Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Above the Crowd David Duval Got a Big Lead, Lost It, and Got Back on Top

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Above the Crowd David Duval Got a Big Lead, Lost It, and Got Back on Top

Article excerpt

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- There were no leaders after the third round of The Players Championship yesterday -- only survivors.

David Duval of Jacksonville passed his survival test just a bit better.

He leads a group of six competitors who staggered to the finish of a long, cold, windy day at the TPC Stadium Course as the only members of the most elite field in professional golf under par. And despite five bogeys, despite missing eight fairways and despite matching his second-highest 18hole score this year with a 74, Duval leads The Players by one shot at 4-under-par 212.

His closest competitors are today's final-round playing partner Skip Kendall (70), and Phil Mickelson (71), at 3-under 213. The only other players in red numbers are 1993 Players champion Nick Price (74), six-time European PGA Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie (73) and Scott Hoch (73), who are at 1 under.

The half-dozen players at even-par and within range are Mark O'Meara (71), Tiger Woods (75), Payne Stewart (74), 1983 Players champion Hal Sutton (73), Steve Stricker (70) and Scott Gump (70).

Duval appeared weary as he conducted his post-round interview, and had no hesitation admitting that the Stadium Course, its glassy greens and the wind, got the best of the field -- to the tune of an average score of 76.241, with only nine players equaling par or better.

"The course beat us up, and it's reflective of the scores," said Duval, after he bogeyed the 18th hole, despite having an 8iron to the green from the middle of the fairway. "It was as difficult as any course I've played. . . . I don't know whether it was the toughest day I've ever had, or No. 2, 3 or 4, but it certainly was in the top five."

Course superintendent Fred Klauk said the brutal conditions were a combination of the usual firm and fast course he has been mandated to produce the week of The Players, plus the high winds and low humidity.

"This is the first time in the past several years that we've had wind this high," said Klauk, whose staff added more water than usual last night to the greens. "It wasn't the course set-up as much as the wind and low humidity drying the greens out very quickly. If there had been no wind, we wouldn't be having this discussion. What is happening is that players like David and Phil are adapting to the conditions."

Duval is in agreement. He said instead of dwelling on factors beyond his control, he'll focus on the task at hand: winning The Players, in his hometown. To that end, Duval is two strokes better in relation to the field than he was when he started, moving from a shot behind 36-hole leader Joe Ozaki (who played the first three holes at 4 over and ballooned to an 81) to a shot ahead of Kendall and Mickelson.

If Duval does win, he will be the second Jacksonville native to claim a Players title, 11 years after Mark McCumber did it in 1988. …

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