Love finally conquers all in New York

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Golf

Davis Love's labours in major championships have been a mystery for years. Far too often they were losing ones. The 33-year-old American was on the best-never-to-win-a-big-one list long before Colin Montgomerie and Phil Mickelson came along but he was struck off yesterday after a five stroke victory over Justin Leonard in the 79th US PGA Championship.

Love closed with a 66, his third this week, to Leonard's 71, and at eleven under he was seven ahead of Jeff Maggert in third place. Lee Janzen birdied the last to finish one under and it was a timely return to form to put before the Americans Ryder Cup captain, Tom Kite, his playing partner who was fifth on level par.

While Love, the son of a noted golf instructor who died in a plane crash in 1988, has won some of the biggest tournaments on the US tour, such as the 1992 Players Championship, it took him years to get into contention in majors. But since finishing second in the 1995 US Masters, Love has also had chances to win two US Opens. This year, he has discovered a previously unfound consistency by finishing seventh at the Masters, 16th at the US Open and 10th at the Open.

``It's been a rough trip coming to this point,'' he said. ``I have lost alot of tournaments by pushing too hard, but I will cherish this moment all my life. Credit to Justin for hanging in there. It was hard to get through the last three holes without breaking down.''

Tied for the third round lead with Open champion Justin Leonard, seven clear of anyone else, Love could not have had a better start to his final round. Though both parred the first, Love gained a shot on his closest rival at each of the next four holes. He did so with birdies at the third and fifth, as Leonard bogeyed the second and fourth.

When setting the course record for Winged Foot of 65 on Saturday, Leonard, who failed to emulate Nick Price's feat in 1994 of claiming an Open and USPGA double, did not drop a shot or miss a fairway. But yesterday he spent much of the early part of his round in the long grass and when he had a chance to make a short birdie putt at the sixth, it missed. When Love holed from 12 feet at the eighth, he led by five.

Leonard caused a two-stroke swing with a birdie at the par-five 12th, where Love failed to get up and down from short of the green. He compounded the mistake by missing the green at the short 13th, but his chip hit the pin and he saved par. As a rainstorm hit the course, Love did not falter again and birdied the last before he was handed the Wanamaker Trophy.

"I came in with a bit to prove," Love said. "I had that trying-to-win- the-first-one pressure." He also needed to secure his place in the American Ryder Cup team and he will now make his third appearance in the match at Valderrama.

After heavy overnight rain the course was softer yesterday and the American Tommy Tolles took advantage with a 66. However, at four over par he did not earn any Ryder Cup points and was knocked out of the automatic qualifying places by Maggert, 11th on the list at the beginning of the week, who came home in a brilliant 31 as he equalled Leonard's course record.

Maggert, who birdied the last two holes, tied for third in the USPGA at Riviera two years ago, two shots out of the Montgomerie-Steve Elkington play-off, to secure his place on the 1995 US Ryder Cup team. Though he has only won once on the US tour in seven years, the 33-year-old was fourth at the US Open and the runner-up the following week to Ernie Els in the Buick Classic.

Kite announces his two wild cards today. By his own admission some players have played their way out of contention this week, while others done the reverse. Tom Watson, who missed the cut, was probably one of the former, Janzen, David Duval and Fred Couples three of the latter.

What Kite has to decide is whether he can afford to leave out a man who has finished second at the Masters, tenth at the Open and fifth here. "I'm pleased with the way I'm playing right now," Kite said. "Whether it is good enough to take a serious look at myself, I'll have to wait."

Arnold Palmer was the last playing captain for the USA in 1963, with Dai Rees doing the same for Great Britain and Ireland two years earlier. "There is absolutely no precedent," Kite said. "The Ryder Cup is much bigger now.

"The captaincy requires a lot of attention, a lot of taking care of details, making sure the players are taken care of, making the pairings, doing all the speeches. It would be a difficult task to be a playing captain, but I'm not sure that it's impossible. I guess nobody will know until somebody does it.''

