HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- There must be something special
about that Harbour Town lighthouse for Davis Love III.
Love chipped in on the final hole to force a playoff, then hit
the flagstick with his approach on the fourth extra hole -- the
famous 18th with a candy-cane striped lighthouse in the background
-- to defeat Woody Austin and win his fifth MCI Heritage on Sunday.
''This place has always been good to me,'' Love said.
No one can deny that.
Love trailed Austin by a stroke on his last hole when he sent
his approach to the right of the green. Feeling the confidence that
comes with four prior victories at Harbour Town Golf Links, Love
told his brother and caddie, Mark, he would chip it in for birdie.
Moments later, Love rolled in a wedge from 66 feet, 8 inches
away to tie for the lead at 13-under 271.
''That's why I was so excited because I finally put my mind to
it,'' Love said.
Then, after watching Austin miss makable putts for the victory
on the second and third extra holes, Love struck a 6-iron that
bounced off the pin and settled about 3 feet away.
Love lined up the putt, took one practice swing and dropped it
in, to the blares of boat horns in Callibogue Sound.
''I hear a lot of jokes around the locker room saying, 'You're
automatic here,' or whatever,'' said Love, who shot a 67. ''But I
feel like I'm comfortable here. Maybe when I get in trouble or when
I hit a bad shot, I don't lose my patience quite as fast here.''
Love won for the 17th time in his PGA Tour career.
Austin, who had a bogey-free 68, had his chances to win. He
missed a 6-foot putt on the second playoff hole and a 3-footer on
the third extra hole, both which would have given him the title.
But he had no regrets about this week.
''It's been a long time since I felt I was hitting it this
good,'' he said. ''It's fun to be back in the game.''
As Austin waited to hit his approach to the 18th hole in
regulation, he was told he was the only one at 13-under and felt he
might be moments from victory. Then he heard the crowd react to
''I look up, I heard a deafening roar,'' Austin said. ''This is
a great place for him, obviously and great things happen to him
Love, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and The
Players Championship, joins Tiger Woods and Masters winner Mike
Weir as three-time champions on tour this season.
And Love has no equal at Harbour Town. He was already the
all-time champion with victories in 1987, 1991, 1992 and 1998, and
the tournament's leading money-winner, a total that grew to better
than $2.1 million with this win. Nine of his last 12 rounds here --
including all four this year -- have been in the 60s.
Els had four birdies and an eagle on the front nine to grab a
lead that looked unbeatable. But he drove it out of bounds on the
16th hole to start his downfall.
Els' collapse was quick and unexpected.
The Big Easy lived up to his nickname early on, his simple swing
leading to a two-shot lead over several competitors through 15
holes. But he pushed his drive out of bounds on the 16th, the ball
bouncing off the cartpath and through hundreds of fans.
''I don't want to blame anybody; I hit the shot,'' said Els,
still in disbelief. ''I've seen people throw it back.''
Els re-teed and made double-bogey 6 to create an eight-way tie
for first. He drove over the green on the par-3 17th and made bogey
to lose the lead for good. When Els closed with a bogey on the
18th, he had dropped four shots in three holes.
''It's the only shot I kind of missed all day, wasn't it?'' Els
said of his drive on No. 16. ''One bad break, and that's the
Sutton was on his way toward joining the playoff, but his
approach shot to No. 18 landed in a bunker buried between the sand
and the grassy lip. Sutton had to blast about 20 feet past and took
''I don't want to sound like sour grapes, but I had a bad
break,'' Sutton said. ''I had to be aggressive with the bunker
shot. I could not hit the flop shot I wanted.''
Hootie Johnson vs. Martha Burk wasn't totally forgotten at
Harbour Town. Several spectators had on Masters green ballcaps with
the name, ''Hootie'' across the front, a crossout of Burk's name on
the side and the phrase, ''Strong Support 2003'' on the back. ...
When Chris Riley made a bogey 5 on the 11th hole, it was his first
one of the week at Harbour Town. ... Glen Day and Jesper Parnevik
had the best rounds of the day with a 7-under 64.