'New David' loving life; looks like old Duval in 67

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2015, 1:11 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – It was not the start David Duval was looking for when he set out for his Scottish fortnight.

From the first tee at Gullane Golf Club, the former world No. 1 launched his opening effort 10 yards right of the fairway. After a few moments of searching, he returned to the tee and sent his next shot left of the fairway.

Strike two.

“There were 10 guys waiting on the tee [to tee off behind him]. I felt terrible for him,” said caddie Ron “Bambi” Levin. “But he turned to me and said, ‘Let’s shoot under par.’”

Duval would make a quadruple bogey-8 at the first, and another 8 at the last for a first-round 77 en route to missing the cut and finishing 153rd out of 156 players at the Scottish Open.

That kind of performance would have sent the old Double D, the one who won a major and 13 PGA Tour titles and ascended to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, into a myopic fit.

But the 43-year-old version takes a much more measured approach to golf, if not a life fully lived.


Open Championship tracker: Day 4

Open Championship full-field scores


“I just figured, let’s just go and get it back,” he shrugged on Sunday at St. Andrews.

Time and terrible play will do that to anyone, but when it comes to Duval the transformation from icy assassin to endearing figure is more nuanced than that.

This is, after all, the man who reached the top of the mountain and was underwhelmed. After winning the Open Championship in 2001 at Royal Lytham, his last Tour victory, he began a slow competitive spiral.

Since 2003 Duval, who now spends more time working as a Golf Channel analyst than he does playing tournaments, finished inside the top 200 in earnings just three times, and with dwindling Tour status he now plays an increasingly limited schedule with just four starts this season.

But with that competitive exile has come balance off the course, first when he married his wife, Susie, and now as a father of five.

All along he’s wanted to play well, wanted to feel the pressure of a major championship Sunday, but while the mind has been willing the body has failed him. At least until Sunday at St. Andrews, where he played his first 14 holes in 6 under par for a 5-under 67, his lowest round at the Open since that 2001 victory.

It was a wave of momentum he picked up on Saturday after he had three-putted the 17th hole to drop outside the cut, but he nearly drove the green at No. 18 for a birdie to make the cut at the Open for the first time since 2008.

“Ron [Levin] asked me, ‘You want to hit a 3-wood? Think you can get a 3-wood there?’” Duval said of his tee shot at the 18th hole. “I said, ‘I don’t know, but I know I can get a driver there.’

“I’m going to hit it right of that flag and if I hit in those houses over there, [double bogey] doesn’t hurt me. I have to make a [birdie]. It was nice to do.”

For a moment it was at least a shadow of the Old David, calculated, fearless, focused; shades of the guy who once shot 59 at the Humana Challenge and 65 on Saturday at Lytham to win a claret jug. But then the New David resurfaces with a nostalgic twist to his Scottish sojourn.

“Links golf is my favorite thing to do, just puts a smile on my face when I'm out there playing. The challenges of it I find intriguing, frustrating, uplifting, all these things, and so to get to do it for two straight weeks, it's a blessing as a golfer, regardless of who you are,” Duval said. “I've been on St. Andrews since last Saturday every day playing golf. Who gets to say that, really? It's pretty cool.”

What Duval has lost in competitive purpose he’s made up for with a healthy dose of personal perspective as evidenced by his response when asked if he would play next week’s RBC Canadian Open if he were able to finish inside the top 10 at St. Andrews (he’s currently tied for 24th).

He explains that he already has a trip planned to vacation in Italy with his wife after the Open.

“Glenn Abbey [the site of the Canadian Open] or Florence with my wife? Pretty easy decision,” he smiled.

It’s also a pretty good indication of how priorities have made the New David so much more endearing.

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.