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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of April 2 - 8, 2003


Sweet Sawgrass payday for Davis and Cub

Next week, Love III chases
his potential to Augusta

Express Staff Writer

Hailey’s John Cub Burke had the best seat in the house Sunday in Florida when Davis Love III shot a stunning final round 64 to win The Players Championship golf tournament by six strokes and collect a career-best $1.17 million payday.

That’s a little deceiving, because Burke rarely sat down for four days at The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in Ponte Verde Beach. He walked and walked some more. He analyzed distances and putting angles and carried a golf bag around the 7,093-yard course for four 18-hole rounds, plus practice rounds.

John Cub Burke in a familiar stance at Sun Valley Skating Center. Burke, 52, a native of Duluth, Minn., played a durable left wing for the Sun Valley Suns men’s hockey team for 13 seasons from 1974-87, scoring 188 points, then he coached the Suns for eight more years through 1994 posting a 122-42-8 record behind the bench.

Burke, in his 17th season as a professional caddie on the PGA Golf tour, has been Davis Love’s caddie for four years. Together, they enjoyed their biggest payday. Love won his 16th PGA Tour event in 18 years, and Burke showed he’s one of the tour’s best bag men.

On an unseasonably cold and blustery Sunday, Love came from two strokes off the pace to overtake Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Jay Haas on the Stadium Course. A string of five consecutive birdies propelled Love to a dominating eight-under-par 64. His final 72-hole score of 70-67-70-64 weighed in at 17-under-par 271.

"It was phenomenal to watch," said Burke about Love’s exhilarating finish. Cub jumped on the 6 a.m. flight from Jacksonville, Fla. Monday morning and was home in Hailey for an afternoon nap.

The winning player’s caddie makes about 10 percent, a standard payoff. The payday was awesome, Burke said, and he considers himself fortunate. But he added, "You never think about the money when you’re out there. You think about winning the golf tournament."

Characteristically, Burke minimized his role in Love’s second triumph of the season—although Love credited Cub afterwards with expert help in reading the greens. Cub said, "The key to being a good caddie is showing up on the first hole with a good player."

Love, two weeks away from his 39th birthday, seems on his way to a monster year and being acknowledged as one of golf’s all-time greats after wins at Pebble Beach and Sawgrass and a second in the Honda Classic—in just seven starts.

He jumped four spots to the #3 world ranking, trailing only Tiger Woods and Ernie Els in the Official World Golf Ranking. Love ranks second on the 2003 PGA Tour money list with more than $2.78 million, just $386,818 shy of his best season ever in the still-young year.

Adding a second Players Championship title to the one he won in 1992, Love tied the Sawgrass closing-round record of 64 set in 1996 by the champion that year, Fred Couples.

Love, who came to Sun Valley to go snowboarding the day after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Feb. 9, acknowledged it was the best round of golf he’s ever played.

His round of golf including a back-nine 31 in tough playing conditions was truly exceptional. In fact, Love’s Sunday playing partner and friend Couples said, "It’s the best round I’ve ever seen anyone play—not just Davis, anybody."

Out in 33, in with 31, Love finished with a Tiger-like six birdies, one eagle and 11 pars.

But the round started unspectacularly. He missed one of his few greens and saved par on the 392-yard first hole, then sank what Burke called an awesome 18-footer for par on the par-3, 177-yard third hole.

Love had chances for birdies on the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, all par 4s. "He missed them all," Burke said.

Still hovering around the lead, Love started his ride into the stratosphere on the par-3, 219-yard eighth hole. He asked Burke what to hit, and Burke replied with his usual certainty, "It’s just a four iron."

Burke said, "He hit a low bullet because of the wind to the back of the green, and it rolled down to the hole. After he hit it, he said to me, ‘How did you know it was a four?’ Hey, I thought he’d be in the middle of the green."

Instead, it was a short tap-in.

With laser-like accuracy, Love whipped a nine-iron to within five feet on the par-5, 583-yard ninth. He crunched an eight-iron into the par-4 10th and made his third straight birdie putt. On the par-5, 535-yard 11th, Davis was a little fooled by the wind but took a four-iron in and two putts.

