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Duval ready for final crack at Woods


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - Ever since he lost his place at the top of the world rankings last year to Tiger Woods, David Duval has been looking forward to a chance to steal some of the spotlight back.

Ever since he lost in a made-for-television match last summer in California - or have you forgotten the "Showdown at Sherwood"? - Duval has been looking for another opportunity to play against Woods.

It will happen today, in the final round of the 129th British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

"It will be a circus, it will be exciting," Duval said after his 6-under-par 66 in yesterday's third round left the world's second-ranked player at 10-under 206, tied for second and six shots behind Woods. "It will be a slugfest."

It probably won't be a fair fight.

While Woods is at the top of his game, Duval has slumped horribly since winning 11 times in less than two years. While Woods is at his peak physically, Duval has been hampered here by a strained back.

"Today was the best day I've felt all week really," said Duval, who stood during his post-round news conference with hopes that his back wouldn't stiffen. "I think for the most part I played pretty much pain-free."

Asked if he believes what Sam Snead once said about "beware [of] the half-sick golfer," Duval shook his head. "I personally don't buy into that because when I've been ill I have never played well."

And, there is Woods himself.

Even Duval is impressed by what he has seen.

"I think you look at all the great champions in any sport and they have the ability to channel it more, but I don't think you get immune to pressure," said Duval. "I think you feel it but you learned what it feels like and you learn how your body reacts and you learn how to use it."

It is something Duval has yet to master, particularly in major championships. At this year's Masters, Duval had a chance to win when his indecision and poor execution led to a double-bogey on the par-5 13th hole. Two years ago, Duval led the Masters by two shots with three holes to play and lost to Mark O'Meara by a shot.

"I guess I learned that you need to have your game there," said Duval. "You need to be playing well. You need to know what you have. I talked about it at Augusta. You need to have what happened to me on 18 today.

"I just turned a 6 into a 3. My ball was awful close to going out of bounds and I made birdie. If I'm back at 7-under, I'm out of the golf tournament probably. All of a sudden, I have a chance to play in the final group tomorrow."

Duval knows he is capable of making such a comeback, having come from seven shots behind to win at the Shell Houston Open in 1998 and at last year's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, when he shot a record-tying 59 in the final round.

He also knows that Woods rarely loses a lead after three rounds.

"We can say that if he's ahead, nobody has a chance," said Duval. "We can say that if I'm as much as seven behind, I have a chance because I've won from that far behind before. I really don't know.

"I'm going to be trying for my first major championship and he's going to be going for the Slam. So there is going to be pressure on both parties.

"I don't know how that translates into what kind of lead he would be most comfortable with or what kind of lead is then insurmountable. But I imagine I would need to shoot a 66 again, if not a few better."

Duval is looking forward to the opportunity no matter the obstacles or the odds.

"You get to look him in the eye," said Duval. "If I can swing the golf club like I have the last few days and putt like I have, I can show him that I've got a little game going right now."

Garcia's frustrating day

Talk of a possible final pairing of Woods and Sergio Garcia evaporated when the 20-year-old Spaniard three-putted for bogey on the par-4 15th and made double-bogey 6 on the par-4 17th after taking an unplayable lie in perhaps the toughest bunker on the course.

Though he made birdie on the final hole, Garcia took himself out of the hunt with a 1-over-par 73 that left him at 6-under 210.

"It is so frustrating," said Garcia. "The more frustrating when you are playing well. I really played well and went into three divots on the front nine. You hit shots right in the middle of the fairway and you are thinking OK, let's see if I can make par. That's not the way it should be in the Open championship."

At one point, Garcia's nerves were so frayed that he had to be calmed by an official of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.

"You've got to realize that it's hard to stay there with all the pressure," said Garcia.

Final-day advice

Mike Weir has some advice for Duval about playing with Woods in the final pairing. Weir was tied for the lead with Woods going into the final round of last year's PGA Championship, and finished tied for 10th after shooting an 80.

"Here it's a little different because the crowds are so far away from you," said Weir, a 30-year-old Canadian left-hander. "It won't be much of a factor. It's a challenge to stay within yourself. There's no one who can do the things he does, so why try?"

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