ERIN, Wis. – Father's Day is always a theme at the U.S. Open, with the tournament's final round traditionally scheduled that day.
This year, Phil Mickelson is home in California to see his firstborn, daughter Amanda, graduate as the valedictorian of her high school class, endangering his chance to pursue a career Grand Slam, and World No. 1 Dustin Johnson became a proud papa for the second time, after fiancée Paulina Gretzky gave birth late Monday to a son, River.
For my money, the best parent-child storyline at the U.S. Open belongs to Dru Love, the 23-year-old son of former PGA champion Davis Love III, who qualified for his first major championship and asked dad to caddie for him. When asked the best advice that his father has given him, Dru said, "Honestly? Stay away from girls. He says they're all trouble."
Words for Dru to live by.
As far as playing in his first U.S. Open, we may need an asterisk for Love. At the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., Fred Couples grew frustrated at the pace of play in a practice round, so he let Davis “Dru” Love IV, then 8, putt for him on the back nine.
"He made like a 50-foot putt on one hole and the crowd went wild," Love III recalled.
Love IV shot 67-69 in sectional qualifying at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Ga., including chipping in for eagle at the last hole, to finish tied for third. That got him into a playoff to earn the first-alternate spot, which he won, and was added to the field on Sunday when the USGA exemption categories closed.
Love’s injury-marred college career at Alabama came to an end this season, and his father advised him to stay amateur over the summer and try to play his way onto the U.S. Walker Cup team. If his own experience weren’t telling enough, the elder Love played with Jack Nicklaus Jr. in college at North Carolina and saw first-hand how much pressure playing as the son of a famous golfer can be. Love III concedes that he has a tendency to be overprotective.
"I think he's going to be really comfortable once he gets to the Tour, but can he get there?" the elder Love said. "There's a lot of kids with the potential. If I didn't think he could do it, I would tell him."
Dru played a Web.com qualifier as an amateur, but when he qualified for the U.S. Open, those plans went out the window. Dru, who just received his first Tour bag on Monday, will make his first career start as a professional this week. He has been asked repeatedly why he chose his father to caddie for him and answers with surprise. "Is it not obvious? He's played 23 U.S. Opens. He's seen every single possible thing you can ever see on a golf course, so that was pretty much a no-brainer for me," Dru said.
His dad looks funny wearing shorts and lugging his son's bag. Dru is actually the third generation in the Love family to play in the U.S. Open. (Tyson Alexander is another third-generation player in the field.) The late Davis Love Jr., a noted club professional, competed in seven Opens in the 1960s and ’70s. Once, at the 1987 Walt Disney Classic, Love III's caddie took ill in the middle of the round. Love hit his drive and when he reached his ball, his father stood next to his bag.
Love sizzled a 3-iron from 245 yards downwind onto the green. Then he pounded a driver over the bunker on the next hole. When he got to the fairway, there was his caddie dragging his feet.
"My dad gave him the bag and said, 'You take it. I can't handle caddieing for someone who hits driver over 300 yards and 3-iron from 245,' " Love said.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot.
"He hits it so far,” Love III said, “I don't bother to club him.”
Dru still remembers the first time he beat his dad. He was 20 years old and playing at Frederica Golf Club, not far from the family's home on St. Simons Island, Ga. He made a 40-foot eagle putt at the last hole. His dad dropped a 30-foot eagle putt right on top of him.
"And he turned around and he looked at me and he said, 'What was yours?' " Dru said.
Father carded a cool 65; son, a smooth 64.
"He turned around and walked to the cart and left me on the 18th green," Dru said.
Beating his dad is starting to become routine. Davis said Dru beat him four or five times in a row a few weeks ago. They love to compete. But this week, father and son are a team, and both are soaking up the experience.
"It's just pure joy, is all it is, really," Dru said. "This is my dream. This is my goal, is to play professional golf at a high level on the PGA Tour and major championships, and now I'm here."
Adam Schupak has written about golf since 1997 for the likes of Golfweek, Golf World and The New York Times. He is the author of Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @adamschupak