Originally created 02/18/99

Woods, Duval rivalry seems a natural



LOS ANGELES -- With the PGA Tour thriving, about all that's missing is a great rivalry, like Arnold Palmer-Jack Nicklaus.

That may not be missing for long.

Tiger Woods, whose arrival signaled the beginning of a new era on the Tour, and David Duval, who has been playing the game about as well as anyone ever has, seem destined to lock up in a natural rivalry.

"It would be great for him and me," said Woods, although he thinks it may not occur.

"I don't see that happening because there are just too many good players out here," he said. "It's not just a handful of guys who can win."

But he and Duval are the guys who seem capable of winning most consistently and even of dominating the Tour -- and the attention -- as Palmer and Nicklaus did in their heydays.

Woods edged Duval after Wednesday's pro-am in the Nissan Open; they finished their rounds about the same time, and Woods made it to the press tent first for interviews. Duval then declined to come to the interview room as scheduled.

Ben Crenshaw, an ambassador for the game as well as one of its more accomplished players, lights up when he considers the prospect of a Woods-Duval rivalry.

"It can't do anything but help golf," Crenshaw said. "They're both incredible players and I think they're going to push each other to be even better.

"It would be great for the sport, great for the people who follow the game. They're both so good. Both of them can do so many different things it's unbelievable."

Crenshaw, whose 19 titles include two Masters, said he marvels not only at the natural talent of the pair, but at their composure.

"Tiger is doing an incredible job of concentrating, considering everything he goes through," said Crenshaw, alluding to the demands on Woods' time and the circus-type atmosphere when he's on the course.

"He puts up with so much and so much is expected of him. Because of how he can play, people expect him to win every tournament. That, of course, is impossible."

Duval also has been successful because of his ability to concentrate, Crenshaw said.

"David's one of those fellows that nothing bothers. He does a beautiful job of putting it behind him when he hits a bad a shot or something," Crenshaw said. "That's really hard for most of us to do."

There's already competition between Woods and Duval for the world No. 1 ranking. Woods currently is first and Duval second.

Woods won for the first time in nine months last weekend at San Diego, when he shot a course-record 62 to come from far back on Saturday, then shoot a 65 on Sunday.

Duval, who skipped that tournament to take another ski trip, has won twice this year and nine times in his last 30 starts. He began 1999 with a runaway win in the season-opening Mercedes Championships, then charged into the record book -- a 59 that was the lowest closing round in PGA history -- to win at La Quinta, Calif. last month.

Crenshaw said Woods and Duval have one important mental attribute in common.

"They're killers in the competitive sense," he said. "They go out and try to dominate."

DIVOTS: Woods played with the pros for the first time in the 1992 Nissan at Riviera Country Club, and has fond memories of that appearance despite the fact he missed the cut by shooting 72-75. "I remember being real nervous," said Woods, who was 16 at the time. "I got a chance to experience it, though, and see what I needed to compete on that level." ... Woods finished second in the tournament last year, losing to Billy Mayfair in a playoff. ... Crenshaw, captain for the Ryder Cup matches, called Duval immediately after Duval shot his 59, tying the Tour record for lowest round, on the final day of the Bob Hope Classic. "I knew he was going skiing so I told him to be careful," said Crenshaw, who definitely wants Duval on the U.S. team. ... John Daly withdrew from the Nissan early in the week to visit his parents in Arkansas. Tom Lehman, coming back from shoulder surgery, also withdrew. ... The tournament is back at Riviera Country Club after being played last year at Valencia Country Club while Riviera was being prepared for the Senior Open.