Different Player Different Man

By Randall MellJune 20, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Puggy Blackmon marvels more at what David Duvals doing today than what Duval did as the No. 1 player in the world.
Duvals long-time coach and friend was marveling again Saturday when Duval shot 32 on the back nine at Bethpage Black to close out an even-par 70 and keep himself in contention at the U.S. Open.
It isnt the shots Duval hit that impressed Blackmon, or the fact that Duval is 3 under par and tied for fourth, five shots back of leader Ricky Barnes, halfway through this rain-soaked championship.
David Duval
David Duval fought back to get to 3 under through two rounds. (Getty Images)
Duval, 37, is making an impression on all of golf as an unlikely challenger for the U.S. Open title. The former No. 1 is No. 882 in the Official World Golf Ranking and arrived at Bethpage still struggling to recapture the hocus pocus that helped him win the 2001 British Open.
What moves Blackmon is what hes seeing beyond Duvals game.
Its that Big Apple New York State Troopers pin Duval wore on the right side of his shirt collar in the second round and the New York City Fire Department pin on the left side. Its all the time Duvals spending getting to know the troopers in the clubhouse this week and the time hes spending signing autographs for fans. Duvals father-in-law was a former firefighter and artist who created a sculpture of a fireman holding a baby as a 9-11 memorial tribute. Its on display at the New York City Fire Museum.
The player Blackmon sees today isnt the headstrong, self-centered collegiate star he remembers coaching at Georgia Tech.
Blackmon said there were moments he wanted to strangle that guy.
Today, Blackmon mostly wants to hug his player.
Davids more human now, Blackmon said near the doorstep of the Bethpage Black clubhouse after Duvals second round. He has feelings. He cares and respects people. You watch him, the number of autographs he signs, the balls he signs for kids, the way he talks to just about every guard in the clubhouse. Before? Are you kidding me? It was like no one else existed. Im really proud of the way David has turned out. I dont care if he wins another tournament. Hes just become a great person. As a coach, thats what you really hope for.
Duvals transformation has much to do with his marriage to Susie five years ago. They have two young children together and three older children by Susies previous marriage.
That Duvals marriage has transformed his life isnt news, but that hes getting nearer to realizing the dream his new family gave him is.
That little scene that plays out over and over again on the PGA Tour, where children race onto the 18th green to hug their father after a victory, might trump any moment in Duvals career if it ever plays out for him.
The U.S. Open probably wont end on Fathers Day this year, with expected rain likely pushing this championship to Monday, but any day Duval wins again will feel like Fathers Day.
Id really like for my wife and my family to see how I can actually play this game, Duval said Saturday. They havent seen me at my best, and I want them to.
While Duval has said this before, hes never said it in better position to reach his dream. He arrived this week believing hes close to a breakthrough but frustrated that his record offered no supporting proof. He has missed seven of his last nine cuts.
Patience is crucial in this game, Duval said. I think Ive been patient for many years and continued to work hard. If anything, my patience has been most tested over the last six to eight months. I really felt like everything was falling together and nothing was happening for me.
Its happening this week.
Duval made four birdies over his final eight holes. He carved a 7-iron at the last hole to 15 feet and made the putt for his final birdie. This will be just the fourth cut he has made in his last 15 majors. He hasnt recorded a top-10 on the PGA Tour since the Invensys Classic in October of 02, a span of 115 PGA Tour events.
Blackmon, like Duval, has sensed something better was on its way.
There came a point in time, where our discussion was, `Hey, your swing is back, its not going to be exactly like it was when you were No. 1 in the world, because youre a little older, so lets just go play golf, said Blackmon, the director of golf at the University of South Carolina. Davids gone from the technical stuff to where hes now back to picking targets and playing to targets instead of worrying about where the balls going.
Blackmon can remember when Duval fearlessly attacked all his targets at Georgia Tech. Often, Blackmon was the target. The headstrong Duval wasnt so easy to coach.
During one trip to the University of Virginia when Duval was a freshman, Blackmon left a team practice to go play golf elsewhere with sports psychologist Bob Rotella.
At the end of the day, Blackmon called back to where the team was staying to invite them all over to Rotellas home for pizza. Duval answered the phone.
Where are you? Duval asked his coach. We played a practice round today and you might really think about where your priorities are.
Blackmon lost it. He launched into a tirade that Duval never heard. Duval dropped the phone and let it dangle off a table while Blackmon ranted.
I was screaming at nobody, Blackmon said. You have to understand, a lot of things led up to that.
Rotella ended up getting Duval and Blackmon to sit at opposite ends of a table at his home to work out their differences.
We had to have an intervention to keep us from killing each other, Blackmon said. This happened several times.
Blackmon said there was always something within Duval that he admired, though.
He was just focused on being a great player, Blackmon said. He challenged you so hard to be a better coach. You couldnt just throw something out there at him. You had to know what you were talking about. If you wanted him to do something, he would want to know why.
Why? It was always an important word in Duvals life. With his wife and children so important to him, he has the answer to most of his questions. He would love for the U.S. Open to be the answer this week.
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    Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

    While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

    7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

    Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

    8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

    There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

    8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

    Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

    12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

    Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

    12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

    There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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    Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

    By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

    We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

    Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

    I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

    That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

    In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

    My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

    Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

    It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

    So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

    We hope it isn’t his back.

    Or his neck.

    Or his knees.

    Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

    Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

    Competitively, it’s all that matters.

    Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

    We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

    Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

    The game soars to yet another level with that.

    A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

    So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

    The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

    They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

    They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

    Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

    And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

    The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

    Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

    For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

    There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

    Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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    Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

    By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

    NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

    "Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

    Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

    Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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    Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

    Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

    Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

    A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

    The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

    "It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

    The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

    Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

    Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.