David (Duval) Is Now Goliath
The book on David Duval was the same as the one on Nick Price and,
before him, Fred Couples: Duval would never be the No. 1-ranked
player for long because he didn't want to be. Too much pressure.
Too much scrutiny. That's why everyone was startled last week
when Duval showed up at Kapalua to defend his title at the
Mercedes Championships looking lean and mean and taking dead aim
at Tiger Woods.
Everything about Duval seemed different, from his sleek physique
and stylish Italian clothing to his improved short game and
professed eagerness to regain the top spot in the ranking. Duval
still weighs 190 pounds, but he dramatically changed his
appearance by lifting weights, running and adhering to a
high-protein diet. Since starting the program in October, he has
reduced his body fat to 7%. (Five years ago, when Duval weighed
225 pounds, his body fat was nearly 30%.) His workouts included
four-mile runs through the woods at his vacation home in Sun
Valley, Idaho, and 90-minute weightlifting sessions in a gym near
his house in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. Duval's father, Bob, who
increased his own strength in preparation for the upcoming Senior
tour season by training with his son, says, "I get tired just
spotting for him."
For a golfer Duval lifts an inordinate amount of weight. His
bench-press workout consists of six pyramid sets of eight to 10
repetitions, using 215 pounds for the three middle sets. Duval
believes he is "as fit and athletic as anybody playing [golf]
To get used to his altered body and to lose some bad habits,
Duval hit more balls during the off-season than he normally does.
As last season wore on, Duval moved too close to the ball at
address, which caused him to lower his hands and bend over too
much. "He couldn't swing the club back naturally," says Bob. "He
had to try to manipulate it into the right position."
Duval also worked on his biggest weakness: short, lofted wedge
shots. Due to a shut club face on his backswing, Duval has had
difficulty slipping his club under the ball on lob shots and
shots from bunkers. (He ranked 164th in sand saves last year.)
"We worked on getting the toe of the club pointing up halfway
back, and that's going to expand his repertoire," Bob says.
Most important, Duval isn't afraid to say that his focus in 2000
is on winning his first major, and at Kapalua he got a kick out
of the reaction he received when he said, "I thoroughly enjoyed
being Number 1."
Of course, getting much more out of Duval remains a difficult
task. "You know David," says his father. "He isn't going to say a
lot, but he's going to do a lot."
Just look. He already has.
The Tour Gets Tough
Why Scores Are Soaring
Everyone knows that Tour players are good. We assume that because
they are longer--in 1999 the average drive measured 272.4 yards,
up from 270.6 in '98 and 267.6 in '97--they're also better. Here's
the startling truth: Scores have gone up over the last two years.
In 1997 the average score on Tour was 71.15. In '98 it was 71.16
and last year it rose to 71.25, the highest average of the '90s.
What gives? Tour courses are being made more difficult. Forget
about the extreme setups last year at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst
and at the British Open at Carnoustie. No, we're talking about
the weekly Tour stops. In the 33 events played on the same course
in 1999 and '98, the winning score was more than one stroke
higher in '99 than it was in '98.
Some of the differences in the courses are subtle. Fairways and
greens have been firmed up while the rough has been lengthened.
Some changes are obvious. New bunkers and other obstacles have
been added, and last year 11 venues were lengthened.
All these factors put a premium on ball striking because while
shots may be traveling farther, they are finding their target
less often. Driving accuracy dropped to 68.5% in '99 from 69.6%
the year before, and greens hit in regulation fell to 64.4% from
Perhaps the most dramatic example of how a course can be set up
to raise scores came at last year's Sony Open, in Hawaii. After
John Huston torched Waialae Country Club with a record
28-under-par total in '98, tournament officials opted for firmer
fairways and greens and heavier rough in '99. They also converted
two par-5s into par-4s. Voila! Jeff Sluman won at nine under.
Many pros think the changes have been overdone, to the point of
putting the shorter, low-ball hitters at an unfair disadvantage.
"Some of the shotmaking is disappearing," says Loren Roberts,
whose average drive of 254.8 yards ranked 191st on Tour in '99.
"There aren't many places left where you can hit a three-quarter
shot into a green and get it close to the pin. You basically have
to try to bring it in high and spin it."
That kind of shot comes naturally to powerful, high-ball hitters
such as Tiger Woods, David Duval, Davis Love III and Vijay Singh,
who finished one, two, three, four on last year's money list.
There is even a suspicion among some players that the real reason
for the tough setups is to make it easier for Woods to dominate.
Bill Calfee, the Tour's director of rules and competitions,
scoffs at that allegation. "There is no agenda to help long,
high-ball hitters," he says. "Tiger has an advantage, yes, but
that's because of the quality of his shots, not the style of his
play. [Being] long and straight is always an advantage."
Nicklaus at 60
New Bear Up To Old Tricks
Among his many accomplishments, Jack Nicklaus owns the unofficial
record for most makeovers. Heretofore, his transformation in
1970, when he suddenly went from fat guy with a crew cut to
matinee idol with mod blond locks, was thought to be the most
remarkable. That view might change next week when fans get their
first look of the year at Nicklaus during the MasterCard
Since last July, when fatigue and pain forced him to cut short
his comeback from hip-replacement surgery, Nicklaus has been on a
six-day-a-week fitness program that, for the first time in his
life, includes intense weight training. Although he turns 60 on
Jan. 21, Nicklaus looks better, has more energy and possesses
more strength than he has in years. His biggest struggle has been
to drop a dozen or so pounds to reach his target weight of 190.
