Duval Has Found His Happiness
Its a Duval who, of course, is beginning his 11th year as a pro. Its a Duval who has ridden the ultimate roller coaster, achieving the world No. 1 ranking in 1999, then falling out of the top 200 last year.
But its a Duval whos finally fully at peace with himself. His marriage in March of last year started it, and the instant family of three children cemented it. He moved from the Jacksonville area to Denver, where wife Susie had lived previously. And now, at age 33, a whole lot has changed in his life ' not the least of which is golf.
Duval has been a tormented soul forever, it seems. In the beginning, it was the death of a 12-year-old brother which knocked the props out from under 9-year-old David ' a death that occurred even though David had given bone marrow to his stricken brother. His parents suffered through a messy divorce, causing Duval to withdraw further. A breakup of his own engagement a few years ago caused more heartbreak. When the sudden, baffling disappearance of his golf game began in 2002, many people felt it might have been the final act.
Instead, Duval found peace and maturity in his new-found family life. Suddenly, winning a golf tournament didnt seem nearly as important as it once did. After spending a couple of years in frustration with the sport, David now has actually missed playing.
I think I would just really like to enjoy this atmosphere again, he said this week in San Diego.
I've done it a long time. I worked, I played junior golf, all the things that the majority of the people out here have done. And maybe it's my personality, maybe it's not, I don't know. But I've never, as you all know, dealt with the things that go with it very well - being No. 1 and those things.
Duval has always been extremely intelligent. I will never forget the NEC tournament back in 97 when he kept me waiting for over an hour for an interview while he read his newspaper. He was very polite when I asked him if I could ask him a couple of questions. Sure, he said, if I didnt mind waiting for a few minutes while he finished reading the paper.
I didnt mind, of course. But then he sat down in the locker room and proceeded to absorb every story of the front section, much more intensely that I imagined any person would. And when he finished, sure enough, he arose and said, OK, lets do it!
And that intelligence has helped him pull out of his recent tailspin, even if it has not yet made him a standout golfer again.
Success is measured certainly at different levels in different ways, Duval said. If you play as well as you can and really don't make mistakes and get beat, you have a successful week. And if you base it solely on position or outcome of the golf tournament, I don't know if you could ever have any satisfaction.
And golf is still a most enjoyable pastime to him, even though at times it hasnt been a totally enjoyable occupation. And the games ups and downs have brought a new appreciation as he contemplates the hours of ball-beating his fellow pros have done in practice.
I enjoy playing golf, I really do, said Duval. In some strange way, although I had not played much in the last 18 months or so, it's been some of the more enjoyable times because it just goes to show you how hard the game can be.
And you know, it makes you appreciate the skills the players have and the things they work on, the things they do - because it's just a very, very hard game.
And he fully understands now ' though he didnt at the time - the hard work that David Duval put in just trying to learn all the games nuances.
The answer would be yes, I guess I do, he admitted. I felt like I appreciated it then. However, looking back on it, I realize that it wasn't as easy as it seemed. There's a lot of work involved.
Although it's commented about some of the players how they worked and how many practice balls they may hit, it's probably never really understood how hard they work and what they are doing to get to where they are and to achieve those goals, the sacrifices that are made.
For the moment, Duval will take his triumphs in small doses. Hes crawling again when it comes to the skills needed to compete at the highest level. He needs to crawl before he walks, walk before he runs, run before he wins. At the moment, he says his goals are very modest ' What I would like to do is just try to feel like I really have a command of what I'm trying to do.
He plans to play a full season again of approximately 20 events. He has already mapped the first month or two ' he will play next at Pebble Beach and at the Nissan Open. The reincarnation of David Duval has begun, and he will never be the player he once was ' even if he achieves what he once did.
Like anybody out here, I put more into it than I should have. I put more value in it than I should have, says Duval. But I obviously felt like I was - like the lower end of that of the players.
I really don't know how it will work or how I can do it, because I don't really feel like I could ever give back to this game and the people involved what it's given to me. But I'd like to at least start chipping it way at that, because it's blessed me more than I could have ever dreamed.
At 33, he realizes that his time of winning might possibly have passed him by. But David Duval may finally have gotten this thing exactly right.
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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back
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.
Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement
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.
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.
Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title
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.
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).
Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson
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.”
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.”