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Woods shines in prime time

The Associated Press

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.

Tuesday, August 03, 1999

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Great start, rocky finish. That made David Duval a loser to Tiger Woods in golf’s first appearance on network television in prime time.

Playing not far from where he grew up, Woods overcome a sluggish start and dominated the par-3 holes to beat Duval 2 and 1 in the ”Showdown at Sherwood,” a made-for-television match-play competition Monday night.

It was nothing more than an exhibition match, but the world’s top-ranked golfers were paid very well for their three-plus hours of work.

Woods earned $1.1 million, while Duval collected $400,000. Each will donate $200,000 to charity, including $100,000 each to the PGA Tour-sponsored First Tee program.

If either felt any pressure, it certainly wasn’t evident, although neither was at his best.

At a time where the pressure perhaps should have been on, Woods and Duval were giggling like schoolchildren as they chatted while walking down the 15th fairway. Woods led 1-up at the time.

”I approached the match that David and I are good friends, and we were going to come out here and put on a good show,” Woods said. ”I think it’s a wonderful concept.”

So is this sort of thing the start of something new?

”I hate to say it, but it’s basically up to the ratings,” Woods said. ”How high the ratings are will determine how successful it was.”

Duval won the first two holes with a birdie and a par, but Woods won the next two, and added wins at the sixth and ninth holes for a 2-up lead at the turn.

A win on 12 put Woods ahead 3-up, but when Duval won 13 and 14, it was anyone’s match.

The players halved 15 before the match’s biggest shot.

Duval hit what he would later call his best shot of the day down the middle on the par-4, 449-yard 16th hole, but the ball took one bounce into a rock formation some 300 yards from the tee.

That meant a one-shot penalty.

Meanwhile, Woods hit two terrific shots to leave him 10 feet from the hole. Duval conceded, giving Woods a 2-up lead with two holes left.

”It was one of the worst breaks I’ve ever seen, to end up in Jack’s little concoction in the middle of the fairway,” Woods said, referring to Jack Nicklaus, the course designer.

”I hit it where I was aiming it,” Duval said. ”I’ve played the Shark Shootout three times (at Sherwood Country Club), I know it’s there. I’ve aimed for it every time.”

This time, to his dismay, he hit it.

Needing a birdie to keep the match alive, Duval’s tee shot on the 232-yard 17th caught a ridge and rolled 50 feet from the hole. Woods was 40 feet away, and lagged his putt within 2 feet.

Duval then conceded, and they smiled and shook hands as the floodlights installed on the final two holes at Sherwood before the match cast shadows across the green.

It was the fifth par-3 hole played by the pair; Woods won the first four.

”The great thing about match play is I was down early, I knew I could come back,” Woods said. ”It’s a game of momentum. The momentum changes, it’s like the NBA or football, when a team gets on a roll, they get all pumped up.”

Woods, who has won three times and has finished no worse than seventh since his post-Masters break, is No. 1 in the world rankings – a position Duval previously held by becoming the first player in 25 years to win four times before the Masters.

”A rivalry? Not yet,” Woods said. ”We haven’t gone head-to-head yet.”

Not only that, Woods and Duval have been paired together only one other time, in the third round of the World Series of Golf last year, a tournament Duval went on to win.

Woods took it easy heading into the event, hanging around the area and playing a practice round Sunday.

Duval, meanwhile, played in the Hartford Open before traveling to California and arriving Sunday night.

But he wouldn’t use fatigue as an excuse.

”My game did not feel very good today, it was really disappointing,” he said. ”I don’t know why. I know I can play better against him than I did today. I was a bit apprehensive about it, I was a bit nervous, but I enjoyed it.”

Duval said he hoped the exhibition would bring more interest to the game.

”When Tiger turned pro in ’96, golf became cool – not a dorky game,” he said.

The match was attended by about 2,000 fans. The price of general admission tickets was cut in half last week because of poor sales – those who bought in advance were given a chance at a rebate or an additional ticket.

Nevertheless, Woods described the crowd as ”boisterous.”

”It was a pretty exciting atmosphere,” he said. ”There were no gray areas. They were either for one player or the other.”

Most of them were for Woods, and they got their wish. The hometown guy won.