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Second To None A hard-charging victory at the Houston Open pushed David Duval to the top of the Tour

May 11, 1998
May 11, 1998

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May 11, 1998

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Second To None A hard-charging victory at the Houston Open pushed David Duval to the top of the Tour

Last summer they were the unchallenged Sultans of Second, two
talented and promising players who came so close so often, but
never won. David Duval and Jeff Maggert were the little engines
that couldn't. They were the Buffalo Bills of professional golf.

This is an article from the May 11, 1998 issue Original Layout

Duval almost won at Pebble Beach, and at Doral and Atlanta and a
bunch of other places. A four-time All-America at Georgia Tech,
his three years on the PGA Tour had added up to seven seconds
and four thirds. Maggert had the same kind of history, almost
winning the Buick Classic, the U.S. Open and the Greater
Hartford Open in '97, plus he had just missed in Houston several
times over the years. There had been the one satisfying week,
sure, when he won the '93 Disney Classic, but going into this
season, Maggert's eighth on Tour, he was better remembered as
the guy with the 10 seconds and seven thirds.

Their consistency was impressive, almost great. Almost, but not
quite. Both players heard the whispers and were asked the
dreaded questions. What was wrong? Why couldn't they win? Were
they, well, chokers?

Today Duval and Maggert are no longer linked like Starsky and
Hutch. They might as well live in alternate universes. Duval is
the hottest player in the world and arguably the best after
winning last week's Shell Houston Open in stunning
come-from-nowhere fashion. He made a pair of back-nine eagles en
route to a closing 64, dusting a startled batch of contenders
that included Maggert, who came in second, naturally, as well as
Fred Couples, Lee Janzen and Dan Forsman. Duval's victory was
his fifth in the last 12 times he has teed it up. No one has
played as well since Tiger Woods went five for 11 during his
first year as a pro. The old scouting report on Duval--that he's
a weak finisher--now goes into the Ex-files next to the dusty
notebook in which Tom Watson was described as one of those
never-on-a-Sunday types. "It's weird how it has unfolded," Duval
says. "I thought I had to shoot 63 or 64 on Sunday to win, and I
did it. I felt like I was going to have a good day, but you can
never call up a 64. It just happens."

It happened on Saturday for Maggert, whose third-round 64 tied
him with Forsman for the lead. Sorry, Jeff, wrong day. A
lifelong resident of the Woodlands, where the tournament is
held, Maggert has played hundreds of rounds on the TPC course
and owns the Houston Open, almost. Last week was the fourth time
he has led going into the final round. On Sunday in 1991 he
erupted with an 80. In '94 he shot 71 and lost to Mike Heinen by
three. In '96 he closed with 72 and lost in a playoff to Mark
Brooks. This time he shot a respectable 71 and finished a shot
behind Duval. "A 71 may seem like a decent, valid effort, but
the guys out here can play," Maggert said. "Sometimes you need
great scores on Sunday to win. To play a good round doesn't cut
it."

Not this time. The runner-up finish was Maggert's 12th (he tied
for second at Bay Hill earlier this season) and marked the
seventh time he has led after three rounds but failed to win. At
best, that statistic is disappointing. At worst, it's
disturbing. Yet Maggert never fails to answer the inevitable,
tedious questions about his failures with honesty and
thoughtfulness. "That's the first thing I'm asked about when I'm
leading a tournament or playing well," Maggert says. "I put
myself in this position, so I'm the one who has to play my way
out of it. The hard part is that people look at you like you're
a bad player. I'm just trying to win a golf tournament
somewhere, somehow. You can blame it on bad bounces only so many
times. It really boils down to how well you perform mentally
down the stretch."

Duval has been there, but he really doesn't have any advice for
Maggert. "There's no secret," he says. "Jeff has finished second
a lot since he won. I finished second a lot before I won.
Somebody shoots 64 and beats you. They did it to me."

The secret, Ben Hogan said, was in the dirt. That was his way of
explaining that if you struck a few thousand practice shots
every day, every week from now on, you wouldn't have to look for
any magic formulas. Still, you can't win on Tour without
shooting a low score on Sunday, and that has been Maggert's
downfall. In addition to that 80 in Houston he has shot a 68,
four 71s, a 72 and a 75 in the final rounds of the eight
tournaments in which he led after Saturday. Only the 68 got him
a win. Last year the highest final-round score by a Tour winner
was a 71, and there were only two. To force a playoff last week,
Maggert needed just a two-under-par 70, but the same man who put
up eight birdies on Saturday went 13 holes before he got one on
Sunday and finished with only two. "I can't seem to get to the
finish line," Maggert says. "I don't feel like I've given away
tournaments. It's always that someone else has played a hair
better."

Maggert has finished among the top 30 money winners for four of
the last five years, "but it comes down to 7 1/2 years and I've
only won one time," he says. "It's disappointing. You can win
$700,000 or $800,000 a year out here without winning, but you
define the upper-echelon players by how many tournaments they've
won and how they perform under pressure. I feel like I'm right
at the door, but I'm not in yet."

