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Duval vs. Woods, even though it doesn't count

One of these years, David Duval and Tiger Woods just might find themselves paired together in the final round with a tournament on the line. For now, they'll have to settle for a made-for-television event with only bragging rights at stake.

In the first golf event broadcast live by a network in prime time, ABC Sports will televise the "Showdown at Sherwood" tonight, an 18-hole match between the top two players in the world with a difference of $700,000 riding on the outcome.

Don't confuse this for the Masters, where Woods has won and Duval has come close. Don't expect another 59 from Duval, because the format is match play.

Don't expect either Woods or Duval to consider a rivalry born. At least not yet.

"Our event at Sherwood isn't even a tournament, so I don't think it can really be considered fuel for a rivalry," Duval said. "But it will be great for television."

The match, at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., will start at 7:30 p.m. EDT, although ABC will not begin its live coverage until 8 p.m. Lights have been installed on the last two holes in case it gets too dark.

"It gives us an opportunity to kind of expose the game in a little different light, in a different time frame, on a different day and probably to a different crowd than would usually see the game," Duval said.

Don't count on Justin Leonard as part of that crowd. He was asked last week what he thought of the match, in which $1.1 million from the $1.5 million purse will go to the winner -- each donate $200,000 to charity.

"I'd like it a lot more if I was in it," said Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion who lost in a playoff at Carnoustie last month. "Since I'm not, I don't much care."

ABC Sports is banking on the fact a lot of others will at least be curious enough to watch. It certainly has two of the biggest names in golf.

Woods is one of the most dynamic personalities in sports. He took golf to the front pages by winning the Masters in record fashion, becoming the youngest champion and the first one of color. His arrival is a big reason the PGA Tour landed a $136 million television contract, which made everyone around him richer.

"I might be a golf star, but I think Tiger is a star," Duval said. ``He transcends the game."

Duval is everything Woods is not -- collected, methodical, emotionless. Behind those wraparound sunglasses are eyes that look lifeless, just like a shark before it tears into its prey.

"He's very calm, very levelheaded, and it comes out when he plays," Woods said. "He is very methodical, very cool. He doesn't get excited, doesn't get frustrated. He just goes about his business."

Never mind that the event is essentially no different from Shell's Wonderful World of Golf matches, except for the live television. Never mind that the two richest players in golf are about to get even richer. Or that both players are represented by IMG, the sprawling sports agency that proposed the match.

What makes the match compelling is the fact they have clearly raised their game a notch above everyone else. They are the only players to be No. 1 in the world ranking this year, a position currently held by Woods.

"I think that they're arguably the two best players in the game today," Jack Nicklaus said. "I don't think there's any question about that."

Duval stormed to top of the rankings by becoming the first player in 25 years to win four times before the Masters. That included the Bob Hope Classic, where he became the first player to shoot a 59 on a Sunday.

Woods came back strong. In six tournaments after his post-Masters break, he has won three times and not finished worse than seventh -- and that includes two majors, a third in the U.S. Open and a tie for seventh in the British Open.

So, who should be No. 1? Don't look for an answer tonight.

"People who think this will decide who is No. 1 or No. 2 are blowing it out of proportion," Duval said. "It's a one-day match, 18 holes, and that does not make it a rivalry."

For now, this is as close as it will get.

In 47 tournaments they have both played in their professional careers, Woods has finished ahead of Duval 27 times, with one tie. But they have never played together in a final round.

"We've come close, but it hasn't happened," Woods said. ``Either he has played great and I haven't, or it's been the other way around. But it's going to happen. It's going to happen for sure at Sherwood."

 

AP