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Great year for Davis Love III on course

Tragedy and rumors swirl around his personal life, issues that Davis Love III struggles with every day. Get him on the golf course, though, and it's never been lovelier.

Four wins, possible player of the year, money title and second major championship. It's all running through Love's mind as he gets ready to tee off Thursday in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

Not far away, though, are reminders that all has not been well in what has otherwise been a magical year for the boyish-looking tour veteran.

There was the suicide in May of his brother-in law, who was being investigated for taking some of Love's money. Love found the body when he went to a hunting cabin they used.

Lately, there have been nasty rumors about his marriage circulating so widely Love was forced to confront them publicly.

"Not everybody hears every rumor," Love said. "But a lot of people heard it."

Through it all, Love is playing the golf of his career, confident and pain-free on the course even while he faces life's problems away from it.

He's coming off a near-win at the British Open and a dominating win in last week's International. He's risen to No. 3 in the world and no longer seems intimidated by Tiger Woods.

And he's feeling better about his game than he has in years.

"My second love, other than my family, is playing golf," Love said. "It's been nice to be able to come out and play and, thankfully, my wife and my family has pulled together and allowed me to do that."

Put it all together, and it makes a pretty convincing case for Love to add a second PGA Championship to the one he won six years ago at Winged Foot.

"I've played enough big tournaments, that I ought to be comfortable at this one," Love said. "So, hopefully that confidence from playing well this year and also playing a lot of golf tournaments like this will help me this week."

It's not that simple, though, and Love knows it.

Despite his success this year, Love continues to find success at major championships elusive. And no player has won a major after winning a regular tour event since Sandy Lyle won the Masters in 1988.

Just last month, Love went off on Sunday in the final group at the British Open, a shot behind Thomas Bjorn. But he bogeyed four holes on the front nine before regrouping and having a chance at winning coming down the stretch.

Love couldn't birdie the relatively easy par-5 14th, and then bogeyed the 17th to finish tied with Woods, two shots behind Ben Curtis.

"Certainly, the first five holes of the Open championship I got ahead of myself on Sunday," Love said. "I was a little impatient and didn't play them very well. It took me a while to settle down."

Patience is something Love has been working hard with mental guru Bob Rotella on. He's trying to stay in the moment on every shot and not think about the consequences.

It's worked well enough that Love has won four of the 15 tournaments he has played, and leads the tour with $5.1 million in prize money.

It also keeps his mind off of problems away from the course.

"I won't say that I've been doing it all year, but certainly at different times I've done a great job," Love said. "When I've gotten off to really good starts, I've stayed in the golf tournament the whole way."

That showed last week at the International, where Love shot opening rounds of 63 and 66 and won going away. It's going to be tougher at a place like Oak Hill, where the rough is deeper than it is at the U.S. Open and recent rains make it play longer than the listed par-70, 7,134 yards.

Love, of course, is one of the longest hitters and the course could play into his game. But he expects to hit a lot of 3-woods and long irons off the tee just to stay in the fairway and have a chance at his second shot.

"If you hit it in the rough, you're in trouble," Love said. "If they are looking for it to be a severe penalty for hitting in the rough, it certainly is. But I think you'll see a lot of funny looking golf shots out of it."

Love's only major championship win in the 1997 PGA championship was a tribute to his father, Davis Love Jr., a teaching pro who died in a 1988 plane crash. As Love was finishing the final hole, a rainbow appeared and he looked to the sky with tears in his eyes.

He's older now and beginning at age 39 to get questions about whether his time is running out to win more majors.

"If I can just stay focused and not get relaxed, keep working hard like I have been this year, I don't think there's any reason why at 39 years old my best golf isn't ahead of me," he said.

If his first PGA Championship win was emotional, winning this one would be, too. He would likely become player of the year, a race that still has Woods, Mike Weir, Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry in it.

In a year that has tested him so much off the course, Love is keeping it in perspective.

"Certainly it's been a great year golf-wise," he said. I think my family has obviously had a big loss this summer, and that will be with us for a long time. But we've certainly grown close at the same time. I think a lot like when my dad passed away, we pulled together and got stronger and moved forward."


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