Duval on Course in Life Golf

By Associated PressJune 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- It takes a lot to get a golfer to stop preparing for a major tournament. Quite a few did just that Wednesday when David Duval walked by the practice green at Shinnecock Hills.
Fellow players stopped and watched him go by and some fans started applauding as the 32-year-old headed to register on the final practice day before the U.S. Open begins.
Duval was back.
When he tees off at 7:40 a.m. Thursday, Duval will be playing a competitive round for the first time since he withdrew from a tournament in Japan in November.
'I didn't really know when I would play again. I just felt at some point I would feel like I was ready to go, just play and have some fun,' he said Wednesday. 'A lot of the thing that's been missing for me for a long time has been the enjoyment of being out here.'
The only player to be ranked No. 1 in the world besides Tiger Woods over the last five years, Duval won the British Open in 2001. That was two years after he shot a 59 in the final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. It all seems a long time ago.
'It just kind of hit me Saturday night that I just wanted to go play, for no other reason than I just felt like I was ready to go have some fun and enjoy it again. Up to that point, I hadn't wanted to play.'
Duval's voice cracked several times and his eyes that were usually hidden behind his trademark sunglasses welled although he never cried. The emotion was obvious.
'I was in tears when I called home Saturday night when I was out golfing and said that I was going to New York and I've been in and out of tears ever since,' he said.
Duval last played in a PGA Tour event in Las Vegas last October when he missed the cut. He said he made his decision to play this weekend on the cart path near the fourth tee at Cherry Hills Country Club, a former U.S. Open venue near Duval's new home, Denver.
He called his wife Susie, whom he married on March 6.
'Since I made the decision Saturday night to come, I've been nervous,' Duval said. 'Susie has been saying all along that she was feeling that this was where I was going to play, and I didn't know it. I really didn't know it.'
This tournament and his new family -- they have three children -- are a great combination for Duval.
'In some sense to be honest with you, I haven't missed it,' he said. 'I haven't missed being away, but I just wanted to play this week. The U.S. Open is a very hard thing for me to miss and I was anxious for wife and my family to see me and see what I do, to see the atmosphere of golf.'
Duval said he feels pretty good physically and he has been playing four or five times a week without practicing.
On Wednesday, Duval played a practice round at Shinnecock, a wind-swept, tight course where he finished tied for 28th in the 1995 Open as PGA Tour rookie. He played with Fred Couples and Davis Love III, fellow pros he said he talked to numerous times during his absence.
Duval was far from perfect during the up-and-down practice round, which got off to a shaky start, but he was back on the course getting ready for a major again.
Duval's first tee shot went left and struck a member of the gallery. When the ball left his club face, a woman near the tee yelled to him and expressed the feelings of a lot of people.
'Welcome back, David!'
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    Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

    By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

    A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

    Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

    Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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    Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

    Just like that other tournament, right?

    Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

    But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

    After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

    Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

    “I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

    The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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    It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

    “I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

    His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

    Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

    Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

    “When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

    But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

    While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

    “I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

    But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

    Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

    Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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    Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

    BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

    The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

    First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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    Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

    In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

    “I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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    Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

    After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

    “I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”