A Holiday Wish for Duval
Heres hoping that David Duval gobbles up a win this week at the Dunlop Phoenix and spends Thanksgiving thinking about how he just beat Tiger Woods.
Before you jump to conclusions that I root against Woods, Ill tell you that is hardly the case. Woods is the best ' period. Woods is the best when he has his best and Woods is the best when he seemingly plays his worst. Nobody gets more out of a C game than Tiger. Nobody ever will.
But this is about David Duval finding something other than his F game.
David Duval managed an opening round of 6-under 64 to lead Tiger Woods. Thats right. lead Tiger Woods. And the last time that happened was somewhere around 1998 when Duval lead Woods in the World Golf Ranking.
'I played well,' said Duval. 'I've been playing well for about a month now but just haven't been scoring well. I'm well aware of how I've played over the past few years but I've worked hard and it's good to start a tournament not behind the 8-ball.'
8-ball? If golf were like billiards, Duval would be feeling like every shot he cued up was bound to end with a scratch.
For many fans that have e-mailed and written, Duval has become a sympathetic figure. Others of you ' I know - feel hes been more of a pathetic figure. The media goes both ways, too.
But Im one of the first in line to say that I wish him back to good and hopefully great golf once again.
Viewed by some as a player who lived behind the sunglasses to avoid the popularity that came with a run of 13 PGA Tour wins in a short span, Duval to me was a player who kept you interested.
To me, he was Vijay Singh before Vijay Singh became the superstar he is today. Duval was, in fact, the man who challenged Tiger. He was the man who was supposed to be his rival for years and years and years. Who didnt want that?
And whether you think hes off his rocker more than hes off his game, Duval is a man who clearly has the respect and friendly support from Woods.
It's been tough to watch,' said Woods. 'David is a friend of mine, we played in two World Cups together and he has really struggled. But it looks like he's showing signs of getting his game back together.'
Tigers got class. He knows what Duval has been through. And theres a lot of respect for how hes handled the years in golfs dungeon. Because Duval, unlike some whove clearly lost it, hasnt lost his ability to talk about life when life isnt so great ' professionally speaking that is.
If you follow The Golf Channel and the Sprint Post Game with regularity, you know that Duval agreed (without much hesitation) to join us a few years back at Oak Hill during the PGA Championship (won by Shawn Micheel) for an entire show. On our set, he fielded every possible question for the better part of an hour and a half. How many would have? Im still amazed.
If that wasnt enough, hes joined us on a few occasions since. While his golf success hasnt improved much since, hes never looked the other way when Ive stopped him to talk. Friendly as they come, as far as I see it.
So I hardly wish Woods the worst. But he and his friend Duval are in such different worlds these days that I cant help but root for the story ' which is Duval. A win for the 34 year old would probably feel like a second major championship given that Tigers in the field.
To do that, Duval will have to do something he hasnt done in years, which is to play like a major winner.
'My golf swing is good,' said Duval. 'Most of my problems were because of injuries that forced me to swing the club differently than I wanted to. Today was one of those days when I got the most out of the round I could.'
I cant guarantee that hell keep it up. But if he does pull it off, itll be a holiday gift of the biggest variety. A shocker to be certain.
And I actually think it might be pretty great for golf as well.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."