Love 'Fired Up' For His Senior Open Debut June 27, 2018 | Colorado Springs, Colo. By Dave Shedloski

Davis Love III is bringing is decorated playing record to the U.S. Senior Open, which he will play for his time this year. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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He is the third-oldest player in history to win a PGA Tour event. He captained the USA to victory in the Ryder Cup in 2016 after watching helplessly from the helm amid a devastating loss four years earlier. He cried tears of joy when he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last year in New York.

These are only a few of the most recent accomplishments in the long career of Davis Love III, and were he to step away from the game right now, he’d have no qualms or complaints, especially considering the myriad injuries he’s had to overcome in the last 10-15 years.

But the game he has known since he was toddler still holds a fascination for Love, who is arguably one of the most popular and preternaturally talented players of the modern era. It’s not that golf is all he knows – and he knows it well, learning it from a famed teaching professional who happened to be his father. But he knows himself, and golf and tournament competition are part of his identity and makeup.

Golf is his life, yet without consuming him.

Which is why Love, at age 54, and with a new left hip, is still playing mostly on the PGA Tour against players some 30 years younger. But this week he has decided to pick on golfers his own age, making his debut in the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor.

“They asked me in an interview for one word that sums up why you're playing. It's ‘I enjoy the competition,’” said Love, winner of 21 PGA Tour titles, including the 1997 PGA Championship. “Just getting out there and competing with these guys is fun. It doesn't matter where you are. My son [Davis Love IV] just played a mini-tour event. And he won. He had a great time. And signed up for another one this week.

“We just want to play. It doesn't matter where it is or what it is. But then when you add in a major championship and you add in a great golf course, it just gets you fired up.”

Had he begun playing this championship when he became eligible, this week’s start could have been his fifth in the national championship for players 50 and older. Instead, because of injuries and his relative competitiveness on the PGA Tour, this will be just his 12th career event for players on the PGA Tour Champions.

He’s been a little busy. Love has served on the PGA Tour Policy Board for nearly two decades, including a term that ends this year. In addition to his Ryder Cup captaincies in 2012 and 2016, he has been an assistant captain for the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup for a number of years.

“Davis has been one of the finest professionals the game has ever had. He’s the kind of professional that his dad would have expected him to be and taught him to be,” said Jay Haas. “You see it in the things he has taken on over the years, the leadership roles. He is as respected as anyone.”

And then there have been the injuries and accompanying operations, including spinal fusion surgery to correct a neck problem, two foot surgeries, shoulder surgery – from a snowboarding accident – and hip problems that resulted in him undergoing replacement surgery in November.

But injuries can’t extinguish talent and desire. In 2015, Love managed to win the Wyndham Championship at age 51, just four months after undergoing his second ankle surgery. Only Sam Snead and Art Wall were older in victory on the PGA Tour.

That kind of ability is why his good friend Fred Couples thinks he’s the favorite this week.

“He's a very, very good player. He hits it a mile. He still has a lot of length. I played a few holes with him yesterday. I think he's a good pick this week,” said Couples, who won a record four straight World Cup titles with Love. “He hits the ball so high and so far. And he doesn't play many of our tournaments. … But you could tell, he's wound up for this week. And he should be, because he's one of the probably 15 guys who can win.”

“I’ve known Davis since we were 15 years old,” said 1984 U.S. Amateur winner Scott Verplank. “We played junior golf together and college golf and we’ve stood up in each other’s weddings. And he is the same guy today that he was when I first met him. He is a great friend, and just a really nice person. And he is still a hell of a player. That hasn’t changed, either.”

No player at 54 is the player he once was, but Love still hits it far enough – he might be one of just a handful of players who has 170 mph ball speed – and his short game has held up over time. He is licking his chops after 34 practice holes on The Broadmoor’s East Course, where he has discovered that his driver could be a potent weapon.

He laughs about all the physical ailments he’s encountered since he turned 40. All he can do is laugh. But in typical down-to-earth Love fashion, he said he’s “been blessed” to still be playing.

“I remember Greg Norman and Curtis Strange and Raymond Floyd and all those guys going through – even back to Jerry Pate – going through injuries, going, ‘Man, those guys, poor guys, they're just getting beat up as they get in their 40s and early 50s.’ Now I know what that feels like. It's hard to keep competing.

“But I'm not doing it for records or for money. I'm doing it because I love to play and I love to compete.”

And to win. There is always that drive, too.

“You know me, when I'm at a tournament, I want to win. I want to be ready,” he admitted.

He’s ready. He’s been ready his whole life.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.