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MCI Classic
Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head Island
South Carolina
16th - 19th April 1998

Par 71 Prize Money $1.9 million

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Love sets record-breaking fourth MCI Classic title

Hilton Head Island, S.C. 19th April 1998 - Davis Love III doesn't wonder about his skill at Harbour Town Golf Links. Although about everyone else does.

"I thought I'd need at least 13-under to have a chance," Payne Stewart said after watching Love's runaway victory at the MCI Classic. "I didn't think near low enough."

Love turned an expected Sunday duel with Phil Mickelson into his fourth MCI title. His on-target irons and precise putting got rid of Mickelson on the front nine and almost matched the scoring record on the back.

He shot a 65 for an 18-under 266, one off Loren Roberts' 1996 record, and won by seven strokes, surpassing Nick Price's record six-shot victory from a year ago.

What makes Love so good here? Is it Harbour Town's small, friendly greens? It's tightly treed fairways? Its closeness to Love's home in Sea Island, Ga.?

Love thinks it's timing.

"To win four times here is really unbelievable, but I won this three times when I really needed something and I think it doesn't have as much to do with the golf course as the time of the year," Love said.

So much work goes into his Masters' prep, he says, that it often pays off at the MCI.

"I just need to find a way to get that backed up a week," said Love, who won $342,000 for his first victory since the Buick Challenge last October.

It would take an encyclopedia to list Love's accolades at Harbour Town, where he first showed up as a 13-year-old junior prodigy.

He's the event's career money leader with $941,553; he's the tournament's youngest champion when he won at 23-years-old in 1987; he's among the two repeat winners here with titles in 1991 and 1992; and he's the only one with four plaid MCI champions coats.

For Mickelson, it was his second straight Sunday collapse. He was two shots behind Fred Couples in the Masters through 54 holes and shot a closing 74.

Here, Mickelson trailed by two at the start, and matched Love's second-hole birdie, but never got that close again as he faded to a 73.

A lot was expected of the Love-Mickelson pairing. The two played a memorable match in the American finals of the Andersen Consulting World Championships nearly a year ago, with Love landing a tee shot within two feet of the flag to win on the second playoff hole.

Love made sure he didn't need a playoff here. When Mickelson's approach on No. 3 came within 10 feet, Love plopped his to six inches. After Mickelson chipped to 6 feet to set up birdie on the par-5 fifth hole, Love got his to 3 feet.

At No. 8, Love slipped his second shot within a foot for a tap-in birdie. A hole later, Mickelson made the last of three straight bogeys and Love was ahead by seven shots.

"I'm excited I had the chance to win the past few Sundays," Mickelson said. "I haven't done it, but as long as I keep getting the opportunities, I will."

With nine holes to go, the only question was if Love could catch Roberts' mark of 19-under.

The answer was almost. After shooting his second straight front-side 31 to go to 17-under, Love birdied Nos. 11 and 15 to tie Roberts. But a bogey on the windswept 17th hole cost Love about the only Harbour Town record he doesn't own.

Glen Day was the only one besides Love to control the swirling Harbour Town winds, shooting a 67 for second at 10-under. Day finished second in The Players Championship and third in the Freeport-McDermott the past month.

"Davis proved today that he's one of the best players in the world," Day said. "He's won around here, has a lot of confidence and a lot of good feelings around this place."

Payne Stewart trailed Love by three when the round began and had hoped to join him as a three-time MCI winner. But Stewart bogeyed the first hole to drop from contention and tied Mickelson for third after a 72.

Nick Faldo shot an 83 and finished last at 16-over among those who made the cut. It is first time that's happened to Faldo in 219 tournaments since 1979.