Muddling Through After a family tragedy, a once-sizzling player must now get used to a 'new normal'

June 22, 2003

In normal times Davis Love III has a small entourage at the
majors: his wife, Robin; his 15-year-old daughter, Lexie; his
nine-year-old son, Dru; his mother, Penta; and his brother, Mark.
Last week at the U.S. Open, Love was alone. He pitched tent, if
you consider staying in a plush motor home camping, just beyond
the end of the driving range at Olympia Fields. He took his meals
in the caddie trailer, and at night, with his buddy Fred Couples,
he watched the Atlanta Braves on TV. By day he was supposed to
contend for the national championship. That's what the
oddsmakers were saying before the tournament, that's what the
experts on the Golf Channel were saying, that's what Love was
saying.

Part of it, no doubt, was wishful thinking. Last month Jeff
Knight, who worked for Love, managing his schedule and doing
other chores, apparently committed suicide. Knight, whose wife,
Karen, is the sister of Love's wife, died in the midst of a
vintage season for Love and a federal investigation of his own
financial transactions. A victory by Love in the U.S. Open
would've made everybody feel good and would've earned Love $1
million, about the amount Knight is believed to have stolen from
him.

Instead, Love's caddie, John (Cubby) Burke, was buying his boss
lunch on Friday afternoon. Their work week was over practically
before it began: 76 on Thursday, 75 on Friday, about as poor as
Love can play. While Love was on the bogey train, Robin and the
kids, and Karen Knight and her daughter and son, were on vacation
in Palm Beach, Fla., trying to escape the gossip and heartache
that had descended upon St. Simons Island, Ga., their normally
tranquil home.

On Thursday, Love suffered from headaches even before he started
hitting his tee shots into the rough. Earlier in the week, with
his schedule free of family responsibilities and with his drive
to win, at age 39, stronger than ever, Love found himself
pounding one range ball after another, and he inflamed an old
neck injury.

Off the course, it was not business as usual either. The life and
death of Knight dominated Love's thoughts and conversation.
Lexie, an accomplished equestrian, was especially close to
Knight, who would drive her to horse shows when Love was playing
in tournaments. When Dru had Little League games, Knight was
often on hand, watching from his truck. He was a beloved and
trusted uncle. Love talked to his wife and kids daily last week.
"I was telling Dru the other night, 'It's like the wires in
Jeff's brain got crossed. He forgot about the power of
forgiveness,'" Love said.

On Friday afternoon Love was packing up the motor home two days
early. Without Knight, everything was out of kilter. In normal
times it was Knight, anticipating the possibility of a missed
cut, who would've arranged for a driver to take Love's giant rig
home. Instead, Love had to get himself to south Georgia to get
his house in order, to start the "new normal," as he put it.

He tossed his clubs in the storage bin, climbed aboard and
carefully put two framed photographs in a drawer. One showed
Davis and Robin's children, the other the two children of Jeff
and Karen Knight. Both pictures were taken by the family
photographer, the late Jeffrey L. Knight.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BIEVER PLAYING HURT With too much time on his hands, Love practiced too hard at Olympia Fields, which led to a neck injury.

DAVIS LOVE III
76 | 75 | -- | -- | +11 | Cut

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)