Is DD on the way back?

Duval, believes in himself again.

AVONDALE, La. – At home in Denver, David Duval practices with only nine clubs because he enjoys the challenge.

Yes, that sounds a bit strange. He hasn’t had a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since February 2011, a span of 50 events, and now he’s trying to make the game harder?

But Duval has to be ready. He has to be prepared. On the rare occasion that he gets a chance to play, he has to know that he has given himself the best opportunity to succeed.

This was always going to be a make-or-break year for Duval, now 42. In December he tapped out a series of tweets in which he vowed that this was his final year of asking for freebies. He gave himself an ultimatum: He would either earn his way back onto the PGA Tour, or he would take his clubs and go home. Find something else to do. Carry on with his life.

“It’s up to me to play good golf when I get to play,” he said.

Duval was hoping for a schedule of 15 to 20 events, all via sponsor exemptions. But this week’s Zurich Classic is only No. 7, a sign that even his most loyal supporters are fading. Only once this season has he played in consecutive weeks, back in November. Otherwise, he simply practices at home, waits for the phone to ring, and tries to take advantage when the time comes.

“It’s an extra burden on me right now because I know I’m playing good golf, and the only thing I can do is try to hit the golf ball like I know I am hitting it,” he said. “The other things will take care of themselves. I don’t have next week. I have tomorrow now, and that’s all I have.”

Ready to give his slumping career one more shot, Duval began working last year with swing coach Chris O’Connell. They retooled Duval’s in-to-out swing and made it more in-to-in, swinging left, like so many of the game’s best ball-strikers.

“I feel natural again,” Duval said.

Seven months ago, he also decided that he needed to get fitter, so he shed 30 pounds. He carries his own bag when he practices. Fatigue will not be an excuse.

ScreenHunter_117 Apr. 26 23.12Most interesting, he had Nike build a custom set of clubs: driver, putter, 4-wood (a club he doesn’t even carry in competition), 21.5-degree, 28.5, 35.5, 42, 49 and 56. Nine clubs.

“I have the challenge of having to hit golf shots,” he says.

He uses that set to play Cherry Hills, his home club and the site of this year’s BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup event that Duval, in all likelihood, will not even qualify for. Last week, from the tournament tees, he shot 3 under on the front side. He’s gone as low as 4 under, as high as 1 over.

“He’s playing with odd-numbered clubs,” his stepson and caddie Deano Karavites said, “and he’ll beat me by 15 shots.”

Now, when Duval gets the call that he’s in a tournament, he has to temper his excitement. He fights the urge to press. He knows he’s playing well. He knows he can compete. He knows he’s ready once again to play week-in, week-out on the PGA Tour … it just hasn’t worked out, yet.

On Thursday, Duval shot a 4-under 68 to sit in a tie for 11th, six shots off the early lead at the Zurich Classic. It was just his seventh sub-70 score in his last 75 rounds. It was only his second bogey-free round in the past three years, his first since a 2-under 69 at the 2012 John Deere.

Yes, we have seen similar bursts of good form in the past few months. The opening 67 last fall in Mexico. The second-round 68 at Pebble. And Duval has made similar remarks recently – that he’s thisclose, that all he needs is a few more opportunities. Only this time, the former world No. 1 truly believes it.

“Looking back, I wasn’t physically equipped. My game wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I was a little delusional about how I was playing. Now I’m not delusional about it.”

So can he win this golf tournament? Can he win for the first time in 13 years?

“I’m here to tell you stranger things have happened,” he said, smiling. “I’m hitting the ball well enough to do it.”

Duval hasn’t played a tournament in four weeks (Bay Hill). He attempted to Monday qualify in San Antonio but fell one shot shy. He had another four weeks off between Pebble and Puerto Rico. “It’s a great challenge,” he said, and it’s the biggest reason why he has four missed cuts in six starts, only $40,479 in earnings. In all, he has missed 21 of his last 27 cuts. He has fallen to No. 1,099 in the world.

After this week, his only upcoming tournament is the St. Jude Classic, 42 days away. His only hope for more reps is a top 10 this week, or for some tournament director to be impressed by his form, his dedication, his story.

“He’s not taking it for granted as much anymore,” said Karavites, his stepson/caddie. “He knows how well he’s hitting it. He just wants to be back out here. He really wants it.”

Update: David had a second round of 69 and qualified for the final 2 days. He shot 70 on Saturday to lie in joint 20th place on 9 under so a special last round could see him make a top 10 finish and entry into more tournaments on a regular basis.  Com’on DD I’m rooting for you.

Who wouldn’t like a 15-inch cup?

How about this for one of our Nine & Dine Fridays!!

GREENSBORO, Ga. — Sergio Garcia said he got off to a slow start and still shot 30 for nine holes. Justin Rose was ScreenHunter_115 Apr. 21 20.58disappointed that he shot 33.

With the pressure off after playing in the Masters, the two European Ryder Cup teammates really felt the pressure off when they were playing on greens with 15-inch cups, not the regulation holes that are 41/4 inches in diameter.

“My mindset changed completely,” said Rose, the reigning U.S. Open champion. “Even when I missed the fairway, I thought if I can get this up or around the green I can still make birdie because the hole is so big.”

“I had three chances to chip in and I didn’t, and I was disappointed with that,” said Garcia, the No. 7-ranked player in the world who missed the cut at the Masters.

“From inside 100 yards, you feel like you can hit it like this,” he added, holding his fingers an inch or so apart.

