(Reuters) - Having endured an injury-hit 2013 campaign, American veteran Davis Love III has lofty expectations for this year when he aims to contend on the regular PGA Tour and also its senior equivalent.
The former Ryder Cup captain will qualify for the Champions Tour when he celebrates his 50th birthday on April 13 but firmly believes he is good enough to flourish on both circuits.
Though Love has not triumphed on the PGA Tour since the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Classic, he said he was “excited” about this year after recovering from neck surgery that limited him to just 15 starts during 2013.
“I am getting there,” the 20-time winner on the PGA Tour told Golf Channel after shooting a three-under-par 69 in Thursday’s opening round of the Humana Challenge at La Quinta in California.
”Like today, I have good streaks and bad streaks. Three months off last year, starting in February, was kind of hard on me but I am coming back, I‘m feeling stronger every week.
“I‘m back to almost full strength and I am starting to hit some good shots, so I am excited about this year.”
Love said he and fellow American Lee Janzen, who turns 50 in August, had already mapped out their ‘bucket list’ of events on both the regular and senior circuits to start their 2015 campaigns.
“We were talking this morning and said it would be nice to play Kapalua, Sony (Open) and Hualalai all in a row next year,” Love smiled, referring to the year’s first two events on the PGA Tour followed by the Champions Tour season opener.
“So that’s our goal, to have a really good year this year and kind of focus on the regular tour.”
The PGA Tour’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Hawaii brings together its winners from the previous 12 months, so Love would need to return to the victory circle before then to book his place in the elite field.
He has always liked the idea of competing in the Champions Tour’s season opener, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii, but would prefer to then focus on the PGA Tour for the first half of the year.
“I don’t turn 50 until April and that’s Hilton Head, Charlotte, the Players and a lot of (PGA Tour) tournaments that I like to play,” said Love, whose only major victory came in the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot.
“So I will have a full season then almost by the time I turn 50 ... but it’s nice to have both tours available to you, and have something to fall back on.”
Love was reasonably happy with his opening 69 on the Arnold Palmer Private course at PGA West, one of three venues hosting the PGA Tour’s pro-am event this week.
“I missed a couple (of putts) but I also made a bunch,” the long-hitting American said of a round that included six birdies, a bogey and a double at the par-five 14th.
“I made a long par putt at nine that kind of saved that nine, then made a couple of nice putts on the other nine. I just didn’t hit it close enough. But first day of the year, first round of the year, I was a little rusty and it showed.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford