Thursday, April 11, 2002

Duval close but no jacket

The Associated Press

        AUGUSTA, Ga. — David Duval knows the feeling well. In contention on the back nine Sunday at the Masters, the crowd is roaring, the adrenaline is pumping and he's trying to stay focused in the moment. A few holes ahead, a green jacket awaits the winner. For the rest, a tremendous letdown.

        “You feel ecstatic and you feel sick at the same time,” Duval said. “A lot of amazing things go through your head and through your body.”

        For the last four years, Duval has ridden the roller-coaster of emotions down the stretch at Augusta National. Each time he's come close to his first Masters win.

        And each time he's gone home disappointed.

        “I feel like I've proven that I can win here,” Duval said. “No, I don't have a coat sitting upstairs in the locker, but under the circumstances of having a chance starting the final day, I've put up the scores. I just have been beaten.”

        Beaten, yes. But not beaten down, even after coming so close with so much at stake.

        If anything, Duval believes his experiences the last four years can only help him this week.

        “I'm expecting some really good things this week and I think the thing that benefits me the most is I know exactly what it feels like and it's not just from one time,” Duval said. “I know how Sunday afternoon I'm going to react and how my body is going to react and what my emotions will be, and I think that can only help.”

        Duval has another reason to feel good as he begins play Thursday in his seventh Masters. He still doesn't have a green jacket, but for the first time he carries the confidence of a major championship winner onto Augusta National's slick and undulating greens.

        His win last July in the British Open at Royal Lytham erased the stigma he shared with Phil Mickelson of being one of the best players never to win a major. He now knows he can win when the pressure is greatest.

        “I think I've completely proven that under those circumstances of the biggest, most important championship tournaments in the world that I can play and perform and win,” Duval said. “So, I feel good.”

        Duval brought the claret jug given to British Open winners home and drank expensive liquor out of it with his father, Bob, in celebration.

        To be able to wear the green jacket, though, he must break through in a tournament he seemed destined to win at least once in the last four years.

        “I felt like in '98 I should have won, yes,” Duval said. “I felt like probably I should have won in 2000. This is just personal stuff, but you ask the guys who did and they will tell you the same thing.”

        That would be Mark O'Meara, who rolled in a birdie putt on the 18th hole to win by a shot in 1998 after Duval was already in the Butler Cabin accepting early congratulations.

        In 2000, he was battling Vijay Singh for the lead when he hit a risky 5-iron shot that wound up in Rae's Creek for a bogey on the par-5 13th, the easiest hole at Augusta.

        Last year was easier to take because Duval stormed from three shots off the lead in the final round to tie Tiger Woods before a 7-iron he thought he hit perfectly on the par-3 16th flew the green and led to a bogey.

        He still had two chances to catch Woods but missed birdie putts from 12 feet on the 17th and 5 feet on the final hole.

        “The first time it was a bad night. That night was tough to swallow,” Duval said. “The other times, I guess '99, wasn't nearly as bad. 2000 was a little difficult because I was right there. And then last year wasn't terrible at all.”

        Duval, who hasn't played particularly well since his British Open win, came to Augusta National early, cheerfully waiting on Sunday as several members played through as he played a practice round.

        He's been comfortable here since being invited to play the course by a member while still in high school.

        He's also comfortable with what he can expect if he is battling for the lead for a fifth straight year on Sunday. Duval just hopes that this time the bounces go his way.

        “I think I've shown that I can play under the conditions and the circumstances,” he said. “I feel that's what lacked here for me in the past — the things that happened so well for me at Lytham, a couple of those good bounces and a couple of those key putts that went in are the only thing that's been missing here for me.”

        More Masters and local golf coverage at

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