Love hit a bad tee shot on the short par-4 12th but made a 20-footer for his fifth straight birdie. Burke said, "That was his second string of five straight birdies in the tournament. He had one in Friday’s 67. That got him into the hunt."

Making good things out of his rare bad shots was something Love did well Sunday.

Downwind with a three-wood, Davis yanked another poor tee shot on the par-5, 507-yard 16th. The ball cleared the trees and landed in the pine straw with a decent view of the large water hazard fronting the green. It was a good lie.

Burke said, "It was 198 to the flag, a no-brainer six-iron. He blistered it." Love’s 15-foot eagle putt eliminated any more doubts. Burke said, "All we had to do was find land for the final two holes." And Davis did.

The great final round certainly helped, but Burke said Love put himself on the road to victory with Saturday’s struggling two-under-par 70.

"In every tournament you’re going to have one round where you struggle," said Burke. "Saturday was that kind of day. Nothing happened for him. But he was patient."

Complicating the situation Saturday was that Love was playing with Harrington, a notoriously slow player. Love had two bogeys going out—his final bogeys of the tournament—but carded a solid 34 coming in.

Burke said, "Davis is a rhythm player. He plays real fast. I almost wonder sometimes whether Harrington does it on purpose. At the fourth they warned us about time but never put us on the clock because of the group ahead."

The upshot of the long day: Love’s par save on 18 meant he would be playing with Couples Sunday. Couples and Love won a record four World Cups from 1992-95 and have been as close as any golfers on the tour.

Unfortunately Couples, in contention and shooting for his first win since 1998, got off to a terrible start Sunday with five bogeys on the first 10 holes. Burke said, "He was pretty surly for the first nine holes. Fred wasn’t playing well. He was quiet and pissed off."

Then, after Davis birdied 10 and Fred bogeyed it, the twosome had a wait on the 11th tee. Burke walked ahead down the course to do some of his preparations. "When I got back, they told me you could hear a pin drop on the tee when Davis and Fred were standing there."

Couples, fortunately, birdied 12 and 13 and, in Burke’s words, "started chirping again." He was in good humor for Love’s stretch drive, creating what Burke called a "great scenario," for Davis to relax and finish the great round.

Love, comfortable swinging in his blue Polo rain jacket, didn’t take it off despite the improving weather until his victory walk down the 18th fairway. "He loves that jacket. I think he’d rather have his driver stolen than that jacket," joked Couples afterward.

Burke tolerated it. He laughed, "It looks like a ladies medium. There were times I wanted to rip it off him."

There were times Love and Burke wanted to look at the leader-board. They tried not to because they didn’t want scores of other players to change Love’s focus. "I caught myself peeking once or twice. So did Davis, I think," said Burke.

But Love’s entire journey this year has been on chasing his own potential and not worrying about anybody else. Rehabilitated from neck and back problems that plagued him in 2000 and 2001, Davis has tried to change his mental outlook.

"Davis committed himself this year and came out more mentally prepared. He didn’t play at all until he was ready, and that was in early February," said Burke. "He took a two-day course with sports psychologist Bob Rotella."

Love will take a week off, enjoy his new, luxurious $1.4 million motor home and then try for a hat trick on America’s finest courses when he competes in his 14th Masters golf tournament April 10-13. Burke leaves Sunday to join him.

In the past, Love has praised Burke for his hard-working attributes on the golf course.

"There are a few really, really good ones out there, and you can tell who they are," said Love. "They’re the guys you see walking the course on Mondays, before their player gets there, making sure the yardage book is right. They keep notes on every round of every tournament on every course."

Burke said Love enters the Masters in his best frame of mind, ever. "There’s nothing he wants more than a green jacket," said Burke. Love has finished second twice at The Masters, but has never won. At Augusta Tiger Woods will be going for his unprecedented third straight green jacket.

There is a personal story that may motivate Love even more. He will celebrate his 39th birthday on Sunday, April 13—the final day of The Masters. Burke said, "Davis was born on Sunday at Augusta when his father Davis Love Jr. was in contention at The Masters."

Love’s father was a highly-regarded golf teacher who died at 53 in a plane crash in 1988. He faded and tied for 34th at The Masters the day Davis was born, back in 1964. So Love III hopes he has another great final round in his bag next week.


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