Duval Dad Host Special Olympics Round
This was only an exhibition at Timuquana Country Club.
In some respects, it was more fulfilling than winning a major.
'Without question, the No. 1 round of the year,' Duval said.
He and his father, Champions Tour player Bob Duval, played an 18-hole match with Special Olympics athletes Kevin Erickson of Wisconsin and Oliver Doherty of Ireland as their partners.
The made-for-TV match, produced by Emmy Award winner Ken Murrah, is called 'A Tee Time Like No Other' and will be televised by CBS Sports on New Year's Day, with Jim Nantz hosting the show.
The outcome wasn't important, although everyone played hard.
Erickson, a 21-year-old who had a brain tumor as an infant and cancer in his sinuses three years ago, holed 6-foot putts on the final three holes ' one of them for birdie ' to give him and David Duval a 4-and-3 victory.
Doherty, born with brain damage after his mother was killed in a car accident, is 28 and built like a bouncer. His opening tee shot was only 10 yards short of the former British Open champion.
There were a few laughs along the way.
Erickson split the middle of the first fairway with a slight draw, while Duval hit a slice into the trees.
'At least one of us is in the fairway,' Erickson told him, his speech deliberate but distinct. He was only trying to make conversation, but Duval ' who has struggled to find the short grass ' went along.
'Fairways are overrated,' Duval deadpanned in return.
The match ended on the 15th hole. Erickson and Doherty hit tee shots on the par-3 16th with $1 million if either made a hole-in-one. Then, they headed to the 18th green for the closing ceremony, and everyone got a silver plate.
Duval got a bonus ' perspective.
'As frustrating and maddening as my struggles have been, this makes you realize how small they are,' Duval said. 'I've always believed that people's burden are what they can manage. I've always felt I was a strong guy. But I'm not as strong as these two men.'
Duval, the No. 1 player in golf for much of the summer in 1999, is mired in a mystifying slump. He only returned to golf at the U.S. Open this year and made the cut in three of his nine tournaments.
As a young boy, he donated bone marrow in an effort to save his brother's life from leukemia. After his brother died, Duval spent countless hours on the range at Timuquana, where his father was the head pro. Duval does not see that as an escape, saying it was too long ago for him to remember.
But it was hard to ignore some similarities with his partner.
Erickson, who won the U.S. Golf National Invitational in Florida last year, was born with a tumor and had one-third of his brain removed by the time he was 4 months old, the portion that affects speech and motor skills.
His grandmother, Rita Houston, one day sent him into the back yard with a wedge, golf balls and her laundry basket and told Erickson to see how many he could land in the basket.
'He stood out there for three hours,' she said.
Erickson made his high school golf team, but suffered a setback when he was diagnosed with cancer in his sinuses at 18. She believes golf kept his spirits up, and helped develop anew his muscular coordination.
'Golf is helping him get through life,' Mrs. Houston said. 'He doesn't complain. He doesn't have a great personality, but he's not a complainer. He accepts everything. He has to.'
The match was arranged by the Special Olympics, which wanted to feature some of their finest athletes. Erickson plays off a 12 handicap and rates Duval among his favorite players. He likes Duval for his quiet demeanor and ability that got him to No. 1 in the world.
'He doesn't talk any more than I do,' Erickson told his grandmother when he found out he was playing with Duval.
Doherty's story is equally amazing.
His mother was in a vegetative state after the accident, and it is believed that the brain damage was caused by forceps during the delivery. Doherty was sent to an orphanage, where he was adopted despite his parents being told of partial paralysis on the left side and prognosis that left little hope for an active life.
Jim Doherty, a firefighter who worked on the nine-hole Buncrana Golf Club in northwest Ireland, put a ball in his son's left hand and softly squeezed it shut, a process he repeated until the boy was strong to hold onto the ball. Before long, Doherty was holding a golf club, then winning club championships. He plays off a 5 handicap.
Last year, he won the Special Olympics World Summer Games with a 78 at fabled Portmarnock to win by 20 shots.
'What an honor,' Doherty said quietly after the match was over.
After the ceremony, the Duvals and their partners exchanged gifts and posed for pictures. Duval signed a dozen or so Special Olympics flags, then took two flags for himself and asked Erickson and Doherty to sign them.
Duval also gave Erickson his caddie bib with a message on the back.
'Kevin, thanks for including me in a great day.'
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.
Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday
SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.
“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”
So was Woods.
DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.
“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”
Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.
“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.
“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”
Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.
“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.
With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey
SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.
The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.
It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.
“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.
According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.
“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”
Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.
And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.
As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.
He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.
“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.
Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.
Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.
“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.
Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.