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Day at Beach for Duval

TIMES ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

The lingering image of David Duval from the 2000 British Open, when he began the final round in a final-twosome showdown with Tiger Woods, was of a player in anguish, flailing at the sand as he tried to escape on No. 17 from the Road Bunker at St. Andrews. By then, suffering from an aching pain, Duval had already shot himself out of the tournament, but the quadruple-bogey he took on that hole sealed his humiliation.

One year later, Duval, free of back pain, Woods and a hardly flattering distinction as one of the best players never to win a major tournament, clutched the silver claret jug as the champion of the 130th British Open.

He won it at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in commanding fashion Sunday, shooting a four-under-par 67, a round that included only one bogey, to finish at 10-under 274.

That was three strokes ahead of surprise runner-up Niclas Fasth and four ahead of a group including three players who have won major tournaments. Defending champion Woods shot 71 and finished at one-under 283, tied for 25th place.

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Duval, known for hiding his emotions behind wraparound sunglasses, beamed after making his final putt for par on 18, in contrast to his stoicism throughout the round.

“I’ve never seen him smile like that before,” said his longtime fiancee, Julie McArthur.

Duval said all the right things about the specialness of the British Open, but then said that the secret to his poise while all of the other contenders were losing ground to the tricky little links course was his perspective.

It might not be what they wanted to hear in the country where golf was invented, but Duval said, “You know what? It’s still a silly old game. Today, I was just playing a game of golf.

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“I was just trying to hit it solid and move it forward. I was then going to hit it again and I was going to count on making putts. It sounds stupid, but I actually thought to myself at times it is funny how much is made about it because we are playing a game. I’ve made it a lot bigger than it is too at times. Maybe that is some of the reason I felt so good today, that maybe I realized it is just a game.”

It might have been a game for him, but it was work for virtually everyone else on the course Sunday. There certainly was nothing funny about it to Ian Woosnam, the former Masters champion who began the day in a four-way tie for the lead at six under with Duval, Bernhard Langer and Alex Cejka.

Woosnam almost had a hole in one on the par-three, 206-yard first hole, hitting a six-iron to within six inches of the cup. He birdied. Or at least he thought he birdied, until he reached the second tee and learned from his caddie that he had 15 clubs in his bag, one over the limit. The caddie had failed to remove from the bag one of two drivers they were working with on the practice range.

“The biggest tournament there is--Jesus,” Woosnam said later.

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He was assessed a two-stroke penalty, transforming his spectacular birdie on No. 1 into a bogey. Instead of seven under for the tournament, he was five under. Flustered, he bogeyed Nos. 3 and 4.

The 5-foot-4 Woosnam, though, has always been a battler and he battled back to seven under at 13. But he couldn’t get below that and finished at six under, in a six-way tie for third with Langer, Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Billy Mayfair and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Cejka, the other third-round leader, finished another two strokes back.

Woosnam said he probably would have finished second if not for the penalty, but you never know how his round might have been affected if he had been able to build on a birdie at No. 1.

“I didn’t really get it out of my head the whole way ‘round,” he said. “I kept thinking if I hadn’t had a two-shot penalty I could have been leading or been joint leader. The first few holes I felt really lousy. Everything seemed to be going against me. At that time, I felt like picking it up and walking it in. I won’t swear, but I was cheesed off.”

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At least he had an excuse for not giving Duval a better chase. Other players mounted charges but could never get within a stroke of him. Duval’s 67 looked particularly good compared with those who started the day with him atop the leaderboard. Woosnam and Langer shot 71, Cejka 73. The leader after the first two days, Colin Montgomerie, shot 72 and finished six shots back.

Virtually all of the contenders--27 players finished Saturday within four shots of the lead--faltered on Royal Lytham’s death valley, the final five holes. Even Fasth, who started early and put up a 67-277 for everyone else to shoot at, had his one bogey at 14.

Clarke charged to eight under, then double-bogeyed 17. Jimenez charged to eight under, then bogeyed 14 and 15. Woosnam reached seven under for a second time, then bogeyed 17. This was on a day when the weather conditions, which pretty much covered all four seasons during the tournament, were relatively summery. At least the sun was out.

But Duval seldom flinched. He birdied Nos. 3, 6 7 and 11, bogeyed 12 when his six-iron approach found one of the course’s 196 bunkers, then birdied 13 and parred in. A birdie on 18 would have provided a well-deserved exclamation point, but he barely missed from 15 feet.

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Duval, 29, has long been considered one of the best players, even the second-best player behind Woods during one stretch, but he had failed to cross the necessary threshold of winning a major tournament. He had come close with eight top-10 finishes in majors, including four in the Masters. He tied for second in 1998 and was an outright second this year at Augusta. He finished two shots behind Woods there in April after missing makable putts at 16 and 18.

Duval said he felt calmer Sunday. That could have had something to do with the fact that Woods was nowhere to be found on the leaderboard, having started the day at one under and failing to make a move.

But although Woods was out of sight, he wasn’t out of mind.

“I’m probably going to be asked about Tiger some more and, like I said in the past, if I was on the other side, I would be asking the same questions,” Duval said. “I don’t know if everybody believed me, but I meant it.

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“When you beat him and you beat the other players on that board, I think you could look at it maybe as how the players felt beating Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson. They know they’ve beaten the best player.

“You know, some people have written I have had an arm in the green jacket in the past and it hasn’t worked out. They did not write it in a mean way. I was just so close. This means a lot.”

He still doesn’t have a green jacket, but he does have a claret jug. Last year, after his frustrating finish that left him tied for 11th, he at least got a close look at it when he flew back to the United States from Scotland with Woods.

“I got to see where his name is and I like the position of my name right below his,” Duval said. “It looks like it’s in the right spot.”

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

FINAL LEADERBOARD

274 (-10)--$858,000

David Duval: 69-73-65-67

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277 (-7)--$514,800

Niclas Fasth: 69-69-72-67

278 (-6)--$202,584

Ernie Els: 71-71-67-69

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Darren Clarke: 70-69-69-70

Miguel Angel Jimenez: 69-72-67-70

Billy Mayfair: 69-72-67-70

Ian Woosnam: 72-68-67-71

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Bernhard Langer: 71-69-67-71

Significant Others

Retief Goosen: 280 (-4)

Colin Montgomerie: 280 (-4)

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Davis Love III: 281 (-3)

Tiger Woods: 283 (-1)

Phil Mickelson: 285 (+1)

*

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DUVAL’S BEST

David Duval’s previous best finishes in the four majors:

Masters: 2nd

(2001; tied for 2nd in 1998)

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U.S. Open: Tie, 7th

(1998 and 1999)

British Open: Tie, 11th

(1998 and 2000)

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PGA Championship: Tie, 10th

(1999)

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

2001 MAJORS

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This year’s major champions:

Masters: Tiger Woods

U.S. Open: Retief Goosen

British Open: David Duval

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(Note: The PGA Championship will be Aug. 16-19 in Duluth, Ga.)


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