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Love leading draw at John Deere Classic

Davis Love III, one of six leading contenders for the 2003 PGA Tour player of the year award, is the favorite for this week's John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill.

The world No. 3 has won four times this season, including the prestigious Players' Championship at Sawgrass which is widely regarded by the players as golf's fifth major.

He overwhelmed the strongest field in the game with an eight-under-par final-round 64 to win the $6.5 million event by six shots.

The 39-year-old American has decided to compete at the Quad Cities event for the first time since 1990 in a bid to consolidate his challenge for player of the year honours.

Love is vying with world number one Tiger Woods, U.S. Masters champion Mike Weir, U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk, world number two Ernie Els and Kenny Perry for the accolade.

"I've come out this year feeling better, feeling stronger, and with a new commitment to working on my attitude, my routine [and] my off-course mental preparation," Love told reporters on Tuesday. "That's what has kept me going."

Apart from number four Vijay Singh, Love is the only player from the world's top 10 in this week's field and lies sixth in the tour's stroke averages for 2003 on 69.20.

With his power hitting and accurate game, he is sure to like the par-71 TPC at Deere Run layout, which measures 7,183 yards and features a drivable par four in the 358-yard 14th hole.

Among the other likely contenders are twice major champion Singh, world number 14 Justin Leonard, Briny Baird, Robert Gamez and defending champion J.P. Hayes.

Hayes won last year's event by four shots from Gamez with the lowest sub-par total in the tournament's history.

The Texas-based professional fired a closing four-under 67 to finish at 22-under 262, but comes into this week with just one top-10 placing this season in 21 starts.

One unusual perk for players this week is that they will be able to drive a dump truck or bulldozer, courtesy of the tournament sponsors.

PGA Tour player Scott McCarron is one who will be taking up the offer.

"This is every kid's childhood dream. Count me in," McCarron wrote in a letter to tournament officials


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