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Star-Bulletin Sports


Friday, January 4, 2002


[MERCEDES CHAMPIONSHIPS]


art
ASSOCIATED PRESS
David Duval, whose only victory last year was at the British Open, is healthy and feels good about his chances this season.



Duval looks forward to 2002

NOTEBOOK


By Paul Arnett
parnett@starbulletin.com

KAPALUA, Maui >> David Duval walked into the press area after shooting an opening-round 67 and was mildly surprised college football's national championship game wasn't on television.

Instead, the $4 million Mercedes Championships was being shown in the clubhouse area, something Duval couldn't understand, given the importance of this year's Rose Bowl. But as he mildly chastised the PGA Tour officials for the perceived oversight, he made sure he didn't offend anyone.

"I'm flustered," Duval said. "You all have to turn the TV on to the football game."

Someone asked if he was a golf fan.

"Not when there's a national championship game on," Duval said, then smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, that's the one day I will preempt golf, for a football game. But I just played, though. If I weren't playing this week, I'd have a split screen (on at home)."

A relaxed Duval, who set the 18-hole and course records here en route to winning the 1999 Mercedes Championships, is feeling good about his chances at this week's winners-only tournament. From here, he will go to Idaho for his yearly snowboarding excursion, before returning to the West Coast swing at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

Making his fourth consecutive Mercedes appearance, Duval is confident he will continue to do well on tour. Last year, he won his first major at the British Open. And while that was his only victory, Duval believes good things lie ahead.

"I hope so, certainly," Duval said. "I think a mental hurdle has been crossed (at the British Open), and a realization of what it takes completely. I thought I knew what it took to win a major before I won the British Open last year. I actually kind of proved to myself that I did know, that I was right. I think I'll do well at the majors from here on in."

These days, life has been fairly hectic for Duval, especially during the silly season of November and December. So much so, he may reshuffle his schedule later this year to make sure he has more time to enjoy life away from the golf course.

While he was shooting his 67 yesterday, good enough for a tie for third overall, he wasn't always thinking about golf. As one reporter said, "You were wondering who is winning the Rose Bowl and wondering what the slopes are like for Sunday."

Duval paused a moment and broke into a huge smile.

"That's about right," Duval said. "Trying to figure out when I'll be able to get there."

This is Duval's second trip to the island chain in less than two months. After playing in Japan with Tiger Woods, he came to Kauai for the Grand Slam of Golf, before heading back to the continental United States to play in Woods' event in California.

"This seems to be the busiest I've been," Duval said. "You know, like there wasn't really a break. It was 10 days here, 10 days there kind of thing. But it's all right."

Duval got off to a hot start in the calm, Kapalua conditions. He shot a 6-under 30 on the front side, including four birdies in a row, then played the back side even. His birdie putt on the par-5 18th came up a little short, leaving him in a tie for third behind Mike Weir and Frank Lickliter.

"I'm feeling good," Duval said. "As much as anything, I'm hoping my health is good this year. Since I injured my back a couple of years ago, I haven't been on a stretch as long as I am now, without having some type of little problem. My golf's good. I'm looking forward to the start of this year."

HOLE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 OUT 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 IN TOTAL

Mike Weir 3 2 3 3 5 3 4 2 4 29 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 34 63

Frank Lickliter II 4 3 4 4 3 3 4 3 5 33 4 3 5 3 3 4 3 4 4 33 66

Cameron Beckman 4 3 4 3 4 4 4 2 4 32 4 3 4 4 3 5 3 4 5 35 67

Chris DiMarco 4 3 3 4 5 3 4 3 4 33 5 3 4 4 3 4 3 4 4 34 67

Scott Verplank 4 3 4 4 4 4 3 3 4 33 4 2 3 4 3 4 4 4 6 34 67

David Duval 4 2 3 4 5 3 3 2 4 30 4 3 4 4 3 6 4 4 5 37 67

Jim Furyk 4 3 3 4 5 3 3 4 4 33 4 2 4 4 3 4 4 4 5 34 67


NOTEBOOK

News and notes from yesterday's action at the Mercedes Championships:

KAPALUA, Maui >> Tiger Woods flew under the Mercedes Championships' radar for most of yesterday's opening round, before finishing with a solid 68, some five strokes off the lead.

The game's top player had a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th slide by to keep him from tying for third, but overall, Woods was happy with his performance.

"I hit some good putts today that didn't quite fall," Woods said. "I'm still in the ballgame with a good, solid round. I'm very comfortable with the way I'm hitting the golf ball. I made a couple of putts.

"I thought somebody would shoot 9-under, Weirsey (leader Mike Weir) happened to go lower. That's good for him. I felt like I hit the ball well today. The greens are slower than they were on Tuesday by quite a bit. They are softer from all the rain."

Woods played the front side 2-under. He came back with a 3-under effort on the back nine, sinking a big par putt on the 17th to stay in the chase. Last year, Woods finished in a tie for eighth. He won the event in 2000.

"I need to continue to improve and that's what I'm trying to do," Woods said. "The wind came out of two different directions today. It was a weird day with the wind. You had to hit different club tees that felt awkward at times."

Clemens in the house: New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens took part in Wednesday's pro-am with manager Joe Torre. Both hung around for yesterday's opening round of the tournament and were still feeling good about the 2001 season.

"The only thing that would have made it better was to win the World Series," Clemens said. "But give credit to Arizona, they beat us with our best closer on the hill. It was a very exciting season. We hope to come back and win this thing this year."

Torre echoed those sentiments.

"We made it to the World Series again, which is always a goal in New York," Torre said. "We had our chances to win it, but Arizona came up with the big ninth inning. Hopefully, we'll be able to get back there again."

Torre and Clemens are regulars at the Mercedes Championships. But neither was willing to relay their scores on Wednesday.

"I'm a better pitcher than golfer," Clemens said, then smiled. "But to be able to come over here and play with these great champions is a thrill for me."

Torre put it this way.

"I've been here from the first time they played it in Hawaii," Torre said. "It's a great place to relax and enjoy the off-season. This is one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. As long as they keep inviting me, I'll keep coming back."

Weir out: First-round leader Mike Weir dropped out of next week's Sony Open, citing family reasons. Other notables competing here not expected to play in the PGA Tour's first full-field event are Woods, David Duval and U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.

At this point, about 20 of the 32 golfers taking part in this week's winners-only tournament are expected to play next week, including defending champion Brad Faxon, Jim Furyk and PGA Championship winner David Toms.

Opening hole proves formidable: When the tradewinds are blowing, the par-4 opening hole usually lends itself to plenty of birdies. But such was not the case yesterday with the Kona winds greeting the golfers on the first tee.

In yesterday's opening round, No. 1 yielded only two birdies to rank as the most difficult hole with a scoring average of 4.281. The easiest hole was the par-5 9th. In the trades, it usually proves difficult, but yesterday's scoring average was an amazing 4.219. There were 21 birdies and no bogeys.


Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin



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