A Holiday Wish for Duval
Heres hoping that David Duval gobbles up a win this week at the Dunlop Phoenix and spends Thanksgiving thinking about how he just beat Tiger Woods.
Before you jump to conclusions that I root against Woods, Ill tell you that is hardly the case. Woods is the best ' period. Woods is the best when he has his best and Woods is the best when he seemingly plays his worst. Nobody gets more out of a C game than Tiger. Nobody ever will.
But this is about David Duval finding something other than his F game.
David Duval managed an opening round of 6-under 64 to lead Tiger Woods. Thats right. lead Tiger Woods. And the last time that happened was somewhere around 1998 when Duval lead Woods in the World Golf Ranking.
'I played well,' said Duval. 'I've been playing well for about a month now but just haven't been scoring well. I'm well aware of how I've played over the past few years but I've worked hard and it's good to start a tournament not behind the 8-ball.'
8-ball? If golf were like billiards, Duval would be feeling like every shot he cued up was bound to end with a scratch.
For many fans that have e-mailed and written, Duval has become a sympathetic figure. Others of you ' I know - feel hes been more of a pathetic figure. The media goes both ways, too.
But Im one of the first in line to say that I wish him back to good and hopefully great golf once again.
Viewed by some as a player who lived behind the sunglasses to avoid the popularity that came with a run of 13 PGA Tour wins in a short span, Duval to me was a player who kept you interested.
To me, he was Vijay Singh before Vijay Singh became the superstar he is today. Duval was, in fact, the man who challenged Tiger. He was the man who was supposed to be his rival for years and years and years. Who didnt want that?
And whether you think hes off his rocker more than hes off his game, Duval is a man who clearly has the respect and friendly support from Woods.
It's been tough to watch,' said Woods. 'David is a friend of mine, we played in two World Cups together and he has really struggled. But it looks like he's showing signs of getting his game back together.'
Tigers got class. He knows what Duval has been through. And theres a lot of respect for how hes handled the years in golfs dungeon. Because Duval, unlike some whove clearly lost it, hasnt lost his ability to talk about life when life isnt so great ' professionally speaking that is.
If you follow The Golf Channel and the Sprint Post Game with regularity, you know that Duval agreed (without much hesitation) to join us a few years back at Oak Hill during the PGA Championship (won by Shawn Micheel) for an entire show. On our set, he fielded every possible question for the better part of an hour and a half. How many would have? Im still amazed.
If that wasnt enough, hes joined us on a few occasions since. While his golf success hasnt improved much since, hes never looked the other way when Ive stopped him to talk. Friendly as they come, as far as I see it.
So I hardly wish Woods the worst. But he and his friend Duval are in such different worlds these days that I cant help but root for the story ' which is Duval. A win for the 34 year old would probably feel like a second major championship given that Tigers in the field.
To do that, Duval will have to do something he hasnt done in years, which is to play like a major winner.
'My golf swing is good,' said Duval. 'Most of my problems were because of injuries that forced me to swing the club differently than I wanted to. Today was one of those days when I got the most out of the round I could.'
I cant guarantee that hell keep it up. But if he does pull it off, itll be a holiday gift of the biggest variety. A shocker to be certain.
And I actually think it might be pretty great for golf as well.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.
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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.
Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.
But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.
“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”
Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.
“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”
After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.
In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.
No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.
Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.
“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”
And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.
Let it go.
Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.
“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”
It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.
During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.
Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.
“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.
McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.
It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.
“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”
The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.
Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.
The only thing left to do?
Let it go.
Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.
Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.
Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.
There is, however, one running wager.
“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”
Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.
Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.
“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.