AUGUSTA, Ga. - If he wanted, David Duval could take all his near misses, all his Masters disappointments, and stack them high enough to hide the wraparound sunglasses on his face.
Duval has finished in the top six in each of the past four Masters, and his second-place finish to Tiger Woods yesterday was his second in four years. In each, he has either held, shared or flirted with the lead enough that one shot, one swing, has cost him the coat.
In 1998, he held a one-shot lead with three holes to play when he bogeyed the par-3 16th and let Mark O'Meara charge to the finish with three birdies in four holes. Last year, he was standing in the fairway at No. 13, deciding between a 5-iron or 6-iron on his approach, when he plunked the 5-iron in Rae's Creek.
This time, Duval's undoing came when he hit what he called maybe “the best golf shot of my life” at the wrong time. And, again, it happened at No. 16.
“The best way I can equate it is the 5-iron I hit in Palm Springs, when I shot 59, you know, it was one of those golf shots you don't even really feel the shot,” Duval said. “You hit it so solid. That's what happened on 16.”
Duval couldn't make himself hit an 8-iron because he said it's 176 yards to carry the sand bunker left of the green. So he hit 7-iron, flushed it so well it flew over the green, and made bogey to fall a shot off the lead. That slowed his charge and he finished two shots behind Woods, at 14-under 274, a Masters runner-up again.
“I just can't stand up there and hit an 8-iron,” said Duval, who shot a final-round 67. “Everybody would call me an idiot if I did. I don't want to say it is untimely to hit such a good shot, but it was one of those ones if I had missed it a little bit it would have turned out well.”
The defeat for Mickelson was disappointing, almost downright exasperating.
Not only was he was trying to become the first lefthander to win the Masters. He was hoping to recapture some past karma from stopping other Tiger streaks.
Two years ago, it was Mickelson who ended Woods' winning streak at six consecutive tournaments when he won the Buick Invitational in San Diego. Last year, when he came from a shot back to win the Tour Championship with a final-round 66, he ended Woods' streak of 19 consecutive victories when he held or shared the lead entering the final round.
“Before, if I did not have an opportunity to win this tournament, I would be much more disappointed than I am now, where at least I had the opportunity and just didn't come through,” said Mickelson, who shot 70 in his quest to become the first player to shoot in the 60s in all four rounds of the Masters. “But I'm certainly more disappointed right now, and, really, I'm not thinking about the joy of having a chance to win. It was disappointing.''
Consider the magnitude of what Woods has accomplished:
“He is an amazing player,” said Fred Couples. “He's one of a kind. He's so good you don't underestimate him because he is so good.”
Woods' victory was worth $1,080,000 and improves his 2001 earnings to $3,263,857.
Seven of the past 11 Masters champions, including four of the past five, were leading the tournament after three rounds. In all, 36 third-round leaders have gone on to win the green jacket.
Rocco Mediate thinks he is running out of time if he ever wants to win a major championship. He came to that conclusion after his final-round 73, which included birdies on two of the final three holes, left him at 7-under 281 for the tournament, nine shots down.
“I don't have the tools it takes to win one of these,” said Mediate, 38, a Greensburg native. “I have some of them, not all of them.
“I only have four or five more years left. These guys hit it so far now, I can't keep up with them.”
Mediate began the day at 8-under, just four shots off the lead, but he bogeyed the first hole when his opening drive landed in the fairway bunker. After a birdie at No. 2, he bogeyed Nos. 5 and 6 and made the turn in 37 - four shots higher than his front-nine total on each of the previous three rounds. He ended up tied for 15th and won $95,200.