June 1, 2008

Love Boat

Step inside Davis Love III's $1.25 million hotel on wheels, a family refuge during a tumultuous year of wins, rumors and tragedy

Wheeling out more wheels: Love with his Harley-Davidson Road King.

Wheeling out more wheels: Love with his Harley-Davidson Road King.

Having earned only one PGA Tour victory in his previous four seasons, Davis Love III vowed that 2003 would be a different year. He established fairly lofty goals and dedicated himself toward achieving them, all the while remembering what his late father once told him: Do something every day to make your game better.

Love won four tournaments through October, including the prestigious Players Championship, to become a serious contender for player of the year. How he managed to concentrate on golf was a story in itself, for Love required admirable inner strength to confront two family crises — hurtful gossip concerning his wife, Robin, and the suicide of her brother-in-law, who was being investigated by the FBI for embezzling money from the family.

In a candid discussion on how he did his job while dealing with off-course pressures, Love addressed both issues. "I lost someone I completely trusted through a tragedy," he says, "and I had to deal with rumors about my wife, who is my best friend and staunchest supporter. Things like that change the way you look at life."

Love, who will turn 40 in April, believes he has several good years of golf ahead of him. He hopes that path will take him toward more major conquests and Ryder Cup berths but fewer bumps in the road. And more often than not, Davis Love III will be traveling in his spacious motor coach, a house on wheels that offers all the amenities of a four-star hotel suite, except mints on the pillow and maid service. "When we have a cookout at our bus and after everybody leaves," says Love, "the cleanup crew is Robin and me. Just like home."

Golf Digest: Most golf fans would probably figure that a man of your stature is a jet-setter. Instead, you've become attached to your mobile home. Is that what it's called, by the way, a mobile home?

__Davis Love III:__Yeah, that works, although my mother calls it a truck. But I love it, and if I'm in it, I'm driving it. Now, if we've got to go from, say, New Orleans to Charlotte for the next tournament, then I fly, either home or to the next event, and a driver drives it. I didn't take it to the West Coast, or the International in Colorado, or the John Deere in Illinois. Or the British Open, obviously. Otherwise, it was there, and I lived in it. It's great.

We got this one in December a year ago, primarily to go to and from horse shows. Our daughter, Lexie [Alexia], is into horses, and that's how this started. Horse shows aren't like golf tournaments. You don't have tee times, where you leave your hotel on a schedule. You're back and forth a lot, so it's like you bring your hotel room with you.

What convinced you to take it on tour?

Actually, it was John Daly. When we had our first one, not nearly as nice as this one, I started asking John about his. He told me I should bring it to the Masters. "Park it next to me," he said. That was 2002. I did, and it was terrific. Now, a lot of guys are getting them. And the NASCAR drivers, they've all got the same bus John and I have. It's basically the same vehicle that John Madden drives all over the country when he's broadcasting football games.

How is John Daly as a neighbor?

Great, although he doesn't hang much. He's showed me a lot about how to get things done. I had a generator problem at the Honda, and I'm taking it apart. He's telling me to do this instead of that. Quite a sight. Two golf pros trying to be technicians. He's not that handy, but he does know how to position the motor coach so the satellite TV dish will work. Which is very important. If there's a big fight on, guys will come over at night to watch it. Other players and their wives find us, which is great.

What else is in it?

Stove, microwave, washer, dryer, kitchen, refrigerator, wine cooler, stereo, one full bathroom, shower, almost a king-size bed in the bedroom, Internet dish, plasma TV that can come out under the awnings so you can watch while you barbecue, and a lounge area with two big couches that fold out into two beds for the kids when they're with us. It's 45 feet long by 10 feet wide. It's got everything in it, including sometimes Freddie Couples. His daughter is into horses, too, and he got a loaner for the PGA Championship.

He got to Rochester before I got there, so he went into his motor home and the TV wasn't working right. Freddie didn't like that, so he got the code for our motor home. When I arrived later that night, I walked in — whose tennis shoes are these? I found him lying on the bed, asleep, not watching SportsCenter.

What does something like this cost, and how's the gas mileage?

The thing comes from a manufacturer as just a shell, and then you fix it up. When it's done, it can cost from $1.25 million to whatever you want to spend. Don't forget, it is a business expense.

