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David Duval back at the site of his 59

Former world number one David Duval will arrive in confident mood for this week's Bob Hope Classic at Palm Desert in California where he produced a magical victory seven years ago.

Duval, who became the third player to shoot a 13-under-par 59 on the PGA Tour with his closing round in 1999, evoked memories of his glory days at last week's Sony Open in Hawaii.

The 2001 British Open champion fired a closing seven-under 63 at Waialae Country Club on the island of Oahu to climb into a share of 31st place in the first full-field event of the season.

For a while, he even entertained thoughts of carding the second 59 of his career but, at the least, it earned him his best Tour finish for two years.

"It was relatively similar to the way I felt at the Hope (in 1999)," he told reporters after posting a 72-hole total of two-under 278.

"I wanted to do it again today after my front nine of 30 but unfortunately the opportunities after the turn were few and far between.

"But I felt very comfortable out there and I was playing well enough to do it."

Duval, who only made one cut in 20 starts on last year's Tour, has not won anywhere in the world since the 2001 Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.

During that time, he has endured an extended period of swing problems plus a series of injuries, particularly with his lower back.

Duval's fellow American Justin Leonard is the defending champion this week.

Leonard won the 90-hole pro-am celebrity event last year by three shots and has always enjoyed playing in the desert environment.

"I like this side of the West Coast," the 33-year-old Texan told reporters earlier this year. "I've played well in the desert and I always look forward to it."

Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion, followed up last year's success with a wire-to-wire victory four months later at the St Jude Classic, the second time in his career he has won multiple Tour titles in a single season.

This week he faces a strong field of 128 professionals which includes world number five Phil Mickelson, winner of last year's U.S. PGA Championship.

Left-hander Mickelson, who will be making his first appearance of the season, is something of a Bob Hope specialist having won the event in 2002 and 2004.

Also teeing off in Wednesday's opening round are former major winners Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Paul Azinger, Rich Beem, Mark Calcavecchia, Fred Couples, Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton and Bernhard Langer, the 2004 European Ryder Cup captain.

The $5 million Bob Hope Classic will be played over the new, 7,305-yard Classic Course, the venue host, as well as La Quinta Country Club, Bermuda Dunes Country Club and the Palmer Course at PGA West.

January 18, 2006

 




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