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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF / THOMAS BONK

He Left Himself Open to Criticism

July 23, 1999|THOMAS BONK

It used to be so easy to be David Duval. You stand there in your wraparound sunglasses, you fire 59s at golf courses, you win just about every week, you make it look easy and you eventually replace the lob wedge in your bag with a cash register because you need it more.

Then it starts getting more difficult. You crash on the last day at the Masters. At the U.S. Open, you're in contention after two rounds, but finish 75-75 and disappear.

At the British Open at Carnoustie, you act semi-sullen, shoot rounds of 79-75-76-76 to finish tied for 62nd, get roasted for what sounded like critical comments and then wonder why.

To be sure, the British tabloids promptly and frequently roasted him, but Duval seemed to egg them on.

For example:

Q: "Is the course setup too hard?"

Duval: "I can't define too hard or too easy, fair or unfair. It is what it is."

Q: "So what is Carnoustie?"

Duval: "You tell me."

This isn't exactly helpful, no matter where it's being said.

One widely reported quote from Duval was not said in a news conference, but to a Royal & Ancient pool reporter, and Duval denied ever saying it. He was quoted as saying: "If the average player had to play out there, he'd probably quit the game. A lot of pros too."

Duval insisted he never said it. He did, however, say a few words when he visited the press tent Sunday afternoon and confronted Art Spander of the Oakland Tribune, who had written a mild rebuke of Duval in a column about his comments and his golf game.

Of course, that's one more visit than Duval has ever made to the press tent to thank a reporter for one of the overwhelming majority of stories that have portrayed him in a more positive light.

At the same time, at least he cleared the air, so that's a beginning.

As for his golf, well, it's a long year and nobody--not even Duval--can win every week. What he does need to do is to win a major. His next chance comes in three weeks at the PGA Championship. Then he can be any way he wants to be.

WILD, WILD WEST?

To get ready for his prime-time television match-play event against Duval, Tiger Woods played Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks recently with a new partner: Will Smith.

(According to most accounts, Artemis Gordon was not the caddie.)

Anyway, Woods will be in town all next week, but Duval is playing the Canon Greater Harford Open and will fly by private plane on Sunday night before the Aug. 2 event at Sherwood.

As for the mundane matters, ticket prices for the 1,500 grounds passes were lowered from $225 to $100, but the 200 clubhouse passes remain at $550, which includes VIP parking and prematch and postmatch dining.

ABC will pick up the event in progress at 5 p.m., 30 minutes after it starts at Sherwood. They're figuring that if the match goes 18 holes, it will take roughly 3 hours 22 minutes to play--based on the first group's time at the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship in February at La Costa.

With the match beginning at 8 p.m. on the East Coast, that would allow eight minutes for a trophy presentation--or a check presentation, which probably will be more meaningful.

Speaking of money, Woods' own 12-player, $1-million-to-the-winner tournament Dec. 29-Jan. 2 has moved from Rio Secco in Las Vegas to Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Tickets to the Woods-Duval match-play event at Sherwood are available at http://www.tickets.com.

WHY, OH, WHY?

What happened in Jean Van de Velde's mind that caused him to play so recklessly on the 72nd hole of the British Open?

"I didn't feel confident hitting a wedge," he said. "To me, it was against the spirit of the game. I'm going to hit a wedge and then another wedge and then what? Three-putt from 39 feet to win the British Open? OK, fair enough, I would have won, but what a way to finish.

"What if I hit the two-iron to 10 feet? Everyone would be saying 'That guy is unreal.' "

Of course, everyone was saying something entirely different afterward.

LAST WORDS

From Van de Velde: "Seventy-two holes was one too many."

LAST WORDS II

From Van de Velde, told that he had all but clinched a spot on Europe's Ryder Cup team: "Great, I'll try to finish my matches before 18."

GOOD NIGHT, CARNOUSTIE

One final mention of the British Open, this the lead paragraph of an editorial in the Daily Telegraph: "It turned out to be the Open from hell, a long week spoiled, a tournament with more vitriol than virtue. It was 72 holes of bogeys and bile, with mis-hits and misquotes, golfers denying what they were supposed to have said and wishing they could deny what they definitely did shoot."

And the R&A waited until the players got out of town to get its digs in. Open chairman Hugh Campbell said the players played too defensively and singled out Woods, who he said should have used his driver more often.

PICKING UP THE PIECES

Gary McCord waited 375 events before he won on the PGA Tour or Senior PGA Tour and when his Toshiba Senior Classic trophy showed up in the mail, it was broken into about that many pieces.

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