Duval returns to scene of 2001 British Open win

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2012, 12:15 pm

This week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes David Duval returns to the top of the mountain. Or maybe the seaside links was rock bottom; it’s difficult to tell when you are examining a career dotted with equal parts peaks and valleys.

At the time the claret jug slipped into Duval’s hands with surprising ease. In 1999 he’d scaled to the top of the world golf ranking and had rifled off 11 victories in 34 starts. When he arrived on the English coast in 2001 Duval was the consensus “best player without a major” and by the time he birdied the 13th hole late Sunday the closing lineup quickly turned into a coronation.

But for Duval his three-stroke victory was all at once pinnacle and tipping point.

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Imagine a singular lifetime focus cascading into a momentary blur of emotions and epiphanies. Imagine scaling the mountain only to discover that the view was just as good at base camp.

David Duval, machine-like in his prime and virtually emotionless, was almost immediately consumed by a haunting notion: Is this it?

Some of Duval’s post-Open letdown had to do with how imperfect his performance had been at Royal Lytham. He was slicing the ball so badly that week that he refused to go to the practice tee when the wind was blowing from left to right and the “best shot of his career” was a 6-iron from the left rough at the long par-4 15th hole to 16 feet for a two-putt par.

Not exactly the kind of heroic tale one would expect from a player with Duval’s pedigree.

“It’s a lot easier than I’ve been making it,” Duval recalled in an interview with Golf Channel earlier this year. “I certainly won that golf tournament without playing my best golf or at least the way I wanted to play.”

But the emotional letdown that followed his Open victory ran deeper than simply a “B” game breakthrough. His dogged pursuit of perfection had delivered the claret jug but virtually no clarity of thought.

The official line on Duval’s post-2001 British Open career is riddled with injuries large and small that sent the one-time boy wonder spiraling into a professional abyss, but the armchair psychologist will suggest it was a broken heart that essentially fueled the slump.

“That existence to me, in the end, is a miserable one,” Duval said. “It’s a solitary existence. That pursuit of greatness trying to get as good as you can get, you pay a price for it in some way. I don’t know if it’s with your soul or your psyche.”

In retrospect it seems Duval left a bit of his soul on Lytham’s 18th green that glorious Sunday. He’d reached Valhalla only to discover that he had no interest in hero worship.

As if on cue, Duval met Susie Persichitte shortly after Lytham and the two were married in March 2004. Susie had three children from a previous marriage and the couple quickly added two more to the family.

As if overnight one of the Tour’s most determined, some would even say detached, competitors had gone quality of life.

“I have tremendous guilt when I leave because I know how hard it is to run the house,” Duval said. “I hate having to leave but that is the lifestyle that comes with this job.”

As rewarding as his newfound home front is, it now is apparent that some part of the competitor was lost during the transition.

Last year Duval finished outside the top 125 in earnings for the eighth time in his last nine seasons. There were flashes of the Duval of old, like his runner-up showings at the 2009 U.S. Open and 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but the consistency that defined the early part of his career was gone.

The ultimate scorecard came by way of the world ranking, In less than 10 years Duval tumbled from No. 1 in the world to No. 882.

In 2007 and ’09 he played the Tour on one-time career money list exemptions (top 25 and top 50) and in ’08 he was exempt via a major medical exception. Last year Duval finished 152nd in earnings and came up short in December at Q-School.

For all his struggles, however, Duval’s mind remains willing. He still envisions the kind of golf he played when he reached the peak in 2001 at Lytham, only this time there will be family waiting on the 18th green to celebrate with him.

“It’s been a long process but it’s not over,” Duval said. “I haven’t put myself in a position to say I’m all the way back. I feel a little premature talking about it but I feel confident in what I’m doing again.”

It’s worth noting that of Duval’s 13 PGA Tour titles it is the claret jug that remains perched in the office of his Denver home. It is, like Duval, a bit tarnished but still resolute. It’s also worth pointing out that the 2001 Open was Duval’s last Tour victory, news that seems to surprise Duval.

“Was it?” he asked. “If that’s my last win then it’s a good one.”

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.