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Sunday, January 18, 2004



[ SONY OPEN ]


art
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Davis Love III watched his shot off the 17th tee during the third round of the Sony Open yesterday at the Waialae Country Club.

Love says Wie
is good for golf

The 14-year-old phenom has
kids interested in the sports,
according to the veteran golfer


One day after 14-year-old golf phenom Michelle Wie barely missed making the cut in the Sony Open in Hawaii, the repercussions of her remarkable performance were still being felt at the Waialae Country Club and around the world.

Answering questions from reporters following his fine 7-under-par 63 in yesterday's third round, veteran professional Davis Love III spoke at length and with great insight about Wie, discussing everything from the excitement she generates to the impact she is having on other young kids to the many questions she poses for the PGA Tour, for truly Wie is taking the sport into uncharted territory.

Some edited excerpts:

Question: Jesper Parnevik said after the first round that if Michelle made the cut it would be one of the great performances in sports all-time. She came within one shot. Do you agree with that assessment or is that overstating it?

Davis Love III: Well, that's a hard question to answer. I mean, she 14 years old. ... The pressure of making and missing the cut ... is probably not the right way to look at it. Because that means she succeeds if she makes the cut. Guys that play well out here, they don't even think there is a cut. They are playing to win. She shot a 68 in a PGA Tour event. That's the way you've got to look at it. It's an incredible accomplishment. And she's proven in the ladies events and the men's events that she played in that she can play at the top level.

Question: Did she add to the event?

Love: Oh, it seemed boring out there today. Not a whole lot of excitement. ... It was the talk in the locker room when I walked in there, the guys that got outhit and the guys that got beat. It's an incredible story. Just a year ago we were wondering if an LPGA or lady player could play out here, and here we have a 14-year-old that, you know, give her 10 tries and see what she does and maybe she could contend like she did at the (LPGA) Nabisco last year. She's got a lot of talent. (But) as Mark Rolfing said, sometimes the dream is better than the reality. I hope she doesn't get ahead of herself too much because, you know, Ty Tryon, we've seen it with a lot of guys, you get a little ahead of yourself. Shooting the scores is one thing, but being ready to play professional golf is another.

Question: Should she get 10 tries at it?

Love: I don't know. The question is what do other tournaments that don't have a Tiger Woods or an Ernie Els or somebody else in their field, what do they do? You can't play on our tour if you're a male until you're 18. So that's another good question. Should she be able to get exemptions when we wouldn't let (17-year-old) Ty Tryon play when he was a member? I'm supposedly going back on the ballot to be a board member next year, so maybe that will come up in front of me next year.


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ASSOCIATED PRESS
Punahou student Michelle Wie signed an autograph before giving an interview at the Waialae Country Club. Wie, who missed the cut on Friday, was doing several interviews and participated in the live ESPN broadcast yesterday. In a lengthy interview, Love talked in-depth about the impact the 14-year-old is having on the sport.


Question: Do you think she could win on the LPGA Tour this year?

Love: Oh, I don't know. Just barely making the cut and one or two top 10s is a long way from winning. She's got the potential to win most any golf tournament she enters, but she's still 14, and still inexperienced. But do you know of any golfer with more potential under the age of 25? Probably not. I think she's the next Tiger Woods, but we just have to see what happens the next few years.

(At this point in the interview a reporter asked Love about the impact Wie was having on his own children.)

Love: My daughter watched golf on TV in prime time, and she doesn't watch golf, period, no matter how I'm playing. And my son now thinks that since he's 10, "Well, in five years I can be on the tour." That's the influence she has and that's why it's good for the game that she plays because she gets kids thinking that way. Just like Tiger Woods. Do you think Michelle Wie would be thinking she could play on the PGA Tour if it weren't for Tiger Woods? I don't think so. That's his influence, and her influence will be just as great, especially for little girls.

Question: But isn't it also true that only one in a million will be able to do that, so it's an unrealistic expectation for most kids?

Love: I think kids growing up have to have a dream. ... It inspires them to do something other than get into trouble, you know. I think that's the great thing. I see 50 kids, literally 50 kids at our club practicing and playing golf all the time, because of Tiger Woods, because of great players influencing them. Will two of those kids make it on the PGA Tour? If we're lucky, maybe one. ... But they are all good kids and they are working hard and they are staying out of trouble, and they're on the driving range rather than hanging out at the mall or racing around in their cars. So I think it's good. It's very good, whether it's one in a million or not.

Question: If you get back on the policy board, would you entertain a notion of creating a special exemption for situations like Annika (Sorenstam) and Michelle so that the discussion of taking somebody's spot away could be eliminated?

Love: There was that discussion, adding to the field. But, you know, then every sponsor would want (it). ... We are trying to cut fields down. We are (already) taking spots away from PGA of America players (club pros) in our events. Now they are down to about one a week. You start cutting these guys out and cutting "Q" School guys out and adding players that are not members of our tour and are not trying to win the money list or keep their card. They are just out for a week here or a week there. It's a hard argument if you're 125th on the money list.

Question: How do you think the sponsorship will feel when they are putting up the money -- and it's only going to get bigger as time goes on -- and they are saying, "We need that"?

Love: Well, you don't really need it. You have seven of the top 10 money winners last year out here playing golf. I think that if Michelle Wie wasn't here, there still would have been the same great golf. ... The tour players would not like it if every 14-year-old that lived 10 minutes from a tour event started getting a spot. It's like that great line that somebody had at Doral, that they had a dream that Jack Nicklaus had 125 kids and they couldn't get in Doral. All Nicklaus' playing at Doral ... that takes a spot away from a PGA Tour member.

It's a hard question. I'm glad she played. I thought it was exciting. But we don't need to be doing that every week. ... I don't think we need to add a specialty player here or there just to boost ratings.

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