We get about seven miles per gallon. Filled it up just the other day with diesel, and it was $258.

Do people recognize you?

Every once in a while. If we're at a truck stop, and I come out in flip-flops and shorts, I might see people looking at the motor home. They might ask, "Who does that belong to?" And I'll say, "I'm not allowed to tell you; I can't say."

Robin likes it?

Absolutely. I mean, when she gets away from home, you might think she'd want to stay at a four-star hotel. Well, she still enjoys that, and so do I, but she enjoys the motor home. Now, if we go to Dallas and there's the Four Seasons with that great spa, she'll want to stay there. Which is fine. But having all your clothes in the motor home and not having to pack suitcases, you can get used to that. Plus, we can also take our motorcycle. It fits right underneath. At the PGA Championship I missed the cut, so we hung out on the weekend around Rochester, and we went to dinner Saturday night on the Harley.

Speaking of Robin, during the International, a tournament you won, you addressed some rumors involving her and your marriage.

I did, and it wasn't because of anything that had appeared in newspapers or had been broadcast, but it was stuff that was going around by word of mouth. I sort of snapped there in August, and one reason is there's some history to it. In 1992 I won three times and was playing well, and it happened then. Apparently, somebody around our home [Sea Island, Ga.] got arrested for having or selling drugs, and it was a girl named Robin something. It started going around that Robin Love was the one who had been arrested, and it snowballed into a bunch of other things: The Loves are getting divorced ... they're selling their house ... he's taking the kids ... you name it. I wound up confronting some people who I thought were spreading the rumors. People gossip, and I certainly don't mean that as a knock on where we live. It happens in Sea Island or St. Simons Island just like it happens anywhere — Orlando or Atlanta or wherever. People talk about people, and if you're considered high-profile or a celebrity, I guess people talk more about you than other people.

So, what happened this time around?

A lot of the same stuff. Robin had begun hearing around Easter that we were getting divorced. The story was that while I was out of town, Robin got caught on the beach with someone, they were arrested for indecent exposure and went to jail. Eventually it snowballed into some of the old rumors. Drugs, infidelity, take your pick.

Glenn Sheeley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution came down to Sea Island after the PGA to do a story on the community, and what he found was a lot of support for us, which I appreciate, because I don't want where we live to be portrayed as some kind of Mayberry, if you know what I mean. But while he was talking to some of the people around here, one of them said, "Oh, yeah, we heard about Robin and Davis, but we don't believe it. In fact, I just saw Robin driving by 15 minutes ago." Well, at the time, Robin was with me at a tournament in Akron, Ohio. But that's part of my point about how things start. Everybody always assumes they just saw Michael Jordan.

Why, if this had been circulating since Easter, did you wait until August to deal with it?

I started hearing more and more. Even on the driving range. Guys coming up, asking if everything's OK. Then there was the incident with her brother-in-law committing suicide, which we'll talk about later, if you want. Maybe that just made the stuff about Robin and me explode.

Finally, after friends on tour kept coming to me saying, "Do you know some of the things people are talking about?" I'd had enough. So during the interview session at the International, I addressed it. I talked about it again on USA on Friday. Mike Hulbert teed me up. Then Peter Kostis did the same on Sunday, after I won.

Meanwhile, I'm calling Robin back home, asking her every night how she's doing. She'd say, "Fine" but then tell me about what she'd heard that day. I told her to fly to Denver to be with me, but she said, "No, Monday's the first day of school, and I belong home with the kids." And then she said, "I promise you, it's not bothering me." I looked at my cell phone. We'd been on the phone for an hour and 28 minutes talking about this stuff. That was Friday night. So, anyway, I don't know if I handled it right, but what I wanted to do was put a stop to it. Peter gave me some great advice. He told me on the range, "You go win this golf tournament, then come on with us after and tell Robin how much you love her."

That's what I did. Lance Barrow [coordinating producer] and Peter and all the guys at CBS were trying to help me, and I was going to say what I said anyway. I've still got letters I have to answer. I got so much support after that, and so did Robin.

