ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The challengers have taken their shots, and all agree: When going up against Tiger Woods, you better hope he is off his game, better hope you are on yours.
Spotting Woods a six-shot advantage is difficult enough, but David Duval was doing his best to put some drama into the final round of the Open Championship, making four birdies on the opening nine of the Old Course on Sunday, pulling within three.
Anything could happen over the final holes of golf's oldest championship.
"It got close out there a little bit," Woods said. "When David birdied (No.) 7 to go 4-under par on the day, there was only three shots separating us at the time, which isn't that much considering all the trouble that's lurking out there and the holes we have to play.
"If David would have continued to make a few birdies, then things might have been a little bit different."
Of course, Duval didn't continue to make birdies.
And he unraveled at the par-4 12th, the pivotal hole of the day. Woods held a four-shot lead when he got to the tee, then reached the green 314 yards away with a drive. He two-putted for birdie.
Duval also hit a good drive, but missed the green. Then he hit a poor chip shot that rolled back down the ridge. A three-putt gave him a bogey and a two-shot swing. Now he was six shots back -- right where he started.
"I thought he might have been in trouble after he hit his drive, and I hit a nice drive down there to the right and I thought I hit a pretty good pitch," Duval said. "But then I was in a position that was pretty difficult to two-putt. So there's a bogey, and coupled with a birdie, that put me six back at the time.
"At that point, that's obviously a large deficit with six holes to play."
Duval also lamented what happened at the 379-yard, par-4 10th, where he narrowly missed a birdie putt, only to have Woods two-putt from 80 feet for birdie. That extended Woods' lead to four at the time.
"Obviously I'm disappointed," Duval said. "I thought what I accomplished on the front nine was probably exactly what I needed to do, really cut the deficit, and then just start from there in.
"Just as everything turned good on the front nine, that's as bad as everything turned on the back."
Duval shot 43 on the back nine to finish with 75. After starting the day tied for second and still holding that position through 16 holes, Duval imploded with a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 17th hole. He fell to a tie for 11th.
For the second time this year, Duval played in the final pairing of a major championship and was unable to bring home the title. At The Masters, a final-round 70 left him tied for third.
Now he has to wait for next month's PGA Championship.
"That's what you work hard to do, that's where you want to be," said Duval, who also tied for eighth at the U.S. Open but has not won since the last of his four victories early in the 1999 season. "That's where I am going to work hard to get again in a couple of weeks. And I'll give it another run."
|Three bogeys on the back nine took David Duval out of the chase, long before his disaster on the Road Hole.|
Bob Harig, who covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times, writes a column every Tuesday for ESPN Golf Online.