When Davis Love III made his decision to play the PGA Tour's Fall Series schedule, his ultimate goal was much loftier than merely to nail down a spot in the top 125 on the money list and earn exemption for 2009.
Love wanted to win.
And that's exactly what the 44-year-old former major champion did Sunday, closing with his second consecutive round of 8-under-par 64 to win the Children's Miracle Network Classic presented by Wal-Mart by one stroke over Tommy Gainey.
Love, who played the final 57 holes of the tournament without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at Walt Disney World Golf Resort's Magnolia and Palm course in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
"I'm just thrilled to come out on top and to accomplish really what I wanted to do this fall, (which) was to get out and compete and play to win and not try to make the 125 and not just try to make cuts and just show up but to come to play to win," Love told reporters. "I had a few chances and didn't have good rounds on Sundays or good, consistent weeks, (but) this week I had a really good, consistent week.
"I did a real good job of staying in the present and just playing golf and enjoying these six weeks, and it paid off in the end."
Love's previous low 72-hole score on the PGA Tour was a 265, which he achieved four different times. That included the 1993 Las Vegas Invitational (five-round event), 1996 Las Vegas Invitational (five-round event), 2003 Honda Classic and the 2004 Sony Open.
In addition to the $828,000 winner's share, Love also earned a lifetime exemption as it was his 20th career victory on Tour. The only other active players with 20 or more wins are Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson.
Love's post-cut 36-hole score of 128 was the lowest in the 38-year history of the tournament. He also broke Woods' tournament record with 15 consecutive rounds under par in the event and surpassed Woods as the tournament's leading money winner ($1.95 million) while earning his seventh top-10 finish at Disney.
It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, Love needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
"I'm going to for another hour try to act like it's not a big deal and hold it together," Love said with a laugh of his first victory since the 2006 Chrysler Classic at Greensboro, N.C. "But you know, it's a big win for me.
"It's been a long three years because everybody - like me - expects me to play better, and certainly I've had a couple bad breaks, but I still, even after getting hurt, I should have played better all year. I shouldn't have taken this long to put four good rounds together."
Love's close didn't come without some drama. Heading to the 17th hole with a two-shot lead, he nearly hit his tee shot into the water and had to lay up on his second shot but hit a wedge to within seven feet and made the putt for par.
On No. 18, Love hit his approach shot into a rear bunker. Needing a par to win, the 1997 PGA Championship winner hit his bunker shot to within three feet of the hole and sank the par putt.
"The last two holes weren't pretty," said Love, who climbed from No. 150 to No. 48 on the PGA Tour money list during the Fall Series. "I learned a lot over the last few years on how I can improve myself when I'm under pressure and when I'm not playing well, and it certainly paid off today.
"I was in trouble, but I was confident that I was going to get the ball up and down. I wasn't thinking about winning or losing or screwing up."
The runner-up finish came at a good time for Gainey, who has struggled through a difficult year. He had made just six cuts in 23 events, but with his second-place finish at Disney, Gainey moved from No. 228 on the money list to No. 148 to earn a partial exemption on Tour for 2009, and he also advanced into the final stage of Q-School.
"I had nothing to lose," Gainey told reporters when asked about his approach for the week. "Being 228 on the money list, I made five cuts this year, played horrible, terrible. I mean, you can just keep naming it.
"Finally I have that one week, and this was the week, and I just played well."
Gainey earned $496,800 with his second-place finish at the Children's Miracle Network Classic. His previous best was $18,720 at the Turning Stone Resort Championship.
Steve Marino and Scott Verplank, who shared the 54-hole lead, both shot 1-under 71 in the final round to tie for third at 20-under 268. Joe Durant (19-under 269) ended fifth.
Jeff Overton, who tied for 21st, finished 118th on the money list to earn his Tour card for 2009. Overton underwent an appendectomy on Oct. 21 and finished tied for 18th a week later at the Ginn sur Mer Classic to move from No. 126 to No. 125 on the money list, giving him a shot to keep his card with a good performance at Disney.
Erik Compton, who was playing on a sponsor exemption, shot a 6-under 282 to finish tied for 60th just five months after his second heart transplant.
November 10, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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