I didn't want to embarrass our community — only 2 or 3 percent of it. And now it's like the attitude has changed completely. I'm glad I did what I did, even if I fumbled the thing on CBS a little. I said I didn't want to get all emotional and start crying like Freddie did [after Couples won at Houston in April]. Next time I saw Fred, he said, "What's this about you bringing me into that thing with my crying?" Which was funny.

Did all of this affect your children?

They heard stuff at school, yeah. Lexie [age 15] had some friends over during the week of the International. She went upstairs for a minute and Robin asked them, "Girls, how bad is it at school?" Lexie had never talked to us about it, but those friends of hers told Robin what was being said. Robin and I had talked to our kids before about the rumors. Lexie didn't want to hear anything about it — "Let's talk about horses." Dru [9 at the time] understood. He was watching the telecast at home with Robin, and when we spoke he said, "Daddy, you played real good, but you didn't need to make Mom cry."

Whatever temporary shot at the community I took was worth it. It's over. There are always jealous people, I guess, and nobody took a shot at me when I was playing lousy in 1994. We've never given a thought to moving from Sea Island. And Robin is what she's always been since we got married in 1986: my wife and my best friend and my biggest booster. If I'm on the road and there's a fund-raiser, she might go by herself or with other wives of my friends. If we all go to dinner together and the guys want to come home to watch a hockey game, maybe the women will stay out together for a little while. She's very open with people, she's very trusting, and she gets this for it?

Were you and Robin high school sweethearts?

Not really. We hung out a lot, but more as friends. I dated other girls; she dated other boys. But then we became more involved, and when I left college after my junior year and went to Q school, she came with me to Florida. Along with my parents and [brother] Mark, three rooms, Robin to herself.

My parents thought I should be concentrating more on my golf, but I told them if I'm going to be away from home for however long, I'd like to have Robin with me. I told her this would be a tough grind, and I might end up teaching behind my father [the late and highly regarded teacher Davis Love Jr.] on the practice range instead of touring the country as a golf pro. I might wind up back at North Carolina to finish school.

Eventually my father realized we were pretty serious, and to show you how decent a man my father was, he gave Robin his car so she could sell hers and get out from under her car payment. That would allow her to have some more money so she could see more of me. It was a Grand Prix. For a while, then, my dad didn't even have a car to get to and from work. He didn't care. He was just looking out for everybody else, like he always did.

Throughout these rumors, and the other family tragedy that preceded it, you played excellent golf. How?

First of all, it's difficult for people to take a shot at me. I try not to do anything to embarrass my family, the sport of golf, or myself. Yeah, I've been known to react to noises in the crowd, but I'm learning from Tiger. Block out the cell phones, ignore the cameras and what people say. I'm getting better. But I never get drunk, I never use bad language around fans, and if I smoke my cigars, it's in private. So, the people who want to get at me, even if they're just a few of them, get at me by taking shots at my family. I think I've gotten a lot thicker skin. I lost my father in 1988 in a plane crash that also killed my best friend, Jimmy Hodges, and our head pro and another neighbor, John Popa. When that happened, I tried to do what my dad always did when there was a crisis — I tried to be strong and take charge. That's what I did with this stuff about Robin, and before that, when her brother-in-law, Jeff Knight, took his life. ... I still struggle having to say that.

How has this manifested itself?

Well, besides trying to head off the rumors about my wife, I've become more involved in our business off the course. I trusted Jeff with everything, and it turns out I trusted too much. He would drive the kids to school when they needed a ride, he organized Christmas, he handled the checkbook. He did everything. I said before that Robin might be too nice. Maybe I've been the same way, but I'm learning.

The whole year has taught me a lot. Just like I used to let things go before my dad died, I was the same before all this stuff crashed down on me: Jeff will do this; I don't have to worry about the business, I'll just show up every once in a while and concentrate on playing golf. But I set goals for my golf, and I have to do the same with everything else. I need to apply that to the rest of my life. I'm the CEO of our golf business, like I'm the CEO when I'm standing over a ball on the first tee.

