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Duval Resurrects Talk of Rivalry

October 06, 2000|THOMAS BONK

You remember David Duval? Until last week at the Buick Challenge, the last time he completed a tournament was in July at the British Open, where he was buried up to his mock turtleneck in the Road Hole bunker at St. Andrews on the last day and trying not to injure his back any more than it already was.

Well, he did. In fact, Duval spent the last six weeks trying to convince a sprained ligament in his back to get better. And now you would have to say that is exactly what happened.

Duval made 16 birdies on the weekend and birdied three of the last four holes to win his first tournament since the week before the 1999 Masters.

It was Duval's first victory in his last 29 tournaments.

Of course, in that span, a certain Tiger Woods has dominated the scene. During Duval's drought, Woods won 16 times, four of them majors.

And in the six weeks Duval was recuperating, Woods won three of the four events he played (the PGA Championship, the NEC and the Bell Canadian Open).

So while Duval was away, all Woods did was put even more distance between himself and his peers. That's why a healthy Duval would mean a great deal, once again offering hope that someone is out there who can step up and provide a real rivalry for Woods.

There isn't one right now, even Duval acknowledges.

"We all know Tiger Woods is the best player in the game and that he's better prepared than everyone else," Duval said. "You can talk about it until you're blue in the face, but somebody's got to go out there and do something about it."

If Duval proves to be that somebody, it certainly would be some good news. Not only are they natural rivals in the fact that they are young, Americans, buddies and have contrasting personalities, but it is clear that Duval has the game to contend in every major he plays.

There are few players in the world who can say that, Ernie Els being one and Davis Love III being another possibility.

Duval jumped from No. 11 to No. 6 on the money list with his victory at the Buick and has banked $2.24 million in 17 events. Woods leads with an astounding $8.28 million in 17 tournaments.

When Duval was playing so well in the last part of 1998 and the first part of 1999, he was thrust into the role as Tiger's main protagonist. That didn't pan out, but maybe Duval's latest victory signals a certain stirring in the rank and file, which can only be considered good news.


By the way, Duval is playing this week at the Michelob Championship, but Woods isn't. He has other plans that do not involve golf.

It's Tiger Jam III at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, where on Saturday night, a concert featuring Christina Aguilera, LeAnn Rimes and Seal will help raise money for the Tiger Woods Foundation and children's charities in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Woods is back on the golf course in two weeks at the Presidents Cup, which begins a six-week stretch of tournaments.

And if you're wondering, Woods' .529 winning percentage from nine victories in 17 PGA Tour events is not a record. Byron Nelson achieved a .600 winning percentage when he won 18 of 30 tournaments in 1945.


Hal Sutton, on Woods' impact on the other players: "I definitely see this off-season as some soul-searching for a lot of people. There are some people with a great deal of talent out there that need to find a way to challenge Tiger Woods."


News item: Dumb Headline of the Month Award goes to Golf Magazine for its October issue featuring Woods with this headline: "Is He For Real?"

Reaction: Well, yes, he is. Does he still have to do something to convince everybody?


Mark McCormack, the founder of IMG, probably raised a few eyebrows back at the PGA Tour headquarters in Florida when he criticized the tour and Commissioner Tim Finchem for being too heavy-handed.

"I don't think the job he is doing is in the best interests of world golf," McCormack said at the Cisco World Match Play event in Wentworth, England. IMG runs the event.

McCormack's complaint is that the PGA Tour dominates the coalition of pro tours that make up the International Federation of Tours. The IFT administers the World Golf Championships and five have been held so far--four in the U.S.

McCormack said the European PGA Tour and its peers in Asia, South Africa and Australia need to get their acts together.

"They must take a stand," McCormack said.

Then there is the issue of whether the top players are going to show up in Australia for the Andersen Consulting Match Play event in January, the event that was held at La Costa the last two years. Woods has hinted he won't be there and Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Jose Maria Olazabal are supposedly leaning the same way.

McCormack said the top players don't need to show up because they make so much money on the PGA Tour.

Stay tuned.


Thirty-eight players have won at least $1 million on the PGA Tour this year. That's two more than the previous record, set last year.

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