Duval hits green again

67 earns 4th win of '99, lifts earnings to $2.6M, sets up shot at Masters

Victory is 11th in last 34

His luck, Cink's bogey provide BellSouth boost

April 05, 1999|By COX NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA -- No doubt about it. It's time for the PGA Tour to change its advertising slogan. The David Duval factor has become that huge.

Forget the public relations. Forget that every golf swing is created equal. Just toss away all the old footage and go with: "This Guy Is Good."

Next stop, Augusta National, and it's a wonder nobody asked Duval yesterday what he's going to serve for next year's Champions Dinner at the Masters.

Just when it seemed as if the world's No. 1 player could not make a better case for being the Masters favorite, Duval gathered a few more votes yesterday at the TPC at Sugarloaf, winning the BellSouth Classic by two shots. Former Georgia Tech teammate Stewart Cink was second.

Granted, Duval needed a dose of luck at the finish and some help from self-destructing colleagues, but the result was just as mind-boggling: It was Duval's fourth victory of the year. He ended at 18-under-par 270 with a final-round 67.

It was his second win in a row, following up a huge victory in the Players Championship last Sunday.

It was his 11th victory in his past 34 events.

It broke his PGA Tour single-season money record, pushing his 1999 total to $2,598,300. Last year, he needed the entire season to do it.

It was a fitting performance in his first week as, officially, the world's No. 1 player.

In the past two decades, nobody has mounted such a streak. Jack Nicklaus won 10 of 33 events in 1972-73.

"It's not routine," said Duval in the interview area after earning $450,000. "I was nervous at the end. It never will be [routine]. Anytime you have a chance to win, you get a little jumpy."

More than a little jumpy would have been understandable. Thinking he needed a birdie at the 18th hole and unaware that Cink had just bogeyed the 17th to fall to 16-under and two shots behind, Duval went for the par-5 with his second shot.

Instead of aiming long to a safer spot, Duval went with a 2-iron from 230 yards. The ball landed short, rolled back toward the pond and somehow stayed dry. From there, he chipped to three feet, missed the putt and made par.

"I hit a pretty good shot, about where I was aiming at," Duval said. "I was surprised when the ball was a yard short of the green. I was surprised when it didn't bounce up on the green. Then I was more surprised it didn't come back into the water. I was very lucky, very lucky."

Learning later of Duval's good fortune, Cink, who plays regularly at Sugarloaf, said: "I didn't know that. Hey, sometimes when the breaks are going your way, it's destiny, I guess. He had a pretty good break. I've never seen a ball do that since I've been playing golf here."

Although Cink already had hit his layup shot on the 18th before Duval lipped-out a three-footer for birdie, he said eagle would not have been an option, unless allowed to tee up a driver from 266 yards into the wind.

Cink earned $270,000 for second place on a closing 70, but had company in the blown-opportunities department. Tour rookie Rory Sabbatini tied for third with John Huston at 15-under.

Sabbatini lost his chance by double-bogeying the 17th and then hitting into the water for bogey at the 18th. Huston also stumbled, bogeying the 16th and double-bogeying the 17th.

Unaware of events behind him, Duval said: "I don't know if they got bad breaks or if they hit poor shots or what it was. I got a fortunate break on the last hole. There's no doubt about it. Other than that, I hung around and just made a few birdies here and there."

And now, he heads to the Masters. Last year he was a runner-up. This week he'll be the favorite.

"I think my head is where it needs to be," Duval said. "I think my golf swing and game is where it needs to be. I think it's a good spot for me now."

Pub Date: 4/05/99

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