Originally created 11/08/97

Club pro Duval ties Irwin, Morgan at Senior Tour Championship



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- It was Bob Duval's PGA Tour son who got him to rejoin the competitive game, and now Duval is following in his son's footsteps, shooting a 66 Friday to tie Hale Irwin and Gil Morgan for the halfway lead at the Senior Tour Championship.

If Duval, a club pro two years ago, can keep it up through the weekend at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club, he will join son David with a win at his tour's season-ending event.

"I don't know, but I've played with David, a top 10 money winner, the last two years and beaten him a couple of times, so that makes me feel pretty good," said Duval, who shot a first-hole bogey, then seven birdies for a 9-under 135.

Irwin shot a 67 and Morgan a 66.

Irwin came here with more than $2.1 million won this year and Morgan with five victories. But Duval was as popular as the favorites because of his son, who has won almost $1.3 million with three PGA Tour victories the past month, including the Tour Championship last week.

Players, fans, officials and caddies all stopped to chat with Duval about his son's play, "and then they would congratulate me about getting into the championships," he said.

Duval, whose best this year has been a second at Pittsburgh, showed off a power game and an accurate putter as strong as any PGA pro. He drove continually near 300 yards and fired in wedges. His three front-side birdies all came off 15 foot putts, while on the back he made birdie putts of 3, 60, 4 and 6 feet.

Duval said he spoke with his son, who is playing the Sarazen World Open in Braselton, Ga., Thursday night, and David urged him to slow down and swing smooth.

"We don't talk a lot of golf, but he told me I had a tendency to go fast," he said. "Everything felt comfortable today."

Irwin, who needs a win here for a record 10th Seniors victory, kept his methodical patience. When he erred at the seventh hole, he rebounded with birdie on No. 8. A 6-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole tied him with Duval.

Morgan would be the runaway Senior player of the year in his rookie season if not for Irwin. He rolled in seven birdies, including a 12-footer on the 16th for a share of the lead.

"What is happening is Gil and I are feeding off each other's play," Irwin said. "Duval is feeding off his son's frenzy, I guess."

First-round leader Bob Murphy was at 7-under, but took 5 on the par-3 17th to fall into a tie for fourth with Hugh Baiocchi and Dave Eichelberger. Isao Aoki, third on the money list this season, was at 5-under with two-time Tour Championship winner Mike Hill.

Duval, who is 31st on this year's money-winning list with $482,601, was the final qualifier for this week's tournament.

It wasn't long ago he had given up competitive golf and sold lessons as the pro at several north Florida clubs. He wasn't sure if he'd lost his touch shuttling his son through junior golf tours, high school tournaments and college visits.

It was David who nagged -- and finally convinced his dad -- that his game could compete with the Irwins and Morgans. After a season of battling 140 competitors in Monday qualifying for four weekly tournament spots, Duval knows he belongs.

"It's not the most perfect round," he said. "But it's the best ball-striking I've done in a long time."