Another Major Conspiracy

By Mercer BaggsJune 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Could Fate and Redemption have a little something special in store for David Duval this week?
 
The two have conspired already this year to benefit Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak, awarding each of them major victories on the LPGA Tour. Perhaps theyre working in tandem once again for the third part of this trilogy.
 
David Duval
David Duval made his first cut in a major since the 2002 PGA Championship.
Duval, like Webb and Pak, is a major champion whose game went astray. Only, Webbs game left town and Paks game left the state; Duvals game, meanwhile, left for who-knows-where, got all turned around, and ended up staying a spell with Rod Serling.
 
It appears now that it may be back ' to a certain degree.
 
Duval is no where near the player who won 13 times on the PGA TOUR, including the 2001 Open Championship, and was ranked No. 1 in the world. But neither is he the same guy who couldnt break 80 if he only had to play 16 holes.
 
Friday was a good indication of that. A day after making four consecutive bogeys down the stretch to shoot 7-over 77, Duval made two birdies and no bogeys over his first nine holes.
 
Heading to his second nine, the front nine, Duval was at 5 over for the tournament and tied for 21st place. He then picked up another shot with a beautiful 12-foot, left-to-right curler for birdie at the par-4 first. After a par at the second, he made a 20-footer for birdie at the par-3 third to get to 3 over, within four of the lead.
 
That really pumped up the crowd, who had already given Duval a rounding ovation as he approached the third green.
 
They really seemed behind me, Duval said. Ive always enjoyed playing up in this area. I think they get to see me a lot, and they know Im coming back and playing well, and theyre pulling for me.
 
The cheers turned to groans on the par-4 fourth, when Duval hit his tee shot into the right rough. The marshal yelled, Fore, right! Violently! Violently! Though, he got a little too excited and exaggerated a bit.
 
Duvals ball did finish in the second cut of primary rough, but he was easily able to hack it out, back into the fairway, from where he hit his third shot to 15 feet. Duval converted the huge putt to save par and salvage his momentum.
 
As he readied to walk to the fifth tee, his playing competitor, Colin Montgomerie, joked: David, dont go away. Can you knock mine in?
 
Monty made a funny.
 
It was a light-hearted moment on a day in which Montgomerie spent the better part of his round surveying the gallery, seemingly in anticipation of hecklers, or maybe searching for blondes; while Duval, who received a massive amount of support, stared mostly at the ground and at the sky, trying to avoid Oakleys-to-eyeball contact, for the most part.
 
Duvals hot putting continued on the par-5 fifth hole, where he made a 15-footer for par. But his luck ran out on the short, par-4 sixth.
 
As it has done to so many players this week, the 321-yard hole bit Duval in the backside. He hit iron off the tee to be safe, but it drifted into the right rough ' the thick stuff.
 
As soon as he made contact, a fan screamed out, Good ball! Duval gave him the evil eye and muttered something that probably shouldnt be repeated. Hes never suffered fools well.
 
Duval was unable to get his approach shot on the green, and actually left it in the second cut of primary rough. It took two more shots to reach the putting surface, and two more putts to get it in the hole.
 
Double bogey. It wouldnt be a David Duval round without one.
 
But that was his lone stumble. He didnt unravel, didnt let things snowball.
 
He parred his final three holes, getting up-and-down from about 100 yards on the par-4 ninth to secure a 2-under 68, tying him for the lowest score of the tournament thus far.
 
Thats right, not one of 155 other players, over 310 other rounds, have posted a lower score this week than has Duval.
 
I guess you havent been listening, Duval responded rather incredulously when asked about the state of his game. Ive been saying that for I dont know how long and nobody wants to seem to listen. Im playing well. Ill say it again ' Im playing very well.
 
At 5-over-par 145, Duval is tied for 14th, six strokes back of 36-hole leader Steve Stricker. For the first time in a very long time, he is in contention to win a major championship.
 
It feels wonderful, said Duval, who has now made the cut in four of his last seven starts. I felt great coming here. I was prepared and ready to play.
 
Duval had missed the cut or withdrawn from each of his last 11 majors played. And this was his first sub-70 score in a major since the third round of the 2001 PGA Championship, compared to eight scores in the 80s during that stretch.
 
When asked about his thoughts on making the cut, Duval again got a little testy: I guess thats the difference between you and me; I dont think that way,' he said. 'Im not thinking along those lines of whether Ive done it recently or not. Its a matter of confidence and how Im playing. My results havent been nearly what I thought they should be this year up to this point, and I just look forward to a really good second half of the year.
 
'He's had a rough time, there's no question about that,' Montgomerie said. 'I wish him well for the weekend -- but not that well.'
 
Duval dearly loves the U.S. Open, even ranking it above the Masters Tournament on his list of most favorite majors. He loves it so much that he returned from an eight-month layoff to compete in the 2004 edition at Shinnecock Hills, where he promptly shot 83-82.
 
'If it's not my favorite, it's tied for my favorite event of the year with the Open Championship,' said Duval, who had three straight top-10s in the U.S. Open from 1998-2000.
 
In his most recent major start, at the Masters, Duval shot 84-75 to miss the cut. But his finish was very encouraging. He began the second round at Augusta National 6-10 on his way to a front-side, 7-over 43. He then came home in 4-under 32, with four birdies and no bogeys.
 
I felt like I played pretty well at Augusta, overall. I had a big test ahead of me for the last 16 holes of that tournament; I guess holes 20 through 36 for me. I guess thats where some of the hardships of how Ive played the last few years, thats where the importance of little things like that come into play, he explained.
 
I know Im playing well and I certainly am not going to pack it in, but at that point Ive got no chance of making the cut. But Im not going to quit. Im going to keep playing and building on it.
 
And it seems like a foundation may have been set.
 
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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x