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Loss tough to take for Davis Love III

No one was sorry to see Tiger Woods leave the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, least of all Davis Love III.

No one understands better than Love that any number of players can be dressed up like Tiger Woods in the tournament, where anyone in any round can get a hot hand.

"I'm not wishing Tiger was here," Love said on the eve of his 36-hole championship match against Geoff Ogilvy. "I'd love to play him again, though."

Love might have wished he were around on Sunday at La Costa Resort to ease the sting of losing.

Getting beat by Woods would have been understandable, because Love has a history of that. Woods was 20 when he won his first PGA Tour event by beating Love in a playoff in Las Vegas with a par. He beat him in the Grand Slam of Golf when it was match play, and twice trounced him in the Match Play Championship.

Losing to Ogilvy only exacerbated Love's failures.

It brought into focus even more that Love, a world-class player with 18 victories and a major, has gone without a victory in six of his last eight seasons on the PGA Tour.

There is no such thing as an upset in the Match Play Championship. But there is such a thing as perception, and the final was a match everyone expected Love to win.

This was Love's best chance to capture a World Golf Championship, and a victory might have caused people to change the way they look at an otherwise sterling record. Along with his 18 victories and that rainbow-colored PGA Championship at Winged Foot, Love twice has won The Players Championship and only once in the last 16 years has failed to make the season-ending Tour Championship.

It doesn't matter that when Australians talk about their best talent, conversations usually don't get very far without Ogilvy's name being mentioned. He showed his resolve all week at La Costa, winning four consecutive matches in extra holes and building momentum by whipping up on Tom Lehman in the semifinals.

"It's always better to not run up against the world No. 1," Love said, "but Geoff Ogilvy is playing great."

No doubt. But this was as much about Love's shortcomings as anything Ogilvy did.

Love remains without a victory since the 2003 International in Colorado, and his loss on Sunday at La Costa invited more skepticism about his game.

"I did everything good except for five or six iron shots, really," Love said.

Even with back and neck problems that have made it difficult for Love to find a flow in his playing schedule, his picturesque swing and power are a lethal combination. But for whatever reason, pictures of Love posing with the trophy are about as rare as pictures of Woods relaxing on his yacht.

Not that Love hasn't had his chances.

He was tied for the lead with Phil Mickelson going into the final round of the PGA Championship last year at Baltusrol, then bogeyed four of his first five holes. Two behind with four holes to play, including two par 5s at the end, Love never made up any ground.

Love will be 42 the week after the Masters in April and still has time left to change the perception of his career from a good one to a great one. But the window is closing.

He is on the PGA Tour ballot for the Hall of Fame, although he isn't worthy of a vote just yet.

At the end of 2004, when he thought a winless season was an aberration, Love was asked how he looked at his career. He was two wins away from lifetime membership on the U.S. tour. He was two majors away from what he considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

And he still is.

"I have a chance to have a great career," he said that day. "The next five or six years you'll either say, 'OK, I've done it.' Or you realize I haven't."

He won't get many chances like he had on Sunday, especially with Woods nowhere to be found.



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