Notes Duval Tweaks Neck By Sneezing

By Associated PressJuly 13, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland --David Duval had a 12:10 p.m. starting time for his final practice round Wednesday, but he didnt join his group until the fourth fairway.
 
His sinuses were acting up, and he sneezed so hard and so often the day before that it tweaked his neck. Duval had to spend an hour getting therapy before he could play.
 
If its not one thing, its another, he said.
 
Duval, the 2001 British Open champion, hasnt won in three years and hasnt made a cut this year. Maybe this is just what he needs. His long list of injuries began at St. Andrews five years ago when his back hurt so much he could barely bend over to stick a tee in the ground. He still managed to get into the final group, and trailed Tiger Woods by only three shots with 11 holes to play.
 
Reminded of that, the light came on.
 
Yeah, I cant walk, he said. Watch out.
 
RECLAIMING THE JUG:
The claret jug hasnt spent much time in its homeland over the past decade.
 
Scotlands Paul Lawrie is the lone British winner of the British Open over the past dozen years, and even that 1999 victory should come with an asterisk: Frenchman Jean Van de Velde blew a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole, letting Lawrie into a playoff at Carnoustie.
 
Maybe things will change this year. The British contingent'golfers from England, Scotland and Wales'looks as strong as its been in years, with six from its ranks holding spots in the top 65 of the latest world rankings.
 
And that doesnt even include No. 32 David Howell, who dropped out because of an injury, and 62nd-ranked Greg Owen, who failed to qualify.
 
The guys have been performing well, said Englands Nick Faldo, who won the last of his three Opens in 1992, so I think weve got plenty of players now.
 
Scotlands Colin Montgomerie, ranked 40th, relishes the idea of winning his first major at St. Andrews.
 
This would cap off a fantastic career of mine, he said. I come here full of hope, as I do every year for an Open. And this year is slightly different. I come here on quite good form, really, and I look forward to it in every way.
 
Monty will have to contend with Englands Luke Donald (15th), Lee Westwood (38th), Ian Poulter (44th) and Paul Casey (60th), along with Stephen Dodd (65th) of Wales.
 
Donald was placed in one of the prime groups, playing Thursday and Friday with Jack Nicklaus'making his final appearance in a major'and five-time Open champion Tom Watson.
 
Obviously, theres a little bit more expectation on players like myself, Donald said. That just comes with the territory. You dont really think about it when youre on the golf course. You just get on with it.
 
In addition to being part of the Open rotation, St. Andrews is a familiar stop for those on the European Tour'its used every year for the Dunhill Links.
 
Montgomerie, for instance, has been staying in the same hotel every year for nearly two decades.
 
It must be an advantage, he said. I know my way around here. I know what to do.
 
But the Brits are still fighting long odds. The huge contingent of top golfers from beyond their shores includes Tiger Woods, the 2000 winner and an overwhelming favorite this year.
 
TELEVISING JACK:
David Levy has mixed feelings about Jack Nicklaus farewell appearance in the British Open.
 
As president of Turner Sports, which will televise the first two rounds of the tournament on TNT, Levy relishes the idea of his cable network getting a chance to show Nicklaus crossing the Swilcan Bridge for the final time Friday.
 
Of course, that would mean the Golden Bear missed the cut'which tugs at Levys personal preference.
 
Its a mixed bag, Levy said. It would be great to have Jack on TNT, but I would like to see him play on the weekend. Im sentimental about that.
 
The bulk of the weekend play will be televised by ABC, though TNT does get a couple of hours both Saturday and Sunday mornings.
 
Maybe Jack will make the cut, but finish up while were on the air, Levy said hopefully.
 
EXPENSIVE ROUND:
Stephen Bridle had to pay nearly $15,000 to get on the Old Course this week'and hell never even hit a shot.
 
The London banker made the winning bid to serve as caddie for Australian journeyman David Diaz, who put the looper duties up for auction on the Internet.
 
Diaz had hoped to collect about $7,500, but Bridle won with a bid twice that amount. It also helped that hes got an 8 handicap and has played at St. Andrews three times.
 
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Bridle said.
 
What a dream.
 
The 37-year-old Diaz qualified in January for his first major. He said hell use the caddie windfall to travel to the United States along with his wife and children, hoping to land a spot on the PGA Tour.
 
Diaz has played 10 tournaments on the Australasian, European and Nationwide tours this year, failing to make the cut in any of them.
 
When the media got on to it, I thought, What have I done? Diaz said. It kind of took the focus away from the fact I was preparing for a golf tournament.
 
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.