Garcia and Rose took part in a nine-hole tournament Monday that used 15-inch cups at the Oconee Course at Reynolds Plantation, approximately 70 miles from Augusta National Golf Club. The tournament was hosted by TaylorMade Golf, which is committing up to $5 million over the next five years to support a program called Hack Golf — designed to make the sport more fun and attract new players.

Garcia and Rose, along with Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, are TaylorMade’s poster boys on the PGA Tour.

The 15-inch cups are among several ideas being advanced by the PGA of America, which has formed an alliance with Hack Golf. ScreenHunter_116 Apr. 21 21.00PGA of America president Ted Bishop has created a task force from inside and outside the industry to come up with ideas to help resuscitate a sport that has been in a downward spiral for nearly a decade. Even PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has joined the coalition.

“Ninety days ago there was no such thing as Hack Golf,” TaylorMade-adidas chief executive officer Mark King said after the nine-hole tournament. “Now you have the PGA of America really excited about it, and getting Tim Finchem is great for us to have his endorsement. That means he supports the idea of trying new things to bring people into the game.”

The 15-inch cup concept is a good start. Not only does it make it easier for players to make putts from anywhere on the green, it also increases the possibility of shots from off the green going into the hole. That, in turn, speeds up pace of play.

The holes have sand at the bottom of the cup so balls traveling at a faster pace will stay in the hole.

Unfortunately for Garcia and Rose, they are not going to play with cups that size on the PGA Tour.

“The biggest thing is, speed is not relevant,” Rose said. “A 4 ¼-inch cup doesn’t receive a ball with speed, therefore you have to really take your time to read the break perfectly. You don’t have to spend as much time reading greens because you don’t have to be that precise.”

“There’s no lagging anymore,” Garcia said, laughing.

Bishop said the PGA of America is not trying to revolutionize the game or break from tradition with 15-inch cups. But he said it’s an alternative for golf-course owners to try and make the game more enjoyable for high-handicappers, charity outings and couples and junior leagues.

As owner of a 45-hole facility called the Legends Golf Club near Indianapolis, Bishop said it’s also a way for course owners to generate more revenue.

“For 10 years, we thought and hoped things would turn around in our industry,” Bishop said. “Now we have to get drastic and do something about it.

ScreenHunter_117 Apr. 21 21.11“We have to do some more things that are out of the box. We feel it has a chance to move the needle. We have to redefine what the golf experience is today.”

King said approximately 100 courses around the country have agreed to enroll in the 15-inch cup testing program. Bishop said he will consider using a regulation hole and the 15-inch cup on each green on one of his nine-hole layouts.

The cost of the kit is inexpensive (approximately $60) and the device to cut the hole in the green is $250.

“In this country, you can break golfers into two categories — you have players and you have golfers,” Bishop said. “And golfers are this expansive group that don’t have handicaps, who don’t play anything competitively, who just want to play the game, play with their friends. They don’t want to get caught up in all these technical rules that are a barrier for them in the sport.”

The Masters

Taken from

The Masters is widely regarded as the best of golf’s four majors. Here are ten fun facts about the spectacular event at the beautiful Augusta National in Georgia.

1. Bob Jones and Clifford Roberts were the masterminds behind the event, which was first staged in 1934. It was called the Augusta National Invitational for the first five years.

2. Each hole is named after a plant or shrub. For example, No.4 is called Flowering Crab Apple, No.5 is Magnolia, No.8 is Yellow Jasmine, No.13 is Azalea and No.15 is Firethorn.

The Masters: Top ten facts about golf's biggest major
Fans watch play at Amen Corner at Augusta National (Picture: Getty Images)

3. Avid golfer Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower is the only US president to have been a club member. Ike’s Pond occupies three acres near hole No.9 on the par-three course and is the site of the traditional par-three contest on Wednesday of Masters week.

4. It is not possible to apply for membership to Augusta National – it’s an invite-only affair. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and former amateur star and now Senior PGA Tour player John Harris are the only pro golfers who are members.

5. No one has ever won the par-three tournament and The Masters tournament in the same year and no amateur has won The Masters either.

6. There are ten cabins located on the grounds of Augusta National which provide lodging for members and their guests. One of them is named the Eisenhower Cabin because the club built it for the former US president and his wife for their visits to Augusta National.

7. The Champions Dinner is attended by previous Masters winners and is hosted by the defending champion, who chooses the menu, on the Tuesday of Masters week. Previous dinners have included Zach Johnson’s 2008 offering of Iowa beef and Florida shrimp, while the year before Phil Mickelson served up barbecued ribs, chicken, sausage and pulled pork, with coleslaw. In 1998 Tiger Woods gave his guests cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, French fries and milkshakes. Nick Faldo’s 1997 menu was tomato soup followed by fish and chips.

8. Magnolia Lane extends from the entrance gate to the clubhouse with 61 large magnolia trees lining both sides of the 330-yard road. The trees were planted in the late 1850s.

9. Jack Nicklaus has the most Masters wins, with six. In 1986 he became the oldest player to win the tournament at the age of 46, two months and 23 days.

The Masters: Top ten facts about golf's biggest major
Adam Scott celebrates sinking the winning putt at last year’s Masters (Picture: Getty Images)

10. Last year’s winner Adam Scott was the first Australian to triumph at The Masters. It was his first major victory, having gone close in 2012 when he was second at The Open after finishing third at the US PGA in 2006.