I started with Pros Inc. when I turned pro. Vinny Giles and Vernon Spratley in Richmond, Va. Both great. Through my own fault, I stopped bouncing things off them. We sort of moved the operation down to St. Simons. Mac Barnhardt has moved here, which has been great, too. But Vinny and Vernon are the guys who got me where I am, and I blame myself for not relying on them the way I used to. I tried to take everything over, then I didn't watch it.

God works in mysterious ways. Why did Mac agree to come down here a year and a half ago? Because we were going to have a tragedy this summer, and if Mac wasn't by my side, I don't know what I'd have done. I mean, I'm a golfer who's also trying to run a business that has three courses under way now, being designed and built, with a bunch of other plans in the works. I'm not used to talking to the FBI.

They wanted to talk with you about Jeff Knight. Tell us about him.

He was married to Robin's sister, Karen. They lived not far from us, they were over here a lot, helping us with the kids, just hanging out. Robin was probably closer to him than anybody except his wife. He worked for a doctor, kind of a medical assistant, then he began running the doctor's office. Anyway, we got to the point where we said, "Why don't you quit your job and work for us?" Which he did. And he looked after our money. Not the money from the business, and not investments, but the family. The checkbooks. Gradually, we gave him more responsibility.

We built this house in 1998, we had the horses, so there was a lot of money coming in and out. And he was the guy, not only for us, but for anybody on this island. If anybody needed something done, they'd call Jeff. Everybody knew him, everybody trusted him. Everything included, we probably paid him $70,000 a year. He was the go-to guy. You knew he would get things done.

No warning signs whatsoever?

None. I haven't had one person come up to me after this tragedy and say, You know, Davis, I knew something was wrong with that guy. I was never sure of him. None. Not one. And of course nobody trusted him more than the people in this house. The thought that he had another whole life going on was unbelievable, to all of us, including his wife.

What did he do?

Basically, he was depositing $9,900 in a bank account, over and over again, thinking he was under the radar [requiring banks to report cash deposits of $10,000 or more to the Internal Revenue Service]. Eventually the bank started filing suspicious-activities reports with the FBI, and the FBI was checking with the IRS — did this guy pay taxes on this? I don't really know how long they were investigating him. Maybe over a year or so. But it got to the point that the FBI had enough on him, and before the FBI came to me, he came to me.

What happened?

He just came and told me, "Look, I've gotta go to the FBI tomorrow. I've been stealing money from you, they know about it, and I'm up the creek." I got back from Charlotte, the Wachovia Tournament, on a Sunday night in May. The 11th. I had a meeting the next day. Jeff had to take [tour pro] Jonathan Byrd to the airport. There's another example — he got Jonathan Byrd hooked up finding a house, helped him find furniture, helped him move in. Monday, Dru and I were getting ready to go turkey hunting, and we're at our cabin in the woods, not far from our home. We were just finishing dinner, it was dark, and here come headlights. We weren't expecting anybody. It was Jeff. I said to Dru, "Look who's here . . . we've been having trouble with our satellite dish, and Big Jeff's here to fix it." Which Jeff would have done under normal circumstances. But Jeff looked at me — I'll never forget it — and said, "Man, I wish I was here to fix your satellite dish."

I knew something was wrong. I told Dru to go in the next room. Thankfully he fell asleep. Meanwhile, Jeff is telling me this, that he stole a lot of money. He didn't say how much, exactly. Hundreds of thousands. My first reaction was, I was stunned. Then I told him, "Look, Jeff, we'll work it out." I never raised my voice. We then moved to the porch.

Just a week before, a high school friend of mine had killed himself, jumping off a bridge near town. My age. I told Jeff not to do anything crazy, like Robbie Flanders, my high school golf teammate: "I'm gonna have somebody watching you."

Jeff had been having trouble with his neck and was going to need neck surgery in a week or so. We were worried about him even before this. Standing on that porch, Jeff looked at me and said, "Hell, no, that's the coward's way out."

So, you had fears that he was desperate?

I told him that if we didn't get this money thing figured out, he would probably go to jail. He'd be gone for a little while, but he still had a lot to live for. He still had kids and a family. The weekend before, he had told Karen. She was shocked. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I met with the FBI.

If I had my own checkbook and balanced it, this would never have happened. But he had set up a system, and he was so ingenious that he fooled everybody.

