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Woods-Duval was more show than showdown

They laughed in front of the cameras. They hit spectacular shots and made funky decisions.

The only thing missing was the very element everyone wanted: a rivalry.

In a much-hyped meeting between the world's top two golfers, Tiger Woods and David Duval played an 18-hole match, with a purse of $1.5 million for three hours of work.

Under floodlights that cast long shadows on the 17th green Monday night, Duval conceded a 2-foot par putt that gave Woods a 2-and-1 victory at Sherwood Country Club, the first live network telecast of a golf event in prime time.

"This is the first time this has ever been done," Woods said. ``We were going to come out here and put on a show."

Some shots did justice to the hype, such as the 5-iron from Woods that stopped 5 feet from the hole for a birdie and his biggest lead of the match on No. 12.

Some decisions were downright odd, such as the one by Duval on the 16th hole. He aimed for a cluster of rocks in the middle of the fairway, thinking his ball would surely move slightly to the left or right. But moments later there he was -- bending to retrieve the ball from a crevice in the boulder.

But clearly an important element was lacking in this get-together.

"A rivalry?" Woods said. ``No, not yet.''

That may have to wait, perhaps as early as next week in the PGA Championship, or maybe until IMG believes the public is hungry for another meaningless match.

"This is pretty cool," Duval said.

Woods and Duval aren't the only superstars in golf or else they would have met more than just once the past four years and won more major championships than the one between them (Woods in the 1997 Masters).

Still, they were the players everyone wanted to see.

Grown men acted like children, pushing and shoving just to get a snapshot of Duval as he walked from the putting green to the driving range. One man wore a T-shirt that said, "Tiger Woods for President," then climbed a rock for Woods to see (he never looked).

"It was a pretty exciting atmosphere," Woods said. ``I didn't think the crowd would be as boisterous as it was. There were no gray areas. There were only two players, and they were either for one guy or the other."

About 2,000 people scrambled to see every shot, at times ducking under the ropes and running behind Woods and Duval in the fairway.

A masterpiece this wasn't.

"My game did not feel real good, and I don't know why," Duval said. ``I know I can play better against him than I did."

Duval won the first two holes, but didn't win another until a par save from the bunker on No. 13. Of the five holes that Woods won during that stretch to go 3-up, four of them were on par-3s.

This was only the second time Woods and Duval have played together with a large amount of money on the line. The last Woods-Duval sighting was in the third round of the World Series of Golf last year, when Duval had a 66 to Woods' 70 and went on to win.

Of course, they also played against each other during friendly best-ball matches in Ireland the week before the British Open, something that Duval brought up as they were hitting balls on the range before they teed off.

"This is our rubber match," Duval told him. ``Remember in Ireland? We were 1-1 in our Nassau (bets). Of course, I won the money on them."

Not this kind of money.

Woods' share was $1.1 million, more than any amount he can win this year. Duval got $400,000, more than what some players will get for winning a PGA Tour event. Of that, each donated $100,000 to the charity of their choice, and $100,000 to The First Tee Program.

But this wasn't about money. And, ultimately, it wasn't about a rivalry.

"I hate to say it, but it's basically up to the ratings," Woods said. "How high the ratings are will determine how successful it was."

ABC posted a 7.4 overnight rating and a 12 share for the event, an increase from the network's usual summer programming of a movie and "20/20," which averaged a 6.3 overnight mark last year.

"My desire is that this brings more people to the game," Duval said. "When Tiger turned pro in '96, golf became cool -- not a dorky game."

Promoters called it the "Showdown at Sherwood," although the only confrontation came before the first tee shot was struck.

Caddies Steve Williams and Mitch Knox each wore shorts to Sherwood, in the 91-degree heat. PGA Tour official Vaughn Moise told them they would have to wear pants.

Knox, the caddie for Duval, wound up buying pants that he had to roll up four times so they wouldn't drag on the ground. When Moise confronted Williams, Woods stepped in and told Williams not to change.

"This isn't an official tournament," he snapped at Moise.

Not even a prime-time audience could change that.

 

AP