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Love seeking fourth title of the season

Davis Love III, the 1995 champion, will be chasing his fourth title of the year at this week's New Orleans Classic, but will be mindful that six first-time winners have triumphed here since 1990.

South Korea's K.J. Choi won his first PGA Tour event at English Turn Golf and Country Club last year, following in the footsteps of Ian Woosnam (1991), Mike Standly (1993), Scott McCarron (1996), Lee Westwood (1998) and Carlos Franco (1999).

Paraguayan Franco successfully defended his title in 2000 and David Toms, with four previous wins under his belt, also broke the first-time winning mould in 2001, paving the way for his victory at the U.S. PGA championship later that year.

World number seven Toms is back in New Orleans this week, along with fourth-ranked Phil Mickelson and number six Vijay Singh, but the smart money will be on the in-form Love, who will be bidding for the 18th title of his PGA Tour career.

"A win for the third time in a year, this is a big step for me," world number three Love said, after his playoff victory at The Heritage 10 days ago.

"It's back to 1992 probably since I won three this fast in a year," he added, referring to his successes at the Players' Championship, The Heritage and the Greater Greensboro Open 11 years ago.

The 39-year-old Love, who has also won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Players' Championship this season, believes the only department of his game now inferior to 1992 is his iron play.

"You look back, and you think you were always better," said the 1997 U.S. PGA champion.

"I think I drive the ball much better than then and I putt better, but it seemed like I was on a roll a little more with my iron game.

"When I was playing pretty much every week like at the Players' (where he closed with a brilliant 64), if I putted decent I was going to win.

"I think now I'm putting more consistently and, when the ball-striking is right on, like it was at the Players', I could win in any field.

"When it's a little scratchy, like it was over the weekend (at The Heritage), I can still hang in there better. I think I'm a more patient player now."

Mickelson will also have his supporters in New Orleans this week, and the left-hander clearly enjoys the venue following a second placing, behind Louisiana native Toms in 2001, and a tie for ninth in his last two outings here.

Although he took a four-week break earlier this year because of complications over the birth of his third child, he has produced five top-10 finishes in his last eight PGA Tour starts and will feel he is now due for a win.

Choi, who became the first Korean-born player to earn his PGA Tour card in 1999, will be aiming to become the third player to mount a successful title defence in New Orleans, emulating Tom Watson, in 1981, and Franco, three years ago.


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