David Duval turned back the clock Saturday morning at St Andrews. Playing in the first group out, Duval, who is better known these days for his commentary as a Golf Channel analyst than as a professional golfer, posted a fine five-under 67 — the lowest score at the Open since he carded the same number in the final round of his lone major title — under optimal scoring conditions.
Duval was simply happy to be playing four rounds at the Open, which required him to birdie the par-4 18th after he three-putted the most difficult hole of the week, the long par-4 17th. He’s simply happy to get into the field to compete these days.
The 2001 Open champion managed to play the Scottish Open at Gullane GC last week and he didn’t exactly kick off his round in style on the relatively straightforward opening par-4. Duval pushed his first tee shot right into the long grass. He couldn’t find it and trudged back to the tee to re-hit. This time his drive went left and he lost it again. Third time’s the charm — he finally got it into play and ended up making a quadruple-bogey 8.
Predictably, Duval, the world’s no. 1,268 ranked player int he world, missed the cut by a mile, but it meant he arrived to St Andrews on Saturday to prepare for the Open Championship.
“I’ve been on St Andrews since last Saturday every day playing golf,” said Duval. “Who gets to say that really? It’s pretty cool. As far as I’m concerned I’m on a Scottish links trip. The difficulty I face is not getting to play. Competing against the best golfers in the world and the Dustin Johnsons and Jordan Spieths and Rorys is not a fair fight when I haven’t played a golf tournament in three or four months and they’ve been playing constantly.”
The last time Duval made the cut at a major championship was more than five years ago and he hadn’t played all four rounds at the Open since finishing T39 in 2008.
“There’s absolutely no pressure on me tomorrow,” he said. “There’s not. I mean, again, I joke — when I tee it up and I know you’re tired of hearing about it, but I expect to play well, and I haven’t a lot of times. So tomorrow — y’all didn’t expect to be standing here this morning, did you? No.
“So I’ll go play tomorrow and do the best I can. Maybe I’ll shoot 67 again, maybe I’ll shoot 77, who knows? But I’ll have a smile on my face and enjoy walking around St. Andrews, I can tell you that.”
That’s better than most can say.
While Duval played his way into the top 20 when he completed his early round, the extremely benign conditions on Sunday have yielded very low scores. Par is closer to 68 today. Marc Leishman, who played in the 11th game of the day, shot an eight-under 64 to take the clubhouse lead at nine-under for the tournament, but that didn’t last too long. With the birdie-fest happening at the Old Course, the Australian has now dropped to a tie for seventh at the moment.
Eddie Pepperell momentarily climbed atop the leaderboard until he hit one into the balcony of the Old Course Hotel, which guards the right side of the Road Hole. He had to settle for a six-under 66, eight-under for the championship. Padraig Harrington also went low, carding a seven-under 65 to get to 10-under.
36-hole leader Dustin Johnson apparently didn’t get the memo that par is easily 68 today, not 72. In fact, DJ and Zach Johnson are the only players in the field who have yet to post a birdie in the third round, which is certainly quite costly when red numbers are aplenty.
The hope of the Grand Slam is still alive as Jordan Spieth is currently tied for the lead at 11-under, with one hole to play. Get ready, golf fans, it should be a fun ride watching how the rest of the day unfolds, not to mention the final round — there are 20 players within three shots of co-leaders Spieth, amateur Paul Dunne and Danny WIllett at the moment.