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Rumors Ruin A Great Year Davis Love III's best season on the course has been his worst off it

Davis Love III, at 39, is enjoying the best season of his 18-year
career, with four wins by mid-August and one shot remaining to
win a major--this week's PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country
Club, in Rochester, N.Y. Love's latest W, at the International,
was his 18th on Tour and his most dominating. He led wire-to-wire
at Castle Pines, and his 12-point margin of victory over
runners-up Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh is the largest in the
event's history.

"Davis hammered everybody," said Mike Hulbert, a part-time Tour
player who worked the tournament as an announcer for the USA
Network. "I felt it was over after one round--one round!--when
Davis scored 19 points on Thursday in windy conditions. Then he
comes right back the next day and makes three eagles in 10

The win vaulted Love to the top of the Tour's 2003 money list
with $5.1 million, gave him $25.1 million in career earnings
(only Tiger Woods, with $37.9 million, has made more) and made
him, after Jim Furyk and Mike Weir, the next leading contender
for the player of the year award. Additionally, Love is now in
position to have the kind of dominant season that only Woods
(with eight, nine, five and five wins, respectively, since 1999)
and Nick Price (six in '94) have had in the last two decades.
Love isn't riding a hot streak. He's been at a consistently high
level all year, thanks to drives that now go long and straight
(page G10).

Love's best year has also been his most troubled, however. During
his postround interview with CBS on Sunday, Love, his voice
choking with emotion, stared into the TV camera and dedicated the
win to his wife, Robin. "Things are going to get better for you
and me, and this is going to pass," Love said. "I love you."

There were many reasons for Love's emotional outburst. In May his
brother-in-law and business manager, Jeffrey Knight, committed
suicide after learning that an FBI investigation had determined
that he had embezzled about $1 million from Love. More recently
Love has had to cope with scurrilous rumors about his wife.

"It's been tough to have this in the middle of my best year,"
Love said at his press conference on Sunday evening. "To have
these crazy, vicious things said about her that are untrue--on
top of the death of her brother--is not fair. She's been very
strong and has had to pick up the pieces for her family and for
our businesses so I could keep going. I wanted to dedicate the
win to her because if I didn't know everything was fine at home,
I couldn't come out and play this well. I've had friends say,
'You're not going to believe what they're saying about you.'"

A couple of hours later Love addressed the malevolent gossip more
specifically. "There were rumors about Robin's infidelity, our
marriage breaking up, her being arrested for indecent exposure on
a beach, using drugs," Love told SI. "You can pretty much make up
anything you want, because I've heard about every rumor
imaginable. This same thing happened when I was playing well in
1992. I had a chance to talk about it on national television, so
I couldn't pass it up. I had had enough."

The air needed to be cleared, Love said, so he could focus on the
PGA. He's had enough of rumors, but the new favorite to win the
PGA--and the player of the year award that would come with
it--hasn't had enough of winning. Not even close.
--Gary Van Sickle

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY WILLIAM R. SALLAZ [INSIDE COVER] KING OF THE HILL Davis Love III Cruises--and Copes--in Colorado G9 IV FOR III Love's best year has also been his most difficult.

COLOR PHOTO: WILLIAM R. SALLAZ (LOVE) UP AND DOWN After his fourth victory of 2003, Love defended his wife.





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