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Duval finally captures that elusive major

The Associated Press

LYTHAM ST.

Monday, July 23, 2001

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – The wraparound sunglasses came off, and the most emotion David Duval probably will ever show spilled out.

It was nothing more than a smile of relief and eyes brimming with contentment. Together, though, they revealed a lot about Duval and what his first major championship meant.

A final-round 67 Sunday did more than just get Duval’s name engraved on the claret jug right beneath that of Tiger Woods. It also took away forever the hated label of the best player never to win a major.

Duval knew all that. Yet he struggled more to put it into words than he did with his clubs on a brilliant, sunny day on the links of Royal Lytham & St. Annes to win the British Open.

The look on his face would have to suffice.

”You know, I beat them all this week and I feel really good,” Duval said. ”It feels wonderful.”

The world’s No. 1 player before Woods, Duval was No. 1 at Royal Lytham because he was able to fashion weekend rounds of 65 and 67 on a golf course that wasn’t meant to give up two rounds that low in a row.

In the final round, he navigated his way out of knee-high rough five different times in the final round, but made only one bogey.

After that bogey on the par-3 12th, he promptly came back to birdie the next hole. Then Duval parred his way home to beat Sweden’s Niclas Fasth by three shots and hard-luck Ian Woosnam and five others by four.

Last year, he flew home with close friend Woods on Woods’ jet after his buddy had won. This time he had the same claret jug Woods carried in his arms. Only now it had his name on it, too.

”I like the position of my name right below his,” Duval said. ”It looks like it is in the right spot.”

Whether it stays there remains to be seen. Woods has six major titles, and Duval has a long way to go to catch up.

Still, winning the second is always easier than the first. Duval knows, after four years of coming close in the Masters.

”It’s kind of a big relief,” he said. ”It’s so pressure packed in the major championships. You just can’t let up and I didn’t let up today.”

He couldn’t because Fasth had already posted his 67 and was at 7 under when Duval was playing the front side at the same number. But birdies on the sixth and seventh holes gave him the margin he would never surrender.

By then, the three players Duval shared the lead with to start the day had faded. He needed only to play steady golf on the treacherous back nine to win.

”You get four chances each year and you have to have a lot of things to go right those weeks to get into a position to win the golf tournament,” Duval said. ”Then you have to kind of – you have to do it. I mean there’s no way around it, you have to do it.”

Duval certainly wasn’t the favorite of the massive crowds. That role belonged to long-suffering Colin Montgomerie and a suddenly sympathetic figure in Woosnam.

Montgomerie started a stroke behind, bogeyed the third hole and was never a factor. Woosnam became one, but because his caddie didn’t count, it wasn’t enough.

After nearly making a hole-in-one on the par-3 first hole to take a share of the lead, Woosnam put a tee in the ground and turned to his caddie for a club on the second tee.

What he got instead was a jolt. Caddie Miles Byrne had left a second driver in the bag and Woosnam would get a two-stroke penalty for having more than the 14-club limit.

”I felt like I had been kicked in the teeth,” Woosnam said.

Woosnam would bogey two of the next three holes before making an aborted charge that got him to 7 under and within two strokes of the lead on the back nine. He ended up losing by four, and wondering what might have been.

”I did not really get it out of my head all the way around,” Woosnam said. ”I kept thinking if I hadn’t had a two-shot penalty I could have been leading or been joint leader. I never shook it off.”

Fasth had finished well ahead of Duval, and after Miguel Angel Jimenez bogeyed the 14th hole to fall back to 7 under, the lead was three.

Duval didn’t know it, because he wasn’t looking at the old-fashioned yellow leaderboards through his wraparound shades as he played his way down the back nine.

”It never entered my mind that I hadn’t won a major today,” Duval said. ”I did not know exactly where I stood until I got to the 18th green and saw I was three shots ahead. I thought I was probably two, but I never looked.”

Duval’s father, senior tour player Bob Duval, was watching from his Ponte Vedra, Fla., home. The night before he and his son had talked about drinking cognac out of the claret jug if he brought the trophy home.

”He’s never talked to me about the frustration of not winning a major,” Bob Duval said. ”All he’s ever said is that he should have won two or three Masters. Today was a look of fun to watch.”