On Sunday at Pebble Beach, Davis Love III played some of the best
golf of his life while winning for the first time in exactly two
years. Love birdied the 8th, 9th and 10th holes, arguably the
most difficult stretch of par-4s in the world; putted like
Houdini; and made a heroic two-putt birdie at 18 for a four-under
68. But Love's one-stroke victory wasn't the result of good play
alone. At the 12th hole Love got the biggest break since Roger
Maltbie bounced a four-iron off a gallery stake to avoid
catastrophe on the 17th hole at the 1976 Memorial, which he went
on to win. Having birdied four of his last six holes, Love ripped
a five-iron at the 203-yard par-3 12th. His ball landed on the
back-left corner of the green and rocketed toward the thick rough
and steep downslope behind the green. However, a wall of
photographers had set up a few yards from the fringe, and Love's
ball ricocheted off the left shin of Kent Porter (above right), a
shooter for The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif. Love's ball
caromed back onto the green, stopping four feet from the pin,
from where Love holed out for birdie and a three-shot lead. Had
his ball not hit Porter, Love would've been fortunate to get up
and down for par. Walking off the green, Love handed his ball to
Porter, who, smiling like a child on Santa's lap, said, "I'm not
supposed to take gifts, but...."
THE STAKE DRILL: In the early and mid-1980s, I was the head pro
at Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga. My friend Jimmy
Hodges taught at Sea Island Golf Club, and his boss was Davis
Love Jr., the famed instructor and father of Davis Love III.
Before Jimmy and Mr. Love died in a plane crash in 1988, I drove
two hours every Monday to spend time with Jimmy. Mr. Love allowed
me to survey his lessons, and he often invited Jimmy and me to
play nine holes with him. Mr. Love urged his pupils, including
his son, to maximize distance, and he used the Stake Drill to
demonstrate how. The drill focuses on the downswing and teaches
these three keys for distance and accuracy: Let the arms fall
down to the ground, straighten the right elbow and keep the club
on plane. You'll need a pole, stake or broken club shaft (we used
a cardboard mailing tube) but not a ball. Position your stance
and take the club back until it's parallel to the ground and
along the stance line (picture 1), and stick the pole in the turf
so that the top of the pole touches the heel of the club. Go back
to address. In slow motion, take the club to the top of the
backswing (picture 2). Again in slow motion, make a downswing,
letting the arms drop and the right elbow unfold as you pivot.
The goal is to rap the top of the pole with the clubhead (picture
3). The motion you learn from this drill will help you keep the
club on plane, extended and dropping down into the ball.
Mike Perpich, 48, is the director of instruction at RiverPines
Golf in Alpharetta, Ga., and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CBS
COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT 1 Begin the Stake Drill with your club parallel to the ground.
COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT 2 Swing in slow motion on the way back, and keep the wrists cocked.
COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT 3 As the right elbow straightens, drop the club onto the stake.
COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT
OUR TOP TEACHER SAYS...
"When I spoke with Fuzzy Zoeller on Sunday afternoon, he was
still upset with the Champions tour over his DQ. 'If you stay out
here long enough, you'll find black clouds all over the place,'
"Technology, perfectly manicured courses, sports shrinks and
fitness fanaticism are not the primary cause of the low-scoring
revolution on the Tour. Tiger Woods is. If Woods hadn't put the
other players' backs to the wall, they'd still be improving at
the same slow, pre-1996 rate."
"To curtail absurdly low scoring, the PGA Tour should lower
the 14-club rule to seven clubs. That's the only way to force the
guys to use their imaginations."
"Michelle Wie and Ty Tryon are only the tip of the iceberg.
In 20 years LPGA and PGA Tour players will be as young as today's