Different Player Different Man

By Randall MellJune 20, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Puggy Blackmon marvels more at what David Duvals doing today than what Duval did as the No. 1 player in the world.
 
Duvals long-time coach and friend was marveling again Saturday when Duval shot 32 on the back nine at Bethpage Black to close out an even-par 70 and keep himself in contention at the U.S. Open.
 
It isnt the shots Duval hit that impressed Blackmon, or the fact that Duval is 3 under par and tied for fourth, five shots back of leader Ricky Barnes, halfway through this rain-soaked championship.
 
David Duval
David Duval fought back to get to 3 under through two rounds. (Getty Images)
Duval, 37, is making an impression on all of golf as an unlikely challenger for the U.S. Open title. The former No. 1 is No. 882 in the Official World Golf Ranking and arrived at Bethpage still struggling to recapture the hocus pocus that helped him win the 2001 British Open.
 
What moves Blackmon is what hes seeing beyond Duvals game.
 
Its that Big Apple New York State Troopers pin Duval wore on the right side of his shirt collar in the second round and the New York City Fire Department pin on the left side. Its all the time Duvals spending getting to know the troopers in the clubhouse this week and the time hes spending signing autographs for fans. Duvals father-in-law was a former firefighter and artist who created a sculpture of a fireman holding a baby as a 9-11 memorial tribute. Its on display at the New York City Fire Museum.
 
The player Blackmon sees today isnt the headstrong, self-centered collegiate star he remembers coaching at Georgia Tech.
 
Blackmon said there were moments he wanted to strangle that guy.
 
Today, Blackmon mostly wants to hug his player.
 
Davids more human now, Blackmon said near the doorstep of the Bethpage Black clubhouse after Duvals second round. He has feelings. He cares and respects people. You watch him, the number of autographs he signs, the balls he signs for kids, the way he talks to just about every guard in the clubhouse. Before? Are you kidding me? It was like no one else existed. Im really proud of the way David has turned out. I dont care if he wins another tournament. Hes just become a great person. As a coach, thats what you really hope for.
 
Duvals transformation has much to do with his marriage to Susie five years ago. They have two young children together and three older children by Susies previous marriage.
 
That Duvals marriage has transformed his life isnt news, but that hes getting nearer to realizing the dream his new family gave him is.
 
That little scene that plays out over and over again on the PGA Tour, where children race onto the 18th green to hug their father after a victory, might trump any moment in Duvals career if it ever plays out for him.
 
The U.S. Open probably wont end on Fathers Day this year, with expected rain likely pushing this championship to Monday, but any day Duval wins again will feel like Fathers Day.
 
Id really like for my wife and my family to see how I can actually play this game, Duval said Saturday. They havent seen me at my best, and I want them to.
 
While Duval has said this before, hes never said it in better position to reach his dream. He arrived this week believing hes close to a breakthrough but frustrated that his record offered no supporting proof. He has missed seven of his last nine cuts.
 
Patience is crucial in this game, Duval said. I think Ive been patient for many years and continued to work hard. If anything, my patience has been most tested over the last six to eight months. I really felt like everything was falling together and nothing was happening for me.
 
Its happening this week.
 
Duval made four birdies over his final eight holes. He carved a 7-iron at the last hole to 15 feet and made the putt for his final birdie. This will be just the fourth cut he has made in his last 15 majors. He hasnt recorded a top-10 on the PGA Tour since the Invensys Classic in October of 02, a span of 115 PGA Tour events.
 
Blackmon, like Duval, has sensed something better was on its way.
 
There came a point in time, where our discussion was, `Hey, your swing is back, its not going to be exactly like it was when you were No. 1 in the world, because youre a little older, so lets just go play golf, said Blackmon, the director of golf at the University of South Carolina. Davids gone from the technical stuff to where hes now back to picking targets and playing to targets instead of worrying about where the balls going.
 
Blackmon can remember when Duval fearlessly attacked all his targets at Georgia Tech. Often, Blackmon was the target. The headstrong Duval wasnt so easy to coach.
 
During one trip to the University of Virginia when Duval was a freshman, Blackmon left a team practice to go play golf elsewhere with sports psychologist Bob Rotella.
 
At the end of the day, Blackmon called back to where the team was staying to invite them all over to Rotellas home for pizza. Duval answered the phone.
 
Where are you? Duval asked his coach. We played a practice round today and you might really think about where your priorities are.
 
Blackmon lost it. He launched into a tirade that Duval never heard. Duval dropped the phone and let it dangle off a table while Blackmon ranted.
 
I was screaming at nobody, Blackmon said. You have to understand, a lot of things led up to that.
 
Rotella ended up getting Duval and Blackmon to sit at opposite ends of a table at his home to work out their differences.
 
We had to have an intervention to keep us from killing each other, Blackmon said. This happened several times.
 
Blackmon said there was always something within Duval that he admired, though.
 
He was just focused on being a great player, Blackmon said. He challenged you so hard to be a better coach. You couldnt just throw something out there at him. You had to know what you were talking about. If you wanted him to do something, he would want to know why.
 
Why? It was always an important word in Duvals life. With his wife and children so important to him, he has the answer to most of his questions. He would love for the U.S. Open to be the answer this week.
 
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry