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Duval & Els big fans of Tiger Woods

David Duval and Ernie Els, two of the world's finest golfers, don't resent Tiger Woods's success. In fact, they're fans of the 24-year-old phenom.

"The impact he has had and continues to have is amazing," Duval said Wednesday after playing a rain-soaked round in the Nissan Open pro-am at Riviera Country Club. "I feel very lucky to be a part of the game right now, out here playing with him. It's a neat time to be playing. I think Tiger is sort of viewed as outside of our game now.

"It's hard for me, as a friend of his, to really grasp who he is and what he represents because he's become such a big star and I don't look at him that way. Maybe that's how it is with Michael Jordan.

"It's kind of neat, it's kind of weird, but it's cool to see."

Els, who will defend his Nissan Open title against Woods, Duval and the rest of the Nissan field this week, has similar feelings.

"It's kind of easy for me to talk about Tiger. I regard him as the best player in the world and he's leading the way, showing the way for other players to follow," said Els, who won by two shots at Riviera last year as Woods tied for second.

"He motivates me, makes me want to try to get my game to a higher level," Els said. "To have a guy like Tiger playing the way he's playing, trying to compete with that, that's nice."

Woods also motivates Duval, who at this time last year had already won twice, shot a 59, and was a month away from being ranked No. 1 in the world, overtaking Woods and bumping him down to No. 2. Woods regained the No. 1 ranking in July and, except for one week in August, has held it ever since.

Asked if he minds being constantly questioned about Woods, Duval replied: "No, I don't, because it's what needs to be talked about. Let's be honest, he's doing some things all of us wish we were doing. It's neat stuff."

Woods had his six-tournament winning streak snapped last weekend in San Diego, when he tied for second behind Phil Mickelson.

"I was excited that another friend of mine won last week; it's been a while for Phil," said Duval, who took last week off to go snowboarding. "But I got caught up in Tiger's streak. I was kind of hoping to see him win again. I wanted to see him run down that record (Byron Nelson's 11 straight wins).

"The buzz Tiger created, is creating, is something else."

Duval shook his head and smiled as he talked about the "buzz" still evident as Woods played in the pro-am on a dreary morning at Riviera.

"I was walking up to nine and I told my caddie, 'Look over there on 18. It's 11 o'clock in the morning, it's raining, it's cold and there still are several hundred people over there watching Tiger,' " Duval said.

Asked which player Riviera favours if it is wet, Duval said: "Tiger Woods. They all seem to favour him right now. It will favour him, Ernie, Davis (Davis Love III), guys who pound the ball. It makes a big difference here if you can shorten up the distance to the greens."


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