Duval Unstoppable at Houston in 98
And, yeah, it was even more impressive after the 1998 Shell Houston Open ' which he won, of course. That victory was his fifth in just 12 outings. Now, Tiger has since done better, but no one else has. Duvals two-year win campaign vaulted him past Woods all the way to No. 1 in the world. And Duval holds the distinction of being the last man in the world ' besides Tiger, of course ' to be ranked No. 1.
Funny, but Duval for the longest time had a habit of close-but-no-trophies. He finished second or third four times in his rookie season of 1995, five times in 1996, and twice finished runner-up before breaking through late on 1997. He was the king of the power-lip, close so many times but never able to break through.
When his luck changed, though, it was like a man who hits the big payout on the slot machine. Just like the man who cant stop the flood of coins, he couldnt stop the wins. Duval won his last three in 97. In 98, the spigot was still flowing.
Houston was the last win on this mini-run until he won again that same year at the NEC World Series. And he did it with such style, coming from six behind on the final day, shooting a 64 to win it.
Saturday, Duval had sweated through a 73. Just nothing was going right, he said.
But after it was over, I felt I shot a pretty good score, that I hung in there all right. I thought I had an outside chance.
Jeff Maggert and Dan Forsman were tied for the lead beginning the final round, both six shots ahead of Duval. But Maggert struggled with his putter and didnt make a birdie for 12 holes. Forsman hit the bogey train and quickly was out of it.
Instead, vaulting to the front were Lee Janzen and Duval. Janzen, starting from three strokes of the pace, birdied the first three to grab a share of the lead. He then took the lead with a birdie at 5.
Duval, meanwhile, was busily shooting a 32 on the front nine. That left him three shots behind Janzen at that point.
I knew that unless I could put together a string of birdies the last eight weeks, I was going to have to make and eagle, said Duval. So
Cue an eagle. Make that two eagles.
He eagled the 13th with a 6-iron to 25 feet, then sank the putt. And then he eagled the 15th with driver-4 iron and an 14-foot putt. Lo and behold, he had made up all six strokes and was now tied with Janzen.
Now Duval shifted into overdrive. At the par-3 16th, he boomed his tee shot to 3 feet ' birdie, but enough to again tie Janzen, who was playing behind Duval and had birdied 13. But the tension was about to come to an end. Janzen bogeyed the 14th and 16th, missing a couple of putts of less than six feet. Janzen then drowned all hope of getting back in it when his tee shot of No. 17 found water.
While Janzen was falling by the wayside, Fred Couples and Maggert were making late charges to keep the interest alive. Duval gave them momentary hope when his drive went into the trees on 18 and all he could do was punch out.
But he lofted his third shot to within 20 feet. And then he coolly drained the putt. There was nothing left to do but sit back and wait for the field to fire and fall back ' which they eventually did.
Its just weird how it all has unfolded, said Duval. I just go out there and play and do my best to just stay out of my own way and let what will be, be. And lately it has been awfully nice.
Of course, it hasnt been as nice lately. After his impressive run, Duval lost the No. 1 position back to Woods when Tiger began winning everything in sight and Duval ran into back problems. Then, to compound his difficulties, this year he was diagnosed with vertigo.
But in the late 90s, there was no one better in the world. For two years, he was better than anyone else on the planet.
Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain
PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.
She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.
“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.
Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.
“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”
She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.
“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”
Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.
“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.
She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.
“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”
Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.
While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.
“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”
Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead
PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.
In fact, she named her “Mona.”
For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.
While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.
And that has her excited about this year.
Well, that and having a healthy back again.
“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”
Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”
Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.
She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”
Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.
Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders
PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.
Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.
Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.
Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.
Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC
PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.
With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.
After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.
“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”
It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.
Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.
“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”
Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.
Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.
“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”
Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).
Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.
“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”
Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.
“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”
Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.