No ranking points are available for the 36-hole exhibition. Does he think he can add to his total of three majors, even though he has gone five years without?
”I do, but I have to figure out a different way with playing who Padraig Harrington is now than necessarily who I was over the years,” Harrington said in Bermuda. ”I’m a different person and I have a different attitude to the game at this stage, so I have to work with that. . . . I have to figure out what’s the best way of getting the best game out of me now.”
David Duval did not get a sponsor’s exemption to the Frys.com Open, so he went to Puerto Rico to play on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica and tied for 37th. He is playing Las Vegas this week. . . . Geoff Ogilvy missed the 54-hole cut last week in the Frys.com Open and fell out of the top 100 for the first time since August 2003.