By Associated PressJune 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- The little things in life bring out the raw emotion in David Duval. He smiled and blinked into the sun when he captured the British Open. He skipped awkwardly around the 18th green in Palm Springs when he shot 59. He defiantly raised the trophy when he won The Players Championship five years ago to become No. 1 in the world. But the other day in Denver, Duval hit a golf shot so pure that he cried.
'I've been waiting and practicing and working,' Duval said. 'The way I look at it, I forgot how to play golf. I wanted to feel like I had some type of control again. I've had some good days and some bad days, hit some good shots and some really bad shots.
'When I felt like I knew what I was doing, I was in tears.'
Considering where he has been, and how far he has fallen, not many could blame him.
The last player besides Tiger Woods to be No. 1 in the world ranking, Duval has gone three years without winning. He hasn't even played on the PGA Tour in eight months, so it's no surprise that his world ranking has plunged to No. 434, lower than Ben Curtis when he won the British Open last year.
That's what made his decision to play in the U.S. Open - his first competition since November - so surprising.
The U.S. Open is considered the toughest test in golf. Shinnecock Hills, with its narrow fairways framed by waist-high fescue that waves in the wind, is among the most demanding courses. And Duval comes into this U.S. Open having not struck a golf ball in competition this year.
'I'm very surprised Duval is coming out here,' Brad Faxon said Monday. 'This is not the place where you want to hit a lot of errant shots.'
But it all seems so simple to Duval.
His game might not be in the best shape, but his hunger to play has returned, and that's all that matters.
'I just want to go play,' he said during a recent interview with The Associated Press. 'I have no expectations. I just want to enjoy being out there. It's very hard to miss the U.S. Open. Am I playing great? No. I just want to be there.'
In some respects, Duval says the U.S. Open is the perfect place to return.
'How often has anybody played great in the U.S. Open?' he said. 'U.S. Opens don't allow you to play great. They require you to hit it solid and outlast everybody.'
How long he lasts is anyone's guess.
Duval still doesn't know whether this is the first step on a long journey back, or merely a cameo appearance.
He has no plans after Shinnecock Hills, although he said it's safe to assume he will go to Royal Troon to play in the British Open. He also plans to play the International near his new home in Denver.
This week will be a good gauge - not the score on his card, but the desire in his heart.
In October at the Las Vegas Invitational, Duval missed the cut in his last PGA Tour event of the year and knew it was time to step away.
'It's all about wanting to be there and being excited to play, not showing up at a hotel room in Vegas like I did, where as soon as I set my bags down, I'm wanting to leave,' he said. 'I will walk away from competitive golf if it starts to interfere with my enjoyment of the game.'
However, he remains motivated by competition.
Duval's favorite story is the time he was 12 and stayed with his grandparents in Fernandina Beach, Fla. He played with his grandfather every day and could never beat him. One day, Duval came to the ninth tee leading by one.
'I ended up making a 6 and he made a 4, so he beat me,' Duval said. 'And I started crying. I said, 'You know, Granddaddy, you might have beaten me today, but when I come back next summer, you'll never beat me again.'
'That's the greatest story I like to tell,' Duval said. 'I don't know why, but it's something you never forget.'
Duval was expected to arrive at Shinnecock Hills on Tuesday with his bride of four months, the former Susie Persichitte. They met last summer in Denver at a restaurant and hit it off.
'She didn't know who I was,' Duval said.
They were engaged in November, and spent part of the winter holidays with Fred Couples and his wife.
'The first thing my wife said, 'Can you believe David?' I mean, he was so different,' Couples said after the wedding. 'I don't know if it's going to help his golf game. It doesn't really matter. He's extremely happy.'
Out of touch for most of the year, Duval started to get some television time last week with a new Nike commercial in which Duval and other players are going through Woods' golf clubs in the garage. Duval swings a driver and shatters a car window.
'Best contact you've made all year, Duval,' says Frank, Woods' animated head cover.
Duval says the commercial was shot late last year, and that Nike officials made sure he didn't mind the ending.
'I thought it was hilarious,' Duval said.
The U.S. Open has never been mistaken for Comedy Central, although Duval sees this week as a time to enjoy himself, and to remember how lucky he is to play professional golf for a living.
Still, he expects an extraordinary amount of jitters on the first tee Thursday morning.
'I'm nervous. I'm scared in a sense,' he said. 'I've been a way for quite some time. But I'm really excited.'
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    'Get in the squad car!': Fan ejected for heckling Garcia

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 11:46 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Early Wednesday morning at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about fan behavior in recent weeks.

    Although Monahan stressed that anything that impacts play inside the ropes would not be tolerated, he did address an incident like what happened a few weeks ago when a fan yelled for Justin Thomas’ ball to “get in the bunker.”

    “That’s part of what our players have to accept,” Monahan said. “In any sport, you go to an away game in any other sport and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

    That theory was put to the test later on Wednesday when Sergio Garcia found himself in a similar situation on the 12th hole at Austin Country Club and the fan was removed from the course.

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    “The guy obviously was shouting not very nice things at me. So I pointed him out to my [police] officer and then he decided to get him out of the course because he was being disrespectful not only to me but to everyone around,” said Garcia following his Day 2 match, a 2-up victory over Dylan Frittelli.

    “Crowds in our game have gotten bigger. So obviously it's not just golf crowds that you get now. And sometimes unfortunately you get one or two guys that are probably having too much fun and a little bit too much liquid and unfortunately it happens.”

    Last weekend at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy suggested the Tour should consider limiting alcohol sales on the course and he was again asked about fan behavior on Thursday.

    “What is too much? If they are not shouting in your backswing then it's OK? It all depends,” McIlroy said. “I made my comments last week on St. Patrick's Day when everyone was just a few too many deep. I don't know, I'm all for people coming out here, having a good time. I think what happened to Justin Thomas at the Honda, that went over the line.”

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    Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

    Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

    “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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    The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

    “The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

    The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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    Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

    There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

    Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

    Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

    “We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

    But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

    The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

    That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

    Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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    Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

    “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

    While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

    For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

    “I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

    But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

    Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

    They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

    “I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

     Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

    “Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

    Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

    It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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    Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

    By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

    We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

    But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

    One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

    It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

    And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

    Hey, whatever works.