Greenbrier Classic notebook: Dru Love has a lot of catching up to do

DOUG SMOCK | Gazette-Mail
Davis Love III (left) and his son, Dru Love, address the media Tuesday at The Greenbrier.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Twenty-three-year-old Dru Love has to shake off the image of Jordan Spieth chest-bumping a caddie after sinking a bunker shot in a playoff.

“Yeah, when you’re sitting around watching Jordan Spieth chip in to win his 10th time and he’s the same age as you, it makes you think,” Love said Tuesday.

Dru Love’s formal name is Davis Love IV and he is the son of Davis Love III, who is about to enter the World Golf Hall of Fame. The father and son are playing together for the second time this week at the Greenbrier Classic.

The younger Love received a sponsor exemption, for he has yet to build a PGA Tour resume. He has played only two events, including the recent U.S. Open. The elder Love served as his caddie.

“He only messed me up about three times,” Dru Love joked.

The Loves are making their 743rd and 744th combined starts this week — father 741st and son third. “My back and hip feel those starts more and more every year,” the 53-year-old Love said.

One reason for Dru Love’s relatively late start in the pro game is he played all four years at Alabama. Or tried to play, as he battled injuries throughout.

In his freshman year, he stepped on a teammate’s foot in a pickup basketball game, rolled his ankle and tore all the ligaments and tendons. The next year, he broke his wrist while sledding. In his first Tour start in 2016, he tore the cartilage off one of his ribs while trying to hit out of a plugged lie in a bunker.

Then last summer, he had his left labrum in his shoulder repaired, putting him out eight months.

“Alabama was the right place for him,” Davis Love III said. “If you’re going to get hurt, you might as well get hurt at Alabama. They have got unbelievable doctors and trainers, and great staffs.”

As for Dru Love’s potential, he won the 2015 Georgia Amateur, so he can play at some level. He has seen many of his father’s 21 PGA Tour victories and he briefly was a college teammate of Justin Thomas, so he knows what a champion looks like.

“He played with Jordan Spieth on a recruiting trip way back, and they looked like they both had the same potential,” Davis Love III said.

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Danny Lee left the 2015 Classic with a big trophy and a $1 million-plus check, but lamented that he didn’t have a girlfriend to celebrate with.

As he returns to finally defend his title, he has a fiancee: Yoomi, a South Korean native. Lee is a Korean-born resident of New Zealand.

“Met through friends,” Lee said. “Kind of happened quick, but that’s sometimes just how it goes.”

Lee used that Greenbrier Classic victory and rode it to a No. 9 finish in the final FedExCup standings. He also made the Presidents Cup team, representing the International Team against the U.S. in the match-play event in South Korea. Lee went 0-2, including a 2 and 1 loss to Dustin Johnson in singles.

The U.S. won 15 1/2-14 1/2.

Lee slumped to 92nd in the standings in 2015-16, but has rebounded to 48th this season. He has three top-10 finishes in the last six events, and has climbed to 81st in the world rankings.

The Presidents Cup is played this fall at Jersey City, New Jersey, and Nick Price is once again the captain. Lee is 18th on the International Team standings, and must crack the top 10 or be one of four captain’s picks.

On Thursday and Friday, Lee is paired with the Classic’s two biggest names, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson. They tee off at 1 p.m. Thursday from the first tee, 8 a.m. Friday from the 10th.

“It will be very cool. I have played with Phil, early this year at Palm Springs,” Lee said. “Definitely one of the top idols in my head. And Bubba, it’s just great playing with those two guys and good for the game.

“I know I’m playing with two lefties, that’s for sure. I’ll be standing on the right side of the tee box by myself.”

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Brendon de Jonge will get his chance to remain the only man to make every cut at the Classic. The Zimbabwe native and Virginia Tech graduate made the field on a sponsor exemption.

Nicholas Thompson joined Will MacKenzie in withdrawing before the competition.

De Jonge, who finished in the top five in the 2010 and 2011 Classics, has veteran-member status on the Tour, one of the lowest categories. He struggled last season, failing to make the top 150 in the point standings and playing just one event in the Web.com Tour Finals, where he could have salvaged full privileges.

Ranked 215th in the points standings and playing in just his 10th event, he needs a big finish.

De Jonge received an exemption that could have gone to 2010 Classic winner Stuart Appleby or 2016 U.S. Amateur winner Curtis Luck. Appleby made the field on merit and Luck made the field by virtue of a top-10 finish at the Quicken Loans Classic last week.

Jonathan Byrd, another player of all six previous Greenbrier Classics, was elevated into the field after S.J. Park withdrew. Park had entered the field Monday as first alternate, and no reason was known for his withdrawal.

Byrd is a five-time winner but has slipped to the Web.com Tour since a tough 2014-15 season. He has three top-25 finishes and three missed cuts here.

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And finally, a few words on the weather, which got really wet late Tuesday afternoon.

Thunderstorms are likely Wednesday for the celebrity pro-am and Thursday for the first round of live competition. There is a chance of afternoon/evening thunderstorms Friday and Saturday.

Sunday? Zero percent chance of rain, high a perfect 78.

Contact Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @dougsmock and read his blog at http://blogs.wvgazettemail.com/dougsmock/.

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