Search

Hard Line Written off as too soft during a long winless streak, Davis Love III came on strong to overpower Pebble

Feb. 12, 2001
Feb. 12, 2001

Table of Contents
Feb. 12, 2001

Hard Line Written off as too soft during a long winless streak, Davis Love III came on strong to overpower Pebble

Rich Cardillo is pretty sure that among the star entertainers,
corporate big shots and high-profile zillionaires who teed it up
in last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, he was the only
Xerox copier salesman. Still, fame eluded him by only inches.
Cardillo was playing Pebble's 4th hole, a short par-4, during a
practice round when he skulled a 90-yard wedge shot. As Cardillo
stood transfixed, the line drive--"I prefer to call it low heat,"
he says--veered toward the nearby 5th tee. A split second after
hearing Cardillo's caddie scream, "Fore," Vijay Singh ducked and
the ball whizzed past his head. Singh wheeled and yelled back,
"Why did you try to kill me?"

This is an article from the Feb. 12, 2001 issue Original Layout

"But he was laughing," says Cardillo, relieved that he hadn't
dropped the reigning Masters champion. Two days later Cardillo
bumped into Singh again, on the practice green, and once more
apologized. "That's O.K.," Singh said. "Did you fix that hook?"
Actually, Cardillo replied, it was a skulled shot. "Work on that,
too," Singh said.

The latest edition of America's favorite celebrity pro-am was
much like Singh's reaction to Cardillo's wayward wedge--we never
saw it coming. This pro-am was full of surprises, from an
overzealous autograph hound who almost knocked Tiger Woods out of
the tournament before it began, to the beer-truck driver who
found himself near the top of the leader board after the first
round. From a scorching 28 on the front nine on Sunday by
victory-starved Davis Love III, to a debatable piece of strategy
on the 72nd hole by the man everyone expected to win, Phil
Mickelson. Here's what we never saw coming:

Would you believe...that Love is the Tour's new terminator? When
last seen, he was still getting great mileage out of his '97
convertible--that rainbow-framed PGA Championship at Winged
Foot. Love, 36, hadn't won a Tour event since Harbour Town back
in 1998, although he came in second or third 10 times since
then. When he admitted to being intimidated by Woods at Bay Hill
last year, after Woods had rolled to one of his nine wins, Love
was written off as a big softie. No longer. In December he
closed with a 64 to win the unofficial Williams World Challenge,
and on Sunday he looked Tiger-like at Pebble Beach. He went
eight under on the first seven holes, thanks to six birdies and
an eagle (from 104 yards with a wedge at the par-5 2nd) and
turned in that 28, tying Pebble Beach's front-nine record.

In a tight battle with Mickelson, Singh and Olin Browne, Love
went for their throats. Tied with Singh and in the middle of the
fairway on the famed par-5 18th, Love ripped a risky three-wood
approach that flew 250 yards and stopped pin-high, 30 feet left
of the hole. He narrowly missed the eagle putt for 62, the course
record, but tapped in for the birdie that proved to be his margin
of victory.

"I've been where Phil and Vijay are right now countless times in
the last two years, and it's not a lot of fun," Love said after
the 14th victory of his career. "I played pretty damn good the
last two years and was very close. I wasn't frustrated; I was
disappointed. Obviously, I've let a whole lot of opportunities
get away in my 15 years. It's a thrill to win on this course at
this stage of my career."

Would you believe...that Mickelson, considered the most likely
challenger to Woods, fumbled in the red zone? A third-round 66
put Mickelson in a tie for the lead with Browne, two shots ahead
of Singh, and he looked like the man to beat. Then Mickelson
missed three-footers for birdie at the 5th and 7th holes. "Those
are the putts you really need to make," he said.

When Mickelson missed the 15th green, stubbed his chip and made
bogey, he trailed Love by three with three to play. Then things
got fun. Mickelson hit a wedge close at the 16th and rolled in a
dicey downhill slider from six feet. Two behind. He struck a
seven-iron shot to seven feet at the next hole and holed another
slippery putt. One back. "When that one went in, I knew I was
going to birdie 18," Mickelson said. "I thought it was a done
deal--maybe even a three for the win."

After a good drive at the 18th, he faced a shot similar to
Love's, except that the wind had strengthened. Mickelson had 257
yards to the green and chose to hit driver, which he faded into
the ocean. That shot led to a double bogey and left him open to
serious second-guessing. "I don't think I've ever laid up on
that hole," Mickelson said. "I had been having trouble all day
spinning the ball too much on those greens. I would rather have
been in the left bunker by the ocean than lay up and have a 70-
or 80-yard shot, because I'm going to spin it back 25 feet and
it's too hard to judge that to get it close. My best chance was
to hit driver and run the ball into the right front bunker or
the gap short of the green. I came out of the shot, and when it
started moving left with the wind, it didn't have a chance."