I have enough money put away and enough in liquid assets that, if I wasn't paying attention, I wouldn't miss what he was stealing. And I didn't. The bank was just in the process of notifying me that I had some serious cash missing when he told me.

It was reported that he embezzled $1 million. Is that accurate?

That's close. Maybe $900,000. And he put it into property, and a gun collection. He didn't tell anybody about it. He might say he had some land down by the river, but where does the lot on St. Simons begin and end? He might show me three or four of his guns, but not the other 200.

All the stuff was recoverable, which is not the point. He put his paycheck in their account, Karen put her teacher's paycheck in their account, and they paid all their bills out of that. Meanwhile, he's stealing from me. Karen would ask, "How can we afford to build a cabin on that property down by the river?" He would say, "My grandmother left me some money, and I just sold some guns."

What happened next?

I was scared about what he might do. I took his truck away from him. He was meeting with the FBI and was supposed to go to the hospital for a sleep-apnea test before his surgery. I wanted somebody watching him at all times, because I told the FBI that I thought he was going to kill himself. He was in Desert Storm. I don't know if it was something from the war or what, but this was a gun freak. The FBI people said, no, he was being very cooperative. Then he took off. Without going to the hospital for the test.

I had a bad feeling, so I drove to his fishing cabin. He had backed his big Suburban up to the house, run a pipe from it to the exhaust on his car, and blacked out all the lights on the car so nobody would think it was running. He put a brick on the accelerator. He had taken a six-pack of beer inside with him, plus two bottles of pills, then sat in a chair and shot himself. The only mistake he made, according to the investigators, was that he had the air conditioning turned up. He was a big guy and liked it real cold, and they said that probably would have countered the carbon monoxide. But he had planned it for three different ways to kill himself in case one failed.

I walked in and saw him slumped over, and walked out. May 16. He was supposed to be in court that day. I called the FBI agent I'd been dealing with. I said, "He did it."

What happened then?

I called Robin, then went home and took Lexie out of school. Then we had to tell Karen and her two kids and Dru. The kids knew Jeff was sick because of his neck, and I had to tell them that Jeff got sicker and was dead. We're all crying, obviously. Lexie was very strong. Jeff wrote notes to us and to his family before he killed himself. You know, I have a detective friend, and when I told him what had happened and that Jeff had left notes, this detective friend told me, "They're not going to do you any good ... they're going to say, 'I'm sorry; this is better for you all.' "

Well, eventually I read the note Jeff wrote, and it was almost that, verbatim. What he did was the easy way out for him, not for anybody else. This was Jeff Knight's last selfish act. As I think about it now, I'm not as sad as I am angry. Before he did it, he told me, "I cannot believe you didn't jump me or beat me up for what I've done." The irony of it is, if he'd have come to me and said he needed a loan, I'd have probably said, "How much?"

That's how much I trusted him. I have guilt over this, because nobody caught him, nobody saw this other side of him. We could have gotten him help. The harshest thing I ever said to him after he told me he stole from me was, "Don't kill yourself."

Months later, how has it affected you?

Never mind me. His family. I'm mad not because of the money. I wasn't going to press any charges. I'm mad because of all the people he affected by taking the easy way out. The coward's way out.

And you returned to the tour.

At Kemper [the FBR Capital Open]. I was kind of dreading it, but I practiced and played and talked about what had happened. It all kind of piled on me the next week at the U.S. Open. When I got to six over par, I kind of fell apart. But then I started getting back in the routine, I realized I had a lot of things to do at home, I had to get back to my golf goals, and it was an escape, if you want to call it that. Like when my dad died, it was time for me to take over and still do my job. After the stuff with Jeff Knight and Robin, that Players Championship I won last March seems like five years ago.

After all this, have you and Robin become more careful about people?

We've talked about that, but don't get me wrong — I'm a very, very fortunate person. We have great friends, and we have companies like Titleist that made a commitment to me three years ago. I was challenged by Wally Uihlein. He didn't hire me. He challenged me. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to win. So, he said he'd put the power of Titleist behind me for 10 years, and he's paying me a lot of money.

Reportedly $45 million over that period.