"Jack eats good food, but he likes to eat a lot of it," says his
trainer, Doug Weary.
Nicklaus's only regret is that he didn't start pumping iron
sooner. He believes that strengthening his body has allowed him
to generate explosive power in his broad hips and thighs and
clear a free path for his upper body to smash the ball at the
target, just as he did in his prime. For too long Nicklaus's hip
and back injuries forced him to violently lurch with his arms and
shoulders to produce power, which caused him to become a shorter
and less accurate player. "Every day I play golf, I find
something that I've forgotten that I used to do," says Nicklaus,
who's planning to play all the majors on the regular and Senior
tours, and about 20 events overall.
Nicklaus is known for his relentless optimism--and occasional
hyperbole--but there's evidence to back up his latest claims. He
was a winner in all three of the unofficial tournaments he played
at the end of last year: the Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge, the
Office Depot Father and Son, and the Diners Club Matches.
Nicklaus repeatedly outdrove his son Gary in the Father and Son,
as well as Tom Watson, his partner in the Diners Club Matches.
According to Weary, Nicklaus was in desperate shape when they
started working together. "Jack had the body and conditioning of
a gentleman 20 years older," he says. "He was off-the-charts bad
in strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance."
To lose weight in 1970 Nicklaus dieted on breakfast cereal. In
the '80s he religiously followed a stretching program set by
"anatomical functionalist" Pete Egoscue. In 1996 he dropped 20
pounds by going on a diet that called for bowls and bowls of
bowel-bending cabbage soup. "I've never worked with anyone who
has Jack's gift for discipline and focus," says Weary. "Other
than time off for a hunting trip, he hasn't missed a workout."
This season has been portrayed as Nicklaus's farewell tour to
big-time competition, but he avoids that characterization.
"They're always saying this is the last year of my playing in the
majors. Heck, I may have to go back to defend," he says with a
Chalk it up to new-millennium madness, but just imagine....
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK A surprisingly sleek Duval was third at Kapalua, four shots out of the playoff.
COLOR PHOTO: TIM ROGERS
COLOR PHOTO: JORGE SAENZ
COLOR PHOTO: W.T. HARRINGTON
Phil Mickelson, who had won at least one tournament every year
during his first six seasons on Tour, was conspicuous by his
absence at the Mercedes Championships. If Mickelson, who turns
30 on June 16, intends to keep up with such players as Tiger
Woods, David Duval and Ernie Els, he's going to have to dedicate
himself to excellence, as they have.
What do these players have in common?
They are the only living LPGA founders to win a major as an
amateur and as a professional. As an amateur Berg won three
straight Titleholders Championships (1937-39), Jameson the '42
Western Open, and Suggs the '46 and '47 Western Opens as well as
the '46 Titleholders.
Will Tiger Woods extend his winning streak to five straight at
the Mercedes Championships?
--Based on 2,012 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Will Casey Martin, who makes his debut as a PGA
Tour member next week, win a tournament in 2000? Vote at
Five of the 18 most difficult holes on the LPGA tour last year
were at Ibis Golf and Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., site
of this week's season-opening Office Depot tournament. Here are
the holes that were the hardest on the three U.S. tours in 1999.
EVENT/COURSE HOLE AVG. (PAR)
1 Office Depot/Ibis 11 4.54 (3)
2 Office Depot/Ibis 6 3.91 (3)
3 Office Depot/Ibis 17 4.66 (4)
1 British Open/Carnoustie 12 4.568 (4)
2 Players/TPC Sawgrass 18 4.557 (4)
3 British Open/Carnoustie 17 4.553 (4)
1 Tradition/Cochise 3 4.570 (4)
2 U.S. Open/Des Moines 13 4.557 (4)
3 U.S. Open/Des Moines 6 4.550 (4)
Ken Kellaney, Phoenix
Kellaney, 43, was named the Arizona Golf Association player of
the year for the fifth time after winning the state stroke-play
title in 1999, his second victory in that event in the last
three years. Kellaney also earned his fifth Mayfair Award, for
low scoring average (71.9) in state events, last year.
Martina Eberl, Munich
James Vargas, Miami
James, 15, and Martina, 18, won the 18-and-under divisions at the
Dec. 21-23 Doral Publix Junior Classic in Miami. James, a
second-team American Junior Golf Association All-America in 1999,
shot an eight-under 208 for a four-shot victory over Nicholas
Thompson, 16, of Coral Springs, Fla. The week after Doral, James
finished third at the Orange Bowl in Coral Gables, Fla. Martina
shot a three-under 213 to beat Virada Nirapathpongporn, 17, of
Bangkok by two shots. A member of the German national team,
Martina also won the 1999 Sherry Cup, one of the most prestigious
European women's amateur tournaments. She was Germany's junior
and amateur player of the year in '99.
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