Davis Love III returns to Harbour Town

sfastenau@islandpacket.comApril 17, 2014 

Davis Love III celebrates his long birdie putt at No. 18 that put him in a playoff in the 2003 Heritage.

THE ISLAND PACKET

Peyton Manning provided Davis Love III the confidence he needed to address a health issue plaguing him more than a decade.

Manning, now the Denver Broncos quarterback, successfully returned from neck surgery to prolong his career, which led to a Super Bowl appearance this year. Love finally corrected his own neck issue with a "two-level disk fusion" last year that kept him from his second consecutive RBC Heritage presented by Boeing but allowed the tournament's top champion and leading money earner to return in 2014.

"(Manning) knew it was getting bad, and he had the surgery, and he came back and played very, very well," Love said at the 2013 Players Championship. "... But, again, being chicken, it was hard."

The Sea Island, Ga., resident said he woke up from surgery and knew the procedure was a success. The pain had disappeared and the tingling he had felt in his fingers was almost gone, he said.

The goal in the following months was to regain his arm strength.

Compressed disks had pinched nerves and caused Love to lose feeling in his hands. The left side was affected first and formed bad swing habits caused by over-reliance on his right side, he said.

He finally called his doctor, resigned that the situation would not improve without the procedure.

The five-time Heritage champion has earned more than $2.5 million here, the most of his peers. He has 11 top-10 finishes.

In 2010, when a new sponsor was in doubt, Love joined others calling for the event to stay.

"Not a whole lot of tournaments have had their whole history on one golf course, a great golf course like this," he said. "And this is one when people say what are your favorite courses on the PGA Tour, they always list Pebble Beach and they list Harbour Town and they list Colonial -- they list classic golf courses."

Love, who has built a modest resume as an architect with his Love Design Company, said he learned early on what Pete Dye demanded from players -- precise placement off the tee in order to access the small greens. He learned where to miss.

"You can't get too aggressive," he said after an opening-round 67 in 2010.

Love turned 50 on Sunday and is in his 29th PGA Tour season. He was only 23-years-old when he won his first Heritage in 1987 and is still the youngest champion.

The University of North Carolina graduate has earned 15 other wins on the PGA Tour since turning pro in 1985. He competed at Harbour Town for 26 years before his run of consecutive appearances ended two years ago.

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

DAVIS LOVE III AT THE HERITAGE

Appearances: 26 (1986-2011)

Wins: 5 (1987, 1991, 1992, 1998, 2003)

Top 5: 9 Top 10: 11

Prize money: $2,638, 466.70a

Scoring average: 70.05

HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Became youngest winner in 1987 at 23 years, 6 days.

  • Became first champion to miss the cut the next season in 1988.

  • Set record in 1987 for best recovery after holes for winning after trailing by six strokes after first round.

  • Set record for lowest first round in 2002 with 62.

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