Shell Houston Open
Shell Houston Open
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Rested Duval going for fifth 1999 victory

The rest of the field in the $2.5 million Shell Houston Open aren't counting on David Duval being rusty after a two-week vacation.

The last time golf's leading money-winner and No. 1 ranked player took some R&R, he came back and won the first two tournaments he entered.

Duval started defense today of his Shell Houston Open title after spending part of his vacation snowboarding in Idaho. It's too early for his other passion -- fly fishing -- so it's back to golf.

"I went snowboarding until they shut down the slopes, wore out a spot on my chair at home and went to a clinic at Pebble Beach. There is two weeks gone," said Duval, looking rested and relaxed.

Duval didn't spend much time with his clubs while vacationing, but hopes the practice rounds he took this week have him ready to go for his fifth victory of the year.

He started the 1999 schedule with victories in the Mercedes Championships and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

After he lost in the second round of the Match Play Championship, Duval took three weeks off and returned to win The Players Championship and BellSouth Classic in consecutive weeks.

He tied for sixth in the Masters before the succumbing to the urge for more snowboarding.

"The rivers are too high (for fishing) until at least July, so I guess I have to play golf," Duval said.

To win last year's tournament over the par-72, 7,018-yard TPC course, Duval had to come from five shots down with eight holes to play to win by one shot over Jeff Maggert.

Maggert, who won the WGC-Andersen Championships and ranks No. 2 on the money list behind Duval, is back for another run. Others in the field include Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard, Payne Stewart and Steve Elkington.

Duval doesn't quite comprehend his star appeal, even though he's zoomed to the top of the money list, won 11 of his last 35 tournaments and unseated Tiger Woods as the No. 1 player.

"Being No. 1 symbolizes that I've played well, but the ranking doesn't help me play any better," Duval said. "All it means is when you pick up that magazine, my name is at the top."

It certainly hasn't changed Duval's humble approach.

"I'm sorry, I'm just not the type to hoot about being No. 1, that's not me," he said. "I have noticed that it changes the way people look at you.''

Much of Duval's personal life has been documented since his rise to stardom. His 12-year-old brother Brent died after receiving bone marrow from Duval, who was 9 years old at the time. Other family difficulties have been reported.

"I guess I don't understand the fascination with me," Duval said. ``I don't think it (personal life) is something that is relevant to what I do out here on tour.

"I don't bring it up because someone might look at me and think I was looking for sympathy. There might be people in this room who have gone through a lot more than I have. They might say they've really had it rough."

Duval plans to play the Compaq Classic in New Orleans next week, skip the GTE Byron Nelson Classic (May 13-16) and enter the MasterCard Colonial (May 20-23).