What separates Duval from Maggert? Why is one racking up wins
while the other leads the Tour in frustration? One reason is
length. Duval, who averages 285.6 yards with his driver, is
among the Tour leaders in distance and accuracy off the tee.
Maggert is only of average length, and the difference showed on
the par-5s at the Woodlands. Duval, who was 12 under par
overall, went 10 under on the par-5s and was first in distance
(307 yards) for the week, while Maggert was five under and
ranked 40th.

Just when it looked as if Duval was out of contention on Sunday,
he used his length to make the eagles. He reached the island
green on the 533-yard 13th hole with a six-iron second shot and
used a four-iron approach to reach the 521-yard 15th. Duval then
took the lead from Janzen with a tap-in birdie at the par-3 16th.

Putting is another telling difference between Duval and Maggert.
Most Tour players are either great ball strikers or terrific
putters. Maggert is the former. If there's a truism in golf, it
is that one great putt makes up for two poor shots, and one poor
putt negates two great shots. Maggert ranks 33rd on Tour in
putting while Duval is fifth.

Still, Maggert's lack of success is something of a mystery
because he has shown, on occasion, the ability to play under
pressure. He shot a final-round 65 in the PGA Championship at
Winged Foot to gain a spot on last year's Ryder Cup team and
then blitzed Lee Westwood in a crucial singles match at
Valderrama.

After near misses to Ernie Els at the U.S. Open and the Buick
Classic in back-to-back weeks last June, Maggert blew the
Hartford Open on the final day. Tied for the lead on the 18th
tee, he missed the fairway, the green, his par putt and a
potential playoff. "Your first three or four years, when you
come close and don't win, you say, Well, I've got a lot of
time," Maggert says. "I'm 34 now. When I read the newspaper, it
says 'Tour veteran Jeff Maggert.' I will have to shine for the
next six or seven years."

Duval's performance in Houston was notable in that he didn't
putt well for the first two days, then played poorly on
Saturday, shooting what he called his worst round since last
September. "That was a great day for me because I played really
bad and shot 73 when I should've had a 75 or 76 or higher,"
Duval says. Instead of beating balls in the Houston humidity
after the round, Duval simply wrote off the experience as a bad
day and left the course. He came back rested on Sunday and
surged to a 32 on the front side.

At the Masters it was Mark O'Meara's charge on Sunday that beat
Duval by a shot. Last week it was Duval's turn to leave everyone
in his wake. Janzen, who had raced to the top of the leader
board with birdies on four of the first five holes, let the
tournament slip away coming home. He missed four putts inside
six feet and yanked a drive so badly at the 17th that his ball
actually hit on the far side of a water hazard before bouncing
back into the drink.

Forsman also was victimized by his putting. He needed a
birdie-birdie finish to catch Duval but went bogey-bogey
instead, missing a three-footer for par at the 17th. After
picking his ball out of the cup to conclude a disappointing 74,
Forsman earned bonus points with the fans by walking to the edge
of the pond and pretending to dive in. A tie for sixth wasn't
what he wanted after starting the final round as a co-leader,
but the 39-year-old Forsman was nonetheless satisfied. He was
coming off a three-tournament break and began the week by asking
his longtime caddie, Greg Martin, how he could regain his
passion for the game. The answer, he learned, was by playing
well. "This week has been a huge bonus, regardless of the
outcome," Forsman said.

Duval finished 40 minutes before the final twosome and viewed
the remaining action from the ABC booth, which is getting to be
a familiar scene. Duval was watching the end of the Masters on a
TV monitor in Jones Cabin when O'Meara sank the 20-foot putt on
the 72nd hole that beat him by a stroke. "Now I've watched two
in a row," said Duval. "At least this one came out right."

COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL POWER SURGE Duval has won five of his last 12 starts and in a year has shot from 22nd to fifth in the World Ranking. [David Duval playing golf]COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN DUNN LEAN TIMES Maggert's failing has been an inability to shoot anything better than an average round when he's leading on Sunday. [Jeff Maggert playing golf beside spectators]COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN DUNN GOING OVERBOARD? Some fans floated the idea that Woods is no longer the top name on Tour, and the numbers backed them up. [Men in row boat holding signs]

DUVAL VERSUS WOODS

Since Tiger Woods's last victory in the U.S., at the Motorola
Western Open in July 1997, David Duval has been hot, while Woods
has not. Here's a comparison of what the two players have done
in Tour events over the last 10 months:

DUVAL WOODS

Starts 19 15
Wins 5 0
Top 10s 9 7
Missed Cuts 5 1
Money per Start $136,086 $65,692
Scoring Avg. 69.7 70.3
First-round Avg. 68.8 69.7
Final-round Avg. 69.7 70.9
Best Major T2* T8*

*Masters

"The hard part is that people look at you as if you're a bad
player," says Maggert.