Davis Love III in 1977 at Winged Foot – and another PGA Championship. It’s a win well worth remembering.
Davis Love III missed the cut at the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, NC. Even as the field plays inexorably Championship Sunday in their annual quest to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy, I’m remembering another Sunday afternoon at another PGA Championship venue.
Twenty years ago the PGA Championship was played at one of the great courses of all time, Winged Foot, just outside NYC. The Championship was won by one of the great players of his era, Davis Love III who ironically was actually born in Charlotte NC.
The birdie putt Love III made on the 72nd hole of the 1997 PGA Championship actually had no impact on his first and only Major Championship victory. Love dominated that week. His total of 11-under par was good by 5 shots over the rest of the field. The image of him celebrating, however, left a lasting impression.
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Love III may have played so well that the lack of drama coming down the stretch wasn’t exactly great for the viewers and fans. That said those who watched were treated to one of the great images in golf history.
Davis Love III was almost a tragic figure in golf history. His 21 career wins have earned him a lifetime exemption and Hall of Fame induction this Fall. Those 21 wins include only one Major Championship, the 1997 PGA Championship. That’s actually hard to believe because Love III was in contention a lot.
Love III came from one of the great families of American golf and was one of the stars of the game during his time. His father, Davis Love Jr., one of the great teachers of the game, was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1988.
Davis Love III was the best player to never win a Major longer than most players’ entire careers.
Then it finally happened, after any number of close calls and what ifs. Most specifically in The Masters and U.S. Open, Love III always seemed snakebit on Sundays when heat was applied.
Finally on Sunday at the 1997 PGA Championship it was his turn, at the Major hosted by the organization that has been so influenced by his late father. He shot 66 that day. Love III put a punctuation mark on his win when he made birdie on 18. As his putt fell in the hole Love III lifted up his leg and threw his visor towards the gallery.
His career was finally validated as he was now a Major Championship winner. A huge rainbow in the background sky that day has become one of the most symbolic scenes in golf history.
CBS’s Jim Nantz was the one who suggested that rainbow was perhaps Love III deceased father signaling his approval of the victory from the Heavens. Others say the rainbow was a great way to celebrate the perseverance of Love III in his quest to win a Major Championship.
Regardless, it provided a great backdrop to a great victory by one of golf’s Hall of Fame members.