Duval returns to scene of 2001 British Open win

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2012, 12:15 pm

This week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes David Duval returns to the top of the mountain. Or maybe the seaside links was rock bottom; it’s difficult to tell when you are examining a career dotted with equal parts peaks and valleys.

At the time the claret jug slipped into Duval’s hands with surprising ease. In 1999 he’d scaled to the top of the world golf ranking and had rifled off 11 victories in 34 starts. When he arrived on the English coast in 2001 Duval was the consensus “best player without a major” and by the time he birdied the 13th hole late Sunday the closing lineup quickly turned into a coronation.

But for Duval his three-stroke victory was all at once pinnacle and tipping point.

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Imagine a singular lifetime focus cascading into a momentary blur of emotions and epiphanies. Imagine scaling the mountain only to discover that the view was just as good at base camp.

David Duval, machine-like in his prime and virtually emotionless, was almost immediately consumed by a haunting notion: Is this it?

Some of Duval’s post-Open letdown had to do with how imperfect his performance had been at Royal Lytham. He was slicing the ball so badly that week that he refused to go to the practice tee when the wind was blowing from left to right and the “best shot of his career” was a 6-iron from the left rough at the long par-4 15th hole to 16 feet for a two-putt par.

Not exactly the kind of heroic tale one would expect from a player with Duval’s pedigree.

“It’s a lot easier than I’ve been making it,” Duval recalled in an interview with Golf Channel earlier this year. “I certainly won that golf tournament without playing my best golf or at least the way I wanted to play.”

But the emotional letdown that followed his Open victory ran deeper than simply a “B” game breakthrough. His dogged pursuit of perfection had delivered the claret jug but virtually no clarity of thought.

The official line on Duval’s post-2001 British Open career is riddled with injuries large and small that sent the one-time boy wonder spiraling into a professional abyss, but the armchair psychologist will suggest it was a broken heart that essentially fueled the slump.

“That existence to me, in the end, is a miserable one,” Duval said. “It’s a solitary existence. That pursuit of greatness trying to get as good as you can get, you pay a price for it in some way. I don’t know if it’s with your soul or your psyche.”

In retrospect it seems Duval left a bit of his soul on Lytham’s 18th green that glorious Sunday. He’d reached Valhalla only to discover that he had no interest in hero worship.

As if on cue, Duval met Susie Persichitte shortly after Lytham and the two were married in March 2004. Susie had three children from a previous marriage and the couple quickly added two more to the family.

As if overnight one of the Tour’s most determined, some would even say detached, competitors had gone quality of life.

“I have tremendous guilt when I leave because I know how hard it is to run the house,” Duval said. “I hate having to leave but that is the lifestyle that comes with this job.”

As rewarding as his newfound home front is, it now is apparent that some part of the competitor was lost during the transition.

Last year Duval finished outside the top 125 in earnings for the eighth time in his last nine seasons. There were flashes of the Duval of old, like his runner-up showings at the 2009 U.S. Open and 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but the consistency that defined the early part of his career was gone.

The ultimate scorecard came by way of the world ranking, In less than 10 years Duval tumbled from No. 1 in the world to No. 882.

In 2007 and ’09 he played the Tour on one-time career money list exemptions (top 25 and top 50) and in ’08 he was exempt via a major medical exception. Last year Duval finished 152nd in earnings and came up short in December at Q-School.

For all his struggles, however, Duval’s mind remains willing. He still envisions the kind of golf he played when he reached the peak in 2001 at Lytham, only this time there will be family waiting on the 18th green to celebrate with him.

“It’s been a long process but it’s not over,” Duval said. “I haven’t put myself in a position to say I’m all the way back. I feel a little premature talking about it but I feel confident in what I’m doing again.”

It’s worth noting that of Duval’s 13 PGA Tour titles it is the claret jug that remains perched in the office of his Denver home. It is, like Duval, a bit tarnished but still resolute. It’s also worth pointing out that the 2001 Open was Duval’s last Tour victory, news that seems to surprise Duval.

“Was it?” he asked. “If that’s my last win then it’s a good one.”

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.