Speaking of questions, Love was grappling with some tough ones at Hilton Head, his stellar performance there notwithstanding. Since breaking through at the PGA Championship last August, he has often spoken of how the victory bulletproofed his confidence, but the results tell a different story. At the Ryder Cup in September, Love put up a doughnut in four matches, and a month later he was leading the Tour Championship by two shots with eight holes to play but finished third. (Had Love held on, he would have won the money title and could have been voted Player of the Year over Tiger Woods.) This season has brought more Sunday disasters. Leading February's Buick Invitational with nine holes to go, Love made a pair of galling bogeys and slipped to third. At the Bay Hill Invitational in March he was part of the powerhouse final group with Woods and Ernie Els but over the 36 holes got dusted by Els to the tune of 11 strokes. The next week at the Players Championship, Love started the last round only three shots behind eventual champ Justin Leonard but shot 80. Then came the Masters, after which Love's final-round scoring average ballooned to 73.86, 128th on Tour and nearly three strokes higher than his overall average.
On the eve of the final round at Hilton Head, Love was asked if he was feeling vulnerable on Sundays. "Not at all," he said. "There's no urgency. I don't have anything to prove to myself or anyone else. The only thing holding me back has been bad timing—the wrong shot at the wrong time, or a little slip in my concentration when I can least afford it. Sure, I want to win because I always want to win. I want to win because I don't want to lose to Phil Mickelson, ever. But it's not a must-win by any means."
On Sunday evening, after securing his first victory of the season and leaping from 32nd to ninth on the money list, Love came clean. "This was a big round for me, a big victory," he said. "It's really going to jump-start my year, which up until now hasn't really gone as I expected."
Still, Love wasn't ready to look ahead without first looking back. "As sweet as this week was, last week is still disappointing," he said. "It's even a little bit more disappointing now. I'm the same guy. I didn't discover anything new, I didn't pound balls all week to fix something. I just picked the wrong week."
If anything can cure these post-Augusta blues, it ought to be the blissful scene Love was part of on Sunday evening. He was standing on Harbour Town's picturesque 18th green, basking in the soft light of the setting sun and being serenaded by the muffled sounds of a foghorn symphony, the traditional salute the yachtsmen afford the winner at Hilton Head. Love broke the spell just a little by examining his multihued winner's jacket and concluding wistfully, "There's not quite enough green in it."