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Davis Love III returns from back surgery

May 9, 2013

Davis Love III is returning to the PGA Tour just in time to extend his streak at The Players Championship.

Love, who turned 49 last month, missed the last three months while recovering from back surgery. He's making his return this week at TPC Sawgress, playing The Players for the 28th consecutive year. His run started in 1986, when he tied for 14th. He has won the tournament twice since, in 1992 and 2003.

''It's hard to stay competitive for that long,'' Love said Wednesday, a day before the opening round. ''If I started back over again, I tell you in 2013 there is no way I'd make 28 in a row. It's too competitive now.

''One, that means you're old. And two, it means you've stayed pretty competitive. I'm hoping that after this and the hard work I've put in, it's just going to get better for a while.''

Love had a two-level disk fusion. He started putting and chipping shortly after surgery and was hitting balls eight weeks later. He's been playing full rounds for a month, still trying to regain strength in his left arm. He considered coming back a few weeks ago at the RBC Heritage, but opted to wait for The Players.

''I'm excited to be here,'' he said. ''I'm excited to be on the golf course. I'm excited to continue that streak. Obviously, it was a big point in the schedule that I don't want to miss. I obviously wanted to play before this, but I'm glad to be back on the golf course, and Lord willing, continue this streak of feeling well for the rest of the week.''

Love said his back has been bothering him for more than a decade, even recalling conversations with his doctor in 2000 about having surgery.

The pain reached a new level at Phoenix in early February.

''I was at the point in Phoenix where I was very frustrated mentally,'' Love said. ''I knew physically I couldn't do it. ... I was just grinding away, and there was no reason to be doing it. So finally I called my doctor ... and said, 'I'm just beating my head against the wall, aren't I?' And he said, 'Yes, you are. You're going to have that surgery. You can have it now, you can have it in the summer or you can have it in the fall, but you're going to have it this year.

''So I just went ahead and I did it. I literally woke up after surgery and I knew I was fine. I felt so much better. The pain was gone. The tingling was almost gone in my fingers. And since then all it's been is trying to get my arm strength back, and that's been a longer process than I'd like, but my therapists think I'm ahead of schedule, so I'm excited.''

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