Time is Not on Duvals Side - COPIED - COPIED

By Mercer BaggsNovember 19, 2007, 5:00 pm
Its been six seasons since hes had a win. Five since he even had a top-10 or finished inside the top 125 on the money list.

And yet he still intrigues. Guess we are just fascinated by what we cant explain.

David Duval has had to do a lot of explaining over the last half-decade. Thats what happens when you go from the No. 1 player in the world to the No. 1 oddity in the game, when people start looking at you with bewilderment instead of reverence.

David Duval
David Duval last finished inside the top 125 on the money list in 2002.
He blamed it on injury, blamed it on apathy. Hurt his back and developed some bad swing habits. Won a major and wondered: Is that all there is?

Duvals freefall is well-chronicled. Youd be hard-pressed to find a fan who didnt know his story ' if not the specific details, at least the generalities.

The story has evolved a bit over the last couple of years. Hes gotten married; adopted her kids ' had one of their own; moved to Colorado. Hes better-rounded, he says.

He looks it, too. His once chiseled physique now has the definition of a jar of jelly.

And thats just the way he wants it. Hes says hes happy now, and you have to believe him (hes never been one to put up a false front).

He also says that hes playing better. That hes close to being a contender once again. And there, too, you have to take him for his word, because its not always easy to see.

There are signs, however; bits of evidence that he is indeed improving. Last year, he finished 172nd in earnings. Certainly nothing special for a man who has 13 career PGA TOUR wins and a claret jug.

But that was nearly 100 spots better than his position the year prior. And his 11 cuts made (in 24 starts) were more than his combined total over the previous three seasons. He only made one cut in 20 starts in '05.

His best finish of 06 came, of all places, at the U.S. Open. He tied for 16th at Winged Foot, even made some noise on Friday when he shot a tournament best 68.

Following that round Duval was asked what he always gets asked after posting a good number: Are you back? Is your game finally coming around?

And he answered as he has answered many times before:

I've been saying that for I don't know how long and nobody wants to seem to listen ' I'm playing well. I'll say it again: I'm playing very well.

At the British Open, five years after having won it at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Duval posted a couple of modest 2-under 70s over the first two days.

And, of course, someone just had to ask: Do you feel the pieces of the jigsaw are coming together?

And, of course, Duval just had to reply: As I've said for many months, I'm playing well. I really don't know how else to answer that question.

Duval realizes that the question will persist until he develops some sort of consistency. He also admits: It will be nice when that's over. It will mean that I'm playing as I expected.

He might want to get on that in a hurry.

Duval was granted a five-year TOUR exemption for winning the 2001 Open Championship. That was 1-2-3-4-5-6 years ago.

Hes competing this year by using a one-time exemption for being inside the top 25 on the TOURs career money list. He can play next year, if need be, by using a one-time exemption for being inside the top 50 on that list.

And then then he has to make it on his own merit ' based on recent accomplishments, not from what he achieved in the past.

His quest begins this week at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, the tournament where he shot a closing 59 to cement his status as the best player in the world ' even before he officially became No. 1.

That came in 1999. He finished 26 under that week. In 2005, he finished 30 over ' without playing in the fifth and final round.

But last year he made the cut to play the final day. He finished at 9 under, despite shooting 78 along the way.

Its that one day that really seems to be holding him back at the moment. Fourteen times in 23 stroke-play events last year, he had at least one round of 75 or higher.

It's also those singular rounds that make others believe, as he does, that a revival is possible: the 63 Sunday of last year's Sony; the 64 in round 4 at the Hope; the 68 at Winged Foot.

They're just too few and far between.

The game still seems a bit puzzling to Duval, which is quite appropriate considering he is one of golfs greatest mysteries.

When it comes to David Duval, one really has no idea what to expect. Hes one big, well-rounded, seemingly content question mark.

Hed prefer nothing more than to have his game provide positive answers to all those questions. But who knows if that is possible.

The one thing thats most certain in all of this: tracking back up a hill is much more arduous than sledding down it.

If, however, his game doesnt tell you what you want to know, feel free to ask him how things are coming along. He just loves that.

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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.