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Duval set to overtake Woods

David Duval's remarkable victory on Sunday - he shot a final round 59, winning the Bob Hope Classic with an eagle on the last hole - was his ninth win in fifteen months and his second of this season. And yet despite this astounding run of form he still finds himself trailing Tiger Woods in the latest world rankings.

Golf's rankings are compiled on a two-year rolling system with the current year counting double. He might not be there yet, but only a sharp downturn in form will prevent the 27-year-old reaching the top within the next month or so. "It's only a matter of time, really," admitted Tony Greer, the IMG manager who administers the standings.

Just two years ago Duval was beginning to like another great hope who would not quite fulfill his early potential. Having turned professional in 1993 and registering one of the most successful rookie seasons ever, he proceeded to turn in a string of top ten finishes over the next three years without managing to win a tournament.

By 1997 the critics were starting to doubt whether he had the temperament to break through into the top rank. In October of that year he won the Michelob Championship and the floodgates opened - victories in the next two events he played signaled he had arrived.

Last season the poker-faced Duval continued where he had left off, recording four Tour wins and earning $2.6m in prize-money. Had it not been for Mark O'Meara's two Majors he would have walked away with the player of the season award.

With back-to-back victories in the first two events of the 1999 Tour there are few who would disagree with the view that he is the hottest property in golf at the moment. Asked about his current form the unassuming Duval offers an understatement: ""I'm playing quite well. But I still have to keep trying to improve. Got to keep trying to get better and try to add some US Opens and PGAs and such to my resume. I have told everybody before I certainly want to be the best at some point in my career, and if I am considered that now, I am flattered and excited."

Duval may still be second in the official rankings but there is little doubt who will be the favourite to win the season's opening Major in Augusta in April.

TRW