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Golf

Love hurt himself in confronting heckler

By BOB HARIG
Published March 4, 2004

When fans taunted Scotland's Colin Montgomerie in the past, the excuse often given was a few "ugly Americans" were the minority in the crowd. So what are we to make of Davis Love?

One of the most popular PGA Tour players, Love came unglued Sunday during the final of the Match Play Championship when a Tiger Woods fan gave him grief.

Love is right to suggest that unruly fans should be dealt with harshly, especially in a game where they can get within touching distance of the competitors.

But Love made a mistake in calling such attention to the situation. It revived all the chatter about his supposed lack of moxie, his poise under pressure. Right or wrong, that is the perception.

He also gave legitimacy to the few taunters in every crowd who are looking for nothing more than acknowledgement.

"What are you supposed to do?" Love said this week during a conference call with reporters. "Let this group of fans distract me? Or do I have them thrown out? You have to stand up for what's right. I wasn't going to play with something on my mind, trying to beat Tiger Woods."

At that point, he was already done. Love would have been better off alerting tournament officials and letting them do the dirty work. He has been involved in such incidents before, and even if he is right, he comes off looking soft and opens himself up to more abuse.

Nobody puts up with more commotion on the golf course than Woods. Though he sympathized with Love, Woods had to know he was in command when Love lost it. Love never won another hole, and Woods went on to a 3 and 2 victory.

"If you're a baseball player and you're on the mound, you don't ever want to look up in the stands if somebody is yelling at you, because they know they've got you," Woods said Sunday. "You just keep your head down, keep moving along."

LEAVING AMERICA: Montgomerie joined Woods and Ernie Els in this week's Dubai Desert Classic, skipping two South Florida PGA Tour events. Last year, Montgomerie missed the cut at Doral and Honda, starting a stretch that saw him tumble in the World Ranking. Monty also did not play the weekend at the Players Championship and the Masters.

"All of a sudden I go from No. 15 in the world to 40th and the warning bells are out," said Montgomerie, who has dropped to 54th in the world. "It's so bloody easy to drop out of the top 50 - I proved that - and so bloody difficult to get it back again."

Monty is not even a lock to make his seventh straight European Ryder Cup team, which will play the United States this fall at Oakland Hills. But he had a nice run at the Match Play Championship and feels better about life in general.

"I don't want to go into it, but there's all sorts of problems - marital problems that have been sorted out, and health of children (issues), and that's all sorted out," he said. "Golf takes on a whole different meaning then."

TURNING 50: Peter Jacobsen turns 50 today and will play in his first Champions Tour event

next week in California. But Jacobsen, who recently moved from Portland, Ore., to Bonita Springs, will still play a fair amount on the PGA Tour. He won last year's Greater Hartford Open, which gives him an exemption through 2005.

"I'm not going to willingly give that up just because I turned 50," said Jacobsen, a seven-time tour winner. "I want to fight and scrape and see how I do against the young guys."

However, he will not defend his Hartford title (now the Buick Championship) because it is the same week as one of the Champions Tour majors, the Tradition, which is played in Portland.

AROUND GOLF: Clearwater's John Huston is now 51st in the World Ranking and needs to be in the top 50 after the Players Championship in order to qualify for the Masters. ... Seve Ballesteros, who is playing at Doral this week, has not made a cut in the United States since the 1996 Masters and not at a regular tour event since the 1995 Players Championship. ... Aaron Baddeley had just 95 putts in the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, two off the PGA Tour record for a tournament held by Kenny Knox and Mark Calcavecchia. Unfortunately for the Australian, three of those putts came on the final hole, where he lost by a single stroke to Heath Slocum.

LOCALLY: The ninth annual Innisbrook Easter Junior Classic is April 9-11 on the Island and Highlands courses. There are age divisions for boys and girls. Call 727 942-3737 for information. ... The Florida Junior Tour is offering affordable competition for ages 13-18. The entry fee is $95 for two-day competitions, with the first event at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Orlando March 13-14. For more information, visit www.fsga.org ... The ASGA Tour, an intermediary pro tour for aspiring players or for those who simply want to play for cash, is having its tour qualifying school in Orlando starting March 22 and again April 1. Tour purses will be $30,000 to $60,000, with $100 entry fees. For information, visit www.asgatour.com

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

[Last modified March 4, 2004, 01:15:01]


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