The answer man will now respond to your questions. Fire when ready.
Hey, Answer Man, I was watching the Buick Classic on TV when ABC switched to some kiddie flick in the middle of the playoff between David Duval and Dennis Paulson. What did I miss?
No doubt millions of children couldn't wait another minute to see Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain, the Disney movie scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern, so ABC honchos flipped the playoff to the Deuce, ESPN2. You missed the third extra hole, where Duval's 40-footer for birdie got a big thumbs-up from Paulson, who then made a little whirlybird motion after his own birdie try took a victory lap around the edge of the cup before dropping. After that, you didn't miss much. The finish was anticlimactic. Duval three-jacked the next hole, the par-417th, and Paulson won with a routine par.
What's with Duval, Answer Man? Forget about his problems in the majors. He hasn't won anything in 14 months, and now he gets beat by some guy whose only claim to fame is that he used to be the long-drive champ. Duval's 59 seems like ages ago. Is he washed up?
Did we watch the same tournament? I left Westchester Country Club thinking that Duval and Tiger Woods are the guys to beat this week at Pebble Beach. Duval played the kind of final round at Westchester that wins U.S. Opens. He missed only one green on the back nine. If he makes any putts at all—such as the 18-footer for birdie the first time he played the 17th, which was in all the way—he wins. The putter has been a problem for him this year, but he had to be conservative on Westchester's fast and weavy greens. "I feel like I'm swinging the club better than I have in months," Duval says, "and I feel like me again putting."
Duval's only uncharacteristic round last week came on Thursday, when he made seven birdies but finished with only a one-under 70. His total of 19 birdies for the tournament was second only to Sergio Garc�a's 20. You don't rack up 19 birdies without rolling your rock. Don't be fooled. Duval is as intent on winning the Open as he was on winning the Masters, and just as confident as he was in Augusta when he said, "This tournament is mine to lose." He has had a second, three thirds, a fourth and a fifth this year. Winning isn't as easy as Woods makes it look. Washed up? Duval looks primed to me.
Is Duval the stuck-up jerk he's made out to be?
No, he's just honest to a fault. For instance, on Sunday evening, after a long, emotional day, he was asked how he felt about Paulson's first Tour victory. Typically, Duval told it like it is. "I just got beat in a playoff eight minutes ago," he said, "so my tone is going to sound bitter and unhappy. It's not like I've had a cooling-off period to take a step back and digest how well I've played this week. It's almost eight o'clock, I just got beat and I'm not happy about it." Duval could field questions more diplomatically, but he shouldn't be criticized for giving honest answers.
So who is this Paulson guy, anyway?
He's a 37-year-old Californian who grew up in San Diego and attended San Diego State. He and his wife, Linda, have a three-year-old boy, Dillon, and are building a house in Encinitas, not far from the La Costa Resort and Spa. Obviously, Paulson's a late bloomer. Yes, he won the national long-drive championship 15 years ago, but he has other credentials. Paulson is one of those people who have spent a dozen years becoming an overnight success. He turned pro in 1985 but didn't get through Q school until '93, on his ninth try. He has been on and off the Tour ever since, playing in state opens, in Asia and on the Buy.com tour between starts on the big stage. He finally broke through last year, when he lost a playoff to Duffy Waldorf at Westchester but went on to finish 27th on the money list. You also probably noticed that he was the first-round leader this year at the Masters.