'New David' loving life; looks like old Duval in 67

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2015, 1:11 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – It was not the start David Duval was looking for when he set out for his Scottish fortnight.

From the first tee at Gullane Golf Club, the former world No. 1 launched his opening effort 10 yards right of the fairway. After a few moments of searching, he returned to the tee and sent his next shot left of the fairway.

Strike two.

“There were 10 guys waiting on the tee [to tee off behind him]. I felt terrible for him,” said caddie Ron “Bambi” Levin. “But he turned to me and said, ‘Let’s shoot under par.’”

Duval would make a quadruple bogey-8 at the first, and another 8 at the last for a first-round 77 en route to missing the cut and finishing 153rd out of 156 players at the Scottish Open.

That kind of performance would have sent the old Double D, the one who won a major and 13 PGA Tour titles and ascended to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, into a myopic fit.

But the 43-year-old version takes a much more measured approach to golf, if not a life fully lived.

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“I just figured, let’s just go and get it back,” he shrugged on Sunday at St. Andrews.

Time and terrible play will do that to anyone, but when it comes to Duval the transformation from icy assassin to endearing figure is more nuanced than that.

This is, after all, the man who reached the top of the mountain and was underwhelmed. After winning the Open Championship in 2001 at Royal Lytham, his last Tour victory, he began a slow competitive spiral.

Since 2003 Duval, who now spends more time working as a Golf Channel analyst than he does playing tournaments, finished inside the top 200 in earnings just three times, and with dwindling Tour status he now plays an increasingly limited schedule with just four starts this season.

But with that competitive exile has come balance off the course, first when he married his wife, Susie, and now as a father of five.

All along he’s wanted to play well, wanted to feel the pressure of a major championship Sunday, but while the mind has been willing the body has failed him. At least until Sunday at St. Andrews, where he played his first 14 holes in 6 under par for a 5-under 67, his lowest round at the Open since that 2001 victory.

It was a wave of momentum he picked up on Saturday after he had three-putted the 17th hole to drop outside the cut, but he nearly drove the green at No. 18 for a birdie to make the cut at the Open for the first time since 2008.

“Ron [Levin] asked me, ‘You want to hit a 3-wood? Think you can get a 3-wood there?’” Duval said of his tee shot at the 18th hole. “I said, ‘I don’t know, but I know I can get a driver there.’

“I’m going to hit it right of that flag and if I hit in those houses over there, [double bogey] doesn’t hurt me. I have to make a [birdie]. It was nice to do.”

For a moment it was at least a shadow of the Old David, calculated, fearless, focused; shades of the guy who once shot 59 at the Humana Challenge and 65 on Saturday at Lytham to win a claret jug. But then the New David resurfaces with a nostalgic twist to his Scottish sojourn.

“Links golf is my favorite thing to do, just puts a smile on my face when I'm out there playing. The challenges of it I find intriguing, frustrating, uplifting, all these things, and so to get to do it for two straight weeks, it's a blessing as a golfer, regardless of who you are,” Duval said. “I've been on St. Andrews since last Saturday every day playing golf. Who gets to say that, really? It's pretty cool.”

What Duval has lost in competitive purpose he’s made up for with a healthy dose of personal perspective as evidenced by his response when asked if he would play next week’s RBC Canadian Open if he were able to finish inside the top 10 at St. Andrews (he’s currently tied for 24th).

He explains that he already has a trip planned to vacation in Italy with his wife after the Open.

“Glenn Abbey [the site of the Canadian Open] or Florence with my wife? Pretty easy decision,” he smiled.

It’s also a pretty good indication of how priorities have made the New David so much more endearing.

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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2018, 2:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.

“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.

Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.

Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.

“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”

It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.

“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.

“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”

This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.

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Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated,” taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.

Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor. Kang made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.

Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.

“I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.

Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”

“I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”

Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.

“No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”

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Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.