Colin Montgomerie, who shot a 67 on Saturday, ended as top European in joint 13th place after a 72 left him on four over. "I didn't play very well and it was only guts and determination that got me to four over," he said. "I putted miserably all week.''

With Americans filling the first 12 places, Montgomerie, who today records a made-for-TV match against Phil Mickelson in Colorado today before returning home for the European Open later this week, put the poor European showing here down to their fortunes on the greens. "It all comes down to putting," he said. "We do not consistently putt on surfaces as good as the Americans do week in, week out and that has to count against us when we come over for one week.''

Tiger Woods, who started the day eight behind the leaders, scored a 75 to finish six over. After taking two double bogeys in his third round, Woods had another at the ninth, taking four to get down from the edge of the green. It was his tenth score of double or worse in the last three majors and suggests the Masters champion needs to work on his course management away from Augusta.

COMPLETE FINAL SCORES

(US unless stated)

269

D Love 66 71 66 66

274

J Leonard 68 70 65 71

276

J Maggert 69 69 73 65

279

L Jansen 69 67 74 69

280

T Kite 68 71 71 70

281

J Furyk 69 72 72 68

P Blackmar 70 68 74 69

S Hoch 71 72 68 70

282

T Byrum 69 73 70 70

283

J Sindelar 72 71 71 69

T Lehman 69 72 72 70

S McCarron 74 71 67 71

284

T Tolles 75 70 73 66

M O'Meara 69 73 75 67

V Singh (Fiji) 73 66 76 69

K Triplett 73 70 71 70

G Norman (Aus) 68 71 74 71

N Price (Zimb) 72 70 72 70

B Tway 68 75 72 69

T Herron 72 73 68 71

C Montgomerie (GB) 74 71 67 72

D Duval 70 70 71 73

285

D Martin 69 75 74 67

M Calcavecchia 71 74 73 67

J Cook 71 71 74 69

B Langer (Ger) 73 71 72 69

K Perry 73 68 73 71

S Maruyama (Japan) 68 70 74 73

286

J Daly 66 73 77 70

R Black 76 69 71 70

D Pooley 72 74 70 70

H Irwin 73 70 71 72.

L Westwood (GB) 74 68 71 73

P Goydos 70 72 71 73

P Azinger 68 73 71 74

P Stewart 70 70 72 74

F Nobilo (NZ) 72 73 67 74

F Couples 71 67 73 75

T Woods 70 70 71 75

P Mickelson 69 69 73 75

287

S Jones 69 73 75 70

D Ogrin 74 72 71 70

I Garrido (Sp) 70 71 75 71

E Romero (Arg) 71 72 72 72.

288

T Bjorn (Den) 72 68 77 71

J Parnevik (Swe) 76 70 71 71

S Torrance (GB) 74 72 70 72

S Elkington (Aus) 72 72 70 74

289

L Roberts 76 70 74 69

R Allenby (Aus) 67 77 74 71

B Henninger 74 68 75 72

C Perry 68 71 73 77

290

E Els (SA) 70 76 74 70

B Mayfair 75 68 75 72

C Stadler 72 72 74 72

O Browne 70 73 74 73

T Smith 71 71 74 74

291

L Wadkins 72 72 77 70

S Lowery 72 69 79 71

L Mize 71 73 73 74.

292

F Funk 71 74 77 70

R Cochran 72 73 72 75

L Rinker 70 71 75 76

R Goosen (SA) 72 70 74 76

S Appleby (Aus) 75 70 69 78

J Haas 71 69 73 79.

293

P Jacobsen 74 72 75 72

P Stankowski 68 71 77 77

P-U Johansson (Swe) 73 69 73 78.

294

C Franco (Para) 69 74 76 75

295

M Bradley 73 69 80 73

L Nelson 76 70 76 73

Y Kaneko (Japan) 72 73 76 74

C Rocca (It) 69 69 79 78

296

A Magee 71 70 80 75

297

P Jordan 76 70 75 76

K Sutherland 73 73 73 78

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