Mickelson's gamble surprised Love, who watched the proceedings
from the range. "I was thinking, I hope for his sake he doesn't
try to hit driver off the deck. I hope his caddie talks him out
of it," Love said. "That's a dangerous play, but that's the way
Phil plays. The wind was really tough on 18. When I was out
there, the two U.S. flags on the roof of the Lodge were waving in
different directions."

Would you believe...that Woods was barely a factor? He made
headlines, of course. As Woods walked off the 18th green last
Wednesday, he stepped on the ankle of an autograph seeker who
had crowded too close. Woods said he hyperextended his left knee
and speculated that he might not be able to go the next day. He
played, and shot a six-under 66 at Spyglass Hill, the toughest
track in the three-course rota. The overeager fan, believed to
be a professional memorabilia collector, was spotted in Woods's
gallery and confronted by Monterey County deputies, who told him
to keep his distance from the players.

Woods struggled to a 73 the next day at Poppy Hills and said
after the slow, five-hour round, "This is like Groundhog Day--it
never ends," and he was right. Last Friday was Groundhog Day.
Despite his struggles, Woods, who hasn't won in his last six
starts, retained his sense of humor. After spraying his ball
from one side of the fairway to the other on the 12th hole, he
walked to the 13th tee, held out his hand and said to playing
partner Mark O'Meara, "Hi, I'm Tiger Woods. I'm in your group
today."

Woods, who won the AT&T and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last
year, didn't go away empty-handed, however. He and former
Stanford teammate Jerry Chang tied for first with Mickelson and
saxophonist Kenny G in the team competition at 34 under. Chang, a
three handicapper, helped his partner by 26 shots.

Would you believe...that there's a debate about global warming?
In recent years the rain-battered AT&T has finished on a Monday
(2000), ended in August ('98) and been washed out ('96). Last
week's tournament could have been called only on account of
brightness. Sunday's temperature of 81 did to Monterey's record
high for the date (74, set in 1954) what Woods did to the U.S.
Open scoring record last June. "We're in a dry period," said
tournament host Clint Eastwood. "I hope it rains like hell next
week."

Would you believe...that Cinderella drove a beer truck? Mark
Johnson, 46, won a playoff in the Monday qualifier to claim the
last spot in the field, and then electrified family and friends
back home in Barstow, Calif., by opening with a 65 at Poppy
Hills, which put him a shot off the lead. Barstow, a pit stop of
21,500 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, is best known as the
hometown of Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? diva Darva
Conger. For a day, anyway, Johnson was a bigger celebrity.

To support his golf, Johnson, the '96 California Amateur champ,
hauled beer, driving up to 300 miles and delivering as many as
1,000 cases a day to dusty desert towns. In his spare time he won
a record 12 Southern California Golf Association titles. When
golf interfered with work, Johnson's buddies at H. Olson
Distributing covered for him. Two years ago a small group of
Barstow businessmen put up enough money for Johnson to gear up
for a shot at the Senior tour. Since then he has played mainly on
the Canadian tour and last year was low man during the second
stage of the PGA Tour's Q school in Beaumont, Calif. He bombed in
the finals, though, and will head east this spring to try to
qualify for Buy.com events.

Johnson hung on gamely at Pebble. He was tied with Woods in 20th
place after two rounds and was only two shots out of fifth when
he made the turn on Saturday. But he faded, playing the final 27
holes in five over and finishing 43rd. He wrapped up the week in
style, however, holing a 30-footer for birdie on the last hole,
and the $13,600 he won was the biggest check of his career. "I
didn't finish the way I wanted, but I proved I can play with
these guys," Johnson said. "It was a great week."

The fans took to him, too. Some noticed the Budweiser logo on his
bag (Johnson picked it out of an Anheuser-Busch company catalog
and had a friend paint his name on it, just like the Tour pros)
and started calling out to him, "Hey, beer man!"

"I think my name has officially changed now," Johnson said. "I'll
take it."

Hey, Beer Man! Would you believe....

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM GUNDCOLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK WILD MAN Injured in a run-in with a fan, Woods was all over the lot and wound up 13th, his worst finish since last year's Western Open.
"I played pretty damn good the last two years and was very
close," Love said. "I wasn't frustrated; I was disappointed."