Duval Goes to the End and Back

By George WhiteJanuary 17, 2006, 5:00 pm
Maybe we were a bit hasty in confining David Duval to the bin of the long forgotten. Lately the old boy has shown plenty of signs that he is alive, well and actually kicking.
A 68 in the second round and then a 63 in Round 4 last week at the Sony Open raised a lot of eyebrows. Hes been quietly on the road back since late September when he made his first cut of 2005 at the Valero Texas Open. He sent another shockwave through the golf world at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan in November when he opened with a 64 before ending the week tied for seventh.
David Duval
David Duval's final round 63 was his lowest round in three years.
Duval, in case you dont want to go to the trouble of looking it up, was the No. 1 player in the world back in 1999. He won 13 times in three years from 1997 to 1999, and won the British Open in 2001.
However, he has suffered with a painful back ailment since 2000, compounding that with various other ailments, including wrist and shoulder problems and a case of positional vertigo which caused him to feel lightheaded and unstable on his feet.
Add to this a case of total burnout, resulting in a seven-month absence from the game in 2004, and youve got all the makings of a superstar gone into hiding.
During this time, his personal life was in upheaval also. An eight-year engagement ended in 2002, and in 2004 he met and married his wife, Susie. He moved across the continent from his boyhood home in Jacksonville, Fla., to Susies home in Denver ' a bit of a cultural shock, admittedly. And, he became an instant father, taking joyously to Susies three children.
Hes 34 now, and the wild ride that has been Duvals personal life trip the last three years has changed him drastically. Hes gone from No. 1 in the world to No. 492 at the beginning of last week. And though he still yearns to play golf and play it well, there is a man now inhabiting David Duvals body where just a short time ago there was a boy.
'As far as the game of golf, the competition, it has certainly moved way down the ladder of importance in my life,' he said at the Texas Open in September. 'I want to play, but I say now and I've said it a few times that if I had to make a choice, I'd go home and stay with my friends and family and you'd never see me again.
I enjoy playing golf, I really do. In some strange way, although I had not played much (in the last three years), it's been some of the more enjoyable times because it just goes to show you how hard the game can be. And you know, it makes you appreciate the skills the players have and the things they work on, the things they do because it's just a very, very hard game.
How hard? If anyone has learned, it must have been Duval. He really wasnt very good, from a personal standpoint, at being No. 1 back in 99. It probably came too easy for him. But he has been humbled the past 3-4 years, and now he is ready, hoping to resume what would be a most welcomed chance to go to the top of the game.
He has a jumpstart on it. His 63 last week was his best score in three years. He again had back problems on Monday, played the first round in a back brace and had to improvise a way to swing the club without further injuring himself. Consequently, he had to make a birdie on the final hole to make the cut at Sony. But he finished with a great kick, taking another giant step on what has been a long road back.
Duval rang up seven birdies in the Sunday round and played the front round in 30 strokes. 'I've been playing very well for a few days but didn't make a whole lot of putts,' he said afterwards. 'Today, I managed to hole a few good putts and got something good going. I was as aggressive out there as I could be.
'I don't want to sit there and hold on to a score. I wanted to keep forcing the issue.'
Duval wouldnt be playing the PGA Tour were it not for a five-year exemption he got for winning the British Open ' an exemption which expires this year. But that victory has meant that he had time to recover from his injuries, go through the life changes and develop a new swing.
And, it has given him time to go through the complete maturation process. Golf, he has learned, is only one part of life ' a life that must have many parts to function successfully.
Like anybody out here, said Duval last year, I put more into it than I should have. I put more value in it than I should have, but I obviously felt like I was - like the lower end of that of the players.
I really don't know how it will work or how I can do it, because I don't really feel like I could ever give back to this game and the people involved what it's given to me. But I'd like to at least start chipping it way at that, because it's blessed me more than I could have ever dreamed.
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.