That's close. Maybe I could have gotten more elsewhere, but I felt comfortable with them, and Wally felt I was right for them, on and off the course. He knew my dad, and he's taken a personal interest in me. He didn't want to sign me for 10 years if I was only going to play hard for five. I think it's going to take me to 46 years old [Love turns 40 in April], and I plan to go hard until then. Naturally, that motivates me. Not just the money, but the idea that he doesn't think I'm any kind of a risk.

How do you think your record stacks up?

Well, if I blow out my neck and back again tomorrow and can't ever play again, at least I've won one major. It's not that easy. If it was, more guys would do it? But if I can win a bunch more and one or two more majors, then I'll be a 20-plus winner, with a bunch of Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups. I'm a little disappointed in my output, but I'm proud of my consistency. People have started asking me this year whether I think I'm Hall of Fame material. I'm so far from that, I haven't even thought of it, really. Have I reached all the points on my checklist? No. I've left some things on the table. Like in 1994, I got lazy.

But you've been hurt, on and off.

Yeah, but I used that as an excuse. In 2001 and 2002, I was hurt, so I would come home and say to myself, Well, I better rest, I better take it easy. I wouldn't push myself to get healthy so I could practice. I fell into a pattern where I just played, and I played pretty good but never really pushed myself or accomplished much. I won one tournament those two years. I won four this year, but I won't be lazy next year.

Still, like a lot of other players in your age bracket, you have some other interests.

Of course. If I play golf 365 days a year, even if my body held up, I'm not going to play very well. I have a family, I like to hunt, I have my business. I like to do fun things. Am I enamored of horses? No. But Lexie loves them, and I love Lexie. My mother, Penta, said to my brother not too long ago, "I can't believe Davis is doing all this other stuff ... he's got a boat, he's hunting, building golf courses, fishing." Mark said, brilliantly, "You know, Mom, I can't believe he's doing it either. Jack Nicklaus would have never done it. Had a big family, spent a lot of time with them, built golf courses, hunted, fished, enjoyed his life and been the best player ever at the same time. Jack would have never done that." That was the end of that discussion. [Laughs.]

And Penta didn't even mention your playing hockey.

Did that as a kid in Atlanta. I was a defenseman, because I could skate backward. So a year ago, just before Christmas, we were out in Sun Valley, where David [Duval] is, and my caddie, too [John (Cubby) Burke]. A bunch of people from town played a pickup game. I went into the corner with a 9-year-old boy, Dru and a 43-year-old woman, and came out of it with 11 stitches above my right eye. Now I'm a real hockey player.

Weren't you in a group with Wayne Gretzky last February when you won at Pebble Beach?

On Sunday. And in 2001 at Pebble, on Sunday when I won, Bill Russell [former Boston Celtics center] was in our foursome. I don't know what shoe size he is, but it's huge. Cubby kept getting in his way, keeping him away from the hole, picking up his ball for him and bringing it to him. Nobody wanted him walking near the cup, stepping anywhere near my line when I'm trying to win the thing. I said to Russell, "You haven't been boxed out like this since you were playing with the Celtics, have you?"

You still love what you're doing?

Oh, yeah. Like Freddie says, the four hours inside the ropes are great; the rest of it you can have. Now, if you had your clubs with you and said, "Davis, let's go play," I could take it or leave it. I don't know that I'll be grinding it out on the senior tour when I'm 51. Fred wants [son] Oliver to caddie for him. I'd like Dru to do that for me. That was another motivation this year, to have my kids see me win now that they're more grown up. Dru says to me, "You know, Dad, when you win, that's all the kids at school want to talk to me about." He was with me when I won TPC. That was cool. Nobody was more excited than me, but Dru was close. And Freddie.

Then you drove home with your son after a big victory.

Yeah, and while we were doing that, Mark called to congratulate me. He asked what I was doing, and I said, "I'm at the Georgia Welcome Center dumping the sewage from the motor home." That also goes with you wherever you travel, so you have to take care of it.

This might sound inappropriate, considering what you've endured lately. But you've been criticized in the past for being too soft, for not having the killer instinct.

