Top to bottom: Duval goes where he's never been

By Doug FergusonNovember 22, 2011, 8:30 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – The text message from David Duval arrived just as the Americans began to seize control for good in the Presidents Cup. The last time it was held at Royal Melbourne, he was the top qualifier for the U.S. team.

On this day, Duval was headed home from a place he never wanted to be –  and making the best of it.

“It can be bumpy climbing to the top,” he wrote.

At least he was willing to start at the bottom. For the former No. 1 player in the world, whose 14 wins include the British Open, that meant going to the second stage of Q-school. Duval closed with a 70 and was the runner-up at Bear Creek Golf Club in Murieta, Calif., easily advancing to the final stage next week.

Q-School: Duval among second-stage survivors

What made his journey so compelling was Duval’s brutal honesty only a month earlier.

He was on the practice range at The McGladrey Classic, barely inside the top 150 on the PGA Tour money list and not willing to think about the consequences. Duval already had used his two exemptions from the career money list. He didn’t mind going back to the final stage of Q-School, for he had done that only two years earlier.

To fall outside the top 150, however, would give him two options – go to the second stage of Q-School, or get limited starts as a past champion and spend the rest of the year asking for handouts.

Neither was terribly appealing, especially the second stage of Q-school.

“You find out what kind of ego you have,” Duval said that day. “I’ll go to the Q-school final if I have to. I think I owe it to myself to do that. But I won’t go to second stage. I just can’t. Do you know what I mean?”

Sea Island was to be his last tournament because he had accepted an invitation to play in Malaysia. Duval missed the cut, then showed up at Disney for the final official event of the year. He narrowly missed the cut again, and wound up at No. 152 on the money list.

He withdrew from Malaysia and headed home to Denver.

“It took a little bit of soul searching,” Duval said. “At that point, I had to be pretty honest with myself and where my head was and my attitude was and make some adjustments. I just decided after a little bit of time and some reflection that this is what I want to do and what I’m good at. I’m still good at it. It’s not showing right now.

“So I had to go show it somewhere else.”

That somewhere turned out to be in California against 74 players on a golf course far away from Royal Lytham, TPC Sawgrass, Kapalua, La Costa and some of the Other courses where he once won against the best in golf. Duval reached No. 1 in the world in the spring of 1999 while winning 11 times in 34 starts, a winning rate only Tiger Woods could understand.

Where his game went remains a mystery even to him. He only likes to talk about his quest to get it back.

There have been a few close calls, enough for him to believe his game is still in there. Duval was tied for the lead with two holes to play at Bethpage Black in the U.S. Open two years ago when his 5-foot par putt spun out of the back of the cup and Lucas Glover birdied the 16th behind him. Duval tied for second with Ricky Barnes.

A year later, he was tied for the lead at Pebble Beach until Dustin Johnson split the 18th fairway, setting up a routine birdie from the greenside bunker and a one-shot win, beating Duval and J.B. Holmes.

This year was a step back, and it took Duval all the way back to the second stage. Even when he turned pro out of Georgia Tech, he never had to go to the second stage. Somewhere in those three weeks after Disney, however big his ego was, it shrunk just enough.

“I’m proud of myself for going,” Duval said. “And I’m proud of how I played.”

The second stage came one week after John Daly, who has refused to go back to Q-School the last five years he hasn’t had a full card, pumped seven balls in rapid succession into the water at the Australian Open and walked off the course in the second round.

“I’m not John Daly,” Duval said. “I’m not going to not try. I could try to do it on my own or ask for help.”

He decided to help himself. Duval was not alone. The list of major champions who went back to the second stage at various parts of the country include Todd Hamilton, Rich Beem and Lee Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open winner.

None, however, reached the heights Duval once did.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been to second stage,” Duval said. “There were some underlying nerves. I mean, you’re at second stage. That’s where I was, but that’s not where I plan on being at this time next year. Like I said, there are bumps on the way back to the top. And that’s all right.”

The next leg – and what he hopes is the last leg – is the hardest one yet. Still to come are six rounds in the California desert. And even if Duval manages to get his card, he will not be assured of getting into the tournaments he once routinely played.

He still is going to need help with exemptions, and his ego is certainly not too big for that.

“It’s an easier thing to ask for help,” he said, “when you’ve tried to help yourself.”

Getty Images

Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, but he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise shrugged off any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”

Getty Images

Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

"Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."


Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

"I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

Getty Images

Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Web.com Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Web.com Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

"We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

"Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."