LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- No doubt David Duval will carry away many fond memories from the Royal Lytham & St. Annes course where he won his first major champonship, but he'll likely have particularly fond memories of its par-5 sixth and seventh holes.
Duval birdied those two holes six times during the week, including each during the final round when he took the lead to stay en route to the British Open crown.
"I think that to post a good score on this golf course, you have to birdie those holes," he said. "I took advantage of them each day. I think that was very beneficial to me being in here (the winner's tent) right now."
No kidding. Duval birdied both holes on Thursday when he recovered from a poor start, salvaged a poor round Friday with a birdie on one of them, and birdied another Saturday when he shot a sizzling 65, one off the course record. He used the holes to full advantage again the final round.
The final round opened as the closest at the British Open in almost a quarter century. Duval and three golfers shared the lead, and nine others were just a stroke back. The final golfer on the course, Duval birdied the par-4 third to get to 7-under. He separated himself from the others with a birdie on the sixth and followed with a 20-foot putt for another birdie on the seventh.
"Any time you can keep 5s off your card is good because 5s add up quick," Duval said. "Some pins are going to be tucked on other holes or really all of them. But on the par-5s, at least you can two-putt for birdies, you don't necessarily have to hit it close."
He never looked back after that stretch. Heck, he says he didn't even look at the leaderboard until the final hole, which he claims is the first time he realized he held a three-stroke lead.
While the placement of the 196 bunkers generally takes away one of Duval's strength -- length -- he said it gives him back that advantage on the 494-yard sixth and 557-yard seventh. The way the wind dropped after some vicious gales during the practice rounds early in the week helped him as well.
Plus, he putted very well, which came in handy on those birdies.
"The first couple of rounds I didn't play particularly well, but I made the cut because I made all the putts," he said. "The last two days I hit it well and continued to make all the putts. And you shoot 274 and win by three when you do that."