Yeah, I hear it every once in a while. And I think it, too. I think it has more to do with closing things out when I'm coming down the stretch of a tournament instead of being mean. It has to do with learning how to win and how to deal with pressure situations. You can't think that you're never going to hit a bad shot or that you have to play a perfect round to win, because you don't. Is Nick Price mean? Was Jack Nicklaus mean? I don't think so. Focused, yeah, but I don't think you have to be like Ben Hogan was to win.

Am I comfortable with my life, my faith, my family? Yes. But after what we've gone through this year, playing golf is just no comparison. I mean, I'm out there hitting a silly white ball around in the fresh air, enjoying myself and making tons of money. If my dad walked in here now and you asked him if I've done my best, he would say, "No. But I'm still proud of him."

How does Dru play?

He's pounding the ball. He's part of this generation that has better equipment. Kids on our driving range are hitting Titleists. We played a course not long ago, and they had striped balls on the practice range. He'd never seen them. It's just a different time now.

Meanwhile, the courses get longer and par stays the same.

Sometimes it stays the same. I wonder if there'll be a day when Dru gets out here on tour and I can tell him, You know, son, I played back during the days when we actually had par 5s. Now, if it's 499 yards, it's a par 4.

You mentioned the Ryder Cup before. What are your thoughts about it?

You know, I tried like heck to make the 1991 team. Dave Stockton, the captain that year, even had me go down and play a few practice rounds at Kiawah Island, and I think he gave some thought to picking me. I was disappointed when he didn't. But, after playing a couple of them, I understood why he didn't. My thought back in 1991 was, Well, if you don't pick me this time, the next time I won't have any experience, either. Then, after I saw what it was all about, I said to myself, No wonder he didn't pick me.

What about being a captain?

First of all, I'd like to play in a bunch more. I'd love to play for Fred Couples and Paul Azinger, and that would give me even more insight into the event if I'm a captain some day, which would be nice.

Let's face it: The captain is either going to be a hero or a goat. They never hit a shot, but that's the way it is — it's gotten so big. Every one of the captains I've played under has done a great job. It was written that Tom [Kite] got outcoached by Seve Ballesteros in 1997. But if you went to all 12 guys on each team and asked them how they would rate their captain, our guys would say Tom did a wonderful job, and the other guys [Europeans], they were frustrated. Seve tried too hard. They won, yeah, but we didn't lose because of our captain, we lost because we putted bad.

At The Belfry in 2002, after Europe won, you were among several American players who appeared to be disturbed by the way Sergio Garcia celebrated.

We let our emotions get away from us at Brookline [1999] when Justin Leonard sank that putt. We apologized for it, and besides, we didn't really understand. In the heat of the moment, we thought it was over. We thought we won. Sergio at The Belfry got excited. He's a nice, fun-loving guy. We talked about what he did there, and it was over in five minutes.

I think he means well, and he's a good person. When we played together in the first two rounds at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields, I was struggling, and he was the one trying to pump me up: "C'mon, let's go." He didn't have to do that, and I believe it was sincere. He wants to have friends out here, and he's got a lot of them. I have no problem with him. Believe me, what went on at The Belfry was over as soon as it happened.

Why don't you smile more?

Tom Kite used to ask me, "Why don't you wave more to the crowd?" I think the reason is, I just stay nervous out there. I can't get too excited. My friends tell me the same thing. They tell me I look the same when I'm fishing as when I'm playing golf. They tell me I don't look like I'm having any fun. But I am having fun. I'm just not good at screwing around. I'm not an entertaining kind of guy. If I have to walk down the fairway saying hello to everybody, well, I don't think that's me. I hope people understand that I'm working hard.

Do I sell tickets? Some places. On the other side, there's Freddie. I keep bringing up Freddie. He's popular with galleries. He sells tickets, like Phil and Tiger and John Daly. Well, Freddie looks like he's having fun out there — at least that's what I think — but I think I'm having more fun when I play than he is. If I have to get up and give a speech in front of a bunch of people, I'm not good. But if I was sitting up there with someone else asking me a bunch of questions, I think I'd do a good job of answering them. If you lead me toward a subject, if you prop me up, I think I do OK.

I don't know, you tell me: How are we doing on this so far?

I've got good news for you: It's over.

This is the 104th Golf Digest Interview. For highlights, please visit www.golfdigest.com/features.